Article: The Makai Course
By Wayne Halm —
A lot of my friends think that all I do on Kauai is play golf; not true, occasionally my other job gets in the way. But I do get out frequently, there are some absolutely awesome golf courses on Kauai, and the Makai Course at Princeville is one of them.
The Makai has long been one of my favorites, majestic mountain backgrounds and incredible ocean vistas make it a truly beautiful par 72 course. However, as the round progresses another attractive feature emerges, the course is honest; no gimmicks, no hidden bunkers, no impossible carries. To be sure poor choices and poor execution will reflect on the score card, but well conceived well executed shots will not be negated by some hidden “gotcha”, golfers enjoy this course from the very first round. There are a lot of smiles on the Makai, it is a fun course to play.
However, honest and fun doesn’t mean easy; with a Slope/Rating of 69.6/125 from the whites and 75.4/134 from the tips the course provides plenty of challenges. But the challenges are visible, manageable, and enjoyable at all skill levels; the designer, Robert Trent Jones Jr, did a good job.
The course was closed from October 2008 to January 2010 for renovation, it was missed but the result was worth the wait. The renovations are impressive:
• There is now Seashore Paspalum from tee to pin. This is good stuff, on the fairways it is pretty, it produces a nice roll, and it is consistent.
• An additional rear tee box was added to each hole. Now big hitters can play 7,223 yards if their ego demands.
• The greens were reconfigured. They are in great shape and the Paspalum works more magic there. Many golfers get onto the greens sooner than I do, but few stay as long; with those credentials established let me warn that these greens are a lot faster than they look.
• Some of the higher vegetation was removed from the roughs; the roughs are for the most part now wide and cut low. The ball doesn’t roll much in them but it is easy to find; I believe this speeds the pace of play
• The bunkers are filled with G-3 Silica, I take that to mean white sand. This stuff is pretty; and it plays well, something I appreciated very much.
• Improvements were also made to the practice facility, cart paths, comfort stations, and 80 new carts were purchased. A new Clubhouse is planned but not yet a reality, General Manager Alex Nakajima, PGA and his staff currently have a small but neat temporary Pro Shop, from there they easily and pleasantly get golfers out into the carts and onto the course.
The carts on the Makai course have a GPS system with a wonderful feature, a touch screen. The screen displays a map of the hole indicating the cart location and providing distance to the center of the green; however, if you touch the screen it will also give the distance to that point! To a bogie golfer like me this was outstanding, exciting, captivating; think kid in a candy store. I almost wore the thing out checking the distance to the bunkers; this didn’t always keep me out of the bunkers, but once it told me that I hit my 6 iron 183 yards to get there, that was almost worth being in the sand.
On the holes overlooking the ocean play conveniently slowed down a little, players couldn’t resist admiring the beauty. I didn’t mind this; I spent my share of time gawking down at the magnificent coastline too, it just added to the enjoyment. Along the shore the course had another treat, Albatrosses. These large handsome sea birds have nesting areas in the vicinity and soar effortlessly over the course; it is the only place I have ever seen them, it is special.
Out by the ocean is a special hole, #7, a par 3, 155 yards on the card. The white tee is on a promontory out over the ocean and the green is back on the island, an ocean filled ravine separates them, a shear cliff rises up to the fringe of the green. The tees were way up on the day I played, I paced it off, 135 to the center and 120 to the front. An easy shot, right? I had honors and here’s what went through my mind – “What club? – I want to land on the front of the green – the sand wedge should go 120 – but the wind is blowing, I’d better use the pitching wedge – maybe the 9 iron just to be safe, no I don’t want to be in the bunker behind the green – tee the ball up halfway to the first finger joint, hit it clean but not too high – what’s the name of that mountain? – oh yeah, Bali Hai – South Pacific – Mitzi Gaynor – no no no, don’t even go there – think 120 yards – has the wind picked up? – just hit the ball 120 yards – line up your toes at the pin, with the ball in the middle – don’t look at the cliff, if you look at it you will hit it – look at the front of the green – oh no, my shadow – my hair looks wild – gonna wash that man right outta my hair – no no no, think golf – don’t let you eyes follow the shadow – keep you eyes on the back of the ball – tighten the left forearm and wrist, a slice would be a disaster – Mitzi had tight muscles too – no no no, get your head back to the game – take the club back slightly to the inside, don’t want a pull either – back and through that’s all you have to do – back and through – look at the ball, look at it until it’s not there anymore, then look at the grass – follow through – finish with the club behind you – now look up – the shot looks good, maybe it’s a little high but it’s right at the pin – if it is just long enough – go ball go go – oh yeah, on the fringe – now bounce forward, please bounce forward – keep rolling – okay, on the green and these 3 guys still have it to do – smile – act cool – think of something cool to say.” These are things that crossed this bogie golfer’s mind, are any of them familiar to you? If so you are going to love the Makai Course.
Golfers of all skill levels can enjoy the Makai, it’s just that kind of course. They have a website http://www.makaigolf.com and their phone number is 808-826-1912, check out the details on the website and call to make arrangements. Oh, are you wondering what cool thing I told the guys on the 7th tee? I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Nothing to it, I bet Mitzi Gaynor could even do it.” I just couldn’t resist planting that little distraction; it’s golf; and golf is fun on the Makai Course.
Come play golf with me.