HAWAII – One of the worst kept secrets in sports is that scrubs like Tim Geary and me get a ton of invitations to play free or discounted golf. Sure, it’s a nice perk and we try to abuse that privilege as much as possible, but so far, this writing gig at New England Golf Monthly has not turned into any assignments from Golf Digest or Golfweek. So, until that dream call comes in from The Golf Channel, we are going to continue to bash heads every month on a topic that is near-and-dear to golfers.
This month’s topic is subjective, and in the interest of full disclosure, I love Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. If you have only one golf trip to make in your lifetime, it should be to the Grand Strand, offering over 100 playing fields! After 20 golf junkets to Myrtle Beach, I have treasured memories of endless fairways, brillo-like rough, watery endings, doglegs, sand, island greens, sun, surf, southern hospitality, laughs, grits, chili dogs, alligators, beer, thongs, strip joints and fun. For 30-plus years I thought there was nothing better, until a 10-day road trip in September to the Mother of all golf destinations –Hawaii. My trip, to a place I had never been, was so inspiring and stimulated my golf senses so much, that I made a promise to myself to return within 24 months. Hawaii has convinced me that it is the best golf destination in the United States and on planet Earth!
When planning a vacation to Hawaii, that includes golf, start saving those ‘Benjamin’s’ now, because it can get pricey! Rental clubs, greens fees, cart and accessories (like plenty of golf balls) can run from $100 (twilight) to $250 (prime). Bring your own golf balls, tees, glove and sneakers to keep your budget from busting, after breaking out the VISA card to buy a souvenir shirt from Kapalua pro shop ($84) or hat from Ko’olau ($18).
It is an exhilarating, spectacular experience to blast a tee shot from high atop the 13th tee at Ko’olau Golf Club in Oahu. In one 360 degree spin, you can glimpse the emerald-colored Pacific Ocean sparkling on a deep-blue sky, a tropical rain forest adjacent to the 2,000 foot Ko’olau Mountain, wild animals chattering, and a plush, wide fairway that falls dramatically about 300 feet, only to rise slowly to a slightly elevated green, 373-yards out. This par-4 I will never forget! Hawaii golf connoisseur Norm Gunther assisted in educating me to the golf karma of the six Hawaiian Islands and 94 courses. Ko’olau GC is a must-play because it is considered the toughest course in the nation with a slope rating of 152 from the back tees. Local lore has it that whatever your handicap is, then you may well lose that many golf balls during your round. It was right on the money in my case, with 10 deposits into the jungle. The natives also told me they play Ko’olau once and never return, because it’s too difficult. Tee times are easy as they average 22,000 rounds annually.
The only negative about a Boston to Honolulu trip is the 5,055 air miles and 12 hour plane flight. On Oahu, which draws more visitors than any other island, more than 100 world-renowned beaches ring the coast, with surfers found wherever there are waves. The best golf choices from 39 courses include Turtle
Bay Resort, Waikele CC and Koolina GC. Maui, home to Hawaii’s second largest island, offers 18 courses, including Ka’anapali Resort and my favorite, the award winning Kapalua Resort, home of the PGA Tour’s season opening tournament. The Bay Course has 68 bunkers and eight water hazards. In my view, the Plantation Course has some of the most valuable real estate in the world and some breathtaking ocean front views. The 7,411-yard mountain links course, with deep valleys, expansive greens and fairways follow the natural curves of the landscape.
For about $125 you can tee it up in Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, owned by Marriott, and one of eight choices on Kauai. They have a great practice facility, 18-holes designed by Jack Nicklaus. This place is unique in that the Island’s major airport runway borders the 6th hole, and an occasional 747 lands about 100 yards away. Suddenly, the lovely whiff of burning rubber and screeching jet engines consume the course. The views are majestic, but avoid the wild chickens roaming everywhere.
Imagine lush green mountains, crystal blue oceans, sweet smelling flowers, white sandy beaches and the most naturally beautiful golf courses you’ll ever find. Most importantly, add a perfect golf climate for your unique golf adventure in paradise. When it comes to the world’s best golf destinations, there is no scorecard like Hawaii!
Tom Gorman, a member of the Golf Travel Writers of America, rarely dips into his wallet to pay for golf, which according to Webster’s Dictionary makes him a cheapskate.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?