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Courses: Golf just got a lot better on Kauai

Hawaii's garden isle has renovated and upgraded most of its courses


When golfing, one is rarely if ever prone to imagining a herd of dinosaurs thundering over the near horizon – a vision that naturally extends itself to include golfers scampering for their lives, clubs pinwheeling, balls abandoned mid-flight, bright polyester clothing dirtied from huddling in bunkers to avoid the rampage.

Rare as such visions may be, it’s not hard to foster them when playing the closing holes on the back nine at Puakea Golf Club on Kauai, particularly holes 14 through 17. The sweep and routing of these excellent holes place them close to the seaside mountain range dominated by the peak, Haupu. This area is instantly recognizable as the plain on which hundreds of stampeding Gallimimus herbivores leap over Sam Neill and a couple of kids as they flee from a T-Rex in Jurassic Park. I happened to be playing some shabby golf at Puakea – a Tin Cup laid-back kind of golf course – and perhaps the movie I ran in my head as I triple-bogeyed the tight dogleg par-4 15th was simply the result of knowing that being ripped limb from limb by a hungry raptor wouldn’t have much affected my score that day.

The real herd that Kauai hopes to attract, however, is the one thundering over the horizon in golf carts. Kauai has often been viewed as second or even third fiddle to Oahu and Maui as the golfer’s destination of choice in Hawaii, but the island’s golf courses have formed a kind of informal coalition to change the dynamic. Nearly every course on Kauai has undergone some kind of renovation or upgrade in the last few years, and the strategy seems to involve spending its way out of the 2008 economic hangover. Golf can still be generally characterized as in recovery mode, but Kauai’s new motto seems to be, “If you renovate it, they will come.” There are early signs it might be working, with rounds per year inching up, but if the overall strategy does not work, it won’t be for lack of investment.

Kauai Golf Course - Prince Glf Course

The Prince Course at Princeville is a somewhat different beast, a carnivorous T-Rex to Makai’s herbivore gallimimus. The Prince – known primarily for its difficulty and its use of the jungle topography about a mile inland – reopened in March after 13 months of extensive renovations. It’s now less punitive, but still a difficult golf course and something of an odd fit in Kauai, given that the ocean and seashore never come into play. Once ranked as Golf Digest’s #1 course in Hawaii, the Prince is a course good players will want to experience, but which might be too severe a test for beginners.

Book tee time for Prince Course.

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Princeville News,  Press Releases - Princeville at Hanalei Kauai