journeys to Hawaii

Just got back from a trip to Hawaii (Maui), truly a great place to play golf.

Here are a few thoughts on Hawaii and golf travel these days:

First, traveling with golf clubs certainly isn’t getting any easier.  With airlines charging for extra bags, chances are it’ll cost you at least an additional $25 just to bring your clubs.

Second, make sure you’ve got a durable golf travel bag.  I’ve had good luck with Ogio, both with my older all-in-one ‘bag’ that doubles as a travel container, affectionately known as  ‘The Rig,’ and also their latest product (which will appear in an updated Ogio piece), called ‘Mammoth.’  True to its name, ‘Mammoth’ is huge, and acts as a cover for your regular cart bag – but also includes pockets for shoes, hats, and extra storage.

One note – be careful to keep it at or under 50 pounds – or the airlines will charge you for that, too.

It may be just me, but it seems like travel bags have been taking more than their usual beating from the airlines in recent trips.  The bag covers have come through with obvious signs of rough treatment – be wary.

Golf travel isn’t cheap – and with resorts often offering ‘discounted’ golf with different promotions (timeshare sales tours come to mind), courses are getting more and more crowded.  Is this a problem?  No.  We weren’t delayed any inordinate amount of time – just plan ahead and make tee times well in advance.

I can remember making trips to Hawaii where you wouldn’t see a soul on these beautiful golf courses – those days are gone.

I would certainly recommend golf in Hawaii as well as any resort destination that I’ve been, as long as you go prepared to pay for it – don’t expect to play in a tropical environment without a hefty ‘scenery tariff’ thrown in.  That being said, the experience alone is worth the money, and the quality of the courses is as good as what you see on TV.

We played the two courses at Kaanapali Golf Resort – Royal and Kai – made famous recently by the Golf Channel’s ‘Big Break’ reality show.  I only saw glimpses of the competition on TV, but these courses are incredibly convenient to the hotels and resorts along Kaanapali Beach in western Maui.  Both courses have recently been renovated and the conditions were excellent.

It was fun to putt on Bermuda greens as well – assessing grain and keeping the setting sun in mind.  I’ve never seen so many slow downhill putts if they happened to be against the grain.

One day we ventured to the southeastern part of Maui to play the island’s ‘best kept secret,’ the North Course at Makena.  Makena has two Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed layouts, but the South Course will be closed until late 2009 – so again, make your tee times well in advance.  Wailea Resort’s three courses are nearby, so there’s still plenty of golf in the area.

Finally, we took on what one visitor commented was the ‘hardest course I’ve ever played,’ The Plantation Course at Kapalua – yes, the one you see every January during the PGA’s inaugural tournament, the Mercedes Championship.

We only played a few of the ‘exhibition’ tees (where the pros play from), which lends a new appreciation to the distances that professionals hit the ball.

The day we played was pretty windy – but according to the staff, it was only a gentle breeze compared to many days out there.  There are certain holes on the Plantation Course that are barely playable for some regular players – take that into account, swallow your ego and move to the forward tees if need be.

I didn’t share the ‘hardest course I’ve ever played’ opinion – but the par five ninth hole, which plays uphill and against the trade winds – would rank up there in the most difficult holes I’ve ever played category.

The Plantation course is very wide in most spots with plenty of room to spray the ball.  The bunkers are challenging but not ridiculous, and the greens are huge – a very fair golf course.

All in all, playing golf in Hawaii was a tremendous experience, and you can easily build your trip around it (with the above precautionary tips) if you choose.


Jeff Rendall


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