Experience the “Experience at Koele” on Lana’i

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Last week I gushed over playing golf at The Challenge at Manele on Lana’i in Hawaii.  This week, I’ll share a completely different, but just as memorable golf course on the same island – The Experience at Koele. If you make it over to Lana’i, don’t leave home without giving Koele a try.

The Experience at Koele starts at 2,000 feet above sea level, nestled in forests of soaring pines, koa and eucalyptus trees.

While playing Koele, I found it hard to believe this course was even in Hawaii, let alone on Lana’i. When you play it, you might even think you’re in New England. But as different as this course is to Manele, it still has its own charm, beauty and challenges.

As you climb up, through and down the sloping wooded fairways, you’ll encounter many ravines, lakes, streams and waterfalls which bring both beauty and danger to your approach shot to the bent grass greens. But beware of your speed…as our starter said, “Koele has the slowest town and the fastest greens.”

The 3rd hole is a good example. This par 5 bends gently to the right and is one of the toughest on the course. Approaching the green there is lots to distract you, while it attracts your ball. But I parred the hole after hitting a nice pitch into the protected green, so for me it was a very rewarding “experience”.

The rough doesn’t seem to be as penal as on Manele and Greg Norman tended to add bunkers next to the ponds and lakes to catch your ball before it got wet. I’m not a big fan of fairway bunkers, but more than once I thanked the Shark for saving me from a penalty drop.

The #1 handicap hole, the 6th, looks pretty tame, but the trade winds can play havoc with your tee shot, making your second shot even longer. But the water features all down the right side of the fairway were so stunning that even my bogey didn’t feel so bad.

The short par 4, 8th is actually quite easy, but with an island green, it can be a bit intimidating on your second shot.

I tried to forget the water existed, but that was impossible. So instead I pretended that I was teeing off on the infamous 17th at TPC Sawgrass. I focused on getting my 130 yard 2nd shot up high in the air to try and land it softly on the green. Walking away with a par on that hole made me feel like a real golfer for a few minutes.

The back nine was my favorite of the two, probably because I shot my best 9 holes ever, which lead to my best round of golf ever. Hard not to love a course that rewards you. And although I double bogeyed the signature hole, 17, it was the most exciting drive I’d ever hit. From a 250 foot elevated tee my ball seemed to fly forever. Unfortunately, it flew into the sand trap next to the water – a hazard that took two shots to escape.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Lana’i

Koele is one of those unusual golf courses that ends with a par 3. Some people aren’t keen on that design, but I loved it. Birdying my last hole on my last day in Hawaii was like the icing on my birthday cake – a very tasty finish to a very satisfying meal!

Koele’s staggering elevation changes and beautifully landscaped highland terrain is most definitely an experience to be remembered. If you ever get a chance to play it, take 5 or 6 balls to the tee box on 17 and just keep on hitting until you’re happy.   One shot just isn’t enough!

Golfgal

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7 comments

  1. Wow! I’m ready to leave for my Hawaiian golf vacation immediately.

    I was lucky enough to play a couple of rounds on Maui ten years ago but I don’t remember anything quite as splendid as these Lana’i courses.

  2. Hey “noisemaker”. Thanks so much for your comment.

    There’s no place on earth quite like Lana’i. I can’t wait to see it again next month.

    You really should go back – you’ll be amazed!

    Cheers
    Gayle

  3. Sigh. Now you’re making me second guess my decision to visit Alaska for a third time next year, and not Hawaii for a second time. Maybe I should even it out.:)

    Gayle, I really miss the Big Break interviews and all their insight. I noticed a few similar comments on golf message boards today.

    Did you decide not to do it this time, or was there a late unexpected flop wall?

  4. Hi Awsi! So good to hear from you! Maui/Alaska…hmmm…I guess it would depend the time of year. As long as I can golf, I’ll go anywhere.

    I would love to do the interviews, but my work schedule this fall is nuts. By the time I get to watch the episodes, it’s the weekend and so I’m really late to the party.

    I know so many of the contestants it would be fun talking to them again, but I just can’t seem to get my schedule to fit with the show and their availability.

    Nice to know, however, that people liked them. I was wondering if they were getting “old” like me 😉

    Take care and enjoy Alaska!

    cheers
    Gayle

  5. Gayle, thanks for the reply. I was worried Golf Channel had thrown in a new amendment to their Big Break contestant paperwork, limiting interviews during airing of the show.

    Plus I saw that photo of the smothered auto and wondered if that played a role, although it appeared to be unoccupied. Amusing story.

    Next Big Break is apparently all male. Not my fave.

    Best of luck with your schedule. Too much work. I wish that were a more common problem in these parts. 🙂

  6. Hi there. I had the pleasure of playing The Experience at Koele while visiting Hawaii for my best friend’s wedding back in September 2006. We were staying in Maui and chose to take the quick excursion over to Lanai for some golf. Originally, I had wanted to play The Challenge, but alas, only 9 of its holes were open when we were there, so The Experience became our destination.

    Like you, I both enjoyed the back nine more, and played better, though we started on #10, so it was our front nine, which made the actual front nine a bit less satisfying for me. Still, I would second your recommendation of it as a great isolated place to visit while in Hawaii…and thanks for stirring my memory of it as well.

  7. Hey David! Thanks for your comment. I think you need to plan a trip back and take the Challenge at Manele. 😉

    I’m looking forward to revenge on that course!

    Cheers
    Gayle

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