Every year I hear first-time PGA Tour winners talk about how delighted they (and their wives) are about finally being able to travel to Maui in January to play the PGA TOUR Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Even though they had just won over $1M (which could buy a lot of golf rounds :)), they are as excited as a kid at Xmas about playing at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort. I can understand that.
The Plantation Course has a majestic quality you really can’t find anywhere else on the island. But that being said, The Bay Course at Kapalua is no slouch either. Check out this view from the tricky par 3 5th tee. Can you hear the waves?
I started playing both Kapalua courses back in 2007 and every year when I return to this island paradise, I can’t wait to play them again – sometimes to relive a special memory or seek revenge on a hole that got the better of me.
But no matter my intentions going into a round, I can’t help but be blown away (sometimes literally by the trade winds) by the breathtaking vista views that the Plantation Course offers — from that first drive on the on #1 hole…
to the last on 18…
The Plantation always delivers the most exciting, awe-inspiring, humbling and sometimes infuriating, golf I play every year. And this year was no exception.
In fact, I have to say it was probably the best 4 hours of golf I’ve ever played. The weather was perfect and so was the company. For the 2nd time in a week, my golfguy and I were honored to play with the 2008 Aloha Section PGA Teacher of the Year and Top Instructor in Hawaii by Golfing Magazine, Claude Brousseau.
Claude is a Senior PGA Teaching Professional at the Kapalua Golf Academy and it didn’t surprise me when one of the guys at the bag drop said on our arrival, “Are you playing with Claude today? He’s the best teacher on the planet you know.” So I guess we’re not Claude’s only fans 🙂
Throughout the day, Claude provided invaluable tips that turned potential double bogies into birdies for us (like he did here for Charles on number 5 and me on 10).
Charles commented after his best round at Kapalua that he learned a very valuable lesson playing with Claude. “Forget about what you learned on the cow pastures in Wisconsin and look to the mountain for advice”, Charles said. “It’s one of the few times in golf when you shouldn’t keep your head down. Look up and look around and you will see there are few fairways here where hitting it to the middle is the right thing to do.”
I asked if anyone could enjoy the same unforgettable experience and was pleased to discover that you can have a playing lesson with a pro through the Kapalua Golf Academy (or contact Claude at cbunderpar[at]msn.com). I highly recommend it. Put it on your bucket (or Xmas) lis.
Back to the course…
The Plantation Course is not for the faint of heart, with its severely sloping fairways, blind shots and elevation changes (Did you know that from the 17th tips to the green, it’s a 17-story drop?). Seriously downhill and dangerous!
But I loved it because, contrary to what you might think, it’s women-friendly. While the boys have to play their 457 yards as a par 4, the lasses of the links play their 428 yards as a par 5. It’s great being given an opportunity to reach the green in regulation on the #2 handicap hole. Nice!
And that’s not the only hole where forward tee players are given a bit of a break. On the par 3, 8th, there are two forward tees from which to choose. The first requires you to carry your shot about 150 yards to the pin. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but as Claude pointed out the westerly’s blowing through the ravine will pull your ball down, so you need to take enough club to take that into consideration.
The alternate tee box is on the green side of the ravine and is a short, minimal risk option for high handicapper; but it can still test your short game.
I decided to go for it – I like living dangerously ;). And nothing felt so good as the par I scored after a good drive, great chip and 1-putt! Sweeeeeet!
Sadly I 3-putted the hole, but I didn’t care. Those “come back tomorrow” shots are what golf is all about.
Speaking of putting, let’s just say it’s an art form at the Plantation…and I’m no Michelangelo.
I don’t think even a belly putter would have helped me on the 11th hole, where I hit the green in regulation and then proceeded to 4-putt it for a double bogey! I still say it was unfair – the views distracted me 😉
And those spectacular landscapes aren’t just in front of you. On the contrary…often some of the best seascapes are behind you, like this one at the 14th tee box.
If you take a few moments and step out of your “think box” and turn around to appreciate the panorama, you won’t be nearly as panicky when you turn back to face the sea of bunkers that await you off the tee.
I could go on and on, but I think you probably figured out that I’ve become quite enamored with this good walk unspoiled.
I used to think it wasn’t a course for us chix with stix, but I’ve changed my mind. At just over 5,600 yards from the forward tees, it’s actually shorter than the course I play at home. So why was I so afraid of it before?
I asked Mike Jones, General Manager/Director of Golf Operations at Kapalua Golf what a golfer who has never played the course before do to maximize their enjoyment and minimize the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt many of us experience on our first visit…
“The thing to realize about the Plantation Course is that it was designed so that the ball could be played on the ground more,” explained Mike. “There are not a lot of forced carries and most entries into the green allow a golfer to land the ball short of the green and let the slope roll the ball on the green. Figuring out the way the ball will roll can be challenging but it is not as frustrating as having to carry the ball over a hazard all the time and always the golfer a chance at making a decent score. In addition, enjoying the natural beauty of Kapalua always make for an enjoyable round.”
So although The Plantation Course is not a cakewalk, it isn’t as intimidating as one might originally think. Just let your heart and soul lead the way through your round as opposed to your head, and you will find that it’s a wonderful venue for those great shots… those good shots… and those ‘good enough’ shots you have in your bag.