For those needing a break from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, Ko Olina Golf Club and the JW Marriott offer a perfect place to relax and hit the links. Located on the western coast of Oahu, the course has been voted Best Golf Course in Hawaii by Honolulu Magazine and is listed in the top 75 Best Resort Courses in Golf Digest.
I had the opportunity to talk to the head PGA pro and golf director, Greg Nichols. Greg is the kind of pro we all wish we had at our home course: fit, knowledgeable, friendly — and he looks like he could join the tour at any moment. I did my usual “fake left, go right” plan as I spoke to Greg, and I think he bought the idea that I was a good golfer.
Ted Robinson designed Ko Olina and is credited with more than 160 projects in the western United States, Hawaii, Mexico, Japan, Korea and Indonesia. Robinson is dubbed the “King of Waterscapes,” and he added his watery touch on many holes at this course. Ko Olina offers a full range of services, including a Roy Yamaguchi restaurant. Greg was very proud of the teaching facilities and their work with local youths, introducing them to the game we love.
Hole 2 (412 yards, par 4)
I teamed up with a U.S. Navy officer, John, and his father-in-law, Tim, for the round. The second hole was already welcome, as I had lost a ball on the first due to the moving sun and the soggy conditions; Honolulu and Oahu had seen a lot of rain. This is a long hole with a slightly elevated tee box. Avoid the water on the right that runs nearly the entire length of the hole, stopping short of the two-tiered green about 130 yards away. There is also an out of bounds on the left. All three of us had decent drives; I favored the left for fear of the water. My approach was short of the green, but a perfect chip for a one-foot “gimme” putt saved me.
Hole 6 (373 yards, par 4)
The challenge here begins with a drive over a ravine to an elevated fairway; from there the hole turns a slight dogleg right to the green. I had a solid drive to the fairway to the middle, or position “A.” If you slice the ball, you will end up in trees that line the right side or into bunkers; the bunkers are filled with beach sand, which takes some getting used to but prevents plugged balls. The elevated green has a lone left bunker and runs upward from front to back.
Hole 7 (444 yards par 4)
This is a fun hole; to the left you can see the ship from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, part of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, which is under construction. Enough sightseeing — we’re here for golf, and this is a challenging hole. Favor left center with your drive. Drifting right, as Tim did, makes recovery difficult and par nearly impossible. The course experts know that the prevailing winds help you reach the elevated green; the winds at Ko Olina tend to come from the northeast in the direction of Diamond Head. I was pleased to card a 5.
Hole 8 (195 yards, par 3)
The beauty of the water features make this a signature hole. From the tee box, you need to land on the elevated green that plays much further than the yardage suggests. We all came up short; our navy officer found the “deep six” of the pond. The water cascades from a waterfall on the left side of the green to a pond on the left of the tee box — a great photo opportunity.
Hole 10 (413 yards, par 4)
I played this hole exceptionally well with my partners. I nailed my driver but pulled it left, nearly making the fairway bunker, and I thought I was toast. I was pleased when I saw my position: near the trap but sitting up well with excellent placement for my stance. I took a 5-wood and caught the ball cleanly to the green. Tim and John cheered as the ball landed and held firm. I two-putted for par and felt I had finally warmed up. I was so far left, the water hazard to the right was out of play — a recommended way to attack this hole. Tim and John played well, too; but I cannot report their success, and I was never on the fairway.
Hole 12 (183 yards, par 3)
You have to drive under a cascading waterfall to get to the tee box on 12. The soothing rush of water is behind you; in front of you are a low hedge and the well-bunkered green rising upward to the back. I over-clubbed this hole, hitting the back of the green and bouncing off, then chipped past the hole for a difficult return putt.
Hotel 13 (514 yards par 5)
Ranked as the second-most difficult hole on the course, unlucky 13 is long and has a well-placed water hazard. The elevated tee box offers you a great vantage point, but the prevailing wind knocks a drive toward the water. The green is three-tiered; if you are able to get three good shots from the fairway, you will need real “reading skills” to make your putt. The greens are Bermuda grass and have “grain” — the tendency to lay over in a particular direction. If you can determine the prevailing wind, you can determine the grain growth, as they tend to be one and the same.
Hole 18 (428 yards, par 4)
This is a great finishing hole; get the lay of the land before you hit your drive. A pond runs across the front of the green, and big hitters might want to take a club down. Watch out for the plantings and out of bounds on the right. Your approach to a two-tiered uphill green has to clear the pond and bunkers. There is a slight bail-out to the right, but this sloping green causes some high scores. I finished with a bogey, but Tim and John’s demise was the out of bounds and the water.
Ko Olina Golf Club
92-1220 Aliinui Drive
Kapolei, HI 96707
tel 808 676 5300
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