Kapalua, loosely translated to “arms embracing the sea,” is one of Maui’s premier resort areas located at the foot of the West Maui mountains. The former pineapple plantation is now the site of the 23,000-acre, master-planned Kapalua Resort and is home to the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, award-winning restaurants, more than 20 boutique shops, historic sites and two renowned golf courses, including the Plantation Course, home to the prestigious PGA TOUR's Hyundai Tournament of Champions (January) and the Bay Course, home to the 2009 Kapalua LPGA Classic.
Kapalua Golf- The Plantation Course
The Plantation course was designed by pre eminent golf course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Set back from the sea on the former pineapple plantation the course is effectively sited on the lower mountain slopes and has panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the neighbouring island of Moloka'i. Despite seeing the course on TV many times, I was surprised just how dramatic the terrain was- with steep slopes, deep ravines, and dense jungle like vegetation. Everything is on a grand scale!
The Tournament of Champions
The Plantation Course is famous for hosting The Tournament of Champions, which is the opening tournament each year for the PGA season. Founded in 1953, the field is restricted to golfers who won a tournament on the tour during the previous year. With a select playing field, warm Maui weather, and low crowd numbers, The Tournament of Champions is a popular event- both for TV audiences world wide, the for the small galleries that gather each year, and the players and their families.
Former winners include: Geoff Ogilvy, Stuart Appleby, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els & Tiger Woods
In keeping with the scale of the surroundings The Plantation course has been built big and brassy! Signiifcant carries, long holes, steep slopes, and exposure to the ever present wind- these are the trademarks of The Plantation Course. The fairways are links like- firm and fast encouraging the running ball.
It is definitely a course that will challenge players of all standards.
With slope/course rating for most tees in excess of 140 this is a very difficult course.
The are some memorable holes:
The long sweeping downhill par 4 first hole with approach over a gully sets the scene.
Hole 5 is a tease of a par 5 horseshoeing around a jungle ravine with the green tucked behind.
Hole 8 is a long par 3 with a long carry over a jungle ravine.
Hole 11 is a mid to shorter length downhill par 3 with a skyline green. It's a thrilling shot, and a Kodak moment- with Moloka'i island as a backdrop.
Hole 14 is a potentially driveable short uphill par 4. But with bunkers protecting the green and either side of the lay up area it will usually require a well thought out strategy and a deft touch to beat par. It is a nice contrast to the power holes that abound at The Plantation Course.
Hole 17 is the start of the big finish which is so well know by television audiences. It is a brutally long downhill par 4 which requires another significant carry to hit the green in regulation. As with so many of the holes here, the wind is a major factor, and can make these holes unplayable, or just a walk in the park,
Hole 18 continues the drama. A par 5 measuring 663 yards from the tips it sweeps downhill right to left like a boomerang. Take a short cut if you dare!
There is no doubt at all that The Plantation Course is great championship course. It's a dramatic course that is exposed to the elements, and challenges the best players in the world.
It makes for great theatre, and comes up very well on T.V.
Every golfer worth his salt who visits Maui should make the pilgrimage to play here. But dont expect it to be easy!
Stronger golfers will love the challenge and want to play it more than once, but lesser mortals will find it hard going, and may prefer to play The Bay Course the second time around
Nevertheless The Plantation Course is a golf experience not to be missed
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