Jack Nicklaus designed 36 holes of golf on the coast in Lihue, Kauai in 1987
Initially the development was known as Kauai Lagoons, and the 2 courses were named The Lagoons Course, and The Kiele Course
Adjacent to the airport, and attached to the Marriott hotel in the heart of town, Kauai Lagoons was a popular golfing destination. Over time, with different ownership, changes were made. 36 holes became 27 holes and then 18.
Timbers entered the picture and developed some quality ocean side residences and resort accommodation, and Mr Nicklaus came back to revitalise the course.
The newly named Ocean Course at Hoku’ala has essentially taken the best of the previous 36 hole layout, and produced one high quality course
After some nice strategically bunkered parkland opening holes, Hoku’ala hits you in the face on the par 3 fifth hole. At this stage the course is routed though dense tropical vegetation including mango and guava groves.
The fifth hole is an ‘all or nothing par 3’ with a significant carry over a gorge to a table top green. It’s about now when you may realise Mr Nicklaus intends for this to be a serious test of golf, not just a walk in paradise…
A par here is well earned. And the cart ride from tee to green is quite the journey!- up, down, and through the jungle…
Hole 6 is a par 5 with another significant gorge to carry off the tee, and another thrilling cart ride from tee to fairway. As long as you make the carry and hit straight thereafter, it is not a difficult hole..
The downhill par 3 eighth hole is also memorable as the green is set into the side of a hill and has a pond along it’s righthand side, and all slopes lead to that pond…
The back nine is even stronger as the magnificent coastline comes into play.
I love the short strategically bunkered par 4 twelfth hole which gives the player decisions on length and line for the tee shot which radically impact on the playability of the hole.
Thereafter it is sensory overload as the course turns to the coast with a variety of memorable holes- one after the other.
The long par 4 thirteenth heads straight to the sea, which provides a delightful backdrop to a picturesque green setting. With the wind in your face, it’s a testing hole.
The par 3 fourteenth sees tee and green on rocky promontories with a cove between.
It’s a thrilling tee shot!
The tricky par 4 fifteenth wraps around the coast, but the short par 4 sixteenth is no doubt the ‘signature hole’. It’s a short downhill drivable par 4 with a postcard green projecting into the briny.
It’s a blind tee shot to a tiny target, and the sensible play is to lay up to the top of the hill and hit a wedge in.
I don’t know of any other hole quite like 16- it’s short, blind, quirky and very picturesque!
I want to play it over!!
It’s an understatement to say at this stage that the course has your attention, and you may be forgiven to think as you turn the cart inland toward the seventeenth tee, that octane levels just might settle.
Seventeen is a mid length par 3 to a green projecting into a lake.
It seems like a shallow target as you assess the sea breezes and select a club for the all water carry.
And it’s another great photo opportunity.
The final act is no less demanding or photogenic. It’s a long par 4 with an island green.
Do you lay up or go for it?
Hoku’ala is memorable for the variety of terrain and holes played, the sheer beauty of the site, and the way it challenges players at all levels. I loved it!
The Ocean Course is one of the highlights of any golfing tour to Hawaii.
It is a Travelling Golfer must play!
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