Getting on the green

Blogging about some of the world's best golf holes.

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Hole # 1, Kukuiolono GC, Kauai, HI

Hole # 1, par 4, 321 yards

After playing a great round at Wailua Golf Course, the municipal course in Lihue on the island of Kauai, we were told by a couple from Airdrie, AB to play a cute but challenging course called Kukuiolono. Like so many things in Hawaii, I looked up the course and found some interesting things about the course history. Back when sugar was harvested on Kauai, there once was a man named Walter Duncan McBryde. If you have been to Poipu then you have driven through the Tunnel of Trees. Was this a freak of nature or did someone plant these trees along the road? We have Walter Duncan McBryde to thank because he donated these eucalyptus trees about 150 years ago. The trees have since grown and provide a canopy over a mile of road.  Before passing on, Walter wanted to create a park for his mill workers and families to enjoy so he staked out a piece of land that overlooks the ocean. The park is in Kalaheo and most of its residents had worked for Walter McBryde. Part garden and part golf course, this land has sweeping views of the ocean and Kauai below.

For a mere $9, you can play Kukuiolono as many times as you wish. The $9 is the “daily contribution” and you can go round and round from dawn to dusk. This is because Walter had left his life savings for the maintenance and operation of the golf course.

Teeing up on the first hole from the white tees, you can see that the perfect drive would be on the right side of the fairway because it is a dogleg left. Nervousness came over me and caused my ball to hook left. The other two guys did the same. From about 160 yards away, I did not have a clear view to the green. I decided to hit a low stinger below the branches and hope for the best. Unfortunately, my ball hit a few leaves along the way and settled short of the fairway in the rough. I had about 80 yards left so I decided to use my 56-degree sand wedge. Luckily it popped out clean and I was putting. I was amazed at how smooth the green was. The course is very well maintained for $9 and clearly, it is challenging.

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Hole # 6, Kauai Lagoons GC, Lihue, HI

Hole # 6, par 4, 399 yards

Hole # 6 Tee Box

Hole # 6 Kiele Moana

What does a monkey have to do with hole # 6 on the Kiele Moana course? Drive up, grab the big stick and head down to the tee box and you will see. By the way, it’s not a monkey but a gorilla.

Ok, it is clear now. This is a gorilla hole meaning that you have to be a gorilla to hit it over the trees and onto the fairway on the other side of the world. At least it looks that way.

At 399 yards from the white tees, it almost seems unfair. Hole # 1 was 491 yards and it was a par 5. Standing on the tee box, you feel like you’re standing on top of the world.

Take a deep breath, hit it good and let it fly. Stick to your fundamentals and you will be fine. Try not to cut the corner too much because it’s a long way across. A straight tee shot will work better. If you do feel like a gorilla, try it but be forewarned that there are sand bunkers to your right, just behind the bushes.

Over the gulley

Tee shot has to clear the gulley.

My playing partner is lucky for playing the forward tees. Again, her tee box is on the other side of the gulley where you can see the green. On the other side, I find my ball in the middle of the fairway. I had to look across at the tee box where I just came from, just to see what I had to endure.

This is truly a spectacular hole and a picture of it doesn’t give it justice. You have to play this to believe it.

Her drive is always down the middle. In front of me, I have to make sure my second shot doesn’t spray right. A group of trees on the left is forcing me to hit it high so I chose my 6-iron from 165 yards. I have been practicing this shot over the last week in Hawaii. It’s going to start to the right and slowly draw in to the center. Bam, it’s on the green and I have a birdie putt. My playing partner isn’t so lucky. She duffs her 3-wood and her ball ends up in the sand bunker up ahead. She normally hits it cleanly but this time, she faltered.

She would blast her way out but short of the green, leaving her a nasty chip to a rather large green. I tap it in for a birdie and she had to settle for a double bogey.

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Hole # 1, Kauai Lagoons GC, Lihue, HI

Hole # 1, par 5, 491 yards

The staff at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club in Lihue on Kauai are so friendly that on a quiet day, you feel like you own the place. At least that’s what I would like if I ever won a lottery and bought the course from the Marriott. After checking in with the starter, they will give you a bucket of balls to warm up on. You can putt or you can head out to hole # 1. Because it’s a resort course, they will often let you out on your own rather than team you up with strangers.

Hole # 1 on the Kiele Moana course is a long par 5. At 491 yards from the white tees, the green is a long ways off. The fairway is nice and wide so your first shot doesn’t have to go down the middle. I am hitting my Taylormade Burner with a 10.5 degree loft and stiff shaft. With a slight draw on my driver, I end up in the middle. My playing partner Cynthia is teeing off with a Taylormade Superfast driver with a 13.5 degree loft. She always hit it down the middle – you know the type.

Both of our balls come up about the same. I am hitting my 4-hybrid and she chooses her 3-wood. With only 120 yards left, I chose my 9-iron and dropped the ball next to the pin. She had about 110 yards so she went with her PW. She also made it safely on the green. Both of us are putting for birdie and talk about birds. There are roosters, chickens and chick-a-dees everywhere. Kauai certainly is overrun by chickens. They don’t get in the way but they do make a lot of noise.

I two putt in for a par. She lipped out and had to settle for a bogey. That’s a nice start to a great round in Kauai.

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Hole # 5, Kauai Lagoons GC, Lihue, HI

Hole # 5, par 3, 170 yards

There are three 9-hole courses at Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons Golf Club in Lihue designed by Jack Nicklaus. When you fly in to the Lihue airport during the day, you can see golfers practically underneath the plane because some of the fairways are adjacent to the runways.

Hole # 5 on the Kiele Moana course is a challenging par 3. All three tee boxes are located on one side of the gulley while the forward tee is on the other side where the green is located. When you drive up to the tee, the green looks like it’s a mile away. What?! It’s a par 3? Luckily for me, I left my ego in the car and came to play the white tees which is difficult enough. Besides, I am playing on a limited supply of golf balls. When you come to the island to play golf, you don’t pack a lot of balls because it weighs down your luggage and you can buy more on Kauai if you really need more.


Even from the white tees, the hole plays longer than 170 yards. Today, it looks more like 185 yards so I am hitting my 4-hybrid. I want a club that will give me the confidence of clearing the gulley. The only way I am going to lose my ball is to pull or push my shot because there’s trouble left and right of the hole. The green looks like it is sitting on a mountain with slopes on all sides. Coming up short is trouble. But since the forward tee is on the other side, you have plenty of room to the right of the green in case you have too much club.

I hit first and it was a good one. I would hit the edge of the green and roll back slightly. Hopefully, I can chip it close. My playing partner tees off from the other side of the gulley. Lucky for her. She hits a beautiful shot to the green. From the forward tees, it’s 137 yards and too much club is trouble. She hits the green with her 8-iron.

We are both on. I am putting for par and she for birdie. I come up short and bogey the hole. She two putts and pars it.

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Hole # 7, Kona CC, Kona, HI

Hole # 7, par 4, 373 yards

Hole # 7

Hole # 7

Playing golf in Hawaii is always memorable, especially when you can play with Head Professional, Jason Souza at the Kona Country Club. If it wasn’t for running out of electricity, we wouldn’t have had the chance of meeting Jason nor playing a few holes with him. If you do play the ocean course and plan to play the mountain course back-to-back, be sure to change carts at the turn. Stupid us, we didn’t and paid for it on hole # 4. The unthinkable happened – our cart died in the middle of the fairway.

Hole # 7 is the hardest hole on the Mountain course. It plays 373 yards from the white tees and requires a good drive. Jason played from the back tees because he was a pro and he sailed it down the hill. From the back tees, you really couldn’t see the fairway below. Jason told me to aim right of the palm tree that was situated on the left side of the fairway. With a clear purpose, I hit a good drive and it went down the middle. However, I didn’t see it land but Jason was smiling at me so I presume it was good. Chris was next. I could see that he was nervous and he ended up leaving most of his weight on his right side. His ball flew left, straight for someone’s back yard. He would hit a provisional just in case he couldn’t find his first ball.

Jason went looking for Chris’ ball but couldn’t find it after 10 minutes. It was deemed lost. Chris decided to play his second ball which ended up right of the fairway. He had a long way to go and had to clear a lake on the right hand side. Chris played it safe and decided to lay up.

I found my ball in the middle of the fairway with just 120 yards to the green. Jason’s ball was just a few feet behind mine. It was his turn. He chose a wedge and hit it high. His ball landed at the back of the green. Chris was next. At 150 yards, Chris hit a low boring shot to the green and cleared the water. He would end up with a double bogey. I was next up. I chose my 9-iron and hit it crisp. It sailed in the air and landed at the back of the green, next to Jason’s ball.

I would watch Jason’s roll and see that it would break left. I followed and two putted in for a par. Jason congratulated me for scoring a par on the #1 handicap hole.

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Hole # 17, Kona CC, Kona, HI

Hole # 17 on the Mountain Course, par 3, 172 yards

Hole # 17

Chris @ Hole # 17

Between the two courses at Kona Country Club on the Big Island in Hawaii, the ocean course is the most popular and gets the most play because golfers like to tee it up next to crashing waves and see an errant drive fly into the ocean. That’s a stroke penalty to say the least and there’s no chance to find it nor retrieve it.

Hole # 17 on the Mountain course is a long par 3. With our Callaway rangefinder, it’s playing 189 yards. We are teeing off at the top of a mountain and down below is water guarding the green. It’s spectacular up here with views of Kailua-Kona below and ocean. I don’t know whether to grab my camera or my hybrid.

I hit first and concentrate on making a smooth takeaway. As I bring my club down, I could hear the sound of a sweet shot as my ball sails towards the green. It has a bit of air time before it sits and settles on the green just a few feet from the hole. My playing partner also from Calgary decides to hit his hybrid. He isn’t so lucky because his ball finds the water. He winds up for his third shot, laying down another Pro V1 ball on a tee. He tries to calm his nerves by telling me, “This can get expensive at $5 a ball”. He hit it thick and the ball travels half the distance. Unfortunately it’s wet. “One more time” he insists. Another Pro V1 ball and this makes it across the lake and over by my ball. We are now ready to head to the green.

He wanted me to putt out first even though his ball was away.  I obliged. I took a look at the green before putting. No breaks, just a smooth stroke. It was in for a birdie. Fist pumped – it felt good! Chris two putted and ended up with a 7.

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Hole # 1, Wailua Golf Course, Lihue, HI

Hole # 1 par 5, 520 yards

If you’re looking to play an ocean course at a reasonable rate then head out to Wailua Golf Course on Kauai. Just 10 minutes north of Lihue and before Kapaa, the Wailua Golf Course is a pleasure to play. First of, you can’t go wrong with a $50 green fee in the afternoon. Second, you play right next to the ocean on holes # 1 and # 2.

Hole # 1 is a beautiful long par 5, slight dogleg right. When you tee off, you think you’re hitting toward the ocean but you’re actually playing parallel with the beach. Try to keep your tee shot straight. If you happen to slice it off the tee, your ball will come to rest among the trees that line the fairway. In most cases, you’ll find your ball because it isn’t a dense forest that is on your right.

The fairway is free of sand bunkers so blast away. There are only two sand bunkers at the green but there’s an entire beach on the whole left side of the fairway. The wind can play havoc on your shot so take that in account on club selection.

If you hit the green in three then you’re in for some easy putting. The greens are relatively slow and if it’s raining, it’s slower than molasses.