Kauai Lagoons Golf Club: Part Kiele, part Mokihana and still all Nicklaus
LIHUE, Hawaii -- It's been a few years since the Kiele Course at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club offered play in its intended entirety.
In conjunction with a new Ritz-Carlton development, renovations and alterations to the golf course sputtered during the recent economic downturn, though the project is expected to resume in the summer of 2010.
But in a change from 2008, the famous finishing holes return at this Jack Nicklaus-designed former PGA Grand Slam of Golf host -- and they deliver a crescendo finish. In its present form, the Kiele, which includes its No. 10 through 15 from next door at the former Mokihana, still deserves discussion among the top golf courses on Kauai.
Kiele, long known as one of Hawaii's most dramatic plays, features a half-mile stretch along the cliffs of Kalapaki Bay that is home to such holes as the dramatic, par-3 13th. No. 13 remains out of play along with another par 4 under renovation along the coastline, though officials expect it to return to the lineup by 2011.
The front nine of the Kiele, fully intact, starts with the first hole and its Buddha statue next to the tee. You can rub it for good luck. But the first fairway ranks as forgiving as any on the island, so save your luck for the par-3 fifth hole. A long carry over a ravine to a upside-down-saucer green complex highlights the par-3 fifth hole. By comparison, the long carry from the par-5 sixth tee box is tame.
Kiele's famous oceanside 16th hole opens finishing stretch
After the last of the wide, free-swinging Mokihana holes, a five-minute cart ride to the coast delivers you to the original, par-4 16th hole of the Kiele. It's a short par 4 at just more than 300 yards, downhill and with the Pacific trade winds at your back. Cliffs on the left side guard the fairway, which narrows to only a few yards as it leads to the green.
Regulars at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club admit that seemingly perfect, aggressive drives often find their way into the ocean. So for a chance at birdie, play a 200-yard shot and trust your wedge play. Ocean guards the peninsula green on three sides, while a steep slope on the right kicks to the green. So unless you're an ace, play it safe.
"Don't even look at the pin," said Scott Ashworth, director of golf at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club. "Just aim for the right side of the green."
Play your shot to the right, and it should roll toward the center of the green. Let your playing partners go for the green and end up fishing around the cliffs.
The golf course turns back through the inland lagoons for the par-3 17th and the equally knee-knocking 18th -- both with plenty of ways to ruin your card. No. 18, a long par 4, features lagoon along the entire right side. And to make matters worse, it wraps in front of the green, necessitating a carry . The shot often plays into the trade winds and usually requires a long iron or a wood.
"Sometimes, it's a blessing to hit a bad drive and be forced to lay up," Ashworth said, "rather than hit a good drive and think about going for the green from 190 yards into the wind."
Kauai Lagoons Golf Club: The verdict
The six Mokihana holes put a slight damper on the overall experience at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, if only because of the two unfinished oceanfront holes. But the club makes the best of its temporary arrangement and the golf course remains a worthy Kauai play -- not as tough as the Prince course and Poipu Bay Golf Course but still a Nicklaus challenge with good hole variety.
Guests of the Kauai Marriott Resort, within walking distance or a brief shuttle to the clubhouse, receive a discount on green fees. The club also offers a "Hana Hou" rate (meaning "to do again") for $85, good for a week after play. The golf course and the resort sit in the island's main city of Lihue, just minutes from the airport. Aircraft, in fact, disturb the peace a few times during most rounds.
Kauai Lagoons Golf Club: Fast fact
Each hole of the Kiele features a small statue, indicative of the orginal owner's extravagant tastes, which also led to exotic, imported wildlife in the lagoons and tall columns at the front of most buildings here and the Marriott resort.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Kauai Lagoons G.C. re-opened its 18-hole Kiele Course in its entirety in May of 2011.]
May 3, 2010