Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei: Keeps you guessing on Oahu
KAPOLEI, Oahu, Hawaii -- Any golf course that has a lady bug as a logo has to be a pushover. Go out, drive a few greens, knock down a few birdies, go home happy.
Located on Oahu in Kapolei, Ko Olina Golf Club does indeed have a lady bug logo. But it's no easy track. Quite the opposite, Ko Olina offers a challenge for golfers of all skill levels.
It all starts (or, actually, ends) with the scenic 18th. At 428 yards from the Blue (back) tees, the final hole will have you thinking. That's the trademark of a nice course - keep 'em guessing even as they're finishing their round.
Water bisects the fairway around 125 yards from the green, so that has you thinking right off the tee. Should I go long to set up a really short second shot? Should I hit an iron so I don't get into the water? That's a pertinent question considering the fact that water also creeps down the right side of the fairway to punish the errant shots of those who want to go for it.
Worse yet, if your ball does end up in the drink, you may well have an audience. The club has a deck that extends over the water in the back of the green. Some ooohs and aaahs were evident the day we played.
Brad Davis, Ko Olina Golf Club's assistant pro, said the 18th cost one local assistant a statewide tournament when he bogeyed the hole. "He lost by one shot," Davis said. Imagine what this wicked little hole could do to the rest of us. "This hole has it all -- strategy, beauty," Davis said. "It has pretty good length. The prevailing winds can be in your face. It can be intimidating."
Davis said the tradewinds often come into play on the first three holes. So don't go macho and try to hit from the Blues if you can't rip it.
Everything gets started with a 518-yard par-5, which sounds a little threatening. But, winds aside, there aren't too many problems looming here. There are only two traps, both on the right side, before you reach the green.
A sign of things to come pops up on the 412-yard second hole. A challenging tee shot demands accuracy, which can be a little tricky when the winds kick up. Water, which shows up on eight holes here, runs for more than 100 yards down the right side. Getting home can be tough. The course recommends that you use an extra club because of the elevated green.
The 362-yard third runs opposite the second, but don't worry much about the water. It's there, but it won't come into play unless you really lose it down the right side. The course's only hour glass-shaped green makes for some tricky putts.
More water comes into play on Ko Olina Golf Club's 528-yard fifth hole. It turns up on the right side and on the back side of the green. This is advertised as a three-shot hole, even for long hitters. Take it down the right side to make sure that last bit of water doesn't get you.
One of Ko Olina Golf Club's signature holes is the 195-yard eighth. Every yard of this hole is attractive, with a waterfall on the left side of the green and a split-level green. Just don't get ruffled by the water and you'll be OK.
"A lot of golf course architects won't like to be tagged with signature holes," Davis said. "(Ko Olina designer) likes water features, which would be his signature."
Another Davis favorite is the 183-yard 12th. Just remember that it plays longer than it appears because of the strong breeze. "It's typically a two-club wind," Davis said.
It takes an effort to reach the green on the 516-yard 14th. It's mostly uphill, so there isn't a lot of roll to be found.
Don't be scared off; Ko Olina Golf Club is worth a shot. There are four tee boxes, plenty to suit your game.
"Most players consider (the course) very fair," Davis said. "The fairways are wide enough."
All of this means there's only one more bit of advice for players who want to make the 30-minute from downtown Honolulu. Even if the trade winds kick up and Ko Olina gets the best of you, just keep thinking: I won't let it bug me.