Bold and beautiful: Prince Course at Princeville resort is a one-of-a-kind golf challenge on Kauai
PRINCEVILLE, Hawaii -- At long last, the waterfall has returned to the Prince Course at Princeville.
The notoriously tough, par-4 13th hole earned the name Waterfall for the cascading water behind the green. But several years ago, a major storm rerouted the runoff, and the waterfall stopped its flow into the Anini stream.
Finally, in the winter of 2010, a major storm flooded nearby Hanalei Bay and the entire 13th green, even taking out the bridge on the cart path at the Prince Course. But it caused enough havoc to return the water to its former flow and restore the waterfall behind the green.
So enjoy it until another island storm inevitably knocks it back out. It's one of golf's great - and difficult - green sites, and it comes in the meat of the Prince's most strategic set of holes on the back side, where precision trumps power on the Garden Isle of Kauai.
The Prince ranks among golf's most unique settings and its toughest tests, thanks to championship yardage of more than 7,100 yards and the opportunity for disaster on virtually every shot. Many fairways hug cliffs, jungle walls and ravines. Carries are required regularly, while greens are heavily sloped and bunkered - just in case you avoid everything else.
And driver is not the play on every hole. The Prince requires constant use of the noggin, which frankly, will have enjoyed better days once this golf course finishes with it.
The Prince Course at Princeville: Pick your spots to score low
"The last time I played the Prince course, I scored a 9 on the first hole," said Scott Ashworth, director of golf at Kauai Lagoons in Lihue. "If you can salvage a par out of the gate, you've already come along further than most."
For the higher handicapper, the par-3 third and 11th holes likely present the best chances to knock a shot on the green and snag a par, if only because fewer chances for disaster lurk. Also, the par-4 sixth, which tumbles downhill towards the coast, features a generous landing area and short approach shot if the trade winds aren't too strong.
The par-5 10th hole begins a stretch on which you'll want to think before pulling a club.
From the 10th tee, you might think the GPS unit in your golf cart is on the fritz, because it relays that the green - which you can't see - sits only about 365 yards away. Look at the overhead map and you'll see it's a dogleg that extends beyond 90 degrees if you take the long way. A shortcut looms, and it doesn't require a long hitter to use it.
"You can play a 4-iron off the tee to the left side of the fairway," said Steve Murphy, director of golf at the Prince Course. "And from there, hit another 4-iron into the green. But it's risky if you have a good score going."
The risk involves a 200-yard carry over brush. Few aggressive plays come without the possibility of severe stroke-and-distance penalty on the Prince.
And while the gamble on the 10th is tough for first-time Prince golfers, the par-5 15th offers a better chance to score with an elevated tee and a wide fairway. Drive it to the left side of the fairway and another downhill shot of manageable distance awaits to the green.
Prince Course at Princeville: The verdict
"One of the five best designs I've made," said Robert Trent Jones Jr., of his creation, which remains one of the world's great, treacherous golfing expeditions.
Prince Course at Princeville is not for the timid. Long carries pose a problem for the mid- to high-handicappers, as does the wind, often a factor on the many holes that sit on high ground to afford views of the nearby ocean. If your game hasn't reached peak-season form, take extra caution to play from the proper tees. While many men opt for the second-longest set, it's still a beast at more than 6,900 yards.
Consider playing the middle, white tees at a more manageable 6,500
The Prince clubhouse, about a 10-minute drive from the St. Regis Princeville Resort, is separate from the Makai facility. It includes a full locker room, fitness center and spa, pro shop and a restaurant that serves lunch. Green fees provide access to the spa, so take advantage.
April 13, 2010