Prince Golf Course at Princeville at Hanalei: The most infamous holes
PRINCEVILLE, Hawaii -- After two rounds of golf on Kauai's Prince Golf Course at Princeville at Hanalei, I'd feel more qualified to explain space travel than how to score well.
My advice? Play match play or skins -- anything that doesn't require you to hole out your own ball on every hole.
Golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. built this golf course on a severe piece of mountainous, fertile land loaded with thick jungle and steep drop-offs. The result is a lot of lost balls, especially if the trade winds are angry.
So here are some of the toughest holes on one of the world's toughest tests. Hang onto your hats -- and your mulligan.
Prince Golf Course, No. 1
There are golf courses with gentle opening holes. And then there's the Prince Golf Course, which reminds you who's royalty around here on the par-4 first tee box.
The elevated tee shot isn't much of an advantage. In fact, it gives you a good look at all the trouble. Jungle surrounds the fairway, and you'll need the right combination of line and distance because hazards to the left are at a different distance than on the right.
If you're savvy enough to find the fairway off the tee, chances are you'll have an uneven lie and a shot over water to a green surrounded by trouble.
It's certainly not the kind of hole you want to play without hitting a few warm-up shots, though the staff here admits a few too many golfers will stuff a load of range balls in their bag and use them on the golf course. Don't be that guy.
Prince Golf Course, No. 7
The par-3 third hole is the easiest on the golf course by far, while the seventh is the most intimidating. It plays over bluffs about 300 feet above the ocean. Most of the Prince Golf Course sits on elevated high ground, and this is the first real spot where you're exposed to the elements.
Before teeing up, head to the Jones signature tee and take a look at the shot from there. It's rarely used these days, but it is about a 240-yard carry over the steep jungle cliffside that tumbles toward the ocean. It should make your tee shot from the forward sets, between 150-200 yards of carry, appear a little easier.
Prince Golf Course, No. 12
The first time I stood atop the elevated tee of the par-4 12th hole, the wind was gusting sideways and the fairway looked about as big as a bowling lane. I could have unloaded a small bucket and not hit the fairway.
The second time around, the wind wasn't as bad and, being two years wiser, I was playing the white tees, a box up from the blues, where I played the first time. You don't need a driver here if you're a longer hitter. A hybrid or 3-wood will do, and it should leave you with a mid-to-short iron into the green that has water short and right.
Prince Golf Course, No. 13
The par-4 13th hole is one of the prettiest green settings in the world, secluded in front of a jungle wall with a cascading waterfall. The setting is serene. The hole? Not so much. It's a beast, thanks to a tee shot that requires a lay up in front of a stream that runs across the fairway. If you play the shot too safely, it will leave you with a long iron uphill into the green, which (surprise) is loaded with trouble around it in the form of sand and water, and the green itself is severely sloping.
In a match play situation, play for bogey by laying up short and right of the green, and chances are you'll win the hole. Mid-handicappers won't par this hole without a little help from the island gods.
Prince Golf Course, No. 18
Once you arrive at the 18th hole, you've emerged from the jungle for the last time, and you'll see more fairway and rough than you've seen in a long time.
Unfortunately, you'll also encounter the longest par 4 on the back nine, five fairway bunkers and a well guarded, elevated green.
It's about this time that we mention your green fee at the Prince Golf Course includes access to the spa in the clubhouse, so use warm thoughts of the pool or steam room to get you through one final hole.
September 30, 2010