Kings' Golf Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort presents a royal test
WAIKOLOA, Hawaii - When you come to Hawaii, you can't help but think "beach," but at the Waikoloa Beach Resort, Kings trump the Beach when it comes to golf.
There are two enjoyable golf courses at the Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island. The Waikoloa Beach Golf Course, as the name would imply, has a pretty good view of the Pacific Ocean on the par-5 seventh. But hole for hole, the better of the two courses is the Waikoloa Kings' Golf Course, a 1990 Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morris design that's some 500 yards longer than its sister course.
Waikoloa Beach Resort's Kings' Course is one of the more interesting layouts in all of Hawaii. At 7,034 yards, this par 72 has a rating/slope of 73.4/135.
"This is the course we hold most of our tournaments on," said Johnny Eusebio, PGA golf operations manager at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. "There are a lot of good holes on the Kings' Course."
Kings' Course: Splendid design
Like other Weiskopf/Morrish-designed courses, you'll find a good mix of holes on the Kings' Course, and it comes on a pretty good canvas, too.
While the ocean views may not be there, black lava fields, sparkling blue lakes, about 75 white sand bunkers and giant Mauna Kea on the horizon provide plenty of aesthetics. Combine that with holes that give you several playing options, and you've got a pretty interesting layout.
In typical Weiskopf fashion, many of the holes present risk-reward possibilities. You can go for the second hole, a 560-yard par 5 in two, but water down the entire left side, with ever-present wind, make it a chancy proposition.
The fourth, at 513 yards with water on the second shot, and the 18th, a 501-yard par 5 with deep bunkers and a lava field on the left, are more realistic eagle chances.
A trademark for Weiskopf has been the short par 4s.
The fifth on the Kings' Course is one of two par 4s that are drivable for big hitters if the wind is right. At 327 yards from the tips, the green is protected by a large bunker with a huge lava boulder in the middle of it. Hit your tee ball behind the boulder in the bunker, and bogey will be a challenge.
The 13th is 332 yards. When it plays downwind, big hitters may try to drive the green, but they will have to carry the ball some 300 yards to do it - pretty difficult even with a two- or three-club wind behind them. The recommendation here is to play something shorter down the right of the lake and try to get it up and down with a wedge for birdie.
The golf course also has a nice mix of par 3s with the third, at 232 yards, playing really difficult if it's into the wind. (Dare we say "driver?")
Waikoloa Beach Resort Kings' Course: The verdict
You might not be wowed by ocean views on the Kings' Course, but you certainly know the ocean isn't far away. The constant breeze, which can sometimes be a gale if you get the strong Kona winds, lets you know that you're on an island in the middle of the Pacific.
And that wind, combined with a really good design, makes for some interesting golf.
Couple that with excellent conditions and the striking contrast of the lava fields, water hazards and green fairways, and the Kings', even minus the ocean views, is a visually pleasing layout that is both challenging and fun.
Recently, the Kings' Course and Beach Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort consolidated their clubhouses and practice facilities to Kings' Course, which really doesn't take away from the amenities of either course. The range is large with excellent turf and a short-game area.
The clubhouse is also comfortable with a full-service bar and grill. The hamburgers there are some of the best on the Kohala Coast.
Stay and Play at Waikoloa Beach Resort
There are two outstanding resorts that offer stay-and-play packages to both the Kings' Course and the Beach Course at the Waikoloa Beach Resort.
With more than 1,200 guest rooms, a spa, specialty shops, nine restaurants, a monorail and boat transportation network within a 62-acre resort, the Hilton Waikoloa Village is reminiscent of a miniature Disney World.
Having recently undergone a $100 million renovation, the Hilton Waikoloa Village also has its own putting course, a $7 million art museum and the Dolphin Quest educational center.
The Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa sits on 15 acres fronting the Anaeho'omalu Bay beach and ancient fishponds.
The Marriott also features 28,000 square feet of meeting space and outdoor venues along with Hawaii's only naturally sheltered beach.
Getting to Waikoloa Beach Resort
There are plenty of flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as the other islands, to the Big Island's Kona International Airport, which is different from most U.S. airports in that it's pretty much entirely outdoors.
The Waikoloa Beach Resort is located just 18 miles north of the airport off the Queen Kaahumanu Highway. The airport also features every major rental car company, and the Big Island probably leads the nation in the rentals of convertibles, particularly Ford Mustangs.
September 15, 2009