Golf on Oahu: Seven things you should know when planning your golf vacation

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

One of the unique aspects of playing golf in Hawaii is that each island has its own character.

Arnold Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort - No. 17
Turtle Bay's Palmer Course has hosted numerous pro events.
Arnold Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort - No. 17Spam musubiEwa Beach Golf Club - No. 17Royal Kunia Country Club - No. 16
If you go

Nowhere is that more evident than playing golf on Oahu. Unlike the other major islands in the chain, Oahu can be fast paced. There are freeways, high rises, plenty of people and a bustling nightlife. Here you'll find quality daily fees with plenty of locals and visitors alike filling the tee sheets.

It's a different experience. Go as a single and you're just as likely to be paired with locals as you are tourists.

So to help prepare you for playing golf on Oahu, here are seven things you should know:

1. Rent a car

Unlike the other islands in Hawaii, most of Oahu's golf is of the daily fee variety, and the courses are spread throughout the island. That means if you're staying at one hotel, you will most likely have to drive somewhere to get to the golf courses.

Of course, some hotels, like the Hawaii Prince Resort, offer shuttles to their golf courses, but if you're looking to check out several courses during the week, a rental car is necessary. The side benefit, of course, is that you can use the car to explore other attractions on the island -- and Oahu has plenty of those, like the Polynesian Cultural Institute, Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial -- or attend a luau.

2. Honolulu, Waikiki make a great base

Oahu is by far Hawaii's most populated island, with nearly 400,000 people in Honolulu alone. The capital city is like most big cities, except it has one of the world's best beaches, Waikiki, at its doorstep.

That's why if you choose Oahu for a golf vacation, staying near Waikiki Beach is a great option. The city offers great nightlife and dining options. Plus, when you're not playing golf in the daytime, there's no better place to hang out than the beach. You can even take surfing lessons.

Accommodations near Waikiki run the gamut, from high-rise luxury hotels to more budget-minded hotels, but the key is location. Everything is within walking distance, except the golf courses. But Oahu isn't all that big and most of the courses are within a half-hour or 45 minutes.

3. Or you could stay at Turtle Bay

Of course you don't have to stay in Honolulu. Oahu does offer some fine resorts, the most famous of which is Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore.

Known for its surfing as much as its golf, Turtle Bay has 36 holes of golf -- the Arnold Palmer Course, which has hosted numerous professional events, and the George Fazio Course, which offers plenty of ocean views and is the easier of the two courses.

But staying at Turtle Bay is about more than the golf. As the backdrop for the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," the Turtle Bay Resort is perched on one of the prettiest spots on the planet. With ocean views surrounding three sides of the hotel, guests can witness amazing sunsets, dine on the best local seafood or relax on the resort's private beach.

4. Ultimate golf snack: spam musubi

Mainlanders will probably never understand this until they try it, and even then, some aren't too crazy about it, but you can find a unique Hawaiian creation called spam musubi at most golf courses and convenience stores.

Basically, it's spam, usually marinated in teriyaki sauce, laid on a bed of sticky rice wrapped with seaweed. For breakfast, you can get it with a sliver of egg, and while it might not seem appealing, it's a favorite snack in Hawaii and easy to eat on the golf course. With protein and carbs wrapped up into one little (usually warm) package, it's all a golfer needs to get through nine or 18 holes.

5. Bring your knockdown shot

Since Oahu is an island and only protected by palm trees for the most part, wind is almost always part of the equation. The usual trade winds will translate into one or two clubs difference, and playing downwind is usually more difficult than playing into the wind.

Of course, when storms are in the South Pacific, the usual island breeze can become a gale. Having the ability to hit the knockdown or punch shot is critical, just like it is in Scotland or Ireland. Here, you could be playing a 4-iron in from 140 yards, or hitting a 9-iron from 180 yards if you're going downwind -- and hoping you get the right bounce. It's just one more thing that makes playing golf in paradise interesting.

6. An ounce of prevention

It's almost a given you'll be exposed to sunshine on Oahu, even if you have a rain shower or two. So bring and use plenty of sunscreen, which also helps keep your skin from drying out from the wind.

One thing you may not think about, though, if you come from a drier climate, is the humidity. And besides it being uncomfortable at times, it can also cause chafing, especially among men. The solution is to prepare the area that might be affected ahead of time. An application of petroleum jelly or even skin lotion usually does the trick.

7. Think Bermuda and paspalum

If you're used to playing bentgrass or ryegrass on your home course, Bermuda and paspalum might be a little of an adjustment.

Bermuda, which is found on most of the courses in Hawaii, is a little thicker than cool season grasses and the rough can be quite gnarly. Paspalum, a saltwater resistant species which is found on courses like Ewa Beach Golf Club, has a bright green emerald hue and stands up, almost like zoysia. That's especially evident on the greens, where paspalum putting surfaces typically run a little slower than Bermuda.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before joining the TravelGolf Network team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.


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