Local golf knowledge goes a long way in Hawaii

By Staff

HONOLULU - A bit of local golf knowledge can go a long way when you're playing golf in Hawaii, which has a distinct geographic location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and a beautiful but rugged landscape. Some tips hold true on any of the 80 golf courses in the Islands of Aloha.

Hawaii golf tip: Tradewinds vs. Kona Winds

No matter where you decide to play a round of golf in Hawaii, you won't be able to escape the tradewinds. Usually blowing from the northeast, these cool breezes averaging 12 mph and are credited with keeping the islands cool. Most of Hawaii's golf courses are designed so the tradewinds help, rather than make things more difficult.

For example, the 663-yard, par-5 18th hole at the famous Kapalua Plantation Course on Maui sounds like a monster. On paper it is, but with the tradewinds behind you and the fairways running downhill, the hole becomes reachable in two for long-hitting pros like Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, who tee it up here for the Mercedes Championships every January.

On the other hand, you will find some trouble on the course when the Kona Winds are blowing. This wind blows from the southeast, replacing the tradewinds most often in the winter. As you've probably figured out by now, all the tradewind-friendly holes in Hawaii now turn into unfriendly, long challenges. The spectacular scenery found on the golf course remains the same and that's not a bad trade off.

Hawaii golf tip: Reading the greens

According to Jerry King, head teaching professional at the Kapalua Golf Academy, the greens found throughout Hawaii are characteristically different from the typical bent grass and Bermuda greens on the mainland due to the pronounced grain. This is caused by a few factors: direction of the setting sun, prevailing tradewinds, and drainage of the water on the greens.

If you're having trouble reading the greens in Hawaii, a good rule of thumb is to line up your putt to break towards the Pacific Ocean. If that's too general for you, locate the brown, sunburned side of the hole and know that the grass is growing in that direction.

Hawaii golf tip: Ask Moke for help when playing on the Big Island

The terrain of Hawaii's Big Island is nothing like you'll see anywhere else across the state. Jet-black lava dominates the landscape in two forms: the smooth type known as pahoehoe and the jagged, sharp type known as a'a (like the sound you would make walking on this stuff barefoot). The golf courses along the famed Kohala Coast are notorious for its lava features. And for some reason, it always seems to be the jagged and "unforgiving" lava that's found on the golf course, lining the fairways ready to swallow up an errant shot.

But there is a way to increase you chances of keeping your ball out of the lava. Dennis Rose, Mauna Lani Resort's director of golf, and Scott Bridges, Mauna Kea Resort's head golf professional, confirm the following piece of Hawaiian folklore: Menehune (little Hawaiian Leprechauns) still walk these ancient lands. Every now and then an errant golf shot hit deep into the lava fields suddenly bounces back into the middle of the fairway.

Some call it luck; both Rose and Bridges call it the work of Moke the Menehune. Their advice: If you see your ball heading toward the lava fields, don't swear at it, just yell "Help, Moke!" If he hears you, he just may toss your ball back to the fairway. Give this a try the next time you play Mauna Lani's Francis H. Ii North course and South course, Mauna Kea Golf Course or Hapuna Golf Course.


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