Kona Country Club comeback: Renovated Ocean Course on the Big Island is scheduled to reopen this summer

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

The long process to renovate the Ocean Course at Kona Country Club on the Big Island appears to be nearing an end.

Kona Country Club - Ocean golf course
John Sanford is currently renovating the Ocean Course at Kona Country Club on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Kona Country Club - Ocean golf courseKona Country Club - Mountain golf course - 14th
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Although the course's Web site lists June as the opening date, Florida-based architect John Sanford was a bit more conservative during a recent phone interview, indicating the shuttered Kona C.C. should open no later than August now that a new irrigation system is in place on the Ocean Course. The William Bell design, originally opened in 1966, was a favorite of locals because of its location six miles from the heart of the Kauilua Kona.

Sanford's team has updated bunkers, repaved cart paths, leveled fairways, improved tee boxes and is in the process of planting new landscaping.

"One of the things we wanted to do was to make it better and sustainable and take some areas of grass out," said Sanford, who last visited the course in December 2014. "The entire course was wall-to-wall Bermuda (grass). We are taking out about 12 acres of turf and replacing that with native landscaping. It will have a cleaner look. Over time, there was a lot of settling. It was built on lava. There was a lot of leveling of the fairways to fill in the potholes. What will be most noticeable will be new bunkering and new landscaping."

Sanford said cutting through blue lava rock, the "hardest rock in the world," during the irrigation installation caused a number of delays.

"You can't go in with a back hoe excavator to trench (the rock) out," he said. "We tried saw blades. It is just too tough. ... It took like five times the work than trenching through sand."

It’s unclear what will happen with Kona Country Club's Mountain Course, which closed after the Ocean Course in 2013. It looked entirely overgrown when I drove by in December 2014. There might be too much local competition along the Kohala Coast to bring it back.

There's plenty of price variety and different looks nearby. Makalei Golf Club and Big Island Country Club hide in the hills above the coastline. The Mauna Lani Resort and Waikoloa Beach Resort are major 36-hole oceanfront resorts with multiple hotels.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (one 18-hole course is private) and the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel each have their own resort course as well. High-end private clubs such as the Kohanaiki Golf & Ocean Club, Kukio Golf and Beach Club, Nanea Golf Club and the Club at Hokuli'a cater to the one-percent crowd.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Kona CC

    Pudsmack wrote on: Dec 30, 2015

    I've received an email that stated the Ocean Course will open February 1st 2016. I won't believe until it does but they are raising the prices to $90 per person (local rate). I guess I'll be renewing my Peacock Card at Makalei in June. Never much cared for the Ocean Course, I always preferred the Mountain Course, much more fun on the Mountain Course.


  • Kona Country Club

    Mike Robinson wrote on: Mar 17, 2015

    I agree with Mr. McIvor that this article does not represent what is actually happening here in Kona. The article, in my opinion, is a puff piece designed to assuage the property owners around the course. Information made public here in Kona has been sparse, vague and sometimes misleading. I believe that at this time there aren't any definitive plans to open the course. The owner is interested in selling and/or developing some residential lots and the golf course is secondary to that project. The buildings that service the course are in poor shape and need to be renovated or replaced. This could take years to complete once it ever gets started.


    • RE: Kona Country Club

      Jason Scott Deegan wrote on: Mar 18, 2015

      This piece is simply an interview with the architect about the status of the renovation. I can only report what the architect said in the interview and what the golf course website indicates. Never was this piece written to be a "puff piece" or to "assuage the property owners around the course".


  • Kona Coast Country Club

    Mike McIvor wrote on: Feb 18, 2015

    I have been staying right next to the course since Jan 3rd and at the rate that they are working the course it won't be ready until Aug of 2017. They don't even have grass planted or seeded were they put the irrigation in on the fairways or on many of the tee off areas. The whole course is in really poor shape.