Kona Country Club comeback: Renovated Ocean Course on the Big Island is scheduled to reopen this summer
The long process to renovate the Ocean Course at Kona Country Club on the Big Island appears to be nearing an end.
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.