BY AL PETERSEN
Kauai is known as Hawaii’s “Garden Isle,” and the garden spot on the island is the north shore. That’s where visitors will find some of the most exotic scenery, upscale lodging and topnotch golf anywhere in the country – landlocked or in paradise.
But even gems need polishing, and many of Kauai’s luxury hotels and all 10 of its public courses received some type of renovation work in the past few years.
The reopening of the spectacular Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club in March after a 13-month renovation project marks the closing of the island’s renovation era, and new management is eager to get the ball rolling again.
“With the work completed at our courses and resorts, visitors have the opportunity to come back and see the ‘new’ Kauai,” said TJ Baggett, the general manager at the Prince Course. “All of the golf properties on Kauai are world-class, and we’re confident guests will be blown away by the enhancements that have been made.”
Much of the work done at the 7,309-yard Prince Course was undertaken to cut back on the jungle vegetation that had begun infringing on play since it opened in 1990. Other renovation work handled by Robert Trent Jones II on the course involved rebuilding and regressing all greens, restoring original sight lines, making the playing corridors wider, adding tee boxes and refurbishing all bunker complexes. The idea was to make the course, always considered one of the tougher layouts on the island, more playable.
“This revitalization makes the course more flexible for a wider range of players,” Jones said. “The reshaping will help players use the slopes and ground features to their advantage as we intended in our original design.”
One thing that didn’t require tinkering at the Prince Course – which has been ranked as the best in Hawaii and among the top 100 in the U.S. by national publications – were the panoramic views available on all 390 acres of roller-coaster terrain, lush vegetation, gullies, streams, lakes and waterfalls.
While Baggett said “there are a lot of spectacular, dramatic holes here,” No. 13, a 418-yard par 4, is particularly stunning. The target fairway is cut through the jungle to a landing area 200 yards away. Cascading water behind the green fills Anini Stream, which meanders around the putting surface and dissects the fairway.
“It never will be a go-for-it type course,” Baggett said regarding style of play. “You’ve got to pick your spots and play the golf course like Jones laid it out. There’s a lot of strategy and no denying its beauty. It’s one of the best on the Islands and in the country.”
Enhancing the Prince Course’s location on the north shore are the St. Regis Princeville and Makai Golf Club just up the road. The Makai, also designed by Robert Trent Jones and the first course to open on Kauai in 1971, completed its renovations a couple years ago and handled the increased play from golfers while the Prince was shut down.
One of the most breathtaking par-3 holes a golfer will see is Makai’s 213- yard No. 7, which requires a cliff-to-cliff tee shot hit over a wide chasm nearly 100 feet above the crashing ocean waves. The green is surrounded by bunkers with some bail-out room on the left. But anything short or right of the intended target will end up way out of play.
Built on historic ground beside Hanalei Bay (a film locale for “The Descendants”) and overlooking the enchanting Napali Coast, the St. Regis has some of the best deck views you’ll ever experience in your travels. The facility, which opened in October 2009 and has 252 guest rooms, is St. Regis’s first resort in Hawaii. The eclectic atmosphere is a combination of elegance and Hawaiian culture, with a 10,000-square-foot spa, infinity pool, tropical gardens and four distinctive dining options adding to the ambiance.
The neighboring locations of the Prince, Makai and St. Regis in Princeville, in addition to the other golfing, adventure and leisure possibilities available on the quaint island of Kauai present a wonderful challenge for visitors who want to squeeze a lot in to their trip. But that’s OK because it’s all good. Correction. Make that even better.
“The feedback we’ve received so far is really, really positive,” Baggett said about the renovation work at the Prince Course and the enhancements to the facility’s golf shop and clubhouse. “People have really liked what they’ve seen. We all work together to get more people to the north shore, and when they get here they see how spectacular it is.”
Princeville Golf Club – (808) 826-5001 • princeville.com/golf
Makai Golf Club – (808) 826-1912 • princeville.com/golf
St. Regis Princeville – (808) 826-9644 • princeville.com/hotels