Turtle Bay: the Other Side of Oahu

For several years, Turtle Bay Resort in  Kahuku on Oahu was the only resort in Hawaii to host two events on what is known as the Aloha Tour, but its outstanding courses are left to the tourists because Champions Tour and LPGA Tour events that were held there lost their sponsors.

The resort offers two challenging layouts–the George Fazio Course, which opened in 1971 and hosted the first Senior Skins Game in 1988, and the Arnold Palmer Course, which opened in 1992.

While both courses offer exceptional golf experiences, there’s no question that the Palmer is the preferred layout, although the Fazio is exactly what is was intended to be when it opened–a fun, sporty resort course.

Playing the Palmer Course presents two different golfing experiences. The front nine reminds the golfer of a Scottish links course, virtually without trees, while the back side winds through a tropical forest of ironwood trees (haole koa in Hawaiian) and the Punaho’olapa Marsh, which is a bird sanctuary.

Be sure to consult your course guide because water comes into play on almost every hole, and some of it cannot be seen from the tees or even the fairways.

Arnold Palmer enjoys Turtle Bay so much that he was married to the former Kathleen Gawthrop on the property before the start of the 2004 Turtle Bay Championship.

Somebody who probably enjoys Turtle Bay and Hawaii even more than Arnie is Hale Irwin, who won the Turtle Bay Championship five consecutive times among his nine official titles in the islands. Irwin also captured three Senior Skins Game victories in Hawaii.

With five sets of tees, the Palmer Course, which plays to a par of 72 and measures 7,199 yards from the back tees, is very playable for the resort golfer of any level.

The third through seventh holes, which wrap around a large lake, provide the meat of the front nine. The par-5, 543-yard third hole is No. 1 on the index rating, with water down the left side of the fairway and bunkers surrounding the green. Be careful, because you can’t see that the water narrows the fairway considerably 220 yards from the green.

The strength of the back nine is the finish, which consists of two 450-yard par 4s and a 577-yard par-5 closing hole, where tournaments are won and lost.

The 452-yard 17th, probably the signature hole of the Palmer Course, plays downwind to the ocean’s edge, with seven fairway bunkers from the driving area to the elevated green.

Tom Kite came to the 18th hole one shot behind Irwin in the 2003 Turtle Bay Championship and tried to go for the green in two across the pond that guards the wide, shallow green–which also has two bunkers waiting for shots that go long.

Kite’s approach from 235 yards with a fairway wood hit the rocks short of the green and fell back in the water.

Perhaps the most memorable feature of the Fazio Course is an exceptional set of par-3 holes, with water to contend with on three of them. No. 11, the only one without a water hazard, runs along the beach. The ocean comes into play only if the tee shot is 50 or more yards offline.

The most intriguing hole on the Fazio Course is the 277-yard 14th hole, a risk/reward par 4. Take the risk and it’s possible to make a 3 or even a 2, but there’s also a chance to make 6 or 7 because the hole is ringed by native vegetation and there is out of bounds on the left.

Among the other many courses on Oahu are Kapolei Golf Course and Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei; the West and East Courses at Makaha Golf Club in Waianae; Mid Pacific Country Club and Royal Hawaiian Golf Club in Kailua; Mililani Golf Club in Mililani; Pearl Country Club in Aiea; Waikele Golf Course in Waipahu; and Koolau Golf Course in Kaneohe. Koolau is considered by many to be the most difficult course in the United States, with a slope rating of 153 from the back tees.

Although the modern mega resorts certainly provide a stimulating vacation experience, there’s still nothing like discovering a slice of Old Hawaii.

Anyone searching for a spot where time passes at tortoise speed might be surprised to find it on the island of Oahu at Turtle Bay, less than an hour’s drive from the frenetic activity at Waikiki in Honolulu.

The sprawling 880-acre property gives guests their choice of five miles of beach, 12 miles of oceanfront hiking trails and its two magnificent championship golf courses. It’s also a short drive from the fabled surfing spots at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline.

Those who want the action and energy of Waikiki should enjoy the Hawaii Prince Hotel, at the gateway to Waikiki when driving from the Honolulu Airport. It affords scenic views of the Pacific and is convenient to Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Ala Moana Beach Park and the Koolau Mountains.

Other hotels on Waikiki include the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel and the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach.

Away from Honolulu is Marriott’s Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina.

ON THE WEB: www.turtlebayresort.com.


Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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