Though still enjoying the last weeks of summer, you'll be needing to consider a winter golf trip soon. It'll not be long before a good many of Colorado's courses are closed, and you're shut up inside dreaming of perfectly manicured greens and perfectly endless, uncorrupted skies.
Scottsdale, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, and Florida are all good options. But why not really push the boat out this year and head for Hawaii. With a bevy of top drawer courses, Maui is the island of choice for most golfers, and the Big Island gets its share of visitors with a few choice layouts of its own. Oahu has its moments too.
The island whose popularity has risen the most in recent years though is Kauai, the westernmost chunk of volcanic rock in the archipelago, whose glorious coastline and lush inland plateaus possess a handful of courses – seven 18-holers and three nine holers (plus one six-hole short course aimed at kids) of which four or five are definitely worthy of whatever extra cash you spend getting there.
The western half of the island is too rugged for golf so the courses are found on the eastern half starting at one on the clockface and finishing at about half past six. Eighty one of Kauai’s 153 holes were designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. the most celebrated 18 making up the exceptional Prince Course at Princeville which first opened in 1991 and got a major makeover in 2011/12 when fairways were widened, new tees built, bunkers rebuilt, and the TifDwarf Bermuda turf on the greens replaced with Seashore Paspalum. A salt-tolerant grass with a gorgeous emerald color and which putts beautifully, Paspalum is now the favored turf at the vast majority of Kauai’s golf facilities.
Though the Prince may be considered the best course on Kauai, in Hawaii and, indeed, one of the top 100 public-access courses in the United States, the course I enjoy the most is Kiahuna which Jones Jr built in 1983/4 and on which visitors will see many remnants of an old Hawaiian village. They might also catch a glimpse of the state bird of Hawaii – the Nene, the rare Hawaiian Stilt, Moorhen, and early in the morning or at dusk, the Black-Crowned Night Heron. If their ball goes into one of the lava tubes on the 2nd hole, they might even see an ultra-rare Kauai Cave Wolf Spider which has no eyes and which, contrary to what its name might suggest, is actually totally harmless.
It may not be nearly as dramatic or remarkable as the Prince, Makai, Kauai Lagoons, Poipu Bay, Puakea, or even the municipal Wailua (which non-residents can play for $48) courses, which all feature holes you’ll be tweeting pictures of every twenty minutes or so. It probably won’t be the course you remember most from your trip to Kauai therefore. But for me, Kiahuna is one of those happy places where your inner voice shuts up for a change, and your soul just feels content. And there is an awful lot to be said for that.