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Best of the Best 2012: Golf Courses: The Golf Course at Kukui‘ula

Bruce Wallin

With its lush volcanic coastline, Kauai has long been the Hawaiian island of choice for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. However, with a few exceptions—including the two Princeville courses near Hanalei—golfers have traditionally found more fertile ground amid the many world-class layouts on Maui and the Big Island. And while the new Golf Course at Kukui‘ula will never lure the golfing masses to Kauai, this latest 18-hole addition to the Garden Isle has immediately secured a place among Hawaii’s—and thus the world’s—top courses.

 

Opened last June, the Tom Weiskopf–designed course is part of the Kukui‘ula private resort community, a 1,010-acre development on a mountainous stretch of coast just five minutes west of Poipu Beach. A former sugar plantation, the property is being tactfully transformed into an exclusive retreat with plantation-style cottages and custom homesites. The community’s recently completed hub overlooks Kukui‘ula Bay and includes a 20,000-square-foot spa, dining and entertainment areas, swimming pools, a family-themed game room, and the golf clubhouse.

 

Though a private members’ community, Kukui‘ula will open to visitors on a limited basis beginning this fall. Guests will be able to stay in one of an eventual 61 cottages (from about $1,200 per night) and will have member-style access to all of Kukui‘ula’s amenities, most notably Weiskopf’s 18-hole gem.

 

Generously spread over 216 acres, the course at Kukui‘ula is a shining example of what a resort-community golf club should be, with stunning scenery (every hole offers ocean views) and endless variety. "You never have the same experience twice," says Brian Paul, the head golf pro at Kukui‘ula. "Weiskopf’s challenge was how to design a course that played fair and fun in a 15 mph trade wind, a 15 mph Kona wind [in the opposite direction], or on a dead-calm day."

 

Regardless of the weather, the all-Paspalum-grass course is always in top form. Weiskopf, who came out to Kukui‘ula for its debut last summer, remarked that it was in the best opening-day condition of any of his previous 60-plus courses worldwide. The layout’s gloriously groomed fairways and greens are bordered throughout by flora, including colorful crown flowers along the sixth hole, a citrus orchard off the 10th fairway, and a small banana and pineapple plantation near the 14th tee.

 

The 14th green, however, offers the course’s most compelling views. Set adjacent to Kukui‘ula Bay, the green is the setting for frequent humpback-whale sightings during the winter breeding season. "Right about December is when you can hope to spot your first whales," Paul says. "By March, you almost don’t even mention it anymore."

 

Kukui‘ula, 808.742.0234, www.kukuiula.com

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