Poipu Bay Golf Course

March 3, 2008 1:45:51 PM PST
Not many bad amateur golfers can claim to have beaten Vijay Singh on a hole of golf. Singh does not know, of course, nor would he care, but I do, having made a par three to his seven on the 193/166/143/119 yard 11th at Poipu Bay.

"In the 2005 PGA Gland Slam of Golf, Vijay put two in the water on this hole," recalled assistant pro Chad Dusenberry. He and I were in the midst of our own 2/2/2 Nassau, a bet I would regret as soon as he hit the first of many tee balls some seventy yards past mine. Yes?seventy. I used a laser rangefinder. "Dude, those drives are long."

"Don't worry, I can't putt," lamented Chad, who looks nothing like most preconceptions of a Dusenberry. He's part German, Irish, Blackfoot Indian, Pilipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Korean. Chad is one of those island success stories---a local who returned home after a stint in the Air Force. Eleven years ago, he took up golf, playing the game from dawn to dusk until Poipu Bay offered him a job as a cart boy. Now, he's in line to run the place.

Poipu Bay is a grand course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It has no bad holes? just good and better ones. Poipu is long enough to challenge most players, but forgiving enough in most places to let semi-wild swingers blast away.

You will face your most difficult test on the 405/367/324/288 yard, par four, 9th. It plays downhill into a fairway that narrows to twenty-four yards wide. Your second shot goes to an elevated green, with a big, lone, bunker guarding the right side. The hole's archaeological history is even more memorable, as you will play past a five-hundred year old lava rock religious site. Should you hit your ball in there, forget it. Take a stroke penalty, or risk angering the ancient spirits. This would not be prudent, considering the tests, ahead.

The 537/498/475/423 yard, par five 14th, demands plenty of stick. This is a straightaway hole with a blind tee shot. A bunker guards the middle of the fairway for your second. Your third plays into an elevated green, with fierce winds sweeping off the bluff. Consider using an extra club when hitting that approach.

The 501/472/432/383 yard par four, 16th, is Poipu Bay's signature hole. It's one of the longest holes in Hawaii. This one plays downwind and downhill, with the Pacific Ocean roaring at the bottom of a steep cliff on the left side.

Poipu Bay offers one other attraction of note. Twice a week, it sports an all comers skins game. Twenty bucks buys you in. Chad and his buddies do not give strokes, but if you believe in lightning striking, take heart in the 18-handicapper who recently fleeced them for three-hundred dollars by making a birdie on the 179 yard, par three, 7th.

Either that, or Chad was baiting me.

The course has an arrangement with the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa, a very nice place to stay with one of the world's great swimming pools. It's all saltwater, lava, and sand. Have dinner in Tidepools restaurant on the property, or else the Plantation Gardens, which is nearby.

I enjoyed extraordinary meals at both---perfect ends to perfect days.