Saturday, February 11, 2012

Round #5: Hawaii: Kapalua - Plantation Course

It was raining on Monday morning when we departed Waikiki Beach and headed for the Honolulu airport. The cloud cover obstructed our view of the islands on our short 35 minute flight to the island of Maui. We landed at the Kahului airport, picked up a car and headed out on a 22 mile drive to a condo unit at Napili Bay on the northwestern shore. Our experience thus far is that 35-45 MPH is the maximum speed limit, but it is difficult to maintain the posted speed limit due to traffic congestion. The surf was up at Napili Bay due to the storm front passing through. We took a short walk onto the beach to an old lava flow, 100 yards from our condo. A few people had gathered there to watch 5 green sea turtles feeding on the reef 15 feet from the water’s edge. The warm weather and crashing surf made the snowy cornfields of Iowa seem a million miles away! 

Round: #5
Location: Lahaina, HI
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 7 Feb, tee off at 1:00 PM
Conditions: cloudy skies, 15 MPH wind, 73 degrees
Yardage: 6,674
Lost balls: 4
Score: 89 on a par 73
I knew there would be days like this. Perhaps the first warning sign was the morning news from Honolulu when they reported a postponement of the surfing contest on Sunset Beach due to high wind. The surf was pounding the shore at Napili Bay all night. It made for a gorgeous sight, but made me think playing golf the next afternoon could be a real challenge - - - unless all of the holes somehow played downwind!

Looking down hole #1 fairway

The second warning sign was a weather forecast calling for a 70% chance for afternoon showers. I like to think of that as a 30% chance of no rain, but as it turned out I encountered a 100% chance for getting soaked that afternoon. I did have to keep score on my iPhone, since a pencil did not write very well on a wet scorecard.
I was paired up with two other couples for the round of golf. Pete & Glenda were from Eugene, Oregon where retired for 10 years ago from being a school principal. Glenda was along for the ride - she picked a beautiful day to accompany Pete on the golf course. The 2nd couple was Dennis & Ann Marie from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He works for Coke and she keeps busy with their 3 teenage kids. The golf course had great views of the Pacific Ocean, that were somewhat obstructed when it started to rain by hole #3. It was just a light rain, so we naturally played on. The weather broke for a few holes on the back nine when the 25 MPH wind gusts worked to help dry us out a little before it started to rain again. We still kept playing on. Our luck ran out when we arrived at the #17 tee box, the skies opened up and started to pour. That did not stop us from finishing the round; it did however prove that my DryJoy golf shoes fail to keep my feet dry when the water is running down my legs!

Pete & Glenda

Dennis & Ann Marie

We had planned to snorkel dive several times while on Maui. The high winds and the direction from which they hitting the Maui shoreline changed our plans. I took advantage of the open time on our schedule to play a 2nd round of golf under more ideal conditions. I was thinking improved weather would result in an improved score. That theory fell apart quickly. You can be more aggressive in aiming directly at the hole when putting on wet greens. Putting on dry greens increased the amount of break, the speed of the ball’s roll, impact on the ball from the wind, and the ocean’s gravitational pull on the it’s direction. I kept the ball in play much better, hit more greens in regulation but the factors listed above killed my ability to putt with any consistency.
Round: #5 re-try
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 9 Feb, tee off at 11:20 AM
Conditions: sunny skies, 10 MPH wind, 74 degrees
Lost balls: 1
Score: 90 on a par 73
I was paired up with two other couples again. Josh & Stacey were a 35 year old couple from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Grandma was babysitting their two young boys while they vacationed in Maui. Josh was in the insurance business; Stacey (who rode along on the golf cart) was a full time mother taking care of their two young boys. The 2nd  couple was Ed & Kim from Frederick, Maryland. Ed worked in HR, Kim was an accountant. The sunny weather made for gorgeous round of golf as long as you did not pay any attention to the scorecard. It is not often you can watch humpback whales breaching in the distance while waiting for your turn to play.

Josh & Stacy, Kim & Ed

As you might expect, the course had a good number of sand traps, elevation changes, hazards and of course the never ending wind. I landed a ball on the hole #11 green during both rounds: in the rain I was able to hit a straight line to the hole and drop a 42’ putt for a birdie (with a little luck!). I 3-putted the same green under dry conditions to bogey the hole.

161 yard par 3 hole #11 under sunny skies

 View across a canyon of hole #6 fairway from hole #5

Playing golf on the toughest course in Hawaii is not a cheap proposition. The normal cost for a round at the Plantation Course is $268 if you tee off prior to 1:00 PM. The twilight golf rate of  $168 applies for any tee times after 1:00 PM. With a normal play time of 4-1/2 hours and with sunset at 6:20 PM there is a short window for tee times where you can be assured to finish the round before dark. In addition, reservations are open to Hawaii residents and Kapalua property guests only outside of 30 days. I called to reserve my tee time exactly 30 days prior to 7 February the minute they opened for business. If you happened to notice, I teed off at 11:20 AM for the 2nd round - - - at a cost of $88. I circumvented the regular staff taking reservations and spoke directly to Scott Carroll, the Head Golf Professional for the Plantation Course. He cut me a deal when I told him I wanted to experience his course under more ideal conditions than I had played in on Tuesday. Scott is a good man - and is evidence of the theory that you get what you ask for in life. At least that theory worked for me on Thursday, even if my earlier theory of "Improved Weather = Improved Score" went crashing down in flames.

View down hole #17 fairway 

View up hole #18 from the green

Note: I was 30 yards in front of the green on the par 5 hole #18. A chip shot to the right side of the pin (left side in the above picture) rolled across the green, down a steep embankment and stopped inches above the sand trap. I double bogeyed the hole.

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