12th hole on the Beach Course, Waikoloa Beach Resort
If you haven't played at Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii lately, it's time to return. Recent changes on the Kings and Beach courses have raised the bar for all of the resort courses on the coastline.
The Waikoloa Beach Course clubhouse is now closed, making the main clubhouse headquarters for everything, with a large, upscale pro shop, bar and restaurant. (The old favorite for wood-grilled steaks and seafood, Buzz's Sand Trap stays open at the old clubhouse.)
All of the holes on the Beach Course have been renumbered (i.e., the 6th is now the 1st, making for an over-water start), and bunkers have been deepened and filled with beautiful new sand from Australia. And, the greens have been subtly transformed from the previous bumbly-ness into perfectly even, true rolling condition. The par-70, 6,566-yard, RTJones, Jr.-designed Beach Course is menaced by dramatic black lava fingers and outcroppings, although generally wide fairways make it possible to proceed without too many disasters. Golfers on the back tees face water carries on four of the first seven holes. Haul out your camera on 12, where the iconic oceanfront panorama is fringed with a parade of waving palms.
The Waikoloa Kings' Course
bunkers and Bermuda greens were also significantly upgraded. This
7,074-yard track is a Weiskopf & Morrish-designed, link-style
beauty where the approach shot is of ultimate importance. Pot bunkers,
six lakes, shifting winds off the ocean and a 73.4/135 rating/slope
from the back tees make the Kings' a daunting challenge (four tees
allow the average golfer to enjoy the round, starting from the
5,459-yard forward tees).
Not enough golf in the daytime? "Glow Golf" is a popular after-dark activity on the 18-hole seaside putting course, complete with sand traps. water features and fluorescent balls.
Dolphin Quest at Hilton Waikoloa Village, island of Hawaii
One of the best choices for stay-and-play at Waikoloa Beach Resort is Hilton Waikoloa Village, a sprawling, flamboyant and multi-faceted complex. Fresh from a recent $10 makeover, the resort is graced by a veritable botanical garden of riotously blooming flora in a water wonderland of lagoons, ponds, waterfalls, grottos and canals, all a-twitter with tropical birds. Besides 9 restaurants, many shops, and swimming pool extravaganzas, the Hilton has numerous hideaways waiting to be discovered, from the loungy sofas on the Kamuela Provisions Company terrace, overlooking a rushing waterfall and the ocean, to a labyrinth of meandering walking paths crossing under a waterfall, over bridges, past the dolphin lake and through quiet Japanese-style gardens. The spectacular "Legend of the Pacific" luau under the stars is a must-see.
Most rooms have ocean views, in fact it's practically impossible to be out of sight and sound of the sea here. My favorite place for lunch or dinner is the Provision Company ocean-front terrace, just above the crashing surf. There is a vast, sand-edged, calm lagoon for ocean swimming, with paddleboats, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boards. And, don't miss the dolphins. You can either sign up for a thrilling Dolphin Quest encounter, or just wander by the dolphin lake any time, to watch their 24/7 antics.
Lounging on the lagoon beach, Hilton Waikoloa Village, island of Hawaii
Resort hotels, condos, restaurants and activities on the Kohala Coast at www.kohalacoastresorts.com (with tips and resources regarding weddings, meetings, spas and special packages).
Good through March 2010, the pre-paid, multiple-round packages are money-savers for golfers (rental club and merchandise discounts included):
Four-Round Package ($375 for FOUR 18-hole rounds)
Three-Round Package ($295 for THREE 18-hole rounds)
Two-Round Package ($225 for TWO 18-hole rounds)
Founder/editor of BestGolfResortsofTheWorld.com, Karen Misuraca is a travel and golf writer from the California Wine Country. She follows the little white ball around the world and blogs about International Golf Travel at www.examiner.com.