Category: Big Island Country Club


December 07, 2010

Big Island Country Club: An underdog story

Posted at 2:40 PM by Jeff Ritter

Big-Island-CC-17th

The Big Island is known for some of the best golf in both Hawaii and the entire U.S. Most of the famous courses are located along the western Kohala Coast and are affiliated with their namesake resorts, including Mauna Kea, Hualalai and Mauna Lani.

Big Island Country Club is different. Located about 15 miles inland and at an elevation of about 2,500 feet, it's common for temperatures to run 15-20 degrees cooler than the coastal courses. After opening in 1997, the Pete and Perry Dye design enjoyed a nice little run, but ownership changed hands several times in a few short years, and the end result was a neglected course with browning grass and dilapidated grounds. A couple of locals told me that driving past it was a pretty depressing sight.

Those days are history.

A new owner, Moshe Silagi, came to the rescue last April and brought in more than 40 workers to begin a massive overhaul. The $1 million renovation calls for everything from restoring bunkers and reseeding fairways to trimming trees and constructing a new clubhouse.

"The previous owners just didn't put in the money to keep the course up, and the rep got out there that things weren't good here," says BICC marketing director John Kitchen. "Silagi has brought the course back to a much nicer state than it had been in. Golfers who have played it have commented on how much better it's been, and how much they enjoyed it."

The project still has long way to go, but add me to the list of golfers who had a good time. At $80 a pop, you can play it three times for less than the cost of one round at Mauna Kea, which I had visited earlier that day. BICC also boasts a few indigenous species not found on the coast, including the delightfully annoying Erckel's Francolin, or "laughing bird," which scoots around fairways and belts out sounds that are strikingly similar to human laughter. (It's a nice touch when the bird sings right after you mis-hit a shot.) The club is also home to the only island green in the entire state of Hawaii, and the par-3's yardage and setup are similar to the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

Here's Kitchen with more on the overhaul and his own shot at the signature 17th at BICC. If you listen closely near the middle of the video, you can hear a laughing bird happily squawking.

With so many heavyweight courses in the area, BICC has a steep hill to climb, but the project has potential. In fact, the endgame calls for a new residential community that rings the course. It could turn into a great bargain for folks looking for affordable real estate and good golf in comfortable weather.

And hey, it's fun to pull for an underdog.

Ocean-Hammock HAMMOCK THOUGHTS: Things I thought about while lying in the hammock pictured at right:

* Hammocks are awesome.

* It's easy to find a great place to eat on the Big Island (just ask somebody -- anybody -- and they'll give you a recommendation). I grabbed a lunch at Village Burger in downtown Waimea. The head chef, Edwin Goto, is the former executive chef at the posh Mauna Lani Resort, and his menu is loaded with meats and vegetables harvested on the island. The burger quality, but not the price, compares to Kobe beef. My Hawaii Rancher's Beef Burger ran me $8.50, and that included an extra buck for avocado.

* Another great spot: Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Queens Marketplace at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. If you perch yourself at the bar, you just might get a few recommendations for rolls that aren't on the menu.

Waterfall-hike2 * Let's face it, it's rare for someone to visit Hawaii soley to play golf. That's how I justified totally slacking off conducting further research with a waterfall hike by Hawaii Forest and Trail. A morning cup of coffee is nice -- especially at the Kohala Coffee Mill in downtown Hawi, where my tour ended -- but swimming under a waterfall is an even bigger, better jolt. If you take the tour, I'd recommend my guide, Mark, who keeps the mood light and can describe every plant and animal you'll encounter along the way.

* More underrated golf: the two courses at Waikoloa Resort, the Beach and the Kings'. Waikoloa has more rooms than any other property on the island, and it conducts a slew of family-friendly events at its resort and courses. The par-5 seventh hole at the Kings' (pictured at bottom), is worth the trip. Ross Birch, president of Hawaii Golf Connection and my playing partner for much of the week, called it, "The most spectacular oceanside par 5 in all of Hawaii," before slyly adding, "it's also the only oceanside par 5 in Hawaii." Still, it's pretty sweet.

* Finally, I spent a little time compiling mainland terminology and the Hawaiian equivalents. Here's a simple chart for tourists.

MAINLAND TERM........HAWAIIAN EQUIVALENT
Hello.............................................Aloha
Goodbye......................................Aloha
Thank you....................................Mahalo
House..........................................Hale
Kids..............................................Keiki
Tastes really good.........................It broke da mouth
Sound of honking horns...............Sound of crashing waves
Denny's Grand Slam...................Loco Moco
Sterile, concrete office building............Sterile, thatched beach hut
Dating Lady Gaga...........................Playing No. 3 at Mauna Kea from the tips
Mangos shipped to a supermarket three days ago......Mangos cut from a tree three hours ago

Jeff-ritter-waikoloa

(Photos: John Kitchen, Jeff Ritter)

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