Category: Hawaii

February 05, 2014

Can't afford to play the Pebble Pro-Am? Here's five affordable seaside spreads

Posted at 9:33 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

Pacific Grove Golf Links
Pacific Grove Golf Links / Joann Dost



Locals call this 82-year-old muni the "poor man's Pebble Beach" for good reason. Instead of Pebble's $500 green fees, hoofing it weekdays at the walkable layout is $46, $52 on weekends and $25 for twilight. You get two distinct nines: a passable parklander to open, followed by a stirring seaside loop, complete with huge sand dunes, ocean views, coastal breezes and a lighthouse. My favorite is the 513-yard, par-5 12th, which boomerangs to the right around dunes. It's reachable in two, but a rumpled fairway, stern crosswinds and the ocean to the left complicate matters.


Three times the host venue for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, this busy muni doesn't boast the most sophisticated design, yet it proved a worthy test on each occasion. Gusts from the adjacent Pacific, trees that bracket many fairways, and a healthy 6,991 yards from the tips all add up to a serious scoring challenge for any level. What truly elevates Wailua are its wondrous ocean vistas and affordable price tag. It's just $48 for nonresidents to walk during the week, and half that for twilight play. Local seniors and juniors pay less than 10 bucks, all to tackle holes such as the 456-yard, par-4 second, the Pacific churning along the left side; and a pair of into-the-wind, well-bunkered par 3s, the 14th and 17th, both of which face the ocean.

Highland Links Golf Course
Highland Links Golf Course / Larry Lambrecht



This funky 2,753-yard nine-holer on Cape Cod has so many delightful quirks it makes Prestwick look tame. Summer rates will set you back only $35, another $9 to ride. It's a small price to pay for fescue-framed holes that dip into beach canyons. Unforgettable attractions abound. The par-5 second sports a medieval granite tower honoring nineteenth-century singer Jenny Lind. And the par-3 ninth is backdropped by Cape Cod Lighthouse; dating to 1767, it's the oldest lighthouse on the Cape.

LOS VERDES GOLF COURSE, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

A few years back I lambasted this superbly situated muni for my nearly four-hour round -- on the front nine! Since then, the pace remains leisurely but not as glacial. No wonder it's packed; green fees are under $50 every day, even if you're in a cart, with prime-time walkers during the week paying $27 for a course that's a half-hour from LAX. Los Verdes' 6,617 breezy yards prove a sufficient challenge, especially the bluff-top, 441-yard, par-4 fourth. That hole, along with many others, offers sensational views of the Pacific Ocean. Hey, everyone deserves a second chance, right?


In 2009, Raymond Floyd supersized this 1961 Dick Wilson/Joe Lee 18-hole par-3 charmer, making it tougher and more dramatic. As for sheer drama, nature had already taken care of that. Long a popular LPGA Pro-Am venue, nearly half of Palm Beach's holes hug the Atlantic Ocean, while the other half wind along the Intracoastal Waterway. It's a blur of sand, water and wind, but with seasonal prices as low as $20 -- and with Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers Kellie Stenzel and Scott Munroe on-site -- Palm Beach Par-3 belongs on your must-play list.

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July 21, 2013

Travelin' Joe, Jim Nantz and the 3:30 a.m. British Open wake-up call

Posted at 11:05 AM by Joe Passov

NantzWest coast golfing insomniacs were in heaven this week. ESPN's live coverage of the British Open began at 1 a.m. and continued until noon. Whether you were just getting in, just headed to bed, or just out of Tylenol PM, you could watch live major championship golf.

Have you ever set an alarm, just so you could watch golf? In the pre-TiVo days, it used to happen a lot. That said, I wasn't expecting it to happen in the company of Jim Nantz.

Exactly 15 years ago, I found myself in Hawaii, on the Garden Isle of Kauai. Checking into the Princeville Resort, I ran into Jim Nantz -- then, as now, the voice of American golf. Nantz was on a well-deserved vacation, as CBS didn't have coverage rights to the British Open. We had a few folks in common, so I approached him to say hello. Within 10 minutes, we had set up a tee time to play The Prince Course, Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s tropical tour de force.

I got the better of him in our first round -- owing to a family day he took down in Poipu, where because he sunburned so badly, he could barely take the club back. Didn't matter to me. I felt that by taking down Nantz, Freddie Couples was next. Fortunately for all concerned, that match never took place.

After a lunch and another golf game the next day, I had to admit, Jim Nantz had wowed me. Sure, he takes abuse for his schmaltz-filled Masters delivery, but let's face it, we all get emotional about the Masters.

Show of hands for those who didn't shed a tear when the Olden Bear won it in '86, or when Ben won one for Harvey in '95. Not many of you, are there?

What impressed me most about Nantz, besides his demeanor, was that he was first and foremost, a fan. He seemed to remember every NCAA hoops Final Four team's roster, knew runners-up at majors as well as winners and was comfortable talking shop. I was giddy hearing behind-the-scenes anecdotes on the set of "NFL Today."

What left the biggest impression was Nantz' query to me on Saturday -- did I want to catch the final round of the British Open with him on television? Great idea, until I realized that in Hawaii, the telecast started at 3:30 a.m.

Watching a slew of big names chase unheralded Brian Watts, at Royal Birkdale, with Jim Nantz describing the action -- in the same room? That would have been cool. Honestly, though, I had other obligations. Like sleep. This was Brian Watts, not Byron Nelson. I declined Nantz's offer.

After snoozing until 6, I managed to catch all the golf I could, including a closing 66 from Tiger Woods to finish one back and a taut four-hole playoff between Watts and eventual winner Mark O'Meara.

I checked out later that morning and never did find out if Jim Nantz had arranged for that middle-of-the-night wake-up call. But it wouldn't have surprised me if he did.

(Photo: Angus Murray)

January 12, 2012

Ask Travelin' Joe: Hawaii, Florida and getting a tee time at Waialae

Posted at 1:53 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

PrincevilleCanadian Greetings, Joe,
We’re heading to Kauai in February for 12 days. I’ve noticed some resorts and courses offer 3-4 round packages. What do you recommend we do as we’re planning on playing six rounds. What’s the best value and what are MUST-plays?
Jay Janower

What’s hot on Kauai are vastly improved conditions at a fistful of A-List courses. Start with Princeville on the north shore, which reopened its underrated Makai ($145-$220; 808-826-1912, course in January 2010 as an 18-hole layout comprised of the old Lake and Ocean nines, with the Woods nine now a separate entity. If you can hold out until March 1 (or perhaps as early as February 8), you’ll witness the island’s best course, The Prince at Princeville, reopen following a thorough course renovation, together with makeovers for the practice range and clubhouse.

Roughly 12 months ago, Poipu Bay ($145-$240; 808-742-8711, reopened with new paspalum putting surfaces that have made for quicker, more consistent speeds. Of course, the old greens never bothered Phil Mickelson, who shot 59 there in the 2004 Grand Slam of Golf, or Tiger Woods, who won the event seven times. For me, it was always the stiff breezes at Poipu, not the grainy greens that drove up my score, but no question—the difference is striking.

Finally, Kauai Lagoons ($105-$195; 808-241-6000, reopened its stellar ocean holes—including one brand new one—in May 2011 after a four-year hiatus. After playing there in September, I can tell you it was worth the wait. New white silica sand and TifEagle greens provided heightened aesthetics and playability, but it’s those fabulous four cliff-top stunners that play over and alongside the Pacific that will really impress.

Not so hot are traditional package deals on Kauai, or elsewhere on the islands. That’s not to say you can’t find good deals, but formal golf resort packages aren’t really part of the program, mostly (I’m guessing) because the powers-that-be don’t have to compete to get you there—you’ve already made the decision to go, so there’s more of a “captive audience” aspect to golf in the islands.

Regardless of where you’re staying, all of Kauai’s courses are easily accessible and there are plenty of savings to be had. Even if you’re going from south to north, or vice versa, much of it is a very attractive drive.

If this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, make the journey to play Princeville’s Makai, even if the Prince has yet to reopen. If you plan to return, perhaps wait until the Prince is back in play. It’s that good.

For best bargains, don’t miss Kiahuna ($72-$103; 808-742-9595,, with its laid-back ambiance and superb greens. Wailua ($48-$60; 808-241-6666,, the island’s muni, is even cheaper and has a couple of jaw-dropping ocean holes, but it’s much more crowded and offers iffier conditions. I’m a fan of Puakea ($59-$135; 808-245-8756, as well, not far from the airport, where parts of the movie “Jurassic Park” were filmed. Each nine is saddled with a few dullards, but each nine also has some of the most beautiful, memorable golf holes you could ask for.

Every one of these courses offers a “deal.” Some are for multiple-play rounds during a week, or to play a second round at a reduced rate—along with the usual deep discounts for resort guests where relevant. If you’re going this route, I do like Kauai Lagoons’ deal of $495 for the week, which includes unlimited golf, engraved bag tag, club storage and even a lesson. The most consistent value is simply to play almost all of these courses in the afternoon, when prices drop by as much as 50 percent. My advice is to check the individual web sites for the deal that appeals to you most.

Bottom line: Among the public-access courses, I rate The Prince Course at the St. Regis Princeville as tops, closely followed by Kauai Lagoons, Makai and Poipu Bay. Yet, every course on Kauai is priced accordingly, so the value is relative. There’s certainly good, inexpensive golf here, but for the most part, on Kauai, you get what you pay for.

Hi Joe,
Our foursome is looking at Florida this year and was wondering which golf destination you would recommend based on price and golf quality. We are comparing the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa and the PGA Golf Resort in Port St. Lucie. We know the golf is great at Innisbrook but is very expensive. Your thoughts?
Craig Emuss
Toronto, Canada

Do you have any barber training? You’re just about splitting hairs here. Innisbrook is on a bit of a roll, with new ownership from the Salamander Group putting money into all facets of the resort. The vast, roomy lodges have always been more of a “guy” thing, as has the golf, especially the two signature tracks, Copperhead and Island, which demand many forced carries over sand and water to elevated greens. The surprisingly hilly Copperhead hosts the PGA Tour, and par seldom takes a beating, while Island played host to the 1990 Men’s NCAA Championship, where Arizona State’s Phil Mickelson took the individual title.

The other two courses, the North and the South are solid, but not necessarily memorable. I will say that the once-spartan accommodations have nicer accents these days and the restaurants and common areas have noticeable upgrades. I had an excellent filet, Oscar-style, at Packard’s Steakhouse on my last visit. The resort hardly rocks at night, but Tampa definitely has more off-course options than Port St. Lucie as well, if that’s important.

Hard partying isn’t something I associate with the lower-priced PGA Golf Resort, either, but the golf facilities are outstanding, especially for the price. There’s wonderful variety on the three courses, two by Tom Fazio and one by Pete Dye, and the practice ground is one of the finest I’ve experienced. I was smitten with the nine different practice bunkers that offered varied styles and even different sand, a treat for the golfer who travels.

Innisbrook has a little more cachet in its PGA Tour pedigree, more privacy by limiting outside play and more upscale facilities. PGA Golf Resort offers a ton of good things for the money, and its third-ranked course is far better than Innisbrook’s counterpart. Sorry, partner, you’ll have to flip a coin on this one.

Take It From Joe: Wrangling a Waialae Tee Time
This week’s PGA Tour venue, Waialae Country Club in Honolulu sports, an architecture pedigree that few other sites can match: It’s a Seth Raynor original. Raynor is hardly a household name to casual golf fans, but to design buffs, he’s pure gold. Few ever get to walk up and pay a green fee on a Raynor spread, because his finest creations are locked behind some of the sturdiest gates in golf.

A protégé of pioneer American architect C.B. Macdonald, Raynor crafted such low-key, Top 100 private gems as Fishers Island, Chicago Golf Club, Shoreacres, Camargo and Yeamans Hall. Waialae, which Raynor laid out just before he died in 1926, is not one of his shining stars, though to be fair, much of the magic has eroded over time, with the nines flipped and the design, bunkers and greens altered. It’s still got classic bones, however, and you can’t beat Honolulu’s climate.

Waialae is ostensibly private, but if you find yourself on Oahu and want to walk in the famous footsteps that have trod its fairways, including such past champions Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin and Ernie Els, book a stay at the Royal Hawaiian (808-923-7311,, part of the Luxury Collection, situated five miles from the course in Waikiki. Registered guests can inquire one week in advance, with play available Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and the occasional Friday. So this isn’t Pebble Beach—or even Kapalua. But a Seth Raynor course, 80 degrees, tropical breezes and PGA Tour history? Sign me up.

(Photo: Princeville Resort)

December 15, 2011

Lanai: Where Maui residents go to escape stress, chaos of life on Maui

Posted at 1:42 PM by Jeff Ritter

Have you ever been to place so remote, so pristine and so luxurious that the whole thing almost felt a little absurd?

Let me take you there.

Just nine miles off the coast of Maui lies Lanai, Hawaii’s smallest inhabited island. For the final phase of my Maui adventure, I hopped a 45-minute ferry ride to Lanai, which was once largely owned by James Dole of the eponymous fruit company and for most of the 20th century was the origin of most of the world’s pineapples.

BeachToday, new ownership has shifted the island’s focus from pineapples to tourism. Not that it’s crowded. Earlier in the week, when I mentioned the subject of Lanai to Maui locals in golf clubhouses, restaurants and poolside cabanas (it’s been a tough week), more than once I was told, to some effect, “Oh I love Lanai. It’s where I go just to get away from it all.” My typical response was a pause to see if they were serious. Come on. Get away from Maui?

Now it all makes sense.

On Lanai you’ll find little more than 3,000 residents, 30 miles of paved roads, zero stop lights, zero fast-food restaurants and one gas station. How remote is Lanai? Residents have no mailboxes, which sounds reasonable when you learn that they also don’t have street addresses. If I lived on Lanai and you wanted to mail me a nice Christmas card, the correct address would be:

Jeff Ritter
Lanai City, Hawaii

TurkeysWild turkeys roam free here, and after I checked into the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, a few of the birds strolled past my ground-level patio. But the Four Seasons, of course, isn’t known for turkeys; it’s the scene and the service. Four examples:

1) Staffers buzz around the pool offering to massage your hands, should you grow weary from all that pesky text-messaging.
2) Ocean-side hales (cabanas) can be rented for meals, where you set your menu and customize the playlist for background music.
3) Spinner dolphins roll into the bay just about every day and you can see them easily from the resort’s crescent-shaped beach.
4) Daytime activity options include croquet, skeet-shooting and gecko hunts.

One quick story: Near the lobby’s front desk there’s a large glass dispenser of “orange-infused water” for guests to sip as they check in or out. After finishing a cup, I asked a pleasant woman behind the desk named Fran where I could find a trash can to dispose of it. She quickly grabbed my empty cup and tossed it into a receptacle behind the counter and said, “There are no trash cans in the lobby, Mr. Ritter. We want our guests to come to us directly for all of their needs.”

That about sums it up.

No-1A three-minute shuttle away was the Challenge at Manele, a faultless resort track that hosts a mere 20,000 rounds a year -- it’s a serene, spotless, almost heavenly place, but it’s not for beginners. (Hey, there are plenty of activities for the whole family back at the resort.) Nearly every par 3 and several approach shots have forced carries, even from the forward tees, and at times the course can get tight. But overall, it’s still a great time.

The first hole [right] is a tepid, straight-ahead par 4, but it gets taxing from there. No. 2 is an uphill, dogleg-left par 4 with not one but two forced carries, No. 3 is a par 3 over lava rocks to a horseshoe-shaped green, and No. 4 is a short par 5 with a bunker smack in the center of the fairway that devours straight tee shots.

No-5No. 5 is the best hole on the front side. It’s the highest point on the course, and the tee shot is blind and straight up to the crest of a hill. But once you get to the top, it’s a 60-foot drop [right] for your approach to the green. The view is fantastic.

Naturally, it’s not the only photo op on the course.

The 12th tee is the most renowned spot at the Challenge because it was the scene of Bill Gates’s 1994 wedding to his wife, Melinda. Here’s more info, and a short-right tee shot that led to a double-bogey.

For his wedding, Gates didn’t just reserve a little spot on the tee box -- the billionaire rented out all of the island’s hotel rooms and the air space above it. (Side question: Why did he feel compelled to block air traffic over an entire island? Was the media really that interested in Bill Gates’s wedding? I thought in 1994 the paparazzi were only tailing Madonna, Julia Roberts and Kato Kaelin.)

No-17The entire back nine has teeth, and the most intimidating tee shot on the course is the par-4 17th [right], which bends to the right around a dramatic, ocean-side cliff. 

The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is one of two jumbo resorts on the island. I took a 20-minute shuttle up the hills to the Lodge at Koele for an excellent lunch at a clubhouse joint called Terrace. The resort is in a setting that, thanks to tall pines and more temperate weather, felt more like the northeastern United States than Hawaii. I didn’t have time to try the resort’s course, the Experience at Koele. Hopefully next time. Hey, you can’t do everything in one trip, you know?

In fact, it’s probably a smart idea to leave an excuse to return to Lanai. And Maui. This trip was an incredible adventure, one I will never forget. A big mahalo to all the folks on Maui and Lanai who assisted me during the journey. As they say in the islands, ahui hou -- until we meet again.

- Part I: Solid Gold at Grand Wailea
- Part II: Blissful misery at Kapalua
- Part III: Kaanapali and the legend of Tommy Tang


 (Photos: Top - Four Seasons Resort; All others - Jeff Ritter)

December 12, 2011

Maui Adventure Part III: Kaanapali and the legend of Tommy Tang

Posted at 2:42 PM by Jeff Ritter

When it comes right down to it, playing golf while on vacation is supposed to be fun, right?

After getting knocked senseless by Kapalua’s Plantation Course, I drove about 15 minutes south for some stress-free, scenic resort golf on an excellent course, and that’s exactly what I encountered in Kaanapali, home to two championship courses and the former site of the Senior Skins Game and Golf Channel’s “Big Break Kaanapali.”

Kaanapali-No1My first round was on the Royal course, and it was a good one: picturesque, playable, tricky at times and perfectly enjoyable. At right is my photo of No. 1, a right-bending par 5 with water on the right that can jump up and bite you if you've left your mind back at the beach. The finishing hole is also a brute –- a par 4 with a forced carry over water off the tee and a pond that’s just waiting to gobble up shots that fall short-right of the green. But my favorite was hole No. 5, a straightaway par 4 with a slightly elevated tee and a nice Pacific view as you approach the green. Never get tired of seeing that ocean, you know?

RocksEach of the 18 holes at Royal has a Hawaiian-inspired name that’s always apt and occasionally interesting. For instance, No. 6 is called “Na Pohaku," which means “two stones,” an homage to the pair of large boulders just off the green. (Incidentally, I would’ve named this hole “two chips,” but then again, my short game has been a 14-car pileup this trip.)

Kaanapali likes to look after the locals, and in addition to weekly competitions, the course also offers a "Fit Club,” where tourists and residents can pay $50 a month to walk and play as many holes as they can each afternoon from 4 p.m. to sunset. Also, an excellent steak and seafood restaurant, Roy’s, will soon be moving down the highway to the Kaanapali clubhouse, which should be a coup for the resort and a bonanza for hungry golfers.

Havens-LessonDavid Havens, a PGA teaching pro based at Kaanapali, kicked around a few of the smaller tours, then spent six months teaching golf to children in Bhutan and briefly caddied for Tour pro Brendon de Jonge before eventually settling in Maui. Today he lives at the end of Kaanapali’s driving range and runs a nonprofit, "Spare For Change," that sends golf clubs to underprivileged young golfers around the world.

He’s an affable guy with plenty of stories to fill up a one-hour lesson. We played a breezy round on the Kai Course, a nice track that was less stern than the Royal Course and accessible for players of all abilities. That's where he straightened my tee shots and jump-started my climb back to mediocrity with this tip for handling island winds.

Both courses at Kaanapali are great, and the service is excellent. But with all due respect to AOL founder Steve Case, pop singer Nicole Scherzinger and the cast of “Hawaii Five-O,” the biggest celebrity in the islands might be roaming the fairways in a marshal’s cart at Kaanapali. His name is Tommy Sarashina, and he’s a quick-witted 86-year-old who loves to tell jokes or recount his time fighting in World War II, when he was held prisoner in Russia for nearly two years. Strapped in the back of Sarashina’s cart is a jumbo cooler filled with a drink that immediately took me back to my childhood. He first buzzed up to my group on the 11th hole at the Royal Course. Here he is.

Remember Tang? It comes in a powder that’s mixed with water to form a sweet, nuclear-pumpkin-colored drink. I probably hadn’t sipped Tang since I was seven years old, but it was just as good as I remembered. Mr. Sarashina is the perfect person to deliver this drink (free of charge to all golfers) and the childhood memories that come with it. In fact, good times and great people are probably what I’ll remember most about Kaanapali. That’s really what resort golf should be about, isn’t it?

At this stop I stayed at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa, which isn’t much more than a long par 5 away from the opening tee on the Royal Course, and it’s yet another luxurious, mammoth oceanside resort hotel. There are several pools, easy access to the beach and a nice little poolside lunch and happy hour spot called 'OnO. But the highlight of the hotel entertainment was the Westin Wailele Polynesian Luau. Here attendance is kept to a relatively modest 200-250, the food is great and fire dancers serve as the climactic act. When you think about it, a good luau really is a quintessential Hawaiian experience.

Sorry, did you want to see fire dancing?


A fire-dancer video is a sure sign I’ve drifted off the rails here, so it’s probably time to move on. Hey, at least I haven’t turned into a tacky, mai-thai-chugging tourist in a gaudy Hawaiian shirt who finds it amusing to take photos with hula girls after the show. Who even does that?














With that, it’s time to wrap this up and head to the final stop of my trip. It’s going to be a good one. Until then, leave those Hawaiian shirts in Hawaii, America.

- Part I: Solid Gold at Grand Wailea
- Part II: Blissful misery at Kapalua

(Photos: Jeff Ritter, Kaanapali Golf Courses)

December 08, 2011

Maui Adventure Part II: Blissful misery at Kapalua's Plantation Course

Posted at 2:54 PM by Jeff Ritter


“Ready to get beat up today?”

Those were the prophetic words from Steve Pike, a fellow golf writer and member of my foursome as we exchanged greetings near the first tee of what is arguably Maui’s most famous golf course -– the Plantation Course at Kapalua. I confidently responded that I was ready. Of course, Steve wasn’t the one preparing to hit me in the face -- the course would inflict all the damage on this day.

The PGA Tour will swing through the 7,411-yard, par-73 Plantation on Jan. 5-8 for its annual season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and the track was tournament-ready during my visit –- and so was the clubhouse grill, the Plantation House Restaurant. If you’re ever fortunate enough to hit the Plantation, arrive early so you can try their eggs Benedict breakfast special and hit a few putts on the practice green near the first tee. Those greens aren’t easy. More on this shortly.

Ritter2Standing on the tee at No. 1, I found a straightaway par 4 with the Pacific in the background, but there’s also a ravine jutting into the right side of the fairway that isn’t visible from the tee box. This ravine gobbled up what I thought was a solid drive, producing Lost Ball No. 1 on the day.

The carnage can pile up quickly.

The par-3 second hole usually plays into a cross-wind, and even though the green looked inauspicious from the tee box, it runs hard left-to-right thanks to the grain and breeze. No. 3 is an uphill, blind tee shot. No. 4 is straight into the wind. Come to think of it, I don’t think I saw the same wind direction on consecutive holes, which added to the challenge, frustration, and overall Plantation experience. (Let’s face it, playing Plantation with no wind would be like playing St. Andrews with no rain.)

RitterOne thing that does remain consistent from hole to hole is the dramatic landscape. Ocean views, lush forests and deep, rugged ravines are the common setting. But those greens were murder on my scorecard. Let me put it this way: At the Plantation Course it’s very possible that an uphill putt that’s downwind and downgrain moves faster than the comebacker straight down the hill. It’s an optical illusion that can mess with your head.

Because of the views, perfect landscaping, lost balls and mountain of three-putts, the whole experience was probably the most enjoyable miserable round of golf I’ve ever had, if that makes sense. By the time I reached 18, I was wind-burned and tired and had given birth to a unique putting problem I dubbed “green yips,” where I lost all belief in my ability to read a putt of any length. But at 18, I did summon the perfect blend of confidence and stupidity to play the hole from the tips. From there, it’s the longest hole on the PGA Tour at 663 yards. Here’s my tee shot.

Upon arriving at my ball, the cart GPS said I had 326 yards left, which meant my drive sailed and rolled 337 yards –- about 70 yards farther than my average drive. It helped that the fairway is essentially a ski slope, and at a course filled with memorable moments, that famous finishing hole truly is the best. I reached the green in regulation, then –- wait for it -- three-putted from 20 feet for a bogey.

Golf is the main attraction in Kapalua, but there are also great spots to grab a bite within minutes of the Kapalua Golf Villas, my comfortable, condo-style accommodations at this stop. The Pineapple Grill is adjacent to the Bay Course –- the second of the two championship courses at the Resort -- and if you don’t order the pineapple upside-down cake at a place called Pineapple Grill, I can’t help you. There’s also a great sushi joint called Sansei right in the town square that has daily specials and was made somewhat famous in 2011 when Ben Crane and Ryan Palmer's karaoke endeavor hit YouTube. The Honolua Store is the resort’s only grocery store, but the prices are reasonable, and it doubles as a restaurant with a budget-friendly lunch.

Then there’s the Kapalua Spa, an off-the-charts luxurious spot that’s frequented by the Tour pros and their wives during the event. If you enjoy relaxing in a horizon pool overlooking the ocean and having a rubdown as a Pacific breeze rustles the palms, you might find this spot worth a stop.

Ritter3The Bay Course, which hosted an LPGA event in 2008, is not as famous as Plantation, but it is no slouch. Like the Wailea courses, it offers plenty of “visual hazards,” especially on the oceanside par-4 fourth and par-3 fifth holes. On this morning, there were a few sea turtles bobbing around in the water below the fifth tee, and I was also informed that the stately home next to the fifth green belongs to none other than NBC golf announcer Mark Rolfing. (You can see it on the left side of the photo at right.) Mark Rolfing: I envy you. And yes, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

Anyway, while Plantation heaps abuse on players of all abilities, the Bay Course is much tamer and also offers a set of uber-forward tees dubbed the “Bay Express” that cuts the course down to 1,700 yards and makes a nice option for seniors, juniors and tourists in a hurry.

King-academyBefore skipping town for the next island stop, I swung by the Kapalua Golf Academy to meet head teaching professional Jerry King. The high-energy instructor is one of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers, and if he ever decides to give up teaching golf, he could probably run for mayor of Kapalua. I stopped in just to say hello, but when I casually mentioned that my golf game was in a death spiral, he quickly said, “Let me see your action!” and proceeded to offer a few simple tips as I flailed away at a tee station. King’s mantra is to “train it dramatic,” which means overemphasizing each step until it becomes secondhand –- and it’s a fitting expression given that his school sits on a hill with a dramatic view of the Pacific. King also gave me a tip for reading those grainy, island greens that was so good I thought you might like to see it, too.

With that, we’re off to the next stop. Watch out for those three-putts, America. More from Maui coming soon.

- Part I: Solid Gold at Grand Wailea
- Part III: Kaanapali and the legend of Tommy Tang

(Photos: Jeff Ritter, Kapalua Resort)


December 06, 2011

Maui Adventure Part I: Solid Gold at Grand Wailea

Posted at 3:16 PM by Jeff Ritter

Grand-WaileaAloha and greetings from Maui. This is the first in a series of installments from Hawaii's second-largest island, and the journey begins in Wailea, a sun-soaked community on Maui's Southwest side.

It's a fitting place to start given that Wailea's resorts boast 54 holes of championship golf, countless shops and activities, and -- naturally -- plenty of prime real estate right on the Pacific. I checked into the Grand Wailea, a supersized resort hotel that was designed to resemble a turtle exiting the ocean (check out the photo above) and gobbles up 40 acres of this coveted land -- and they know how to use it. We're talking 780 rooms, 15 shops, nine separate pools, seven waterslides, five restaurants, a 50,000-square-foot spa and a partridge in a pear tree flock of mynah birds in the palm trees.

Sea-BassA couple of hours after deplaning in Maui and checking in, it was time for dinner. (Side question: Why is the act of getting off an airplane called "deplaning," but exiting a train is not called "detraining"? And why isn't hopping off a truck "detrucking?" English makes no sense sometimes. Back to Maui.) I stayed at the resort and wandered over to one of the island's most acclaimed restaurants, Humuhumunukunukuapua'a. This is not a typo -- it's also the state fish. Locals refer to the spot as "Humuhumu's," but tourists can also have a little fun with the name. For instance, you can say things like HeyI'mFeelingHungrySoIThinkI'llGoTo Humuhumunukunukuapua'a. Rolls right off the tongue. Anyway, the thatched-roof joint sits seaside, and master chef Isaac Bancaco cooks up some of the best surf and turf on the island. On this day Bancaco's daily special happened to be crab-crusted sea bass, and if that photo doesn't say enough, I'll add one more word: sensational.

WaileaThe first round of golf was at the Wailea Gold Course, and it's a great way to start a week if you're into perfect landscaping, challenging greens, exotic wildlife and 18 consecutive holes with a view of the Pacific. The service is also great, and Valerie on the beverage cart was quick to persuade me to ditch the traditional morning bloody mary for a "pink gecko" -- guava juice and vodka. "Good for 100 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin C," she said happily. Who am I to argue?

As great as the course was, the views were even better. I mean, even the driving range has an ocean view.

The Gold is fantastic, but it's not the only act in town, as the Wailea's other courses, the Emerald and Old Blue, also bring the heat when it comes to a resort golf experience. After the Gold, I swung by Old Blue and found a course with wide fairways, sculpted greens and a more budget-friendly price tag -- especially for you and the kids, as the course offers junior rates, family rates, and four-person golf carts. Before there were resort hotels at Wailea -- or much of anything -- there was Old Blue, which opened in 1971. Like the Gold course, ocean views abound. Barry Helle, Old Blue's general manager, said that at Blue these views are known as "visual hazards." That's so good I plan to use it the rest of the trip, and I will probably attribute my soaring scores to these diabolical hazards.

Maui by The Numbers:
12: Hours spent in the air on two flights from New York City to Maui. Totally worth it.
3: Number of trips down the jumbo waterslide at the Grand Wailea pools. It's the longest waterslide in Maui, and I don't care what you say, you're never too old for waterslides.
1: Mai Thais consumed.
4: Lost golf balls at Wailea Gold.
6: Three-putts at the Gold. Those greens are tricky, America.
0: Minutes spent worrying about my total score.

SpamRandom snack of the day: Spam Musubi
One of my colleagues tipped me off to this processed meat treat before I departed, and it took all of 24 hours on the island before I stumbled upon it at a hotel café. Musubi is a slab of friend spam pressed into a block of rice and then wrapped in nori, the edible seaweed often found in a sushi roll. Sounds awful, doesn't it? Looks atrocious, right? (Maybe even another form of visual hazard.) I actually liked it. I'm not even ashamed to admit it. And at $2 a pop, it could turn out to be one of the best value snacks of the trip.

More surprises, dietary and otherwise, coming soon. Until then, Aloha.

- Part II: Blissful misery at Kapalua
- Part III: Kaanapali and the legend of Tommy Tang

(Photos: Grand Wailea, Jeff Ritter)

July 02, 2011

Deal of the Week: Play With the Pros in Hawaii

Posted at 9:45 PM by Joe Passov

The location? Paradise, or as the locals call it, the Big Island of Hawaii. The accommodations? The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, a Platinum award winner in Golf Magazine's Premier Resorts. The course? A Jack Nicklaus Signature design. Your playing partner for a round? A PGA Champions Tour player, who could be Fred Couples, Mark O'Meara or even Tom Watson.

You can get all that and more as part of a ProAm package being offered by the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in conjunction with the 2012 Mitsubishi Electric Championship to be played next January 16th-22nd. We're talking daily breakfast, lunch for two on the day of play, and invitations to a pairings party and final night beach party. Accommodation options for a minimum six-night stay are either a one-bedroom superior view suite or a one-bedroom ocean view suite. For more information go to


May 12, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Scotland, Maui and Scottsdale resorts

Posted at 5:00 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
I read your articles in GOLF Magazine all the time, and I’ve traveled to many of the same places so I know your insights are right-on. My wife and I are heading to Scotland this summer to play St. Andrews (and others). Besides the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, can you recommend other top-notch courses while we are there? We have time for three more courses, and I would appreciate any input you might provide.
Keith Alf
Buffalo, NY

Clearly, you’ve got the trophy courses covered. For the second tier, it’s vexing, because there’s so much personal preference involved. For instance, if you want to do another course on your Carnoustie day, try Panmure (75 pounds;, just down the road. It’s an old-fashioned, jacket-and-tie-in-the-clubhouse affair where Ben Hogan warmed up for his successful 1953 British Open win at Carnoustie. A dull closing stretch mars an otherwise wonderful round, but you’ll surely remember Hogan’s favorite hole, the par-4 6th, which tumbles through sandhills and concludes in a plateau green.

Closer to St. Andrews is a personal pick, Crail’s Balcomie Links (57 pounds to 72 pounds;, the 7th-oldest golf club in the world. A par-69, and a shade under 6,000 yards from the tips, Crail may be too short and quirky for everybody’s tastes, but if you embrace the odd blind shot, holes that criss-cross each other, brisk breezes and sea views from start to finish, you’ll be crazy about Crail.

If you simply need to get out of the wind for a day, and want superior conditions, service, facilities and bunkering, do the heathland/parkland hybrid that is the Duke’s course (75 pounds-115 pounds;, which benefits from its affiliation with the Kohler outfit and the Old Course Hotel.

For more than 100 years, folks have been extolling the rock-solid virtues of the New Course at St. Andrews. It certainly is fair, historic in its own right and possibly a tougher track to score well on than the Old, but it’s sorely lacking in memorable shots. If memorability is what you’re after, try the four-year-old Castle course (60 pounds-120 pounds;, just down the road from Kingsbarns. It’s a thrill-ride throughout, but its wildly chaotic greens may drive you to double your post-round whisky intake.

The Fairmont St. Andrews courses, the Lundin links, St. Andrews (Jubilee and Eden), Ladybank and Crail (Craighead) all have their proponents, but my 1, 2, 3 and 3a are Crail, Panmure, the Castle Course and the Duke’s.

Dear Joe,
We’re going to Maui for our honeymoon. I’ve got clearance to play one round. I’m a 25 handicap. What are your recommendations?
Sal Murillo Jr.
Newbury Park, CA

First off, congratulations! Second, my wedding gift is to steer you to Wailea Golf Club (888-328-MAUI, A past home to the Senior Skins Game, Wailea boasts three courses, each with more than its share of eye-candy vistas. However, you’ll want to play either the Emerald course or the Old Blue. The Old Blue is “Old Hawaii,” with stellar ocean views, mature trees, generous fairways and easy-to-escape bunkers. You won’t lose too many balls as forced carries are kept to a minimum. The Emerald is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. redesign and sports more bells and whistles than the Blue—upgraded landscaping, better ocean panoramas, trickier bunkers—the works. Yet, if you play the white tees, it’s a very comfortable 67.4 rating and 121 slope, so you won’t get beat up.

While the Emerald is a step up in every way, it’s also much pricier. Generally, the Emerald is $160-$225. The best spring/summer deal is for after 1 p.m., provided you’re a guest of a Maui resort. Then you can play for $135. Club rentals range from $60-$75 and shoe rental is $20. Old Blue, on the other hand is a more affordable $109, $95 after 1 pm. Club rental is $50. If you have the cash for this single honeymoon splurge, do Wailea Emerald. If you’d rather save some coin for a bigger ring, go with the Old Blue.

Dear Joe,
I am planning a family golf trip for this spring to the southwest U.S. and was wondering your thoughts for a suitable resort with golf in a family-friendly environment. My son is 10 and a real avid little golfer, and he and I will play 3 to 4 times during the week, while my wife and daughter play, but golf is secondary for them on the vacation. I’m interested in your thoughts for reasonably priced rounds and good family fun.
Brian Sprovieri
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

As a kid, Bill Marriott used to vacation at Scottsdale, Arizona’s Camelback Inn (800-24-CAMEL, He enjoyed it so much, he later bought the hotel, eventually renaming it the Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa. Your family will feel much the same way. It’s a 10-minute shuttle ride to Camelback’s two friendly resort courses. The Indian Bend, in particular, is welcoming to 10-year-olds. (It’s not exactly riveting stuff, but I did play there once with my wife’s 12-year-old nephew and we both enjoyed it.) Best of all, it’s $69-$89 during May, $39-$49 twilight.

For the whole family, there’s an engaging little pitch-and-putt course, complete with tiny bunkers and views of Camelback Mountain, in the Inn’s front yard. A superb spa, convenient shopping and plenty of on-site fun for kids rounds out the well-balanced offerings.

Twenty minutes north, in Phoenix, is another quality Marriott, the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort (480-293-5000,, with a fantastic pool complex, including a lazy river experience kids adore, and while its two on-site courses at the Wildfire Golf Club are more challenging layouts, both framed by raw desert, at least kids play for free after 3 p.m. with a paying adult.


March 17, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Maui; Tucson; Greenville, S.C.; and Daytona Beach

Posted at 1:01 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Makena Dear Joe,
I'm planning a trip to Maui in April. Are there any "affordable" gems there? Makena looks like the closest thing to being "affordable." I'm planning two rounds: one value round and one where I pony up.
Eric Haechrel, via e-mail

Enjoy a few rum-filled coconuts: You'll need to sleep in for the best value on Maui. Makena Golf Resort ($59-$179; 808-891-4000; is down to one course, the North, but it's a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed dandy that darts up and down the slopes of Haleakala, with fairways edged by gullies and lava rock. Ocean backdrops are constant companions. Non-resort guests who can wait until noon will pay $119 in April; after 2 p.m., it's $99. On May 1, the after-2 rate plummets to $59.

A worthy alternative is the Dunes at Maui Lani ($79-$125; 808-873-7911, For a splurge, I've always liked Kapalua's Plantation ($158-$268; 808-669-8044,, though its wild, woolly ride isn't for everybody. A safer pick is Wailea ($160-$225; 808-875-7450, Play the flower-powered Emerald if you're paired with family, and the Gold—with its steep bunkers and forced carries—if you're a low-handicapper.

Dear Joe,
We have a group of eight looking for a trip around Masters weekend. We live in Minnesota and want to go somewhere warm and dry. Any ideas about where we could go for a reasonable price?
Scott Buettner, via e-mail

I'm no Al Roker, but Minnesota golf in April could mean snowmen—and I don't mean 8's on your card. Hop a plane to Tucson, Ariz., where airfare is mitigated by cheap golf and balmy weather. Arizona National ($49-$89; 520-749-3636, is a 1995 RTJ Jr. creation that sports cactus-framed fairways and serious elevation changes—the par-5 closer plunges 100 feet!

Vistoso ($49-$89; 520-797-9900, is a Tom Weiskopf stunner near the Santa Catalina Mountains with deep bunkers and strategic options galore.

For tree-lined, Minnesota-style golf, do "The Dell," the city-owned Dell Urich GC, or its sibling, Randolph North ($48-$80; 520-791-4161, They'll both make you feel at home, minus the frostbite.

Hi Joe,
I'm going to spend a couple of days in Greenville, S.C., and I was wondering if you could recommend any worthwhile courses in the area.
Philip Royce, St. Cloud, Minn.

Clemson is best known as a football power, and its recent-vintage course is definitely bowl-worthy. The Walker Course at Clemson University ($38-$56; 864-656-0236, is named for John E. Walker Sr.—carts are permitted—and sits 40 minutes from Greenville. Densely treed, with well-placed if shallow bunkers, the Walker hits its stride on the closing holes, notably the 17th. Known as "Tiger Paw," this 192-yard par-3 plays to a peninsula green jabbed into Lake Hartwell.

Closer to Greenville proper are River Falls Plantation ($44.25-$54.75; 864-433-9192,, a wooded, watery Gary Player design with a bit of elevation change that features risk/reward par-5s that close both nines; and Verdae Greens ($48-$58; 864-676-1500,, a former Nationwide Tour site that sports plenty of carries over a mountain brook that twists through the layout.

If you've got time for a journey through Blue Ridge country, Sequoyah National Golf Club ($65-$110; 828-497-3000,, a stunning Robert Trent Jones II/Notah Begay creation on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, awaits across the North Carolina border.

Dear Joe,
I'm headed to Florida for Easter with my in-laws. They're in the Daytona Beach area—near New Smyrna Beach. If I can sneak away for one round, what are my best options?
Dave Danielson, via e-mail

Ah, the forbidden holiday golf, when you straddle that fine line between pure links pleasure and alienating your wife and family. Get thee to two terrific courses. Victoria Hills ($35-$59; 386-738-6000, in Deland, a half-hour from Daytona, is a 10-year-old Ron Garl design. It rolls for 7,149 yards through towering pines and sprawling sand splashes—and it's drier than a martini, with water in play on just a few holes. You can walk for under $40 after noon.

For more strategic bunkering, wavy terrain and low green fees, the Deltona Club ($30-$50; 386-789-4911, is a must-play—and it's only 10 miles south of Deland. This unheralded course will save you a few bucks compared to most tracks of this quality. That's cash you'll need to buy "forgive me" flowers for the missus.

(Photo: Evan Schiller)

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at


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