Aloha and greetings from the Big Island of Hawaii, and the famed Mauna Kea Resort. This is my first installment on my journey to the Big Island, but first, a word on my current digs.
Sure, I could write more than one word, but they would all mean the same thing. Mauna Kea is open air and hard against the Pacific (even my bathroom has a balcony overlooking the ocean). Toss in some fine dining, a swanky art gallery and the illuminated six-foot manta rays swimming in the ocean just over the cliffs at night, and you're talking about the Ultimate Island Experience. In a related story, I may skip my checkout and see how long I can hide out in a laundry hamper.
As for golf, Mauna Kea Golf Course is a postcard come to life. The course closed for more than a year while undergoing renovations, and after re-opening in December 2009, it promptly reclaimed a spot in Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play. The renovation went heavy on bunkers, which now total 99, and they make a demanding yet photogenic track even more difficult. On the bright side, the course is immaculate, greens are receptive to iron shots and roll true, and, oh yeah, you can see the Pacific on just about every hole.
Then there's the signature par-3 third hole, which could double as the signature hole for all of Hawaii. (That's it at right. Click to enlarge.) To get the full experience, I decided to try the back tees, which extend the hole to a fairly absurd 272 yards into a cross wind and over a sea-filled gulch that, on this morning, had a few turtles bobbing around in it. The carry is a solid 230, and legend has it that when Jack, Arnie and Gary Player stopped by to christen the course in December of 1964, Player begged off the tips because he didn't think he could clear the ocean.
Playing this hole from the back tee is what I imagine it's like to date Lady Gaga: It's crazy. It's exciting. It's reckless. It makes you the envy of your friends.
And, most of all, you know it's going to end badly.
Here's Mauna Kea Operations Manager Josh Silliman with more info, no words of encouragement, and my ensuing shot at glory.
I gave it a decent rip but came up about 10 yards short. (I have no idea why I decided to pretend to be Matt Lauer at the end of the video; I think I was disoriented from the combination of serenity and a tough shot.) I believe this is the hardest par 3 in America, but go ahead and prove me wrong - what hole is tougher than this? Leave your answer in the comments section below. Until next time - Mahalo.
(Photos: Mauna Kea Resort)