Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, May 27, 2001


Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed the Gold Course and he used the
backdrop of Molokini to create one of his masterpieces -
the 216-yard, par-3 eighth hole.

The wonders
of Wailea

The 216-yard, par-3 eighth hole
at its Gold Course gives Wailea
a touch of gold

By Paul Arnett

WAILEA >> You don't have to play any of the three courses at Wailea Golf Club to appreciate the beauty this secluded spot offers the fortunate few who find their way here.

No matter what time of year you visit the rugged coast of Wailea that fits comfortably between Mt. Haleakala and the Pacific Ocean, you are greeted warmly by near perfect weather.

It seems nearly all of the 54 holes -- spread across courses known as the blue, emerald and gold -- would command signature status when compared to most golf courses worldwide. But in the end, there can be only one.

That distinction belongs to the eighth hole of the Wailea Gold Course, home of last January's Senior Skins Game. Anytime you hear gold mentioned in the title of a course, it's best to bring the big sticks and plenty of golf balls. These 18 holes are no exception.

In Conde Nast Traveler's first survey of the finest golf resorts, the Wailea Gold ranked No. 1 with a perfect score of 100 as the best-designed course in the world. When you step up to the par-3 216-yard No. 8 hole, you know why.

"Everything you can find on the gold course is all on this one hole," Gold Course golf director Barry Helle said. "First of all, you have this spectacular view. You have some of the famous ancient lava rocks walls (papohaku) there.

"You've got the palm trees, that if you're somewhere on the mainland signify Hawaii, and you have the ocean views. The way the green is set up, with the palm trees, it frames Molikini. So, it's just a spectacular hole as far as that goes."

The degree of difficulty for a professional standing on the elevated tee is only moderate. If you can wield a long iron with little fear of topping it into the gorge that's about halfway down the fairway, swing away. For those guys, it's rated the 13th-most difficult hole.

A huge gorge comes into play if you choose to tee off from
any one of the four back tees. For the faint of heart, there is
a tee box 107 yards from the green and in front of the gorge.

Rarely does the breeze blow hard enough to make you look for a 3-wood. When it does, it's a crosswind that blows from right to left.

This could affect the carry of your golf ball, which could prove troublesome if you come up short.

There are three bunkers guarding a green that's uphill from front to back and measures about 40 yards. The bunker on the far right is small and round, but will catch the slices of the right-hander who has the distance, but not the accuracy.

The front bunker is shaped like a sleeping embryo. If you hit it straight, but come up one club short, you're on the beach. The bunker on the left side is huge. It guards nearly the entire length of the green on its right and four large palm trees to its left. Hit over there and it's happy hunting.

"The tees are a little bit elevated, so you have to bring that into play," Helle said. "You have to think about all of the elements that are out there, too. It's more of a thinking-man's hole. But you can't think too much while you're standing over the ball or that could get you into even more trouble."

For those not wishing to play from the back tees, there are four other locations. There's one just in front that measures 188 yards. Another is 154 yards in length and is located a little more to the right to offer you a less imposing angle.

They even have a weekend hacker tee at 124 yards out. The wide gorge that cuts across this lush fairway is right in front of you. But if you can hit a wedge or 9-iron with some degree of efficiency, the handicap on this hole drops to No. 17, or second-easiest.

Of course, there is also the ladies tee, which at 107 yards leaves the gorge out of the equation.

Once successfully on the green, you want to make sure you're below the hole designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright of golf -- Robert Trent Jones Jr. You can take a good whack at it from below. You can only touch it from above the hole and still face the fear of watching the ball trickle on by.

"It's a fun hole to play," Helle said. "And if you aren't careful, you'll be admiring the view and forget why you're up there."

Editor's note: The Star-Bulletin features signature holes
for courses throughout Hawaii on Sunday.

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