Aloha from The Plantation Course at KapaluaThe Plantation Course at Kapalua – Wednesday August 8th 2013
There are certain things in life that you just HAVE to jump at when given the chance. That’s how I felt about The Plantation Course out at Kapalua. My family and I spent last week in Maui and I definitely jumped at the opportunity to play one of the top courses in the Hawaiian Islands.
If you are at all familiar with the PGA Tour you’ll know that in January the new season or at least the new year of golf with the new Fed Ex parameters kicks off with The Hyundai Tournament of Champions. All the winners from the previous season are invited to Kapalua for the Tournament as a showcase for the season’s top players.
Some pretty exciting and unusual things generally take place during the tournament and for the most part it’s the exotic setting and ridiculous course that’s behinds the excitement. You might recall Bubba Watson hitting driver off the deck on the famous par 5 18th that from the tips plays at 663 yards. The PGA guys play it even further back, more on the 18th later.
You might also recall wind conditions that make it difficult to keep the ball on the greens and situations like Camilo Villegas mishap that got him DQ’d. Yep, Kapalua has a crazy reputation of being a formidable opponent for some of the best players on the PGA Tour. I wasn’t about to let the chance of playing a course that’s a PGA Tour stop course slip through my hand.
Welcome to Kapalua
I’m going to start with the negatives because that is always what seems to stink in people’s minds. I figure if I get them out of the way up front you might be more inclined to appreciate all the wonderful things that encompass the facility.
First off I had to rent clubs. The cost of shipping my sticks to Hawaii let alone what I was going to pay to play there made it a no brainer. $40 vs. $300 and according to my wife I had chosen wisely! The rental clubs were a set of Titleist AP1’s so it wasn’t like I was swinging some Prima’s or Macgregor’s but the clubs just didn’t feel good to me. They had the look and feel of a beginner club and the grips were very large for my hands which I never was able to fully adjust to. The other issue with the clubs was the putter. It was a blade style Scotty Cameron putter, which made me happy, but it looked like it had been dropped from the bed of a truck doing about 70 mph on the highway. Out of all the putts I hit with it, for the entire day, only one felt good, not great just good.
That was a little disheartening but if I have to be completely honest I’ve never been able to putt with a milled putter. I need an insert. For me the ball coming off the face of a milled putter is more of a skid and then the roll. Compared to my insert putters where the ball starts rolling right away. Not Scotty’s fault by any means but it really hampered my putting for the day.
As far as the bad goes that’s it. Really, that’s it. I really can’t discredit the course too much for having rental clubs that are not outstanding. The place was packed and I say 85% of the players on the course that I saw that day were all swinging the rental sets. Those clubs have to take beating so I get it, doesn’t mean I liked it but I understand.
The staff at the course was incredible and easily met my expectations of a resort course facility. I did a no-no and “googled” the course the day before I played and ended up reading some pretty detrimental reviews. Thankfully I found out that the people who left those damaging remarks have more in common with the “MASHED POTATOES” crew than a reliable golfer. I found not one statement to be even remotely close to what I experienced.
The pro shop was outstanding and was more than stocked with ample swag that all carried the Kapalua logo. I picked up this Pukka hat and have been proudly wearing since my round.
After checking in I went and picked up my clubs and drove the lengthy drive to practice range. Believe it or not that was a complaint from one commentator on google. The range was too far of a drive. Yes, it was lengthy but for God sake’s you’re in HAWAII! Enjoy the freakin scenery and go hit some balls! The few members of the Kapalua team that I interacted with were great. Friendly, attentive and very helpful. I was in awe everywhere I turned and it must have been obvious because after a few minutes of gazing at the amazing sights before me one of them came up to me and asked if they could assist in anyway. Yeah, I was soaking it in BIG TIME!
The range was small and subtle and featured a few signs that I enjoyed. “Watch where you line up your woods and long irons, beyond the trees are homes.” Some very nice ones too! When I was done with my warm up, I headed back to the first tee and took advantage of putting green. I later found out that the practice green was rolling exactly the same as the greens on the course. Note to EVERYONE ELSE, this is a brilliant concept.
The only real reservation I had about the upcoming round was that they were splitting the tee’s the entire day so there was a good chance I was going to go off on #10 , which would have made playing #18 very anticlimactic. I was fortunate though and my group was directed to the first to start our round. I gathered my thoughts and stepped up and ripped a perfect drive right down the middle of the left kinda right area that bends down towards the center of the angled middle area of the fairway.
Yeah, this course is CRAZY!
How about some elevation changes
Television does The Plantation Course ZERO justice. I mean NONE! You have no idea what you’re in store for once you hit that first ball and see it disappear down the fairway. The elevation changes are dramatic. That’s the only way I can describe it. Up, down, left, right it has them all. Some of them are so intense I found myself staring at the yardage book absolutely clueless on what to do. The sixth holes second shot is a shot makers dream and a hackers nightmare. I hit a perfect tee shot and actually walked up about 15 yards to see the green three times (insert the “While We’re Young” slogan here) just because I couldn’t come to terms with the club to hit, the distance to hit to and where the hell to hit it to! When I finally did make the choice I hit a beautiful iron shot that had there been no wind would have ended up a foot from the pin I’ll swear on it. But, this was Hawaii and if the wind isn’t blowing it’s because you’re underwater. The wind grabbed that ball and sent it somewhere between a sugarcane field and the island of Moloka’i.
Elevation changes aside the wind truly and utterly kicked my ass. Playing the majority of my golf in Vegas I’m no stranger to windy days, we have a ton of them here. But this was a nonstop unrelenting wind that just beat you down. I tweeted that night that I’ll never complain about the wind in Vegas again. It was insane.
This will help explain the wind.
The 8th hole was a Par 3 that was playing 172 yards from the back of the box. I walked off ten yards to my set of tees (162) and the flag was placed dead center in the green on the front edge so I was playing a 152 yard shot that was a little downhill.
I normally hit my 5iron 180-185 yards and I’m fairly consistent with it. Had there been no wind at all I would have played my 8iron without hesitation. Seven holes in though I knew that would have been a miracle shot and it wasn’t going to happen after what I had already seen. I stood at the tee with a 6iron in my hands and it just didn’t seem right. That was too much club, right? When I went back and grabbed the 7iron the same hesitation occurred, but this time I was the opposite. Back and forth in my head I went when I finally decided the wind was in control here and I clubbed down with the 5i just to be safe, short was not where you wanted to be. Look at that bunker!
I hit every bit of that 5iron and as it left the face of the club and made its way, in what seemed like slow motion, over the canyon of trees the first thought in my head was “My first hole in one MY FIRST HOLE IN ONE!” It was, I thought, and amazing iron shot.
Like I said I thought. The ball landed on the bank in front of the green and trickled down to the bottom of the bunker you see in the above photo. I couldn’t believe that I had just hit an amazing 5iron that barely made it 145 yards. That was insane and pretty much a summary for how the wind jacked me up all day long.
Enough BS how did you shoot!
As I retrieved my ball from the cup on #17, after what I think was a pretty amazing up and down, it hit me that I was about to tee it up on the last hole of the day. So quick the other seventeen holes had gone by I just couldn’t believe that it was about to end.
Just like I did on #17 I played #18 from the tips. That made the hole even more dramatic than I had expected. I mustered up everything I had in me and put a charge into a ball and watched it slowly head to the right with a little fade and then disappear down the hill almost like it was falling into the ocean. 355 yards later I too now had experienced the joy of crushing a 250 yard drive and getting 100 yards of roll out!
When it was all over with I added up my card and had shot a 96. Not great by any means but (here it comes) I think I played really well considering the extreme nature of the course, the wind, the rental clubs and having no idea what the hell I was doing out there!! HA HA!!
My best stat continues to be my putting. Even with the milled Scotty I had 33 putts with only one 3-Jack and that happened on the first hole. Now that was a nasty putt; double breaker downhill on the edge of false front that could have easily sent the ball a good 10 yards down the front of the green.
Knowing how I play with my clubs and considering the shots I chose to hit with a shaky level of confidence I think had I played with my own stick I would have improved my putting by probably 3 strokes and at least 3 strokes on regular play.
I only had the one penalty on #6 so I was real happy about that and my bunker play was outstanding. Taking everything in I have to say it was one of the best golfing experiences I’ve had. The course was in amazing shape, the staff for entire facility was stellar and who could ever complain about playing golf on a PGA Tour track in Hawaii.
So long thanks for the Poi
The Plantation course at Kapalua, in my opinion, is a must play when you’re on Maui. I’ve heard from several other people that there are better courses on the island and that may be the case but for me I couldn’t be happier with how everything went and would play there tomorrow if I could! The views are breathtaking and the golf is outstanding. Perfect bunkers, perfect fairways and to be really repetitive, perfect greens make it an unforgettable day of golf and who doesn’t like hitting monster drives that can only happen at a place like Kapalua!
Be sure to check out the photo gallery I uploaded of the course. The pictures are pretty awesome but pale in comparison to the real thing. Thanks for checking out this post ans the photos or more appropriately I should say Mahalo.
Enjoyed reading your writeup on the Plantation course. I am also a golf fanatic but live in Iowa so I can’t play in the winter like you can in Las Vegas. It’s about 5 deg out today. I also played the Plantation course (I take my own clubs on all my vacations) and agree that it was a heck of a ride. I played in the afternoon to get the better rate and the wind was blowing HARD and there was a hard rain for about 20 minutes on the back 9. I carry about a 9 hc and shot a 99 but it was still a great time. I play all the time at home and have played most of the public courses in the Phoenix area, a number of Hawaii courses and courses in the Naples area. Keep up the writings and good luck on your game.
Thanks for the comment Gary and also for taking the time to read my write-up. Kapalua was most definitely one of my most favorite moments since I started playing again. Next time I’m bringing my own clubs for sure!
Thanks for reading and stay safe with this winter storm you guys are having!