A Hidden Gem In Lihue

Kellie Hines
General Manager and Director of Golf at Puakea Golf Course

Please tell us about the business. Puakea Golf Course opened in 1997 and is owned by Grove Farm Company. It originally opened with 10 holes, and increased to 18 holes by 2003. We have a family-friendly atmosphere, and people know each other here. We cater to kamaaina and have our regular customers.

What makes your golf course unique? We are unique because we’re right in Lihue and have these awesome views of the full mountain range of Haupu. It’s just beautiful out there. The first impression people get is they see the businesses in the area and they don’t think the views will be stunning. But we’ve had so many compliments from visitors who said that once they go out and play, they love it. What they get for what they pay is a great golf course in great condition.

Also, we have a great driving range here — all grass. It’s huge. We have a 12,000-square-foot practice putting green.

What is your background in the golf industry? I’ve been in the golf industry ever since I got my driver’s license. I grew up on Kauai and used to work for my dad at Kauai Surf, which is now Kauai Lagoons. My brother Tommy Hines also is a golf professional, and my mother loved golf.

However, I didn’t start actually golfing until later in life, when I was caddying for my brother at 18 or 19 years old. I actually opened Puakea Golf Course in 1997 and worked here for seven years. I returned in November 2011.

What are some things you’ve done since you returned? When I came back, the first thing I wanted to do was change the café. In June 2012, we opened and renamed the restaurant Hookipa Café. We changed the menu and introduced more healthy choices. We have breakfast, lunch and pupus, and you don’t have to golf to eat here. We also started having live music on Fridays, pau hana, in the café.

What are the benefits at Puakea for kamaaina golfers? We offer a Haupu Golf Club membership. If you’re a local resident, it’s a free membership, and after you play six rounds of golf, you get the seventh round free. During your birthday month, we also give you a free round of golf.

Additionally, you get a discount in the golf pro shop and we offer discounts for each round of golf. We host golf tournaments for members, as well.

What are the benefits for visitors? The value. We’re not a resort golf course, and yet we’re not a municipal golf course, so we’re in between.

And we’re not in a heavy resort destination area like Poipu or Princeville, so it’s just got a feeling of home. And the way we treat our customers — we have fun and the customers feel that. The visitors feel very comfortable here.

What are your prices? Before 11 a.m. it’s $99, and after 11 a.m. it’s $59. Kamaaina rate is $50 in the morning and $40 after 11 a.m.

What is it you love about golf? Being outside. It’s so beautiful and peaceful. And the people you meet in the golf business, the visitors — I’ve made lifelong friends since I first started working in the business. You also can still play golf at any age and travel the world and play. There are a lot of nice people in the golf industry.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The people. I love my job. Where else can you go where your office is out in the open and you meet people from around the world?

Hookipa Café is open from 7 a.m. to sunset, and the golf pro shop is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.