Kaua‘i Golf Courses In The Fore!

It seems the renovations were a success. The Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club has been named the No. 1-ranked course in Hawaii, according to GOLF Magazine‘s biennial “2012 Best Courses You Can Play” list.

The Prince was not alone in its recognition, as Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau announced that all five of the courses designated in the Kaua‘i golf resort lifestyle destination co-operative made the list.

You don’t have to go far from the Prince to find the next-best course, with Princeville Makai Golf Club coming in at No. 5.

Heading down the east side leads to Kaua‘i Lagoons Golf Club at No. 7, immediately followed by Poipu Bay Golf Club at No. 8. Puakea Golf Club rounds out the impressive list at No. 17.

“We are thrilled to once again have our golf courses included in these prestigious rankings,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau, in a press release. “Kaua‘i provides an amazing collection of unforgettable courses and resorts, and honors such as these further solidify the island as one of the best golf destinations not only in the state of Hawaii, but in the world.”

The distinction for The Prince comes after it reopened its course in March on the heels of a 15-month-long renovation project headed up by Robert Trent Jones Jr., who is something of a trailblazer and standard-setter in golf course design. I’ve always been intimidated by the Prince for its reputation as a humbling experience for some of us less-experienced hackers, but they widened some fairways and reconfigured the green contours to “promote a more enjoyable experience for players of all levels.”

Translation: Fewer four-letter words and a safer afternoon for my club heads.

Not only did The Prince top the list of more than 90 courses around the state, but it also came in at No. 16 in the magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.”

The Kiele Moana Course, which opened in May 2011, gave Kaua‘i Lagoons a major bump in the rankings, jumping from No. 18 in 2010 to No. 7. The new holes give the course the longest continuous stretch of ocean holes in the state. The course gives players the only Jack Nicklaus design on the island and includes the scenic par-3 fifth hole that features mango and guava trees surrounding the green.

As the former host of the PGA Grand Slam, Poipu Bay has seen some of the sport’s top professionals. Not resting on its laurels, the course used much of 2011 to replace its old greens with seashore paspalum, an eco-friendly strain that is much more conducive to the tropical climate and salty air.

I spoke recently with Wailua Golf Course’s Craig Carney, who said the paspalum is such a priority for golf courses that he hopes to have the entire course 100 percent converted by the time he retires.

They’re making strides in terms of play, maintenance and environmentally friendly practices all over the island, and those in the know are noticing.

We’ve got year-round access to some of the best golf courses in the country, so let’s take advantage of what’s right in our own backyard.