Charting A New Course At Poipu

The 14th green at Poipu Bay, with Mount Haupu looming in the background

It would be a pretty daunting task to improve the “golf course in heaven,” better known as Poipu Bay Golf Course.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Poipu opened in 1991 and gained international recognition as home to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994 through 2006.

I’ve only played there once, thanks to an invitation by my uncle Larry and cousin Bill, who both have played the course more than most, so it was good to have “caddie-like” partners to help me out.

But despite my lack of time on it, I’ve been there a slew of times covering events as a sports writer for the local daily newspaper. This included the Grand Slam of Golf, where I witnessed Phil Mickelson’s incredible round of 59, which easily could’ve been 58 if not for a 5-foot putt he missed on the picturesque 18th hole.

Since April, Poipu has been a lonely place, missing the usual hackers like my uncle and cousin while undergoing a comprehensive greens refurbishment project. It’s been a rough time for those who make it their weekly or sometimes daily adventure into “golf heaven.” But what they’ll see and experience when they return – the scheduled reopening is Dec. 16 – is an improved course.

“Our greens were about 20 years old, and during that time a variety of other grasses invaded our greens,” director of golf Craig Sasada explains. “Mutations developed, and it was getting harder and harder to maintain the greens to our standards.”

oceanfront 16th hole

The original Tifdwarf bermudagrass has been removed and replanted with a seashore paspalum hybrid that has proven to be an optimum putting surface in Hawaii.

This eco-friendly surface will require less fertilizer and almost no herbicides, and it’s very drought tolerant.

Total cost of the project: about $1.5 million.

“The weather cooperated and we were able stay on schedule with just some minor setbacks,” Sasada says. “Our maintenance crew has done a wonderful job.”

In addition to the greens project, Poipu’s 21,000-square-foot clubhouse is undergoing changes, including locker room renovation, new carpeting and repainting.

“We can’t wait to have golfers back on our course and showcase our enhancements to our greens,” Sasada says. “In the future, we will probably be going to seashore paspalum throughout the entire course, but this will not require a closure.

“Golfers will definitely have a better product (greens) to play on,” Sasada says. “There will be a slight increase to most of our rates.”

One measure of a golf course is the champions who have played and won there. With past Grand Slam champs such as Tiger Woods (seven times), Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Jim Furyk, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Lehman, Poipu ranks with the greatest.

Just another two months until we can get out there again.

dshimogawa@ midweekkauai.com

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