By Jeff Skinner
Since the PGA and Champions Tour are in Hawaii now and the LPGA will be there next month I thought we could use a little bit of the Aloha spirit. There are few places on earth as beautiful or spectacular as Hawaii. With all the cold and snow covering us here on the mainland, thoughts of warm breezes and sandy beaches will surely warm us up.
There are many quality golf courses on all the Hawaiian Islands. On the North Shore of Oahu sits a wonderful resort, The Turtle Bay Resort. Turtle Bay is home to two quality courses, The Palmer Course and the Fazio Course. The Fazio course is the less renowned of the two. Palmer’s course, designed with his partner Ed Seay, has been host to PGA and Champions tour events and the LPGA SBS Open starts there next month.
The Palmer Course sits on some of the most beautiful land on Oahu. The course is built around a protected wetland, the Punaho’olapa Marsh. Water is in play on fourteen of the holes, but it is never the ocean. The staff at Turtle Bay likes to describe the front nine as a links type layout. I think the main similarity between a links course and the Palmer course is the wind. The wind on the North Shore can blow really. We estimated it to be a four club wind when we played. It was great downwind, but against it you really to struggle to get the right club.
Turtle Bay has been recognized with many awards and appears on several “Best Course” lists. The history of all the professional tournaments that have been contested here speaks to the quality of the layout and the conditioning of the course. The course was in great shape, fairways were perfect, greens were fast and true and the bunkers meticulously kept. The bunker sand was as fine as baby powder and results in a testing shot to recover.
You can certainly tell this is an upscale course. Playing where the pros play is always a thrill. Fortunately, there are five sets of tee and you can take your pick from 7218 yards to 5574 yards. We played the gold and that yardage is close to what the LPGA plays from. We had a ball on the course. I hear the course is rarely crowded on weekdays and that was the case for us. We had the course to ourselves and had a chance to enjoy the absolutely gorgeous surroundings.
The front nine gets your attention immediately. Trees and waste areas, bunkers and water and bunkers and doglegs and did I mention the bunkers? Playing a new course for the first time it is usually difficult to score well. Playing a course as challenging and as lovely as this, it is best to enjoy the beauty and not worry about scoring. Leave the scoring for the next time because you’ll definitely want to come back.
One of the things I enjoy is when each of the holes is named, not just numbered. That is the case at Turtle Bay. You get a nice yardage book with your greens fee and it has the name of each hole. Number three is the very aptly named “ Pa Abamanu” or the “Strong Winds of Kabuku”. It is a par five with water on the left and a bunker in mid fairway and plenty of mounds to contend with.
The back nine meanders through a jungle and a forest of ironwood pines. The scenery here will take your breath away. We had plenty of time to take some photos and look for a wayward ball or two. Many of the hole names on the back reflect the Aloha Spirit of Hawaii. “To Make Peace, To Have Patience” and “Healing Land” are a few that tell you that being here should be more that just a day of golf. If you spend any time on the Islands you are made aware that life and nature and spirit are very important to the native Hawaiian people.
Turtle Bay calls hole number seventeen the “signature” hole. It is a truly wonderful hole, but they need to change the name. It is called “To Forgive”, but it is anything but forgiving. Seventeen has a rolling fairway filled with mounds and fairway bunkers that cut across the fairway and back again to front the raised green. It is a pure target golf hole with the most spectacular view as you approach the green. A mere foot from the green is the beach and a postcard view of the Pacific. This is the scene you’ll remember forever, and isn’t that what this is all about. You pay these high green fees to play a course that the Big Boys play and hope to come away with a memorable experience. You get it here on the Palmer Course at Turtle Bay.
Overall, Turtle Bay is a wonderful facility. The Pro shop is expansive and the people are the extremely friendly and considerate. The range was the only area that was not up to the caliber of the rest of the resort. For me though, it is all about the golf and the experience. Turtle Bay’s Palmer Course was well worth it and rewarded me with a great day of golf filled with the Spirit of Aloha. I can’t wait to go back.