By Brandon Tucker
Courtesy of Hawaii Golf
LIHUE, Hawaii — Hawaii’s longest continuous stretch of oceanfront holes is back — better than before — and here to stay.
Earlier in 2011, Kauai Lagoons Golf Club reopened the famous back nine of its former Kiele Course after several years of renovations and alterations.
Formerly a 36-hole club consisting of the Kiele and Mokihana Courses, Kauai Lagoons has been revamped as a leaner 27-hole course, with 18 currently open.
Golfers who played the Jack Nicklaus-designed Kiele Course before it closed back in the late 2000s will notice plenty of improvements with the new look and newly named Kiele Moana nine.
What’s new at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club’s Kiele Moana nine
While Nicklaus’ design team altered some holes more than others on Kiele Moana (which means "open ocean" in Hawaiian), the constant change throughout the nine are new TifEagle greens that roll faster and are less grainy compared to the previous greens. Also, the red sand bunkers were rebuilt and replaced with white silica sand.
The first two holes — a par 5 that heads toward the ocean, followed by a somewhat short par 4 — are new. The fourth officially begins a half-mile ocean stretch. Golfers will recognize the fifth — one of the Nicklaus firm’s most photographed par 3s — which was left virtually unchanged. It plays more than 200 yards over cliffs toward a shallow green protected by water.
The 473-yard sixth, however, is vastly different from before. It presents alternate routes off the tee: one that plays closer to the ocean with a shorter approach shot, and the other farther right that plays over the cliffs to the green.
Although golfers bid adieu to the ocean when they walk off the peninsula green on the seventh, memorable holes keep coming. The closing two holes play along the inland lagoon and into the trade winds.
Nicklaus found it necessary to make the ninth hole — already a long, narrow par 4 that plays into the trade winds — even tougher. He added a bunker on the left side, pinching the landing zone guarded by the lagoon on the right. Finishing up with a rare par here is cause to celebrate with a picture taken next to the bear sculpture sitting beside the green.
Kauai Lagoons also replaced its full-screen GPS systems with the smaller GolfBuddy system attached to the steering mount. Scott Ashworth, director of golf at Kauai Lagoons, said the switch was made to bring more attention to the course and not a digital screen of aerial graphics taking up the view from the golf carts.
"We didn’t want golfers staring at a screen the whole round," said Ashworth. "We want them to enjoy the views."
Kauai Lagoons Golf Club renovation update: What’s next?
With the unveiling of the new Moana nine in its entirety, Kauai Lagoons’ most noteworthy piece of the puzzle is finished. The other two nines need to update their greens and bunkers to be consistent with the new-look Moana. The closing of the remaining nines will be staggered to ensure there are always 18 holes available to play at Kauai Lagoons.
The Kiele Mauka nine (translated as "toward the mountain") currently serves as the course’s front nine. It won’t need nearly as much time to undergo its enhancements as the Kiele Moana nine. While farther inland, the Mauka presents a string of its own remarkable holes thanks to a lush and fertile landscape with mountain backdrops.
A third nine, the Waikahe (meaning "flowing stream"), has been created using nine of the best holes from the original Nicklaus-designed Mokihana course. The Waikahe nine will cater especially to walkers and beginner play when it reopens.