Ko Olina Golf Resort
Aliinui Drive, Kapolei, HI 96707
Course Review Date: 10/07/2012
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre
Ahhh…vacation golf on a tropical island. Easily one of my most looked forward to rounds of the year. 80 something degrees, palm trees, championship caliber resort golf (hopefully) and awesome service to make up for the generally whopping greens fee. Seriously, as a golfer, who doesn’t freaking love to play golf in Hawaii? This years get away found us at the Ko Olina Golf Resort, host of the LPGA’s Lotte Championship in April on the southwestern shores of Oahu.
Built in 1990, Ko Olina is a Ted Robinson design that stretches 6867 yards form the tips, has a slope of 135 and a rating of 72.3. Ted Robinson should be a bit familiar to Washington golfers since he was the designer of highly regarded Sahalee and Broadmore Country Clubs in the greater Seattle area. There’s also a laundry list of tracks he designed in California and Hawaii. Without knowing all that much about the golf course I booked a 2 round package they have that will save you about $40 in greens fees (just a heads up, buy the package and save some dough). $300 for two rounds of golf with cart. Not terrible for resort golf prices, especially one that hosts an LPGA event. I was certainly expecting to be playing one heck of a golf course.
My two rounds of golf couldn’t have been more different and I’m pretty torn on how to write about it. But, as with other review here’s the dead honest truth…
Round 1 – 10/7
I showed up about an hour early for my tee time on the first day for a couple specific reason; One, the Proshop at Ko Olina has won some awards for being one of the top proshops in the country and I wanted to see what a top proshop looks like. Second, Bermuda grass. If you’ve never played on Bermuda and are headed to get some vacation golf in, I highly suggest you go early and practice your short game. It’s truly a different game on this kind of grass.
Right when you pull up the course you get a very friendly greeting from the outdoor staff who gathers up your clubs, sends you to the proshop and sets you all up with your cart for the day. Check in was a bit unusual….not the overwhelming “welcome to our course” feeling, more of an ok, pay up and go play.” Kind of hard to explain, maybe wrong moment wrong time, but I did walk away thinking, “eh that was lame,” when I left the front counter. The other part was that I didn’t get any instruction on where to go, where’s the range, where the beer shack, etc. I was more or less just left to wander around and hope the outdoor staff didn’t make away with my sticks.
After I had located my clubs, I made my way to the starter who advised me that I would need to go back to the proshop to buy range balls if I wanted to warm up. Really? Over $150 for a round and I need to play for range balls? Uncalled for. Becoming a golfing pet peeve of mine to be honest. Anyways, back to the proshop I went to get some range balls. At the front desk I was advised the range would be closing in a couple of minutes and I couldn’t warm up. I’d have to wait, but by the time it opened I would be on the box. Ugh…oh, by the way, they were closing the range for watering. Courses close the driving range to turn the sprinklers on? Huh…
After surrendering my hopes of a warm up I decided to roll putts for about 5 minutes until the starter called over and asked if I wanted to go early. Well of course I do and thank you. Here’s where it gets a little squirrelly. He didn’t pair me up with anyone, he didn’t tell me when to go, I just kind of slid my way over to the first tee and away I went….sort of. I was playing behind a two some, who was playing behind 3 foursomes. Call me crazy, but stuffing a single behind 3 foursomes and a twosome is going to be utter torture for the single unless they play through. Yeah, that didn’t happen and the marshal out there (very nice guy) was having a hell of time because none of the players spoke English, only Japanese. I wasn’t going anywhere and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.
I’d say I made it maybe 3 holes before the pace of play had eliminated any chance of me having fun out there. When I made the turn my golf cart chimed in and said that I was 22 minutes behind pace……as a foursome. Yeah, if I was playing with a foursome and we made the turn in this amount of time, it would have been 22 minutes behind. After 12 holes in 4 hours as a single I walked off the course. How pissed off do you have to be to walk off a golf course that you just paid$150 to play? No debate, I was fired up. After my partial round, and with steam still shooting out of my ears I emailed the course, explained my plight and asked about cancelling my second tee time and getting a refund for it.
Round 2 – 10/9
Long story short, the proshop was very accommodating to my complaints about the first round and encouraged me to come out again and try the course out. This time around things went off without a hitch and I had a great time getting fried in the Hawaiian sun. Check in was pleasant and the 1st assistance came up to the front desk to meet me and apologize for the previous unpleasant afternoon I had experienced. In my golf cart they had a nice little gift bag with a bag tag and sleeve of Pro V’s waiting, and had pair me up with another threesome to keep the pace nice and normal. The only oddity from round 2 was that the driving range was closed again. From the looks of it, they were doing some resodding on the range since there was a lot of turf missing. Yet, when I finished my round, there were people on the range hitting balls….I surrender on that one.
On to the important stuff – the golf course. Solid. A really good mix of wide open landing areas, lateral hazards, green side protection and immaculate golfing conditions. I caught them about 2 1/2 weeks after they had put big punches in the greens and minus a bit of sand you could barely tell. The greens we’re definitely slow, but that’s kind of expected with resort golf but these seemed even slower. Someone had mentioned they were rolling at an 8, but it felt a lot more like a 6…anything against the grain had to be pounded.
The course design was beautiful and subtle. Some of the wide open teeing ground will lull you sleep then poof, you’re playing out of a fairway bunker or dropping next to a water hazard. Combine those obstacles with fairly thick bermuda rough and you can drop some shots out there in a hurry. Of the more memorable holes out there (4th picture down) the par 3, 12th (one of 3 signature holes) stands out immediately since you have to drive under a waterfall to get to the tee box. The hole features a big water feature to the left, greenside bunkering that protects about half the putting surface, additional bunkers long and trade winds in your face. Just as good is the par 3, 8th hole featuring a large waterfall and pond to the left and greenside bunkering to the right. First time I’ve ever hit a tee shot into a waterfall :)
I might not have had a thrilling time on my first run through but I really loved the golf course, its design and the facility they have at Ko Olina. My second round was excellent. Got to play with a great crew, including one of the best juniors I’ve ever seen play. The pace was solid and the course was in fantastic shape. I’d pay $150 to play here again without debate.
Golfchops.com rating: 21/25
Customer Service: 4
Condition of Greens: 4
“Perceived” maintenance level of course: 5
– Average the first day, exceptional on the second. Outside staff and course marshals were all great.
– Recently punched but recovered very well. Rolled really good, but slow as slow gets.
– Some turf replacement on the range, but the golf course was in perfect shape. Teeboxes, fairways, rough and greens were all in tip top shape.
– Vacation golf in never cheap, but I didn’t think $150 was over priced at all. Paying extra for range balls on a $150-170 greens fee is not cool.
– Range was under some construction, but its a nice range. Good putting green, separate chipping area is very well done, and clubhouse and proshop are awesome. Very high quality restaurant on the grounds as well (couldn’t pronounce half the menu….that’s good right?) Beverage and snack shack at the turn and the cart came around a million times.