See the Kapalua Plantation Course -- Home of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Text by Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Chuck Rendall

KAPALUA, MAUI, HI – Like a breath of fresh air, the PGA Tour season begins every year in Hawaii at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which takes place at Kapalua Resort’s fabulous Plantation Course.

For the players participating in the tournament, it’s a no-cut reward for winning an event the previous season. For the fans, it’s a chance to see golf in paradise, catch some breathtaking scenery, and perhaps, dream a little.

Undoubtedly, one of the best parts of watching the tournament (on TV, of course, unless you’re fortunate enough to be there on the grounds) is the uniqueness of the Plantation Course itself. With the vast majority of the PGA Tour courses set on reasonably flat terrain in “traditional” golf settings, there truly is nothing quite like the wildly up-and-down Plantation layout that’s built on former pineapple fields on the western side of Maui.

It’s probably as close to a ‘mountain-style’ course that you’re going to see on Tour, with big bunkers, big fairways and big greens (with big slopes in them).

Take for example the par four first hole, which has been the most difficult (in the scoring sense) on the course over the past decade. Stretching to 520 yards, it’s mostly downhill from the start, making the hole play considerably shorter than the listed distance. But even the pros just can’t bomb it down the slope, as drives hit too far will leave an uphill (and blind) approach into the green.

And that’s not even talking about the wind at the Plantation Course. Almost always a factor in Hawaii, the prevailing trade winds (east to west) can turn 500-yard par fours into virtual driver/wedge holes on some days – but if the winds reverse (locally known as a Kona wind, with the breeze blowing from the west off the ocean), it can make the course play considerably more difficult.

The par four seventh hole (516-yards) is a challenge with the ‘normal’ winds, but becomes an angry bear if the wind is blowing from the west.

The views are also second-to-none at the Hyundai event, with many of the holes set to the stunning backdrop of the deep blue Pacific Ocean. Adding to the natural canvas is the lush Hawaiian vegetation that surrounds the Plantation Course, which contributes to the tropical flavor – it’s more than just palm trees, ocean and sand.

Throw in the occasional Humpback whale breech, and there’s just no place like the Plantation Course on Tour.

Finally, the tournament’s incredibly relaxed atmosphere gives it a special quality. The crowds attending the Hyundai are somewhat smaller than other events (because of the isolated location), and Kapalua’s layout gives folks on TV the chance to see players essentially just playing golf.

And that’s a great way to start the season. Needless to say, if you have a chance to visit Maui, a trip around the Plantation Course is a must for golfing enthusiasts.

Here’s a glimpse of the beauty that is the Plantation Course:

Perhaps the flattest hole on the Plantation Course, the 218-yard, par three 2nd hole is oddly enough, one of the most challenging for the Tour professionals.

The tee shot on the par four 4th hole is straight up -- literally -- and often into the wind.

The par five 5th hole is usually the easiest during the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, with the pros easily reaching it in two on most days.

Looking back from the green of the par four 6th hole. The photo does not do justice to the severity of the slopes -- in the fairway, and on the green.

The wind will play havoc with your tee shot (and your mind) on the par three 8th hole.

Short, slightly downhill and often with the wind, club selection is paramount on the par three 11th hole. Try to tune out the whale breeches, too.

Even at 420-yards, some tournament participants may go for the green off the tee of the par four 12th hole -- but if you miss, the punishment can be severe.

The greens are often huge on the Plantation Course, but not true at the short (305-yards, uphill) par four 14th hole.

It is pure intimidation off the tee of the par four (508-yards) 17th hole, but if you can carve a draw, it actually plays fairly tame.

Coming home on the par five 18th hole. Simply put, one of the most exhilarating finishes, anywhere.


The Plantation Course at Kapalua
2000 Plantation Club Drive
Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761

Phone: 1-877-KAPALUA


Course Designers: Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore
General Manager: Mike Jones, PGA
Head Professional: Scott Carroll, PGA
Director of Agronomy: David Smallwood
Superintendent: Orlando Baraoidan


Tournament     7411    75.6/140
Championship 7263    74.9/138
Regular            6547    71.7/130
Forward          5627    73.2/129


Kapalua does offer some great “stay and play” packages, including new “Unlimited Golf” – Check the Website.


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