Whistling Straits and the Prince course at Princeville on Kauai, Hawaii: which beast of a golf course will shred your scorecard faster?
I’ve had the pleasure to get sliced and diced on each in the last year.
They are similar in a lot of categories. They’re both magnificent, one-of-a-kind courses, but stressfully scenic, if you know what I mean. On each, there are countless vistas that will inspire its share of “oh wow’s” and “oh crap’s!”
I played each course from the second to back set of tees, both in the 6,900-yard range. In each instance, this was a bad decision. I should have played them from the 6,500-yard set. But get two foursomes of guys together and generally you end up playing tees further back than you should.
While the Prince has a few holes on the front side that give mortals a few shots at par, the back nine is a sheer beast. Not only is the 12th hole insanely tight, but the tee is elevated high enough, maybe 200 feet or so and above the tree line, so the trade winds will have their way with your shot well before it can get below the trees. On other holes, even if you can find the fairway, often times your stance is a little uneven, thanks to the tumbling, clifftop land the Prince is set on.
What probably makes the Prince course more difficult than the Straits is the wind. On the Straits, its main focal point Lake Michigan may look big enough to pass off as an ocean, but it can’t produce the potentially vicious trade winds of the Pacific.
Now I did get one birdie on the Prince and not on the Straits, but it was probably the ugliest, luckiest birdie I’ve ever scored, three bad misses that miraculously found earth beneath the ball but never fairway - capped with a 60-foot prayer. A blind squirrel finds four nuts…I noticed that with both courses my swing had deteriorated by round’s end to the point where I could barely make ball contact. Does that happen to anyone else when they play a tough layout or am I just that fragile?
Lastly, the Straits and Prince are both horribly addicting. On each, I wanted another crack at it the second I walked off the 18th hole, even though I probably didn’t have enough balls left over to so do (The Prince offers $40 p.m. replays, FYI). Even though each has easier, but still very worthy courses next door, it doesn’t surprise me its the more maddening courses a lot of players keep coming back to over and over on their vacation.
For those in Kauai who are looking to play a beautiful, coastal golf course but want more of a fighting chance, head to Poipu Bay - which has wider fairways and some of the finest views you’ll ever see on a golf course. It’s a former Grand Slam of Golf host, so its not going to be a pushover. It’s more of an easy bogey-hard par kind of course. Princeville’s Makai course is also a real treat, and will get even better once they begin renovations slated to begin soon.
Stay tuned to WorldGolf.com for plenty more on Poipu Bay and Kauai.
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