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Ko'Olina Golf Club in Hawaii: A fun Oahu favorite

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
Ko'Olina Golf Club - hole 9
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The par-4 ninth is just one example of pretty, yet challenging holes at solid Ko'Olina Golf Club on Oahu. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)

KAPOLEI, Hawaii - If golf is supposed to be fun, then Ko'Olina Golf Club on the island of Oahu has accomplished that mission.

At Ko'Olina, there's no pretense that this is anything more than an enjoyable, well conditioned, tropical golf course that will challenge good players as it did when it hosted the LPGA and Champions Tour, while also allowing average players plenty of thrills.

Here you'll find a few waterfalls, a great locker-room (left over from its tour-hosting days) and a heck of a 19th hole. What's more, if you show up as a single, chances are that you'll get paired with a group of folks - local or not - who love golf as much as you do.

"Our golf course in general has something for everybody," said Travis Joerger, head professional at Ko'Olina Golf Club. "It challenges the good player, but we don't have tight driving holes."

Ko'Olina Golf Club's appropriate mascot

Take a tour through Ko'Olina's award-winning golf shop, and the daily fee/resort course's theme is readily apparent. On the hats, the shirts and the golf carts, the ladybug logo appears. The insect is revered in Japan, a country whose influence is plain to see throughout in Hawaii.

The ladybug is, of course, non-threatening, which is exactly the feeling you get at Ko'Olina. That's not to say that the course is without teeth, but you never get the notion that you have to grind away to shoot a score. Bring some game, and if the wind isn't up too much, you'll have a relaxing time.

There are a lot of fun holes on this 6,815-yard, par-72 course. In particular, a couple of the par 3s really stand out. The eighth is arguably the course's signature hole, with cascading water filling up a hazard that guards an elevated green. At 195 yards from the back tees, it's a real test, but a visual delight.

The other par 3 that will get your attention is the 12th. At 183 yards, with bunkers protecting a two-tiered green, the hole is almost as interesting as the drive to the tee. The cart path on the way to the 12th runs under a large rock formation and waterfall, which empties into a pool to the left of the tee, no doubt exuding an important sense of serenity before you pull the trigger.

Speaking of water, both nines end with good use of water hazards. The ninth is a 438-yard par 4 that plays over a lake off the tee. The 18th, a 428-yard par 4, features a cascading water feature on the approach.

The water can also be reached off the tee on the 18th, if you hit driver to the right of where it comes into play. You have to pick your poison. Risk a longer club off the tee to set up a short approach, or lay up, avoiding any chance of getting wet, only to leave a long approach into green with water in front and to the left.

"It's really one of the best finishing holes in Hawaii," said Joerger.

Ko'Olina Golf Club: The verdict

Ko'Olina Golf Club won't blow you away like Mauna Kea Golf Course on the Big Island, for example, but it does impress. (There are no ocean holes at Ko'Olina.)

It's easy to see why this would have been a good venue for the Champions Tour and LPGA. There is plenty of challenge, but any good player on his or her game can also go low here. More than anything, though, Ko'Olina Golf Club provides a complete experience.

Need a lesson? There's the well staffed Ko'Olina Golf Academy. Need some practice? Ko'Olina has a large grass driving range and short-game area. Need a yardage? Carts are equipped with the latest in GPS.

Even the weather is cooperative at Ko'Olina, where it gets much less rain than the southeastern side of the island.

For the daily fee, locker-room facilities are also as good as it gets. Not only can you shower and change at Ko'Olina, but there are also spa amenities, including a large Jacuzzi and sauna.

Want some sushi and a local brew? Then you'll want to hang around and catch a quick bite at Roy's, an island restaurant institution know for its Hawaiian fusion cuisine, which overlooks the 18th green with both indoor and outdoor seating. In fact, you can also visit Roy's for dinner, as it stays open after dark for golfers and non-golfers alike.

If you're coming to Oahu, Ko'Olina Golf Club is a can't-miss proposition.

Stay and play at Ko'Olina Resort

Ko'Olina Resort & Marina is located on the southwest side of the island, a good 30 minutes or so from Waikiki Beach, so if you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, staying at the Ko'Olina Resort is an attractive option.

Located on the first seven lagoon sites is the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko'Olina, which overlooks one of the finest white-sand beaches in all of Hawaii. It's a 387-room property that features luxurious suites and guest room accommodations, two pools, five outstanding restaurants and lounges, boutiques, state-of-the-art meeting facilities, and an exceptional full-service health spa and tennis club.

While the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko'Olina does not own the golf club, it does offer packages for play there. Contact the resort at at (808) 679-0079 or (800) 626-4446 toll free for more information.

Additionally, construction is currently under way on Walt Disney Parks and Resorts' first Hawaii destination. The 21-acre oceanfront property, located at the Ko'Olina Resort & Marina development, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2011. Like the Marriott, the Disney destination will overlook crystal blue lagoons and white sand beaches.

The property is being built to include 350 hotel rooms and 480 Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas.

More photos

Ko'Olina Golf Club - hole 8Ko'Olina golf course - hole 12 waterfallKo'Olina G.C. in Hawaii - hole 18

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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