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|The Kapalua Plantation Course hosts the PGA Tour's Mercedes-Benz Championship. (Courtesy Plantation Course)|
If there's one thing that will give you a good idea of how good Hawaiian golf courses are, it's this: The PGA Tour has dedicated an entire section of its schedule to Hawaii, showcasing the world's best golfers against a backdrop of one of the world's great golf destinations.
And while the "Hawaii Swing" of the PGA Tour schedule helps kick off the season in style, the other pro golf tours of the United States spend some quality time in Hawaii, as well, as both the LPGA Tour and the Champions Tour take some time to take some divots in the 50th state.
Here's a look at the great Hawaiian golf courses the best golfers in the world have played in 2007.
Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui: If there's one thing you can say about the PGA Tour, it's that schedulers know how to kick start the season. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui hosts the Mercedes-Benz Championship each year. In 2007, it was Vijay Singh hoisting the winner's trophy as he celebrated his 30th career PGA Tour triumph.
The Plantation is one of three courses on this sprawling, spectacular resort. Tiger Woods and Ernie Els staged a spectacular battle here in 2000, with Woods taking home the win after sinking a remarkable 35-foot downhill putt in a playoff. Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, this par-73 7,263-yard run plays to a 142-slope rating from the tips and gives players a stunning trip through its natural geographic formations and the pineapple plantation fields for which it was named.
Waialae Country Club, Honolulu: Waialae is a private run and steeped in history. Paul Goydos had his name etched onto the winner's trophy this year at the course, which has been a host to PGA Tour events since the mid-1960s.
Designed in 1927 by Seth Raynor, Waialae got a facelift in 1999, and now plays to 7,012 yards with a 133-slope rating from the back tees. Views of the Ko'olau mountain range to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south give golfers a scenic day, with plenty of challenges.
Turtle Bay Resort, Palmer Course, Oahu: The surfing in Oahu is world-class, but, when the ladies of the LPGA Tour head to Turtle Bay, it's all about business on dry land. Paula Creamer was pretty in pink as she won the SBS Open here in January.
Designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, this 7,199-yard run plays to an imposing 141 slope rating and will give golfers a stern and diverse challenge. On the front nine, you'll be playing on a wide-open run, where water, sand and rolling terrain will be your foes. The back nine takes golfers on a ride through ironwood pines, culminating in the spectacular 17th hole, where bunkers and the Pacific Ocean will draw your eye, and likely your ball.
Ko Olina Golf Club, Oahu: As if staying at the scenic JW Marriott Ihilani didn't already have its advantages, Ko Olina gives it a golf course worthy of raves. Stacy Prammanasudh took home the Fields Open title at Ko Olina this year, and the Ted Robinson-designed run has as good a finishing hole as can be found in all of Hawaii.
"If you are looking for first-class golf and service, Ko Olina was made for it. The layout is challenging and beautiful. Water is in play on quite a few holes and each has some type of fountain, brook or waterfall. This course is a pleasure to play," WorldGolf.com reader Kenneth G. Lawson wrote.
Hualalai Golf Course, Ka'upulehu-Kona: Another Nicklaus design, Hualalai gives golfers a bit of everything that Hawaii has to offer, as you'll play through lava fields, tropical fauna, mesmerizingly green fairways, all leading up to scenic views of the Pacific Ocean.
It's no pushover, however, playing to more than 7,100 yards from the tips, with a rating of 73.7. This year at Hualalai, Hale Irwin took home the MasterCard Championship, continuing his ransacking of the tour, holding off Jim Thorpe and the other over-50 champions.
All told, the Champions Tour plays three times in Hawaii, twice on courses already mentioned: Wailea Golf Course and the Palmer Course at Turtle Bay.
September 19, 2007
William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.
Finding a golf course to play in the Sarasota/Bradenton area 45 miles south of Tampa is easy. World-ranked beaches, European-style boutique shopping and al fresco dining, and a fantastic circus museum are just a few of the choices available for off-course entertainment.
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