The Big Kahuna Makes His Return: Mauna Kea Golf Course


Gary Player stood on the tee, hitting balls into the Pacific. Wimp.

I make the green on my first try.

Mauna Kea, #3 ... timeless

Mauna Kea Golf Course’s o’er moana 272-yard par-3 3rd hole is iconic, trend-setting. If it’s true, that adage about imitation and flattery, then the club has adulation to spare. Designed way back in the early ‘60s by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., long before the Kohala Coast was studded with all-star golf courses and world-beating resorts, the hole and the course set the bar high for seaside-golf-to-come on all the Hawaiian islands.

Jones’ kid Rees orchestrated a complete overhaul of Mauna Kea, and the course reopened in 2012 with new turf throughout, reclaimed bunkers (and a host of new ones), a couple-hundred-yard tweak on the scorecard and, most importantly, reclaimed relevance.  There’s quite a bit of room to “err” things out on most holes. The payback for that generosity is wavecrest bunkering that Rees designed to ensure little chance of successfully reaching in regulation. After that, players still have to deal with old man Jones’ prototypical green complexes—acutely raised, deep and rambling, robed in false fronts and sides, and more sand.

Welcome back, old friend.

Player?  The story goes that warming up for a grand opening exhibition, the Black Knight, playing alongside the King and the Golden Bear, had trouble spanning the oceanic expanse from the then 250-or-so-yard back tee. So they moved up. Even facing 30-40 more yards, I have a huge advantage over Player—his driver was the size of a pea and his ball an imbalanced marshmallow.

Player hit the green when it mattered.

So did I.

He’s not the one who three-jacked.

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