Last Updated on Saturday, 04 February 2012 00:17
Friday, 03 February 2012 23:42
by Gord Montgomery
While they may be related by ownership, the makeup of the two courses in the Kapalua area of Maui are akin to a sleek ballerina sister and a hulking football brother.
But be advised, each has its own character and each stands on its own merits, although one is much better known than the other.
But make no mistake about it, while the Bay Course may be the baby sister of the more famous big brother Plantation Course, it stands on its own two feet for fun and playability.
Located below its more renowned sibling, the Bay Course stretches out to 6,600 yards off the back tees and 6,051 off the regular blocks.
That’s long enough to have hosted an LPGA event in the recent past and also means the everyday player is going to have their game tested by its large greens, elevation changes and swirling ocean breezes.
“I think the Bay Course is very playable, without a lot of forced carries but it’s not a cakewalk,” Mike Jones, the Director of Golf/ General Manager for Kapalua Golf (Troon Golf) stated.
“I think a lot of visitors come here and think they have to play the Plantation and overlook the Bay. If they get to see the Bay, and how good it is, they’ll discover it’s a fun course.”
The ‘baby’ of the pair had a $3.5 million remodel between 2007-09 that saw the tee boxes laser leveled and the bunkers and greens upgraded.
While the work was being completed, the track lost some of its following. Now though, the course is working on bringing those players back and bringing in new players as well, to see this gorgeous layout’s new face because it’s worth their time, Jones noted.
photo credit: gord montgomery
The Third Hole At The Bay Course In Kapalua Offers A Stunning Ocean Backdrop
“It may be the lesser known of the two courses,” he stated about being overshadowed, “but it’s a fun golf course that is definitely not a walkover.”
Up the road at the Plantation, every person teeing it up for the first time on the PGA’s first stop of the season for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions feels a twinge of nerves on the opening downhill drive – a long par-4 that rewards a drive of just over 200 yards on the proper side of the fairway can catch a huge roll, shortening the length dramatically.
“The correct way to approach it,” Jones said of this monster, “is that on the scorecard it shows a lot of length (almost 7,300 yards from the Regular tees; 7,600 from the Championship tees) but it actually doesn’t play that long.
“The way it was designed, if the trade winds are blowing the longer holes play downwind, downhill. The opening hole is a perfect example. It may be 434 yards but if you hit it far enough, about 210 yards, it catches the hill and rolls another 50 or so.”
Another reason not to be overwhelmed by apprehension prior to your round on this beautiful piece of real estate, which used to be a pineapple plantation and thus the name, is there aren’t a lot of forced carries.
As well, the fairways are wide enough to hold a parade on from side to side, meaning it’s hard not to hit the short grass on most holes.
photo courtesy facility
The Fifth Hole At The Plantation Course Is One Of Those Uniquely Hawaiian Beauties That Stays With You As A Golfer Forever
“You can hit a lot of bump-and-run shots here because there aren’t a lot of forced carries,” said Jones. “You still have to play the holes correctly but you don’t get those big blowup numbers you sometimes get on holes where you’re coming into a green over water with a 180-yard carry.”
A lot of the challenge at the Plantation is on the putting greens. They are huge and offer all sorts of demands on a player to get down in less than three putts.
“They’re big because of the wind,” Jones said of the greens. “When I tell someone to come out and play for the first time, I say, “Make sure you’ve got the touch on your putting and you’ll do well.”
One tip the GM passed on about putting on this course is to remember which direction your facing.
“The grain runs toward the setting sun,” he explained of putts that could well break the local speed limit with the pace they can move along the ground when traveling in that direction.
“Speed and understanding that is important. If you’re putting downhill, downgrain it’s going to be very fast. If you’re putting uphill or up towards the West Maui Mountains against the grain, it’s going to be slower than you think. It’s real important at Kapalua to know which way you’re putting.”
In closing, Jones said this sister/brother pairing complement each other in their designs and style of play.
“You get a little different feel from both of them. You have two different things here that really hold your interest,” and which will give you plenty of golf tales to regale your buddies with when all is said and done – especially about how far you hit your drive on the famed par-5 18th hole at the Plantation Course.
About the writer
Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area. He is currently in his fourth year of writing for Inside Golf and is a member of the Golf Journalists of Canada.
He can be reached at