Top-Ranked Golf Course Gets Refined in Lahaina, Hawaii
by Marcus Dodson, editor & publisher
Kapalua Golf’s Plantation Course, located in Lahaina, Hawaii, recently underwent a nine-month, multi-million dollar enhancement project. Home of the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions and one of the top 100 golf courses in the world, the lengthy 7,596-yard, par 73, 36-hole layout challenges the pros, but its expansive fairways and abundant greens make it playable for the novice golfer, too. Owned by Troon®, a golf course and private club management company, Kapalua Golf’s prized Plantation Course’s renovation project has unveiled a stunningly beautiful space for golfers from around the world.
Kapalua’s Plantation Course, built in 1991, slopes dramatically towards the ocean on the site of previously windswept pineapple fields on the side of a volcano. Perhaps the most famous part of the golf course is the 663-yard par 5 18th hole, which features a stark elevation drop and unforgiving trade winds. An eight-mile aqueduct, originally built by Chinese laborers in the early 1900s, serves at the irrigation system for the course. The century-old stone aqueduct brings water from the top of a rain-soaked volcano down to a pond that sits 800’ above the course. This pond supplies the resort’s sprinkler system, which is pressurized solely by gravity. “Kapalua is a thinking-man’s golf course,” said a panelist in the annual Golf Digest 100 Greatest Public Courses rankings.
The Plantation Course enhancement project happened concurrently with a four-month renovation of the nearby restaurant and golf shop. The Plantation Course Clubhouse, too, underwent a renovation. The iconic building received a new roof, new doors and windows, and an interior refresh with new paint, flooring, electrical and plumbing in hallways, restrooms, and locker rooms. The new roof was installed by J&D Roofing and Waterproofing, Kahului, Hawaii.
“All of the Plantation Course refinements will be focused on improving the playability of the golf course for our guests, while also providing new challenges for PGA Tour professionals,” said Alex Nakajima, general manager, Kapalua Golf and Tennis.
Original Plantation Course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw oversaw the refinement project, along with the Troon Design, Development, and Agronomy team and Golf Channel personality Mark Rolfing. During the nine-month project, all 107 acres of fairways, tees, and rough were grassed with Celebration® Bermuda grass, while all greens were grassed with TifEagle™ Bermuda grass. A capillary concrete liner system was installed in all 93 course bunkers, allowing the bunkers to better weather heavy rain events. The Plantation Course’s practice green and chipping green areas were also rebuilt, with TifEagle Bermuda grass added. The practice range tee area was laser-leveled and grassed with Celebration Bermuda grass.
“This is a very thoughtful restoration and refining process, but it’s not a redesign. We are very happy with the way the course looks and the way it has gone through the past nearly three decades,” said Coore. “It’s like when you have a special piece of art, or something really meaningful to you, and you get a chance to dust it off and make it new again.”