Hoakalei Country Club golf course measures over 7,400 from the tips and about 6,220 from the white tees where old guys like me play.
There are 13 holes with where water comes into play and there are 127 deep and unforgiving sand traps.
The rough is often underestimated because it isn’t high but it is gnarly and will snag and tangle the hosel of your club in a heartbeat.
Hoakalei Country Club greens are very well maintained and run fast and true.
Finally, there’s the wind, which is usually blowing 15 to 20 MPH.
All in all it makes for a very challenging golf course.
Over the course of play every aspect of your game will be tested.
There are a couple of holes where you need to drive it long and straight and there are an equal amount that you need to just hit it straight.
There aren’t any holes where you can swing freely without any consequences.
When you let it rip with your driver you’re always taking a chance that disaster will strike.
Double and triple bogeys abound.
Hoakalei Golf Course Sand Traps
As previously mentioned there are 127 sand traps at Hoakalei.
They are all deep.
Even the fairway bunkers. There are only a few fairway bunkers that you can hit a long iron out of.
I can’t tell you how many times I have caught the lip of a fairway bunker.
All the green side bunkers are steep.
If you get wrong sided you’ll need all your skill to get up and down.
If you have a 60 degree wedge and know how to use it, it will definitely come in handy.
Avoid the sand traps.
Especially off the tee on the par 5s. The par 5s are relatively easy unless you hit into a fairway bunker off the tee.
This might require teeing off with a three wood.
Navigating Hoakalei’s water hazards
Don’t hit into them.
Avoid the water at all costs.
There’s water on 13 holes and the water comes into play on every one of the holes.
Several greens are guarded by water on one side or another.
There are 9 holes where water is a factor off the tee.
All the water hazards play as lateral hazards but on at least 4 of the holes you’ll most likely be re-teeing for failure to cross the hazard line.
Taking a drop from the hazard is no picnic either since the ground is severely sloped and you’ll almost always be dropping in the rough.
Hit it in the water and you’re most likely looking at a big number.
After playing with the men’s group on Saturday a few times I realized all the Hoakalei old-timers avoided the water.
The corollary to this rule is: bring a lot of golf balls and a ball scooper.
The wind howls at Hoakalei Country Club
The holes at Hoakalei are set up facing either east or west which means with Hawaii’s trade winds blowing out of the East, Northeast most of the year you’re either playing with the wind or into the wind.
Near as I can tell the course design is set up for about a 10-15 mile per hour wind out of the northeast.
This makes the longer holes play downwind and the shorter holes play into the wind.
Playing with the wind of course is easier but distance control becomes a real issue when the wind picks up just a little bit.
Hoakalei is situated between several housing developments on the west side of Oahu.
Each of the housing developments are elevated above the fairways and greens which produces a venturi effect increasing the wind’s relative speed significantly.
Later in the day when the winds are at their strongest it’s normally a two to four club difference playing into the wind.
The greens at Hoakalei Country Club are some of the best on the island of Oahu.
And they’re good all year.
They roll true and smooth.
The greens are grainy so you have to take the grain into affect for all putts.
Downhill, down grain putts are lightning fast.
Uphill and into the grain putts are slower and break more.
Almost all the greens have ridges or undulations.
The flatter greens are fast.
When the greenskeeper cuts the greens fast and the winds pick up, putting is real challenge.
All the greens are mounded and protected by bunkers so there’s very little bump and run play.
And, if you short side yourself from just off the green it will require a very deft touch to get up and down.
Overall the greens are very fair, but they’re tough.
The eighth hole at Hoakalei Country Club
The eighth hole at Hoakalei is the hardest hole I’ve ever played.
It plays 400 yards into the wind with water running down the entire right side.
There is O.B. way left and a set of bunkers guarding the left side of the fairway.
The only place to hit it safely off the tee is down the middle or right side which brings the water into play.
Into the wind.
Rule 1. Don’t hit it in the water.
Rule 2. Don’t hit it in the water.
The second shot is a nightmare.
There’s water right and a collection area to the left.
Bail out to the collection area and you are chipping uphill to a green that slopes away from you toward the water.
And guess which way the grain grows?
Toward the water.
Bailing out left on your second shot could mean a 6 or worse.
The smart play is lay up short of the green about 30-40 yards short of the green and hope to get it up and down.
Bail out left on your lay up shot and you’re pitching 60-70 yards downhill, down grain into the wind.
Bail out to the right and you’re in the water.
The green is severely sloped and has a rigde running down the left side to force balls into the collection area.
The pros played the hole at two over during the Sony Open qualifier.
Our house is halfway down the fairway on the lefthand side and before we joined the club we couldn’t understand why everyone played it so poorly.
Now we know.
Worst thing about Hoakalei?
Being two over on the first tee before you’ve even teed off.
A par will normally win a skin on this hole.
Hands down the hardest hole I’ve ever played.
My favorite course is Hoakalei Country Club
Don’t get me wrong.
I’d love to play Augusta.
That’s my dream.
I’ve played Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, St Andrews and Riviera and loved them all.
But I’m mainly talking about courses I’ve played again and again during the course of my life.
I grew up playing Fort Benning’s Lakeside and Pineside golf courses and they will always have a soft spot in my heart.
Sadly, neither of these courses remains in its original layout from that timeframe in the 70’s.
I learned to play golf there and more importantly what it means to be a golfer.
The Air Force Academy Blue course is my second favorite course in the world.
It reminds me a little bit of Hoakalei because it is such a great test of your game.
I have so many fond memories of playing there for 4 years while I was a cadet.
Then there’s Woodlawn golf course at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
A mere 6,000 yards but infuriating, tricky, challenging and fun.
But none of these courses compares to Hoakalei.
I think the main reason is the condition of the course.
Hoakalei is always in great condition.
The greens are cut and manicured.
The fairways are mown and the rough is trimmed.
The bunkers are raked and edged.
It’s an awesome test of golf, an amazing Ernie Els design and its impeccably maintained.
Come play Hoakalei with me
If you make it out to Oahu and want to play a round of golf at Hoakalei please look me up.
I’d love to play a round or two with you and show you all the cool things about the course.
If you live in Hawaii and are interested in playing here, give me a shout.