The now defunct PGA Grand Slam of Golf end of season tournament was played between 1994 and 2006 at the Poipu Bay Golf Course in Koloa, near the most southerly point of the island of Kauai. Hosting the tournament in Hawaii allowed the event to be televised live at prime-time in the Unites States because of the time difference.
Tiger Woods won seven of the eight 4-man competitions that he participated in here – claiming first place in the event for five consecutive years, starting in 1998 – but his best 18-hole score of 64 was easily beaten by the amazing thirteen-under-par course record of 59 that Phil Mickelson posted in 2004.
Highlight holes include the 179-yard 7th (the shortest par three on the card, with a large pond protecting the right side of the putting surface), the 501-yard 16th (the longest par four on the course, played along the clifftops to an offset green that’s partially obscured on the left by an ancient rock wall), and the 550-yard 18th, where water protects the left side of the home green.
The literal translation for Poipu means "crashing waves" and Poipu Bay -- designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. -- certainly has provided major awareness of golf in Kaua'i after having served as host layout for the Grand Slam of Golf event played there between 1994 and 2006.
Phil Mickelson caused even more attention when firing a course record 59 -- in winning the 2004 event.
Poipu Bay has 85 bunkers scattered throughout the layout and is located on 210 acres of ocean front land and is really about two golf presentations. The first half of the holes is primarily interior and away from the water -- although ocean breezes can impact play no matter where you are at on the course.
The par-72 7,123 yard layout really comes to the forefront as you make your way into the final nine holes. The back nine features plenty of strategic holes where making the right decision at the tee can pay huge dividends. The 10th thru 14th holes play slightly away from the ocean with the 15th thru 17th holes take you to the edge -- where property meets coastline. You can hear the waves breaking onto the surf so keeping focus can be tough to do.
The par-4 16th is one of Hawaii's top holes. The 500+ yard par-4 demands a well-placed tee shot as the landing are gently turns left. Avoiding bunkers to the right is important but being equally sure not to be too aggressive down the left side where a rock wall lurks throughout the entire hole. The approach is no less daunting. The putting surfaces bends to the left hugging ever tightly to the rock wall previously mentioned. Even with the tradewinds helping -- the 16th can determine your entire round so pay heed at all times with execution. The putting surface is also quite large -- knowing where the pin is located can make a huge difference in avoiding three-putts or more. When the pin is cut in the deep far left side -- it takes nothing less than courageous shot to land nearby. Just a fantastic hole and one that needs to be played with an ultimate mixture of respect and courage.
At the par-3 17th, played from an elevated, at 225 yards is a daunting challenge. The more left one plays the greater the carry and demand becomes. If you bailout to the right you keep your ball in play but only add to the challenge with a testing recovery from that side. The 18th ends the round in grand fashion. A dog-leg right off the tee -- those able to play closest to that side will have an opportunity to reach the par-5 ending hole in two blows. Be mindful of the fronting water hazard that protects the target for the slightest mishit.
Poipu Bay is a mixed bag -- the outward nine is really uneventful from an architectural standpoint -- the inward half is where the player must bear down on just about every hole on that side. Being a resort layout -- Poipu Bay blends flexibility for different skill sets while still providing a few holes of exceptional note capable in testing the superior player.
by M. James Ward