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 golf course was designed by legendary architect Robert Trent Jones Jnr and opened for play in 1991, and occupies a rolling plateau wedged between the sea and the mountains.
The translation for Poipu is 'crashing waves', and when players hit the back nine the course plays true to name.
RTJ is a prolific and gifted designer, and obviously impressed the locals with his skills- he also designed nearby Kiahuna GC, Princeville Makai, and Princeville
Prince (currently closed)- that's four out of nine courses on the island designed by him- impressive!
From 1994 to 2006 Poipu Bay hosted the The Grand Slam of Golf tournament, an invitational event where the winners of the 4 majors each year gathered to play to a huge television audience for major bragging rights. With the lush tropical mountain backdrop, the colour of the bougainvillea, and the crashing of the waves offshore – Poipu Bay was a feast for sore eyes. Tiger Woods enjoyed the event prevailing on seven occasions!!
The course itself is nicely maintained and winds through the palm trees and strategically placed bunkers maintaining the interest without ever overwhelming you. Two of the par 3’s – the 7th and the 11th grab your attention with green side ponds and the ever-present breezes increasing the challenge. But it is the big finish that is really memorable and you can hear those crashing waves as you move through holes 13 & 14 to reach the coastline.
They are four big holes to finish- holes 15 & 16 are long par 4’s playing along the cliffs, 17 is a long and difficult par 3, and the closing hole is a par 5 with water very much in play. It is a grand finish.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
The first review for Poipu Bay is quite accurate, both in terms of the description of the course holes and also the playability. I found it to be generous off the tee and the course conditions, despite the moisture this time of year, to be generally good. It does have a "resort" feel to the course and it's not hard to imagine the pros tearing this place up in benign conditions. It was mildly disappointing that despite being so close to the ocean the views and amount of holes playing on the coast were less than I had hoped. Service was excellent, practice facilities were strong, but pace of play was not great since it was the holiday week and crowded. Overall a good experience with a few memorable views from the holes on the back. I thought it was comparable to Makai in Princeville in terms of what they are offering but Makai had notably more views of the water and holes along the ocean.
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