Built on the site of the old Kakuku Army Air Field in the north of Oahu island, the Turtle Bay Resort has operated since the early 1970s, occupying a large 850-acre property with five miles of ocean frontage.
The first 18-hole course to open here was a George Fazio design which subsequently hosted LPGA events and the first edition of the now defunct Seniors Skins Game in 1988, won by Chi-Chi Rodrígues.
The Palmer course appeared twenty years later, designed by Arnie and Ed Seay, and it too hosted a former Champions Tour event, the Turtle Bay Championship, between 2001 and 2008.
The par-72 layout measures 6,225 from the resort tees and it skirts the 100-acre Punaho’olapa marsh, wetlands and bird sanctuary, with water coming into play on nearly every hole during the round.
“Kala,” the signature 17th, is the only hole to actually reach the coastline, doglegging slightly right past a cluster of bunkers to a slightly elevated two-tiered green with a spectacular Pacific Ocean backdrop.
Located on the north coast of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, Turtle Bay Resort has two 18 hole golf courses integrated into the development- The Fazio course and The Palmer course.
The Fazio Course was the original course at Turtle Bay, opening for play in 1972. It was designed by George Fazio. It has some lovely sea views, and is considered less demanding than it's sister course. It is also more walkable.
The Palmer course was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, and opened in 1992, and is definitely a more demanding course. It is regarded as one of the better courses on Oahu.
The front nine is flat and open with water hazards and palm trees- like so many other tropical resort courses
Lack of elevation change makes it hard to see where the water and bunkers encroach into fairways, and this can be disconcerting for the first time visitor.
The back nine cuts through dense tropical jungle until it touches the beach at the famous 17th hole. Framed by heavy vegetation including a forest of ironwoods, these holes have more definition and are more visual, and the hazards are not only seen- but look good! I much prefer the back nine
Notable holes include:
- the par 5 third hole with lake running the left side of the fairway and cutting into the line of play a couple of times
- the par 4 seventh hole with a virtual island green
- the par 4 eleventh hole with water ever present for the length of the hole and on both sides for the approach
- the long par 4 sixteenth hole with water protecting the green
- the famous par 4 seventeenth hole which heads directly to the sea. The fairway is heavily bunkered, and the approach is a minefield of bunkers, and has the beach as a background
- the par 5 closing hole with water dominating the second and approach shots
Turtle Bay offers a different type of golfing experience than others on Oahu, and complements the rugged and dramatic layouts like Royal Hawaiian, and Ko'olau- it's a resort type course and features some nice holes on the back nine.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
One would think that getting a course designed and built along the wild and beautiful North Shore of Oahu would be a grand spot for a golf course. The location certainly is but the net outcome for the Arnold Palmer course at Turtle Bay, minus the last three holes, is utterly forgettable.
For whatever reason, the Palmer effort is just a hodgepodge of formulaic resort golf. There's nary anything close to compelling architecture and the course is literally sequestered from the views of the North Shore until you reach the 17th hole.
Superimposing the same type of cookie-cutter holes onto the landscape shows a final effort that's mind-boggling for its lack of real creativity.
Predictably placed bunkers and large non-descript putting surfaces just fail to excite the senses when playing. The closing trio does attempts to pull things forward and the ending certainly helps add a fine way to end the round. Sad to say -- but just too little -- too late.
M. James Ward
The Turtle Bay resort is situated in North Shore that is a famous Mecca for surfers. The resort has two courses, Palmer for advanced players and Fazio for intermediates. Water comes into play on 13 out of 18 holes that makes the course demanding. The bunkering is nice but the landing areas are limited on a lot of holes. The courses measures 7,218 yards, which is long enough to satisfy even pros. The front 9 holes have a Scottish links flavor while the back 9 has many trees and a tropical atmosphere.
The signature hole is par 4 452-yard 17th, a gentle uphill dogleg to the right. You see as many as 10 bunkers as if they were covering up the hole. The beautiful Pacific Ocean spreads out behind the green. The closing 3 holes, with par 4 450-yard 16th and par 5 577-yard 18th are strong and among others are fun challenges.