These days, golfers can afford to be picky about the courses they
play in Hawaii. The abundance of high-quality resort greens from
one end of the islands to the other has course officials working
that much harder to maintain market share.
According to Tim Herek, golf pro at Oahu’s Hawaii Prince Golf
Club, vacationing golfers are paying more attention to their
pocketbooks now due to economic concerns.
“More clients come out simply to play the course, without
stopping in the pro shop, restaurant or bar after their round,”
Herek said. “This trend has really kept us on our toes, prompting
us to promote a variety of specials.”
Thanks to the Internet, travelers are better informed about golf
resorts, said Brendan Moynahan, golf pro at Lanai’s Experience at
“Golfers do their homework much more than before,” Moynahan
said. “Golf resorts must define what kind of facility they are and
go after their customers accordingly.”
Boasting a high staff-to-guest ratio, Experience at Koele
provides great flexibility of play, Moynahan said. “Clients can
take three hours per round, or five,” he said. “They can go out as
a single, twosome or foursome, whatever they want. It’s like being
at your own private course.”
At the same time, world events have caused travelers to rethink
their priorities, noted Greg Nichols, Ko Olina Golf Club general
“They plan their vacations more around family-oriented
activities in safer destinations,” Nichols said.
Resorts have an advantage, he said, because they provide
travelers with everything they want to do on their vacation. “At Ko
Olina, we offer golf packages that encourage multiple playing
opportunities for the entire family, including a junior academy for
the kids,” he said.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island is responding to
the family travel trend as well.
“We now let juniors play free every other day, as long as
they’re with their parents,” said John Freitas, Hualalai’s golf
director. “We want our customer service to be as good as possible,
because we may only get one chance to impress our guests.”
Matthew Hall serves as director of golf at Turtle Bay Resort on
Oahu’s North Shore. Hall said he’s seeing an increase in visitors
who stay in Waikiki and drive to the North Shore for one day of
“Turtle Bay Resort is keenly aware of this,” Hall said. “We’re
doing what we can to make the drive worthwhile.”
On Oahu, the average play for visitors tends to be two to three
rounds per golfer, in sharp contrast to Big Island golfers who
average five to six rounds, Hall said.
“Since visitors are playing fewer rounds,” he said, “they are
looking to play the best courses. They expect great service and
With three courses and a golf academy, Maui’s Kapalua Resort is
promoting itself as a destination that can handle practically any
golfer’s needs, according to Gary Planos, vice president of Kapalua
“Guests want to play fewer rounds of golf,” Planos said.
“They’re looking for other ways to fill up their time on Maui. Our
golf academy has been a tremendous enhancement to the golf
experience. It lets guests focus on improving their games through
private lessons or the golf schools offered here, while not taking
away a lot of time from their vacation.”
Client expectations for customer service are higher than ever,
according to Jack Baker, Princeville Resort’s head golf pro.
“Golfers are more discriminating because there are so many
wonderful resort facilities offered in Hawaii and on the mainland,”
To remain competitive, the Prince Course provides cold face
towels, chilled water on the golf cart, a Global Positioning System
(GPS) device and an updated yardage guide to make the North Kauai
greens more navigable.
For similar reasons, Wailea Golf Club on Maui recently added GPS
units to its entire fleet of 270 carts. “Our customers are
beginning to expect such amenities when they play at a high-end
resort club,” said Barry Helle, marketing manager at Wailea Golf
Club. “We’re also devoting significantly more time and energy to
staff training, a critical part of providing exceptional service to
Airport security restrictions have made it harder to travel with
golf clubs, so more guests are renting clubs now, Helle added.
“Many resorts offer top-of-the-line brands in their rental
program,” Helle said. “We’ve had guests who had brought along their
own clubs, choose to rent clubs from us instead, because ours were
of such high caliber.”
Kauai’s Poipu Bay Golf Course wants to make sure guests know
that they’re not playing on their course back home, so it has
imbued the golf experience with an atmosphere of Hawaii.
“We share the uniqueness of our culture, from the aloha attire
of our uniforms and our warm island-style greetings, to our golf
shop decor and our signage,” said Michael Castillo, Poipu Bay head
The facility also lets clients know that it hosts the annual PGA
Grand Slam of Golf. “Our guests get the added thrill of playing on
a course where the pros play each year,” he said.