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The flat bellies are finished in Hawaii for now. Stuart Appleby three-peated at Kapalua. David Toms reasserted himself at Waialae. And Loren Roberts sprinted to the head of the class with two Hawaiian wins on the Champions Tour.
 
All in January.
 
The LPGA will be coming soon to the islands for two more weeks of events. And this will even further serve to spotlight a place where the golf you find is worth the trip from the mainland.
 
My latest opportunity in this vein was the day-trip I took from Maui to Lanai in the days leading up to the Mercedes Championships. Thats when I got my first taste of The Challenge at Manele and The Experience at Koele. The former is a Jack Nicklaus design perched above the rocky coastline of Hulopoe Bay. The latter is a Greg Norman and Ted Robinson track in upcountry Lanai.
 
The quiet, understated elegance of The Lodge at Koele is worth the price of the trip alone. It is an immediate journey back into a quieter and gentler time. The adjacent golf course does not disappoint. And the view from the elevated tee at the Par 4 17th hole will make your day no matter where your tee shot lands.
 
The price of the trip, by the way, is $25, one way from Maui. And if you take the 6:45 a.m. ferry (the craft of the fleet of a company called Expeditions is much speedier than that) you get to watch the sun rise over the West Maui Mountains and the whales and dolphins frolic in accompaniment along the channel.
 
Lanai offers fishing, swimming, diving, hiking, hunting, skeet shooting and horseback. It also offers a respite from the busier Maui pace. Read: lots of comfortable places to sit and have a mai tai. The ferry, certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, will have you back in Lahaina on Maui before sundown.
 
Many mainlanders get to Hawaii and find it difficult to relax. The hurly-burly of their normal lives can be difficult to shed in a week or two. This wont be a problem on Lanai. If you find it hard to welcome the cocktail hour before sundown, this wont be a problem on Lanai either.
 
The golf is not inexpensive. It rarely is on Hawaii. But the experience is much more than just 18 holes. It is the kind of destination for which digital cameras were invented.
 
The Norman\Robinson course is 2000 feet above sea level. The Nicklaus course is a sterner golfing test and is built on hundreds of acres of lava fields.
 
You may see celebrities on Lanai'we noticed Ray Romano playing with director of golf operations Doug Stephenson in the group behind us. But there are no throngs to battle.
 
Lanai is the perfect complement to Maui where the hospitality never ends and the challenges of Kapaluas Plantation Course never cease.
 
Kapalua, by the way, is the subject of another column for another day. Lanai'pronounced Luh-NAH-ee'is a savory all its own.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - Mercedes Championships
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open in Hawaii
  • Full Coverage - MasterCard Championship at Hualalai
  • Full Coverage - Turtle Bay Championship