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What's new on Kauai golf scene

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LIHUE, Hawaii – Despite a sluggish U.S. economy that has lambasted golf tourism in Hawaii, several golf courses on Kauai have undertaken major renovation projects. When visiting the island in late December I discovered that Kauai has a bright future and thus should be given serious consideration as your next Hawaii golf vacation destination.

On April 1, 2010 Poipu Bay Golf Course, host of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994-2006, closed for renovations which included a reseeding of its greens to the popular new Seashore Paspalum. It reopened Dec. 16 and already is in fantastic shape.

I played it the day after a significant rainstorm, but my ball still rolled in most fairways and the greens were, in a word, buttery. It was a huge surprise to see a new course in such mature condition. I can’t wait to see how it plays a year from now once the turf has had a chance to grow in and really tighten up.

The adjoining Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is putting the finishing touches on a renovation to all its guest rooms. Marble counter tops, rain style showers and marble tile flooring are being combined with rich mahoganies to give the hotel an authentic Kauai feel. Upon arrival you’ll be blown away by the hotel’s open-air lobby, and when you leave, you’ll simply feel sad.

The Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club, regarded by most media as the No. 1 golf course in Hawaii, is also undergoing significant renovations.

Minor bunker work began in September, but due to the clay-based soil and rainy climate, conditions have become problematic, and on Jan. 28 the course is closing for five months for a more thorough renovation. The majority of the work centers around improving drainage, but sharpening bunker edges and changing bunker sand from red to white is also part of the plan.

While the course is closed, the vast pro shop will remain open, as will the newly opened Tavern Restaurant by Roy Yamaguchi.

Seated next to the Prince is another RTJ Jr. design, the newly reopened Makai Golf Club at The St. Regis Princeville Resort. Like Poipu Bay, Makai is enjoying superb conditions as a result of its conversion to Seashore Paspalum. But while the new surface is indeed a major change, it's not the extent of the renovation – Jones also oversaw a reconfiguration of green complexes, new bunkers, new white bunker sand, new tee boxes and an expanded practice facility.

For the first time, Makai has emerged from the shadow of its esteemed sibling, the Prince. When both are open and at full strength, expect it to be known as the finest golf duo in Hawaii.

From the north side of the island back down to the south, renovations to the Kiele nine at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Kauai Lagoons Golf Club are nearing completion. At a standstill for several years due to financial tie-ups, the project is finally well underway and the former 36-hole facility will become a 27-hole layout.

Nicklaus himself has directed the renovation project, which includes new drainage, new greens and new bunkers. Most notable, however, is the addition of a new ocean hole on the Kiele Ocean nine, the par-4 6th. The hole combines with Nos. 5 and 7 to give Kauai Lagoons the longest stretch of consecutive ocean holes on Kauai.

Though 18 holes are open now, Kauai Lagoons plans to reopen the much-anticipated Kiele Ocean nine in May.