Golfers can escape the crowds at The Challenge at Manele on Lanai

By Travel ArticlesJune 19, 2012, 10:38 pm

LANAI, Hawaii -- There's only one way to guarantee that you'll have this place all to yourself -- start a software company, earn a gazillion dollars and essentially rent out the entire island.

Even if you don't have access to Bill Gates' bank account, you likely won't have to worry about distractions on the tee box of the signature hole at The Challenge at Manele.

Except for the eye-popping scenery, of course.

'People come all the time and say, 'Is this where Bill Gates got married?' It seems to still be a big deal to a lot of people,' said Emmett Markulis, the head professional at The Challenge at Manele. 'Several people have been married on the 12th tee box, but I think the way Bill Gates did it was a little different. For all intents and purposes, he closed off the island to anybody and everybody. He kind of went to the extreme.'

The Microsoft co-founder, who tied the knot at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course in 1994, can afford that luxury.

Not wanting any uninvited guests to spoil his special day, Gates reportedly booked every bed on this quiet island, which has a permanent population of approximately 3,000 and only about 350 hotel rooms. He also bought up all the seats on the incoming passenger ferry from Maui's Lahaina Harbor and chartered every helicopter and plane in the area, effectively closing the airspace.

These days, you might feel like your Titleist Pro V1 is the only airborne object for miles around, too.

'For the most part, people come out here and feel like they've got the course all to themselves,' Markulis said. 'And they love that. People come back for it.'

During the short trip from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay to the golf course, the shuttle driver warns that 'they call it 'The Challenge' for a reason.' Although he later confesses he doesn't swing a club very often, he says all of his good golf balls are now swimming between the tee and green on No. 12, which stretches to 202 yards from the tips.

He's certainly not alone. If you allow yourself a mulligan, maybe save it for this all-carry oceanside stunner, which is perched about 150 feet above the crashing waves. Just be sure to keep a couple of extra balls for the final stretch, which includes two more cliff-top tests.

The Challenge at Manele was ranked No. 37 on Golf Digest's latest listing of America's top public tracks, proof the signature hole isn't the only attraction at the 7,039-yard layout.

While you might be tempted to spin another lap, especially on a quiet day, an appealing alternative is to hop a shuttle to The Experience at Koele. Designed by Greg Norman, the 7,000-yard sibling course is carved out of the forest about eight miles away, although you'll feel like you're in a different world.

The Challenge at Manele: The verdict

Whatever you do, don't drain your camera batteries on the front nine.

In addition to three beauties that trace the cliffs above Hulopoe Bay, golfers are treated to ocean views from almost every inch of the course, plus the clubhouse, range and practice area.

In fact, the most challenging aspect of The Challenge at Manele might be keeping your eyes on the fairways and greens, especially if there are humpback whales or spinner dolphins hanging out in the water.

'I'm trying to think of a spot that you can be on the golf course and not see the ocean. I don't think there is one,' Markulis said. 'It sits up above the ocean, but once you get down to the holes that are beside it, there's nothing between you and the ocean.

'Literally, you can kick your shoe off or toss your club over your shoulder and it would fall 200 feet into the ocean. That's how it close it is. That's a very neat thing.'

Where to stay

You'll need to hit your own golf shots, but the resort staff will handle just about everything else.

Overlooking the ocean and just steps away from a stretch of white-sand beach, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay features all the amenities you'd expect at a luxury getaway.

It's the service, though, that really sets it apart.

The over-the-top poolside perks include comfort station set-up, hand massages for tireless text-messagers and even 'urgent sunglass care' for scratches and smudges on your shades.

The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay has several dining options, a spa and a kids' club. Plus, every room is complete with an outdoor patio, a great spot to enjoy the colorful sunset.

Getty Images

Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

Getty Images

Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Getty Images

Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

Getty Images

With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.