Back to the future: Oahu golf courses look to revive the glory days

By Jason DeeganMarch 5, 2013, 5:05 pm

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- There are glimpses of golf greatness on Oahu.

The 17th green on the Palmer course at Turtle Bay Resort sits 100 feet from the ocean, overlooking the crashing waves. The 15th tee at Ko’olau Golf Club delivers a panoramic view of the mountains and a tropical rain forest. To get to the 12th tee at Ko Olina Golf Club, players drive their carts under a manmade waterfall and rock landscaping.

Oahu boasts the most golf courses of any Hawaiian island. Yet it still is widely dismissed as a second-tier golf destination in Hawaii, long removed from its heydays of the 1970s and 1980s when it was king. Today, its top courses lack the star power and ocean views of those on its sister islands. There’s no Top 100 track that serves as a beacon to attract players like Maui's Plantation Course at Kapalua or Kauai's Prince Course at Princeville. There are no true ocean holes, either. And many of the courses aren’t consistently in great shape.

Mark Bowlby, an Idaho resident, spent two weeks in January playing golf on the Big Island and Oahu. Bowlby, who has visited the islands 15 times, said the difference between each golf scene was striking. He fell in love with the new-and-improved Mauna Kea Golf Course on the Big Island. “I felt that the courses I played on Oahu were a little weak relative to other islands,” he said.

Mind you, a fantastic golf getaway can still be had on Oahu. It’s only considered “weak” when compared to the world-class competition nearby. There are three luxury golf resorts and plenty of Hawaiian culture and natural beauty to explore on Oahu.

Much of its potential remains untapped, though. Pacific Links International Chief Executive Officer Bruce Simmonds said golf on Oahu has “huge potential.”

His company has purchased five courses on the island in the past three years.

“The last 30 years the standards of maintenance and design and the quality of courses (on Oahu) has taken a hit,” he said. “There have been quite a few built and not well maintained. … We think we can bring more sophistication to the industry there. A lot of the course presentation and service isn’t what it is on Maui. We are looking to change that.”

Oahu’s Resort Scene

Ko Olina

Ko Olina boasts JW Marriott resort and 18 sunny holes of LPGA-caliber golf. 

Oahu’s best golf resorts are all so uniquely different.

Turtle Bay Resort works in harmony with the gorgeous North Shore and its signature natural resource, the ocean waves. Guests can take a surf lesson at the Hans Hedemann Surf School of Oahu or sit safely on the sidelines, watching more experienced people tackle the challenge.

The well-conditioned Palmer Course, a former LPGA TOUR and Champions Tour host, plays resort friendly with a few tough approach shots over water sprinkled in for effect. The George Fazio course serves up a few more glimpses of the ocean with fewer shot-making demands. Under new owners, the resort just completed a major renovation of its lobby and Surfer, The Bar. Makeovers of the guest rooms and restaurants are on tap.

Ko Olina, a resort community on the dry and sunny leeward side of the island, translates in Hawaiian to “place of joy.” Adjacent to four secluded ocean coves, the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa certainly follows that mantra. The hotel’s unique design showcases a collection of saltwater ponds filled with reef sharks and stingrays. All 387 guest rooms and suites were refreshed in 2011. A visit to the Ihilani Spa, refurbished in 2010, for a traditional Hawaiian lomi lomi massage or a seawater soak in jetted tub will set the world right again. Across the street, the Ko Olina Golf Club began hosting LPGA events in the 1990s, including the 2012 and 2013 LOTTE Championship. Architect Ted Robinson created a pretty palette for golf. Afterwards, splurge on dinner at Roy’s Ko Olina Restaurant next to the clubhouse or walk to Paradise Cove for an interactive Hawaiian luau.

Golfers looking for more action should stay at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki to revel in the hustle and bustle of Honolulu. All of the rooms and suites in its two towers face the Pacific Ocean and the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, as does a rooftop pool and hot tub on the fifth floor. Free shuttles run to the Waikiki beach and shopping district and to the playable Hawaii Prince Golf Club, a 27-hole Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay design 40 minutes away in Ewa Beach. The hotel's Prince Court restaurant serves a popular seafood buffet for dinner.

Improving Oahu’s golf scene

Makaha Valley

Oahu's Makaha Valley Country Club has new ownership and renovations coming from Greg Norman's design firm. 

Pacific Links International, a Canadian company formed in 2009, bet big on Oahu by purchasing the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club, Kapolei Golf Club, Olomana Golf Links and the West and East courses at Makaha Valley Country Club. It hired Greg Norman Golf Course Design to renovate both the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club and the Makaha West course. The company even sponsored its first Champions Tour event, the Pacific Links Hawaii Championship, at Kapolei in September of 2012 as a coming out party for the brand.

The knock on Royal Hawaiian, formerly called Luana Hills Country Club, was always a layout too quirky to be enjoyable. Its intoxicating jungle setting reminiscent of Jurassic Park was just too unforgiving. Norman’s renovation to make the original Pete/Perry Dye more playable has revamped several holes on the front nine, especially to start the round. Simmonds said the extensive back nine changes should be completed this summer.

Norman’s work at Makaha West will take more time. The course, currently closed, could open in 2015, Simmonds said. This is the first time the neighboring West and East courses – both William F. Bell routings - have been under the same ownership since their openings in the 1960s. The East course, a par-71 of 6,369 yards, continues to operate as a value-oriented place to play. “The changes (on the West course) will be dramatic,” Simmonds said.

Like a lot of locals, Michelle Wie learned the game at the 6,326-yard Olomana Golf Links in Waimanalo. Infrastructure upgrades, while necessary, will have to wait.

Oahu’s other top courses

In many ways, the Ko’olau Golf Club symbolizes golf on the island. It could be oh-so-good, but it’s not quite there. Like the Royal Hawaiian and Olomana, being located on the windward side of the Ko’olau mountain range has its drawbacks. It rains more here, which can often yield wet playing conditions. Ko’olau, ranked No. 25 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s Toughest Courses, would be well-served by a Royal Hawaiian-type makeover that enhances playability. American Golf, which manages the course for its unique owner, the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu, has done an admirable job of taking out some bunkers and cutting back the jungle in recent years. On a clear day with dry conditions, there are few better golf playgrounds in the islands. Just be prepared to lose a few balls.

The Ewa Beach Golf Club, a 6,711-yard design by Robin Nelson, has none of those conditioning issues. It’s situated in one of the Oahu’s driest climates near the Hawaii Prince Golf Club. A Kiawe forest pinches the first nine holes before water hazards overwhelm the more open back nine.

Ewa Beach, too, symbolizes golf on Oahu. It’s underrated and finally becoming better appreciated..The same should be said of the entire golf scene on this special and diverse island. Oahu golf is still incredibly good, albeit not great … yet.

Getty Images

McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

Getty Images

How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

Getty Images

How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

Getty Images

First-, second-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Three-time champion Tiger Woods is playing in The Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015 at St. Andrews. Woods will begin his first round Thursday in the 147th edition at Carnoustie at 10:21 a.m. ET, playing alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth delivered the claret jug to the R&A on Monday at Carnoustie. He will begin his title defense at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday, playing with world No. 2 Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Other notable groupings:

  • Rory McIlroy will look to capture his second claret jug at 7:53 a.m. Thursday. He goes off with Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen.
  • World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is playing with Alex Noren and Charley Hoffman. They will play at 8:04 a.m. ET in the first round.
  • World No. 2 Justin Thomas goes at 8:26 a.m. with Francesco Molinari and Branden Grace.
  • Masters champion Patrick Reed will play with Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey at 5:20 a.m. ET.
  • U.S. Open champion and world No. 4 Brooks Koepka is grouped with Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith (9:59 a.m. ET).
  • Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, will begin at 3:03 a.m. ET with Satoshi Kodaira and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Here's a look at the full list of times for Rounds 1 and 2 (all times ET):

1:35AM/6:36AM: Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Andy Sulliva

1:46AM/6:47AM: Erik Van Rooyen, Brady Schnell, Matthew Southgate

1:57AM/6:58AM: Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List

2:08AM/7:09AM: Mark Calcavecchia, Danthai Boonma, Shaun Nooris

2:19AM/7:20AM: Kevin Chappell, Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell

2:30AM/7:31AM: Ross Fisher, Paul Dunne, Austin Cook

2:41AM/7:42AM: Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry

2:52AM/7:53AM: Thomas Pieters, Kevin Kisner, Marcus Kinhult

3:03AM/8:04AM: Phil Mickelson, Satoshi Kodaira, Rafa Cabrera Bello

3:14AM/8:15AM: Brian Harman, Yuta Ikeda, Andrew Landry

3:25AM/8:26AM: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Nicolai Hojgaard (a)

3:36AM/8:37AM: Stewart Cink, Brandon Stone, Hideto Tanihara

3:47AM/8:48AM: Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Sung Kang

4:03AM/9:04AM: Ernie Els, Adam Hadwin, Chesson Hadley

4:14AM/9:15AM: Pat Perez, Julian Suri, George Coetzee

4:25AM/9:26AM: David Duval, Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na

4:36AM/9:37AM: Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen

4:47AM/9:48AM: Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Uihlein

4:58AM/9:59AM: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

5:09AM/10:10AM: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Chris Wood

5:20AM/10:21AM: Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed

5:31AM/10:32AM: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas

5:42AM/10:43AM: Yuxin Lin (a), Alexander Bjork, Sang Hyun Park

5:53AM/10:54AM: James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus, Zander Lombard

6:04AM/11:05AM: Kodai Ichihara, Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage

6:15AM/11:16AM: Sean Crocker, Gavin Green, Ash Turner

6:36AM/1:35AM: Brandt Snedeker, Sam Locke (a), Cameron Davis

6:47AM/1:46AM: Patton Kizzire, Jonas Blixt, Charles Howell III

6:58AM/1:57AM: Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis

7:09AM/2:08AM: Alex Levy, Ryan Moore, Byeong Hun An

7:20AM/2:19AM: Michael Hendry, Kelly Kraft, Lee Westwood

7:31AM/2:30AM: Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker

7:42AM/2:41AM: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Jovan Rebula (a)

7:53AM/2:52AM: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen

8:04AM/3:03AM: Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Charley Hoffman

8:15AM/3:14AM: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele

8:26AM/3:25AM: Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Branden Grace

8:37AM/3:36AM: Jason Day, Shota Akiyoshi, Haotong Li

8:48AM/3:47AM: Todd Hamilton, Beau Hossler, Jorge Campillo

9:04AM/4:03AM: Ryuko Tokimatsu, Chez Reavie, Michael Kim

9:15AM/4:14AM: Kyle Stanley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jens Dantorp

9:26AM/4:25AM: Tom Lehman, Dylan Frittelli, Grant Forrest

9:37AM/4:36AM: Lucas Herbert, Min Chel Choi, Jason Kokrak

9:48AM/4:47AM: Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace

9:59AM/4:58AM: Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka

10:10AM/5:09AM: Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shubhankar Sharma

10:21AM/5:20AM: Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox

10:32AM/5:31AM: Jason Dufner, Ryan Fox, Keegan Bradley

10:43AM/5:42AM: Ryan Armour, Abraham Ander, Masahiro Kawamura

10:54AM/5:53AM: Jazz Janewattananond, Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith

11:05AM/6:04AM: Brett Rumford, Masanori Kobayashi, Jack Senior

11:16AM/6:15AM: Matt Jones, Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon