Puakea opens for 18 holes

Puakea, named one of America’s Top Ten Nine-Hole Courses by Sports Illustrated Magazine after opening in 1997, officially opened eight more holes Tuesday.

Puakea is played at par 72, with 6,954 total yards. The course was actually open for 10 holes since 1997, and added holes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and 14. Those new holes, in addition to providing ocean views, feature three new lakes and a stream and add to its fun and challenging layout. The course is located near Nuhou Street and Pikake Road in Lihue.

Pro staff includes head Kellie Pleas and assistant pros Glen Tanagawa and Patrick Hunt, who were out golfing around lunchtime. Grove Farm vice president and chief operating officer Allan Smith, meanwhile, was having lunch in Puakea Grill, headed by chef Mason Fujimoto. Puakea was booked solid until after lunch with tee times every nine minutes from the 7:30 a.m. start.

Final realization of the 18-hole concept is tied to new ownership of Grove Farm Company, owner of Puakea Golf Course, led by America Online founder Steve Case, according to a written statement from Vienna, Va.-based golf course management company, Billy Casper Golf.

Puakea is designed by Robin Nelson, dubbed by some as a “Mr. Hawaii” after having designed or redesigned roughly one-third of Hawaii’s nearly 80 courses, including The Dunes at Maui Lani, Royal Kunia and Mauna Lani.

“Playing the course so often enabled me to better understand how the wind comes into play,” says Nelson. “As a result, I was able to tweak the holes from my original design and make them play differently from any of the existing ones.”

For example, Nelson says, one of the new holes is the only par-3 on the course that plays into the wind. Given that it measures anywhere from 100 to 180 yards depending on the teeing area, Nelson said hitting the large green can be quite challenging.

Billy Casper Golf consulted on the development and construction of Puakea, and operates more than 40 golf courses nationwide. “Puakea is instantly one of the best 18-hole golf courses in the state,” said Joe Goodrich, BCG senior vice president.

The course’s first tournament will be held Saturday, July 12, a fundraiser for the Na Koa Football Club. University of Hawaii football coach June Jones and athletic director Herman Frazier will be in attendance. For information, call Allan Smith 245-3678, Shirley Tani at Kauai Community College at 245-8377, or e-mail mailto:warrior@nakoa.org.

Puakea’s regular tee times run from 7:30 a.m., closing at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 808-245-8756, toll-free at 1-866-773-5554, or look up http://www.puakeagolf.com.

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