WAILUA — Kyle Ching just moved back to Kauai after retiring as a police officer in San Francisco. The last time he had played golf at Wailua Golf Course was in 1984, and a detached shoe sole almost spoiled his long-awaited game Saturday.
But after a quick visit to the recently opened Wailua Pro Shop, where he purchased new shoes, Ching and his cousin, Derrick Ching, hopped in their cart and got right back to their game.
Once the nation’s top-ranked municipal golf facility, the Wailua Golf Course has never lost its beauty. The same can’t be said for services — or lack thereof — at this pristine ocean-front course.
The county had been struggling to find someone to take over the restaurant’s concession, the pro-shop was closed throughout the summer, credit cards weren’t accepted and the ATM machine had been stolen.
However, the tide has turned for Wailua Golf Course, as services have slowly returned over the last couple months, peaking with county officials announcing Friday that a notice of award for the restaurant facility was issued Thursday to AGR, Inc., the same Kauai-based company that owns Brick Oven Pizza.
“We worked hard to get these services in place at the golf course and made a number of infrastructure improvements,” county Deputy Parks and Recreation Director Ian Costa said in a press release. He added that the restaurant could be open before the year’s end.
The golf course has been without a restaurant since the Jailhouse Pub closed almost two years ago.
In the last six months, a food cart ran by Rosa Minjares has been taking care of the golfers’ hunger and thirst from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Her little food cart became so popular that a lot of people come to the golf course just to buy her snacks, she said. Her best seller is a $5 package with a hot dog, chips and a drink.
“Everybody loves it,” said Minjares, adding that when a new restaurant opens later in the year, she will move to Nawiliwili, and sell Mexican food out of a larger food truck.
A full-service restaurant is only one piece of a list of improvements at Wailua Golf Course.
Up until recently, the county only accepted cash or checks for green fees or cart rentals. A county worker at the golf course said that in October, the golf course started a six-month trial period accepting credit cards. And the First Hawaiian Bank ATM machine that had been stolen about a year ago was replaced last week.
County officials said the list of improvements include replacing the scoreboard, upgrades to the maintenance building and replacing the driving range net.
The former pro shop had closed earlier this year, and the golf course went through five months, including the entire summer, without a place for golfers to buy accessories or rent clubs. The new shop opened Sept. 1, according to Wailua Pro Shop manager Darrell Rego.
“We’re getting more and more busy,” he said.
Kyle Ching said the store has “great prices.”
Besides a long list of accessories and clothing, the new pro shop rents practically brand new golf club sets, ranging from $20 for a standard set to $35 for premium set.
Terry Tennenberg, visiting from Seattle, decided to play at the Wailua Golf Course Saturday after reading about it in Golf Digest magazine. On Friday, he had played on a different golf course on Kauai’s North Shore, and paid $180. At Wailua, he paid $60 for 18 holes and $20 for the cart Saturday. On a weekday, his round would’ve cost even cheaper, $48.
“It’s a deal,” said Tennenberg, adding he plays a lot of golf, but usually not with the ocean as a backdrop.
After getting set up with a cart, he ran into the golf shop to buy a basket with 30 balls to practice at the driving range.
“Nobody sells a basket for $2,” Tennenberg said of the price charged at the pro shop. “It’s $6 back home.”
Residents pay $20 on weekends and $15 on weekdays. Twilight fees are half-price, and seniors and juniors pay cheaper green fees.
The Wailua Pro Shop is open daily from 6 a.m. to sunset, and can be reached at 241-4111.
The golf course is open daily from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.