Kukuiolono Golf Course updates include smoother greens, added tees

KALAHEO — Before Robert Medeiros became general manager and superintendent of Kukuiolono Golf Course 2 1/2 years ago, the course was in need of improvement — the greens in particular.

“I saw five or six greens (with patches of dirt), and I used to go home and couldn’t sleep,” he told The Garden Island with a chuckle. “After about four or five months, I said, ‘OK, we have to make some changes.’”

Since the former general manager of Kiahuna Golf Course started making changes, the greens are smoother, donations were made, future projects are slated and — most importantly — golfers and their families are happy.

“I love it. It’s been beautifully improved this year,” Omao resident Heather Degeus said. “They put in a lot of improvements. They put in new markers for your distance from the hole. They bought new equipment so the greens are nice. The people, the staff are so friendly and welcoming.”

Degeus, who plays three times a week with her husband, said she particularly likes the new par three tees that were recently installed.

“I like all the par threes — maybe No. 8 is my favorite — because I can get on the green easy,” she said. “I also like No. 4 because it’s par 5 for women, and I can get par on that one, too.”

Improving the course is important for Medeiros whose family has history with Walter McBryde, a businessman who created an irrevocable trust of his 346 acres of Kukuiolono land to be used as a recreational area for the public.

McBryde died at his home at Kukuiolono in 1930 and is buried in the park area by the golf course.

“Working for the McBryde Trust, for me, meant a lot because my grandfather worked for Walter McBryde while he was alive and for the rest of his life,” he said. “A lot of family ties — my mom and dad’s family. It felt like it was a calling.”

The addition of par three tees on each hole is to fulfill McBryde’s wish to promote families and activities at Kukuiolono, which translates to “Light of Lono” in Hawaiian.

“Besides the picnic grounds, people are skeptical of bringing their kids because it’s busy here,” Medeiros said.

“I thought, ‘What if we had additional tees that could accommodate junior golfers, seniors, anyone who wants to play or doesn’t have enough time to play?’”

Ernie Ferreira of Kalaheo said the implementation of the new par three tees will speed up play.

“If people are struggling on the course, they can move to those tees and can enjoy themselves,” said Ferreira, who frequents the golf course a few times a week. “Plus, they won’t be holding people in the back. It’s a win-win situation.”

Medeiros used his connections from 30 years of experience with the golfing world to purchase second-hand landscaping equipment and received about $10,000 worth of donations to further improve the golf course last year.

“They’ve been donated by other golf courses to purchase for a good price to help us. This is nonprofit,” he said. “Just being in the business for a long time, I’ve been blessed to have a lot of friends born on Oahu and Maui and Kauai who are more than willing to help Kukuiolono with all the history.”

In the summer, Kukuiolono plans to renovate the green on hole No. 1 by enlarging it and installing an additional bunker.

The following year, Medeiros hopes to work on the green on hole No. 7, a two-tier green notorious for worm droppings.

“Those are the most difficult greens to upkeep here because there’s rock and very hard,” he said, shaking his head with a smile. “When I got here, I thought No. 7 was the worst green.”

Besides working on the greens, five red tees will be installed this year to give players more options.

One project Medeiros is zealous about is a putting course that resembles the actual golf course.

“It’s really a lot of fun for family just to have — all putting, all real grass, nothing artificial,” he said.

A mini golf course is slated to open sometime in spring and will likely cost between $2-$10 to play.

The course will include signs of the history of the course and park as well as miniature trees — coconut, guava, pine and some banzai — to match the layout of the actual course.

“They’ll learn about how fortunate we are Mr. McBryde made (Kukuiolono) possible for the people to enjoy,” he said.

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