KALAHEO — Kayden Toma was thrilled to end nine holes with a three-over-par 39 Tuesday at Kuks Mini Golf at the Kukuiolono Golf Course.
The fifth-grader’s joy was short-lived when dad Kurt informed him that mom Allison had beat him by a stroke at two-over 38.
“We were going to just come to the driving range,” Kurt said. “But we found out the mini golf was open, so we’re trying it out. This is fall break. Otherwise, we’d never be able to do this.”
Kukuiolono Golf Course Manager Robert Medeiros said a “soft opening” was done to give families something to do during fall break.
“We’re still working on the course, but players are welcome,” Medeiros said. “Opening play also gives the registration desk an opportunity to check in players. We’ll do a grand opening celebration a little later on.”
Kurt Roma noted that play was tough compared with other mini golf courses because Kuks uses real grass instead of the artificial turf found on other courses.
The course layout almost mimics the regulation nine-hole course, complete with smaller versions of the Japanese and Hawaiian gardens.
“This is something I always dreamed about doing,” Medeiros said. “Eventually, this will become more than a mini golf course. Schools can plan field trips for study in Hawaiiana and other cultural studies. The artifacts, including the rocks used in the mini golf layout, are not replicas, or brought in from somewhere else. They’re real items which were buried in the park. We dug them up, cleaned them, and now they’re part of the mini golf course.”
Medeiros has photos of people with some of the artifacts dating back to 1920.
“We want to be able to use these, and find out who the people were, and hear the stories they have about this area,” Medeiros said. “When we reach the third phase of building out this mini course, that will include signage explaining the different artifacts and the role played at Kukuiolono and the neighboring town of Kalaheo.”
An example is a rock bowl resembling an over-sized usu, or mortar used for Japanese mochi making.
“There are calligraphy that I can’t make out,” Medeiros said. “Perhaps there are people in the community who can decipher the writing that may give us an idea of what it was used for. I have a photograph from the Kauai Museum that states it’s from a private estate, dated in 1920, and showing a man standing next to it.”
He also wants to find out more about the Japanese lanterns which were buried in an area near the existing Japanese gardens.
“There are pictures of people with these lanterns,” Medeiros said. “Who are they? Why did the lanterns get buried? There must be people out there who have some of these answers. I would like to hear from them.”
Eventually, Medeiros wants to see Kukuiolono restored to the vision had by Walter McBryde.
“He wanted people to come here and enjoy themselves, have picnics, family gatherings,” Medeiros said. “Golf was just a benefit for the employees. The main thing was for families to have fun and enjoy themselves.”
Medeiros said numerous community sponsors and donors have stepped forward to help open Kuks Mini Golf.
“A lot of this has been donated by people in the area,” Medeiros said. “Someone even brought in the original pillars from the pavilion. We’ll be using that as part of the layout, too. Once everything is done, we’ll have a nice sign acknowledging everyone who helped make this happen.”
Sponsors include The Club at Kukuiula, Kauai Irrigation, Lawai Foliage and Contracting, Paco’s Tacos Cantina, Ernest Ferreira, Stephen Palama, Keith Smith, Masaki Teshima, Sonny Andrade, Tony Romo, Ron Coates, Junior Duarte, Roland Morita, Hans Gunter, Kuks employees and the board of directors of Kukuiolono Park.
Play at Kuks Mini Golf is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and group rates are available for schools and other organizations.