Nos. 15-17 at Poipu Bay Golf Course all hug the Kauai south shore coastline. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) When golfers turn their head inland, they'll see the giant Mt. Haupu backdrop at Poipu Bay Golf Course. (Courtesy of Poipu Bay) Kauai's Poipu Bay Golf Course will live up to your lofty Hawaii vacation expectations. (Courtesy of Poipu Bay)

Kauai's best? Hard to argue against Poipu Bay Golf Course as Hawaiian island's top resort course

Tiger Woods never declined his invitation to former PGA Grand Slam of Golf host Poipu Bay Golf Course on Kauai. Play Poipu Bay on your Hawaii golf vacation and it's easy see why: It's practically the perfect resort course.

KOLOA, Kauai, Hawaii - Expectations can be mighty high when booking your first Hawaiian golf trip.

Do just a hint of research, and you've no doubt seen a dozen pictures of golf courses, luxury hotels and beaches that summon an instant rise in heartbeat. The bar rises so high so quickly, you worry if you're setting yourself up for the inevitable vacation letdown.

Play Poipu Bay Golf Course on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and those already lofty expectations will likely be exceeded.

Host to the post-season PGA Grand Slam of Golf (back in the days when the only time Tiger was absent from the event is when he went the year without winning a major in 2003 and 2004), Poipu Bay has all the elements of a world-class resort course -- one you'll be itching to re-play as soon as you walk off the 18th green.

There are more than just a handful of "wow" moments over the course of 18 holes at Poipu Bay. In fact, practically the entire back nine is exposed to the rugged coastline.

When you're not gazing off into the Pacific, you'll notice the golf course itself is full of character. A series of black, hand-made stone walls are tucked between holes. These historical remnants are 500-year old Hawaiian heaiu (places of worship). Golfers are asked to steer clear of these culturally sensitive areas. Besides, who wants to wake up the ghosts of the Pacific? Some wandering duffer at Poipu is probably what caused Hurricane Iniki on Kauai in 1992.

Beyond the course's aesthetics, perhaps the best aspect of Poipu Bay is that despite its standing as a former PGA Grand Slam of Golf host from 1994 to 2006, the average resort golfer is going to have a shot on a lot of these holes for a good score. That's because it's easy to get off the tee here. Fairways are generous, not to mention beautifully framed by palm trees. There is a good amount of rough on each hole before finding heavy brush, and while there are water hazards, they can be avoided rather easily.

The trouble at Poipu comes on and around the greens. Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s often-elevated greens feature steep slopes and tiers, surrounded with collection areas and heavy bunkering. These complexes make up-and-downs and two-putts no easy task.

Another noticeable aspect of Poipu's design is how big of a role the trade winds played in the routing. And it's good it was factored in, because they range from "prevalent" to "vicious." Many of the par 4s that play into the wind are just 350 yards, yet can demand a solid drive and a long iron or wood into the green.

On the other hand, the two par 5s that play with the winds are a real treat, because a good drive that catches wind will sail and sail. Suddenly a 550-yard par 5 is looking like a pitch-and-putt. And don't fret, the final three holes, starting with the gorgeous 16th hole with an elevated tee, play right along the coastline with the wind at your back.

See? Poipu Bay is thinking of you just as much as Tiger.

Poipu Bay: The verdict

Kauai's top resort course? With respect to the Prince Golf Course at Princeville at Hanalei and the Kiele Course at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, the argument can easily be made. It has the PGA Tour pedigree, hole variety, playability and spectacular backdrop to warrant the highest of praise.

And, of course, low-handicappers can step to the back tees knowing it can challenge even the four PGA Tour major winners.

Mar 24, 2008

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Brandon Tucker

Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.