PRINCEVILLE, Hawaii -- If you're looking to play the Prince Course at Kauai's Princeville Resort in Hanalei, you're running out of time.
According to local reports and employees, the Prince Course, ranked no. 22 on Golf Digest's list of best 100 courses you can play, will close down at the end of 2014 as it undergoes a renovation as part a transition to a private course.
The closing and subsequent privatization of the course means there will only be one championship golf course at Princeville Resort, but it's a good one. Makai Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1971 and renovated 40 years later, is one of most picturesque, playable and well conditioned golf courses in Hawaii. Still, it leaves guests of the St. Regis Princeville, Princeville Westin Resort and Wyndham Kauai Beach Villas with just 18 holes of championship golf.
The news comes in the wake of a recent announcement that prominent Hawaii developer Jeff Stone formed a partnership with a Chinese investment group to develop 1,100 acres (which included the Prince Course) of the 8,200 total acres at Princeville Resort. Those 1,100 acres were sold for a reported $343 million to Reginwood International, founded by Thai-Chinese entrepreneur Chanchai Ruayrungruang.
It was initially reported in the Honolulu Star-Telegram in September that the course's 60 employees wouldn't be affected, but by mid-November all the employees were preparing to be laid off or furloughed by the end of the year. They said they were told that the course would be closed for an indefinite amount of time for a renovation that would soften the course.
The Prince Course, which got new greens, paspalum fairways, bunkers and a renovated clubhouse in recent years, has long been regarded as one of the most difficult golf courses in the state. From the back tees, the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design rates at 76.2 with a slope of 140. Its first hole, a downhill 448-yard par 4 with a narrow fairway and green surrounded by thick vegetation, is considered one of the most difficult starting holes in the world.
In addition to the course renovation, plans also call for the 60,000-square foot clubhouse to be replaced as well as plans for further high-end real estate development in the area.
It's not like Makai can't handle the extra rounds. It only does around 30,000 rounds a year, according to General Manager Alex Nakajima, but being able to offer two contrasting and excellent courses makes the resort more of a draw for golfers.
"If you're playing three times on the North Shore, it's usually twice over here and once over there, just to say you've done it," Nakajima said.
Makai Golf Club is certainly the more player friendly of the two courses. It's cleaner, has more spectacular ocean views and even has an extra set of tees on some holes that cater to the shorter hitters. Of the course, Jones called it an "easy bogey but difficult par."
In an effort to draw more attention to the course given the limited number of golfers who visit, Makai Golf Club has also instituted a program for non-golfers called Sunset Tours. The idea is to encourage guests to visit the various scenic points on the course and take in the sunsets for the price of a cart fee. The seventh hole, a par-3 set on the cliffs above the Pacific, is particularly breathtaking.
In addition, Makai is also set to become the first course in the world to feature GolfBoards, an innovative new mode of golf course transportation inspired by legendary surfer Laird Hamilton, who lives just a mile or so away from the course.