Ala Wai Golf Course
|Blue M: 69.8/118||363||196||525||351||170||370||354||205||360||2894||500||210||440||552||354||173||333||378||374||3314||6208|
|White M: 68.5/114 W: 72.0/121||348||147||496||319||150||355||344||185||341||2685||480||195||420||533||341||163||320||364||360||3176||5861|
|Red M: 64.7/104 W: 69.5/115||334||135||398||266||118||284||237||173||321||2266||467||174||320||442||264||149||308||353||352||2829||5095|
Location location location... (and other stuff too)
This review was going to be all about how this course is walking distance from Waikiki beach and all the big Honolulu hotels and despite being straight forward and benign it still gets lots of play because of location.
Instead, however, my experience centered around the outstanding service and even more impressive player experience. What this course lacks in... well... course... it more than makes up for in, simply put, enjoyment.
Before I take the deep dive into how and why I enjoyed this round so much, lets deal with the course. Ala Wai is flat... super flat. It's also short (only one set of tees, the back/tourney tees aren't even set up unless there is a tourney), straight, and all in front of you. This is absolutely a course were you can put up a score.
The bunkers are... sub-optimal; the good news is that there aren't a ton of them and none of them are poorly placed. You'll only find them with a true miss-hit.
The fairways are exactly what you'd expect from a course that regularly has a page long (or longer) walk-on waiting list before that sun comes up (more on that below), worn. It felt like I hit a third of my approach shots from a divot (or a dent from a healing divot).
The greens were punched the day before I played (and, yes, they do still charge full freight) and as such the putting pace was terrible; but, you could tell that the greens do have a little character when they are running right.
The course has a few mild dog legs, hardly any penalty inducing hazards and one of my favorite features (despite so many other golfers not loving them) a tree in the middle of a fairway.
All in all, the course is a heavily used muni on a really flat piece of land. It's also the only game in town if you are in Waikiki and looking to jump on somewhere without making a bit of a commute (read: at a conference, on vacation with the family, or whatever).
Having said all of that, this was one of the most enjoyable golf outings of my life.... all because of the people involved.
I've had the good fortune of playing with a lot of players in a lot of locations (including several on my 50 states in 50 days junket)... this may very well be the best group of players I've been around. It seemed like every hole was a reunion as players passing on one hole greeted regular playing partners heading the other way.
What was most shocking about this was how little (read: not at all) it effected pace of play. This course is a race track in the morning. We completed our round in 3:07 and were a hole and a half *behind* the group in front of us at the turn... we never saw them again on the back nine. My playing partner said it's like that every morning, play that is fast and furious. (note: I did read somewhere the pace gets slow in the afternoon, so don't expect this all day long)
I play really early whenever I can, and because of that I've played with a lot of "regulars." Sometimes they make you feel like an outsider, sometimes they are nice... the group at Ala Wai makes you feel like you are one of them, and maybe always have been (and just didn't know it).
I was using rental clubs and the driver didn't have a stiff shaft... everything I hit carved its way off to the right, so my playing partner said I could use his (stiff shaft) driver if I wanted... not that big a deal, but nice. Then he gave me a glove because I didn't have one... and then... he gave me a ride back to my hotel after the round so I wouldn't have to walk. That's not all... that's just some of it... and everyone I met was like this.
The starters (both the guy the night before and the guy in the morning when I arrived to play) were terrific, going out of their way to explain how I could get on (when I called the reservation service said the best I could do was play at 10:00... impossible with my schedule) etc.
By the way, here's the secret, if you're willing to get up early, you can almost always walk-on at Ala Wai, you just have to show up really early in the morning to get on the list (which was four pages the day before i played). I showed up at 5:40 and was number 12 on the list. But, the sun came up at 6:00 and I was on the course before 6:30 (and off by 9:30).
There are a lot of great places to play in Hawaii, and if you're coming here specifically for golf it is very unlikely you are going to hit up Ala Wai. However, if you find yourself in Waikiki with a few hours to kill in the morning and want an incredibly fun and friendly experience (that won't take very long at all) an early morning round here can be very enjoyable (and still get you back to the hotel in time to head to the beach with the fam).