Kahuku, HI - The North Shore of Oahu is where surfers find heaven. The Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay are legendary for the house-high curlers found in winter months and the slow, dreamy pace of life in the endless summer.
It is also an almost unknown getaway for residents of Honolulu, and visitors to the Aloha State who have done their homework. Because, in addition to the surf, you'll discover wonderful hiking, swimming and exploration of rural Hawaii.
The North Shore is also where you'll find Turtle Bay Resort, a destination that features two golf courses, a Senior PGA Tour event, tennis, a hotel and seaside cabanas and bungalows.
Why have you never heard of it?
Well, the truth is, Turtle Bay Resort saw its best days back in the 1970s. A long, slow decline followed, and the resort just kind of slipped off everyone's radar screens.
Over the course of the last year, though, significant changes have taken place at Turtle Bay. First, a Hawaii investment group came along and purchased the property, pledging to bring it up to and surpass former standards. Then they brought in veteran Golf Professional Dennis Rose to oversee golf operations.
The Senior PGA Tour, looking for a new venue for the event that been held for many years at Kaanapali, Maui, came to have a look at what was going on. They were impressed enough to reach a five-year deal to hold the event at Turtle Bay, on the Arnold Palmer-designed course, formerly called the Links at Kuilima. The tournament is now called the Turtle Bay Championship, with the inaugural event taking place Oct. 5-7, 2001, with a purse of $1.5 million.
The original golf course, a George Fazio design, was opened in 1971. When the Arnold Palmer Course was built in 1992, a couple of holes from the Fazio Course were used, and the Fazio Course was reduced to a nine-hole, family-style layout. Now, the original George Fazio Course is being restored (with two new holes) to complement the Palmer Course. Fazio is still intended to be playable and fun for the whole family and beginning golfers, but it will also provide better golfers a good test if played all the way back.
The restored course will be open for play in early 2002. A new clubhouse and restaurant, run by Buzz's Restaurant Group, will also be open by then.
Meanwhile, The Arnold Palmer Course remains one of the best on Oahu. It is built near the ocean, but only one hole, No. 17, actually gets down to where you can see the surf. The course is characterized by huge waste bunkers, plenty of water hazards, and a marine wildlife sanctuary around which several holes are built.
The home nine is the more scenic of the two sides, with some challenging golf to be played. Hole 12, for example, is a 529-yard par-5. The challenge of this par-5 hole comes on the second and third shots. While the tee shot has a wide landing area, most golfers would be silly to go for this green in two. Flanked by a lake on the left, which the green literally spills into, and a stand of beautiful, if difficult to get out of, wili-wili trees on the right, the putting surface on this hole is best approached from 100 yards or less with a parachute wedge that lands like a butterfly. Some treacherous pin positions can also play havoc with your putting.
No. 18 is a fun hole that will decide many matches. It's a par-5 playing 577 yards. A healthy drive will give bigger hitters a chance to go for the green in two and win their match with eagle or birdie. But it is a risk/reward shot: One must hit over a large body of water to get to the putting surface, and there is little bailout room on either side. Thus, the tortoise lays up left; the hare goes for the green. And when at Turtle Bay, maybe it's better to do as the tortoise!
Some $30 million is being spent to make Turtle Bay Resort as presentable as it once was, in fact better. Next time you're on Oahu, consider the North Shore. It's a little secret you can share with friends.
Turtle Bay Resort
57-091 Kam Highway
Turtle Bay Resort Golf Club