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A Guide to the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort

When you match the phrase “top golf destination” with the words “in Hawaii,” you know what you get? You get the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the northwestern tip of Maui.

Just ask any PGA Tour player where they dream of being when the calendar turns the page to a new year.

They’ll simply tell you that it’s the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Why is that the case? What is so special about the property?

Well, that’s exactly what this guide is for! An all-inclusive, full-fledged catalog to the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort is what we intend on delivering. All you have to do is read along and follow the organized sections, and you’ll wind up feeling like you’ve played the course a dozen times.

We’re going to explain the origins of the golf course, telling you why it was even created in the first place. We’ll then transition into a description of the golf course overlooking the North Pacific Ocean.

As far as the Sentry Tournament of Champions goes? We decided to create an individual page that is dedicated to the event that kicks off the PGA Tour calendar year each and every season.

The best part about the venue in the Hawaiian Islands is that the Resort at Kapalua is completely public, meaning you can start booking your next Hawaiian vacation today!

We’ll leave you with plenty of tips and advice for those of you that are considering taking a trip of a lifetime. Get started by peeking at some basic facts about the golf course. It will help set the foundation for what’s to come!

The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort – Key Facts

Kapalua, West Maui, Hawaii
Year Opened
Owner/Operated by
Public/PGA Tour TPC Network
Course Designer
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw
7,452 yards
Host to
The Sentry Tournament of Champions (1999-Currently)
Official Website
The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort

The #1 Golf Resort in Hawaii

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have teamed up to design numerous courses together. Sand Hills Golf Club and Bandon Trails are a two of the highly-ranked gems that the pair has colluded together on, just to name a couple.

The truth is, they have come to be known as one of the dynamic duos in the entire business of golf course architecture, and by golly, they have earned that claim.

What people don’t know is that the Plantation Course at Kapalua was their first creation together, opening back in 1991.

Considering that Ben married his wife Julie on the Kapalua property some 6 years earlier, it’s safe to say when he first started drumming up the idea of building a golf course at the resort.

Something to keep in mind and something that is very evident throughout the design is who Coore and Crenshaw were trying to appeal to. Who was their intended audience? Who were they really building the layout for?

We are going to get there, but first, a little bit more about the land. It used to be a pineapple plantation before Coore and Crenshaw got their hands dirty and started digging. As the story goes, in 1932, J. Walter Cameron formed the Maui Pineapple Company. It was his son, Colin Cameron, who had the vision of creating Kapalua Resort, a place where family could relax and unwind.

Nearly 60 years later, his dreams were brought to fruition thanks to the careful planning by Bill and Ben.

From the get-go, the goal was to create a golf course that was fun and playable for the average player.

They envisioned a place that could be enjoyed by the casual golfer – a place plastered with ocean views.

This was never created in hopes of one day hosting a U.S. Open. This course wasn’t built to be a private country club, exclusive only to those who earn at least 6 figures per year.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort was intended to host some 50,000 rounds of golf per year. It’s the reason the fairways are wide and open and the reason the greens are incredibly large. Bill Core himself summed the course up perfectly with the following statement.

“It’s a very traditional design on a non-traditional piece of land.”

An overview of the history of the creation can be heard by The Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella, but we are sure most of you are more interested in learning about the specific holes and what kind of challenges the players face as they make their way around the par-73 track.

In order to dive further into the layout, let’s shift our attention to exactly that.

Unveiling the Par-73 Layout

We have already made a few references to the golf course and have given you an idea of what the course is like. It’s time to give you more. Before we get into any of the holes or unique features, you should be aware that this typically isn’t a “calm environment.”

The trade winds tend to blow as the afternoon progresses, and there is no rule limiting the velocity of the gusts. Prevailing winds reaching more than 35 mph are not an uncommon theme during the year at the Plantation Course – just ask anyone who has been out there a few times.

When the Kona Winds (wind from the opposite direction) come rolling into town, the course can play extraordinarily tough. You better believe that the course was shaped in large part due to the traditional direction of the wind.

For example, the first hole is a 520-yard par 4, and the 18th is a 663-yard par 5. Go ahead and throw those yardages out the window on a standard day at Kapalua. Both holes play downwind and are extremely downhill, making both holes relatively short if you can even fathom the scenario.

Birdies and eagles are plentiful at the Plantation Course, and we’ve seen a number of scary-low rounds. The course record is 62 (11 under par) and is shared by four men (Chris Kirk, K.J. Choi, Graeme McDowell, Jason Day). You better believe these rounds weren’t shot when the Kona Winds were in bloom.

When you look closer at the card, you’ll notice something very unique. For starters, it’s the only course the PGA Tour visits annually that has 7 holes measuring more than 500 yards.

On the flip side, it’s undoubtedly the only course on the PGA Tour that features eight par 4s that are under 400 yards.

Yes, folks. Eight of the eleven par 4s on this golf course are under 400 yards from the tips.

Once you experience the course for yourself, you’ll quickly realize why the numbers on the scorecard are irrelevant due to the terrain and wind conditions that will be prevalent.

Allow us to portray two par 4s on the front side to show you what we mean. We’ll start with the 7th hole and use it as our guinea pig. It says 518 yards on the scorecard, but check out what the 2018 tournament winner and runner-up averaged off the tee for the week at the 7th hole.

Dustin Johnson John Rahm
Rd 1 405 404
Rd 2 371 397
Rd 3 419 410
Rd 4 405 390
Avg. 400.0 400.25

Now we’ll show you the same numbers for the 4th hole.

Dustin Johnson John Rahm
Rd 1 262 289
Rd 2 265 288
Rd 3 243 263
Rd 4 237 272
Avg. 251.75 278.0

As you can see, the 7th hole was 518 yards, but these guys were hitting sandwedge in every day. Taking a look at the 4th hole at the Plantation Course, you can see quite the drop-off.

At just 382 yards, one would naturally assume this hole plays much shorter than the 7th hole. Well, this is exactly why you shouldn’t make any assumptions until you go out there for yourself.

The 4th hole is uphill and back into the wind. These players were hitting driver, the same club they used off the 7th tee. The conditions make this big of a difference at the Plantation Course.

Before we segue into the event in early January that every PGA Tour player circles on their calendar as a place they want to be, we want to showcase a bit more. Don’t worry; we would never leave you without a full-blown description of the signature hole of the golf course.

The 18th Hole – A Crazy Par 5

The best way to understand the 663-yard 18th hole at the Plantation Course is to start with a huge imagination. The incredibly long and twisting par 5 asks players to hit some sort of right-to-left curving tee shot.

Those that are struck well will tumble down the fairway for what seems like an eternity, before finally coming to rest somewhere near the flat portion of the fairway. Forget about 350-yard drives here. That’s nothing.

Even short hitters have no problem closing in on the 400-yard mark if they catch one on the button. Those that go for the green in two face one of the coolest and most fun shots in golf.

Here’s a little treat showing you what can happen on the 18th hole. If you want to see Bubba Watson slice a driver off the deck from 305 yards out to 12 feet, just press play below!

We would tell you that Bubba was aimed about 50 yards right, but that would be an understatement. His feet are literally pointed perpendicular to his target.

With the ball sitting cleanly but off a dramatic downslope, Bubba proceeds to cut the legs off this driver swing and hit a low, slicing bullet right where he was looking. The ball rolls perfectly up onto the green and comes to rest about 10 or 12 feet underneath the hole.

It was as if his golf ball was a remote-control car, and Bubba was in charge of the joystick. As creative of a shot as this was, it was really just Watson letting the terrain work its magic. The entire contour of the 18th fairway and green slope from right to left and away from the player.

Those who like playing the ball on the ground and running their approach shots in will love the design of this golf hole. Those that can swing for the fences and launch the ball in the air are going to get a kick out of it as well.

There are many more highlights from this finishing hole that we’d like to get to, so let’s keep on pushing through! We’ll get there, but it’s time to introduce the golf tournament that bears witness to these shots we are reminiscing about.

The Sentry Tournament of Champions

It’s really, really simple, ladies and gentlemen. You want a tee time at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January? No problem. All you have to do is win a FedEx Cup event in the previous year.

Unlike most events on the PGA Tour schedule where enough world ranking points can get you into the field, winning a golf tournament is the only one way to earn a spot in the Tournament of Champions.

It doesn’t matter if you are ranked 4th in the world or if you are the most popular player on tour. If you don’t win a regulated event the year before, you simply miss out on spending New Year’s Eve in Maui. Well, you can go there to spend the holidays, but you just won’t have a date with the Plantation Course on the ensuing Thursday-Sunday!

We have a lot more to get to when it comes to this prestigious golf tournament. We want to talk about its history and its records, and we, of course, want to get to the most unforgettable moments that have taken place over the years.

Like when Jordan Spieth posted 30-under-par in 2016 but still fell short of Ernie Els’ record score of 261 (-31), shot in 2003. Or in 2000, when Tiger and Ernie had one of the most epic duels you’ll ever see on a golf course!

There’s just way too much juicy stuff to jam onto this page. So we went ahead and assigned the job of creating a “Tournament of Champions catalog” to a team of individuals that is more than qualified to handle the task.

Have faith knowing that this, along with all of our course and tournament guides, comes from writers who are passionate and knowledgeable about the subject they are writing about. We promise if you check out our page on the Sentry Tournament of Champions, you’ll appreciate the authenticity.

An Upcoming “Facelift”

Before we jump into the specifics about traveling to Maui and the gorgeous resort at Kapalua, we want you to be completely in the loop as to what’s taking place, as it may affect your potential plans. Once the 2019 Tournament of Champions is completed in January, the Plantation Course is going to take “a 9-month nap.”

We are talking about a complete restoration of the property – a “beautification project,” if you will. The changes that are scheduled to take place will be led by none other than the same tandem that built the original design: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

This time, they are bringing longtime Maui resident and golf anchor Mark Rolfing to add his expertise. The course will temporarily close in February and will reopen sometime around Thanksgiving.

The goal isn’t to come in and dramatically change the holes. The layout isn’t going to be any different; this is more about making cosmetic upgrades. Coore had this to say to Golf.com.

“It’s time for a rejuvenation. Architecturally speaking, the changes are truly minimal. But like everything, golf courses are living, breathing creatures, and they evolve. They need polishing after a while. That’s what we’re going to do here.”

One of the significant amendments will be resurfacing the putting greens with TifEagle Bermuda. For those that don’t study horticulture, this is the newest and coolest advancement in the “turf technology” business and is something that many courses will be looking to implement over the next 5-10 years.

Celebration Bermuda Turf will be rooted in the tee boxes, fairways, and rough, and will give the course a “new shine” when it reopens.

Repositioning bunkers and adding new tees is also part of the plan, as the technology and distance the players are hitting it nowadays is a far cry from what it was back in 1991 when they initially built the Plantation Course.

Overall, the Plantation Course is going to get exactly what it needs after taking more than its fair share of beatings over the past 27 years. The anticipation surrounding the “new look” will be felt around the entire golfing community.

Now that you have a general idea about the timeline of the refurbishment, it’s time to start figuring out when you are going to head to Kapalua!

Talk About a Picturesque Destination

Now for the fun part – the portion of the article where you get all the information you need to make this thing a reality. Don’t get us wrong; reading and learning about the Plantation Course is great. However, basking in the Hawaiian sun on a vacation…that’s even better.

By now, you know more than enough about the Tournament of Champions that takes place during the first full week of January every year. If you want a chance to see the PGA Tour winners from the prior season kick off the new year by making a boatload of birdies, you know where to go.

But what about those of you that want to play the course yourselves? We’re sure some of you are chomping at the bit to play the 20th-ranked public course in America while on a dream vacation in Hawaii.

Other than not booking during 2019 due to the renovations to the Plantation Course, here’s what you should know.

The Kapalua Resort is located near the village-town of Lahaina, on the northwest coast of Maui. Just 10 miles south of Kapalua in Lahaina is where you will find Front Street, an awesome stretch of restaurants and shops that are frequented by the majority of tourists.

Helicopter rides and tours of volcanoes are examples of experiences that you can only get when visiting the Hawaiian Islands.

Of course, the activities in and around the ocean are endless, depending on how adventurous you plan on being.

Hardcore enthusiasts might opt for scuba diving or parasailing, while those a bit timid may just want to snorkel and take pictures.

Hey, if all you want to do is lounge around on a beach chair, dipping your toes in the wet sand every so often, that’s fine, too! The beauty of taking a vacation in Hawaii is that you can ignore your watch and just relax, taking in the breathtaking views and serene backdrop.

If you want the full package, you should get up bright and early and play a round of golf at the Plantation Course. Once you putt out on the 18th hole, head back to the hotel and slip into a bathing suit. Order some lunch and a cocktail, and kick your feet up for the rest of the afternoon.

Cap the evening off with the fresh catch of the day for dinner and some butter cake for dessert, and you’ll be ready for a good night’s sleep. The best part – you get to wake up and do it all over again!

By the way, we should also mention that the Kapalua Resort is equipped with another 18-hole, championship-quality venue known as the Bay Course. This “sister track” will be less challenging and demanding than the Plantation Course, but it still offers the same picturesque setting.

An Overview

You see, not every golf course utilized by the PGA Tour is lined with trees and water hazards. Some courses just let their landscape do the talking. The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort is one of those places. It’s also one of the rare blends that cater to golfers of all levels.

Most “resort courses” are designed with the average player in mind. This means they generally aren’t good fits for PGA Tour setups. In this case, the 18 holes laid out by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are perfect for both. Simply put, the golf course has it all.

Reading the above sections lets you inside the minds of those who have spent time at the Plantation Course. You know when and why the track was established, and we painted a picture of what some of the holes look like.

The moral of the story when playing the Plantation Course is to forget about the yardage on the scorecard. The difficulty of each hole is determined by the wind conditions and the direction that the hole is facing, not the number you see printed.

Thanks to the PGA Tour hosting their season-opening event on the property every year since 1999, those who win on tour can happily plan their schedule around this special tournament. We can promise you that no matter how many times a golfer earns a tee time at Kapalua in January, it never gets old.

Once you step foot on the Plantation Course for the first time, the feeling will be magical. When you leave, the only thought crossing your mind will be when you can come back again.Top of FormTop of Form

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