Maui golfers experienced in handling windy weather
While the three days of delays created by strong winds at the Kapalua Plantation Course were frustrating for anyone connected with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the conditions also served as a reminder that Maui golfers don’t get a free pass when it comes to the elements.
“Up here, you’ve always got the trades,” said Kapalua resident Dave Ward. “The golf course was designed to play in those conditions.”
Ward is the commissioner of the Triple-X Golf Group, a recreational club that plays weekend events throughout the island.
“Today is pretty close to the conditions we play every day,” he said as the first of two rounds contested on Monday in the PGA Tour’s season-opening event was ongoing. “Maybe a little more extreme, but close.”
The Triple-X players had their latest event Saturday at Kahili Golf Course in Wai-luku, which Ward said was at times like a “wind tunnel.”
It’s not exactly a secret that breezy conditions are a signature element at many of Hawaii’s courses.
The website for Pukalani Country Club notes the particular significance of the wind on its third hole. On gohawaii.com, the Hawaii Tourism Authority says scoring well at Elleair Maui Golf Club in Kihei “means taking the prevailing trade winds into account on each hole.” On tripadvisor.com, the subject header for the most recent comment about playing at Kaanapali is simply: “Watch out for the wind.”
“The wind, it definitely, definitely affects your ball a lot more,” said Lahainaluna High School girls coach Laura Jones, a Kahana resident who moved to Maui five years ago and is originally from Illinois. “On the Mainland, you have more tree-lined courses, and that’s a factor, but it does give you some protection from the wind until you get to the greens.”
Lucas Bell, a sophomore on the Lahainaluna boys team, said the last few days reminded him a bit of playing in a U.S. Open local qualifier last year at the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu.
“It was tremendously windy,” he said. “It wasn’t this significance, but it was the most wind I’ve ever played in.”
Senior teammate Tyler Armijo – who in 2011 recorded holes-in-one four days apart at the Plantation and Bay courses – recalled winds he estimated at 50 mph for a Maui Interscholastic League match at Waiehu Municipal Golf Course.
This year’s Tournament of Champions was to have started Friday, but gusts that consistently surpassed 40 mph meant keeping golfers off the course the majority of the time, and what little play that did take place was later wiped out.
“When it gets extreme, when the ball is moving without you touching it, you can’t play in that,” Ward said. “Anything less than that is acceptable, from my standpoint. So many percent of the time, there’s 15-mile, 20-mile-an-hour winds. A lot of times we play in 30-mile-an-hour winds.”
Olivier Saquet, the host and co-producer of the television show “Golfing ThruHawaii,” noted other reasons for postponing play.
“You have tents, tree limbs that can go flying around and be very dangerous,” the Pukalani resident said.
“The staff at Kapalua, the tournament committee and the sponsors, Hyundai, have definitely been so patient in dealing with the elements.”
The Plantation Course has historically yielded some of the tour’s lowest scores. Ernie Els’ 31-under-par performance in 2003 still stands as the record in a four-round event, and since 2009, all of the winning scores at Kapalua have been at least 22 under.
Last year, all but three players finished 3 under or better. This time, after Monday’s two rounds, 13 players were at par or worse.
“What tickles me more is when the pros come over here and have to play in conditions like this,” said Ward, who has volunteered at the event in the past. “I get more enjoyment in watching the pros kind of struggle in these conditions.”
* Brad Sherman is at firstname.lastname@example.org