Major renovations coming to Plantation Course

Jason Day and Rory McIlroy make their way down the 18th fairway during the second round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Friday at the Kapalua Plantation Course. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAPALUA — At 7,518 yards long, the Kapalua Plantation Course is already the fourth-longest of the 51 events on the PGA Tour.

The course is set to undergo major renovations that will cost more than $10 million after the Sentry Tournament of Champions finishes on Sunday. The course will shut down on Feb. 11 and remain closed until November.

“I’ve been here for two and a half years, came from Princeville, Kauai, but I noticed the Kapalua assets were a little bit tired,” general manager Alex Nakajima said during a news conference Friday morning. “The Plantation Golf Course opened in 1991, same as this clubhouse, and the Bay Course, 1975. So everything we saw in the beginning, it was time to touch up and dress up. And immediately spoke to the ownership and said: ‘What’s our plan for the future?’ The golf course definitely needs some makeup, the clubhouse and the facility as well.”

According to a press release, the scheduled renovations include:

• Green complexes will be reconstructed and then resurfaced with TifEagle Bermuda grass.

The 14th green is a patchwork of sod. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

• Fairways, rough and tee boxes will be re-grassed using Celebration Bermuda.

• Bunkers will be renovated, and some will be eliminated or relocated.

• Greens will be refined to create more options for hole locations (without changing the character of the greens).

• All existing tee boxes will be rebuilt and additional tees will be added, including a significant number of new forward/family tees. A new combined back tee will be added for holes 3 and 9.

The challenge is to keep the course resort-friendly and tournament-worthy. Course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are on site this week to look at how the course is playing during the 21st edition of the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

“We connected with Mr. Bill Coore, Mr. Crenshaw to discuss how do we make this transition happen?” Nakajima said. “We have been testing the best players of the Tour for many, many years, but also 51 weeks of the year we’re catering to the resort players. And what’s the variation, what’s the variety that we want to provide for long-term?”

Coore said the hope is to rejuvenate the course.

“Our hope is that the golf course that will be presented next year will be more of a restoration and rejuvenation, maybe refinements in certain areas, but a restoration of what the course was in its early days,” Coore said. “There’s no intent on our part to create a golf course that’s unrecognizable from what’s been here before. It will just be a more polished version of that, and in many ways we hope will address developments, evolution that’s happened with the best players in the world.

“Our primary focus, as it was 30 years ago, was to address hopefully the play, the enjoyment, and the experience of the resort players who are going to be here. So we hope it will be a new Plantation Course, but a highly recognizable one.”

Mark Rolfing, an NBC and Golf Channel analyst who has lived in Kapalua for 40 years, said the changes to the course are vital. His unofficial Kapalua International event was the predecessor to the TOC, which began in 1999.

“It’s the right time for the restoration, there’s no question about it,” Rolfing said. “The Plantation Course has changed, for a number of reasons, but it’s also almost 30 years old. As much play as this course gets, it’s tired and it’s time for a renovation. The trick is going to be how do you accommodate 51 weeks a year of resort and do what is best for that and at the same time how do you challenge the best players in the world whose games have changed over that 30-year period more than any other 30 years in the history of golf?

“It’s just a totally different game, so it’s going to be a complicated restoration, but I’m confident we can do it right.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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