The Plantation Course at Kapalua
The opening hole at The Plantation Course introduces the character, scale and drama of the course about to be played. It is a downhill, downwind par four of immense proportion. An adequate tee shot assisted by the wind and slope should leave a middle-to-long iron approach to an expansive and welcoming green that slopes from left to right. The difficulty of this hole is more psychological than physical.
The second hole is a crossing downwind par three to a large green angled from left to right. The tilt of the green plus the direction and force of the wind favor shots that fade and are played with finesse. Running approaches are encouraged and rewarded here.
The third hole is a par four of medium length made much longer by playing directly into the trade winds. The fairway bends slightly to the right past a cluster of bunkers leading to a plateau green that slopes from right to left that is guarded on the wings by two prominent bunkers. The slope of the green combined with the trade winds makes this an elusive birdie and an appreciated par.
The fourth hole is reminiscent of The National Golf Links in Southampton, Long Island. It is an old-fashioned affair with a well-defined drive over a high hill to a rolling fairway. The approach shot is played with short irons to a wide green that gathers from right to left. The shallow left side of the green and winds crossing from the left make approaches to the left pin placements more difficult.
The fifth hole of The Plantation Course is a natural and daring par five that slopes from left to right all the way. A bunker was added in the middle of the fairway during the 2019 refinement. An example of the classical “cape” concept of golf architecture, the fairway culminates at a green perched on a peninsula high above the canyon that borders the entire right side of the hole. The nature of the hole entices the player to “have a go” after a fine drive. Courage, but not foolhardiness, is rewarded here.
Another hole representative of earlier architectural forms, the sixth is a spectacular and mysterious par four affording alternate routes to the green. Playing through strong crossing winds from the right, the ideal tee shot is one played more dangerously, powerfully and accurately across the cliffs to the right side of the fairway. From there, the player will be afforded an adequate view of the green. Those choosing the more conservative left-side route will have to play their approaches to a green unseen over the hill. Check the hole location as there is a spine that runs down the middle of the green, and if you are on the wrong side a 2 putt will be a premium.
The seventh is the second of three long, downhill par fours at The Plantation Course. While seemingly too long for a par four, this hole, like numbers one and seventeen, plays much shorter than its listed yardage due to the prevailing wind and assisting slopes. The expansive fairway angling from left to right is inviting, as is the large undulating green. Approach shots hitting the front to middle of this green will roll out much more than expected. Despite its yardage, the seventh will yield its share of birdies.
The eighth is a middle iron par three playing across a native canyon to a receptive green. The green that slopes back- to-front and right-to-left was built to hold and nurse the ball to the left, given the strong trade winds from the right.
The ninth is the most demanding hole at The Plantation Course. Three quality shots directly into the wind will be required to reach the green. The tee shot must be solidly played into the fairway to allow the second to carry a large valley between the first and second landing areas. Shots failing to carry the valley will leave blind approaches. Shots carrying the valley will position the player for a short iron or pitch approach to a plateau green guarded frontcenter and right by bunkers. Par at the ninth will be a coveted score.
The tenth, like the third, is a relatively short par four made substantially longer by playing into the wind and slightly uphill. The fairway, while tilting dramatically from right-to-left, is ample and inviting for controlled draws. The same tilting, however, can encourage uncontrolled hooks when approaches are played from its slopes toward the green. Like many others on the course, the tenth green, rewards low, driving shots into the wind and running approaches.
The last par three of the course demands and rewards thought and finesse. The desired tee shot is a short iron that either “cuts” and “holds” into the wind blowing from the player’s right shoulder or one that allows for drift and uses the approach and slope of the green for assistance. A shot flown directly to the back left pin will not likely be tried more than once as holding the green is very tough due to the difficulty in holding the sloping green.
Like that of an earlier time, the twelfth hole is somewhat reminiscent of “The Alps” hole at The National Golf Links. A statistically long par four, it is transformed into a drive-and-pitch hole by the prevailing wind. An accurate and carrying tee shot to the top of the hill leaves a short pitch to a small concave green with steep slopes surrounding. The bunkers guarding the putting surface are placed more to frame the target and prevent errant approaches from further harm than for penalty.
The most difficult par four on the course, the thirteenth is a long hole made longer and more difficult by the prevailing trade winds. Low, boring tee shots and long iron or fairway wood approaches are necessary to reach this deep and deceptive green in regulation. Putts numbering three or more will also be commonplace given the green’s size and slope and the wind’s effects.
The fourteenth, a very short par four playing through a crossing wind from the left, appears to be one of the easier holes on the course; yet the Plantation’s smallest green perched atop another plateau, the ever-present winds, and an expansive array of fairway bunkers lying in wait test tee shots and approaches alike. What this hole may lack in length, it more than compensates for in personality.
The fifteenth is a double-dogleg par five showing natural character. The hole is strongly defined by its slopes and the crossing winds. There is another native canyon that borders the tee shot area on the right as well as the green on the left. Shots played more closely along these dangerous borders will afford opportunity for birdies. A bunker was added during the 2019 refinement and the fairway was also reshaped to give players an improved second-shot landing area.
A strategic hole of merit, the sixteenth is a moderate-length par four playing through the strong trade winds crossing from the player’s left. A string of fairway bunkers set on a diagonal from left to right strongly influence tee shot decisions and results. Tee shots played powerfully and accurately over the bunkers afford the best angle of attack to all pins except those set far left. These left side pins are best approached from the far right side of the fairway, an area most dangerous to long drivers. Green slopes from back to front with a ridge separating the middle of the green Hole.
The seventeenth is the third of the unusually long par fours on the course. It is made accessible by the prevailing winds and a downhill elevation change of more than 150 feet from tee to green. The tee shot, preferably a high soaring draw, is played to a wide, collecting fairway sloping primarily from right to left. Approach shots are played with anything from middle irons to fairway woods to a large, yet subtle, green which slopes back to front and right to left. The view from atop the seventeenth tee, the highest point on The Plantation Course, is perhaps the most dramatic in all of Kapalua.
One of the most famous holes in all of golf, 18 is the hole around which the rest of the course was created. The eighteenth is an extremely long downhill, downwind par five. Despite its length, the hole is made reachable in two powerful blows by the assisting winds and slope. The fairway and green are large and receptive, yet difficult to judge, owing to the vast panorama and scale of the background. The eighteenth is probably the most scenic, spectacular and representative of all the holes at The Plantation Course. Its scale and drama are uncommon and its challenge is within reason, while its surrounding beauty is unparalleled.