GCSAA – Southwest: Hawaii course uses innovative design to offer fun alternative to golfers

by Jeff Jensen-GCSAA Southwest Regional Representative

Jensen-thumbnailAs I travel throughout the Southwest to varied allied golf organization meetings, the topic of player development is the most frequently discussed issue in the industry. What can facilities, superintendents, PGA professionals and allied golf organizations do to attract new players (both young and old) to the game?

While I can site numerous player development programs around the country, one of the best and most creative hails from the Aloha State.

Located on the North Shore of Kauai, The Prince Golf Club at the Princeville at Hanalei Resort is one of the country’s top golf and resort destinations. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course is annually rated among the Top 100 Courses in America by numerous publications, including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and GolfWeek.

The course recently underwent a $5 million renovation, and, in an effort to provide a fun and fast alternative to the traditional 18 holes, the resort designed an innovative par-three layout.

The Mini Prince opened in April of 2013, and was carved out of The Prince’s world-class 13-acre practice facility, utilizing its practice greens and bunkers. Behind this innovative design is the management and golf operations staff including Derrick Watts, the GCSAA Class A director of agronomy at the Prince. Watts, the past president of the Hawaii GCSA, enhanced the existing practice greens and expanded them into six complete par-three holes that serve as part of the driving range for most of the day and are then transformed into a six-hole course in the late afternoon.

The Mini Prince opens daily at 4:00 p.m., and closes at sunset, offering golfers of all skill levels the opportunity to get in a quick and affordable round. The holes range from 65 to 91 yards, while greens feature an 8-inch putting cup that provides easier opportunities for less experienced players. It takes 30 minutes to play the six-hole layout. The turf is seashore paspalum cut at .125 and rolling at approximately 8.5.

The cost to play the Mini Prince is $15 including rental clubs, and juniors age 8-17 are free if accompanied by a paying adult. Unaccompanied juniors age 12-17 can play for $5. The course is complimentary if golfers played The Prince course on the same day and the fee allows players to play the course as many times as desired before sunset.

Designed by the resort as an additional family activity and amenity, the Mini Prince sees as many as 30 rounds per day. “Families have really taken advantage of the course, and it’s great to see the kids being introduced to the game while on vacation,” said Watts. “Our hope is that these families will return to their hometowns and get their kids involved in junior golf on a full-time basis. As a superintendent, I feel the responsibility to help grow the game and I’m thankful that Princeville feels the same way.”

For more information on The Prince and the Mini Prince, visit www.princeville.com.

These are the type of programs that will ensure the success of the golf industry over the next 20 years. I had the opportunity to sit down with Watts in Honolulu in September, and the passion he has for this project and growing the game is evident. Thanks to Watts and all of the superintendents who put in the time and effort to make sure that the industry not only survives, but thrives.

I hope you and your families all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. If I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime. Thank you for your continued support of GCSAA.

GCSAA – Southwest: Hawaii course uses innovative design to offer fun alternative to golfers

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