IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Pukalani Country Club in Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii.
THE LAYOUT: For local and visiting golfers on the island of Maui, Pukalani is a refreshing and delightful alternative to the mega-resort courses at Kapalua, Wailea, Kaanapali and Makena.
Designed by Bob Baldock and opened in 1979, Pukalani is perched at the 1,100-foot level on the rolling terrain of Mt. Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world, in what the natives call Upcountry.
The course stretches to 6,962 yards from the championship tees over 160 acres on the slopes of the dormant volcano known as the "House of the Sun," and plays to a par of 72, with a USGA rating of 72.8 and a slope of 128.
GENERAL MANAGER: Ron Huffman.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Pukalani, which means "Hole in the Sky" or "Entrance to Heaven" in Hawaiian, is located about an hour's drive below the Haleakala Crater and 21.6 miles from Kahului Airport on Highway 37.
The picturesque course offers incredible panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the rest of the Valley Isle, which actually is two islands joined by the lava flows from its towering volcanoes.
The fairways are lined by Norfolk pines, and the tradewinds come up almost every afternoon, so try to play before 11 a.m. unless you enjoy playing in a breeze.
The altitude and wind make it about five degrees cooler and less humid at Pukalani than in the coastal areas of Maui.
Hit the fairway off the tee and the ball sits up almost as if on a tee on the Kikuyu grass, like Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, but that makes it dicey playing out of the rough and around the greens.
Perhaps the most unique hole at Pukalani is No. 3, a par 3 that plays 148 yards from an elevated tee across a ravine to one green, and 98 yards from the forward tee down to another green in a picturesque bowl.
In fact, all of the par 3s are remarkable, particularly No. 16, which plays 254 yards down the hill.
A creek runs down one side of the property, coming into play on four holes, and the course has one lake, shared by the 10th and 18th holes.
The finishing hole, which plays 401 yards uphill over the lake on the approach shot toward the clubhouse and a green guarded by bunkers on three sides, is rated No. 2 on the card.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: In West Maui, the renowned Kapalua Resort hosts the PGA Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions every year on the Plantation Course, and also offers the Bay course.
Five minutes down the Honoapiilani Highway is the Kaanapali Resort and its North and South courses, which were part of the Senior PGA Tour's Kaanapali Classic for several years and also hosted the Wendy's Champions Skins Game.
Across Maui on the lower slopes of Mt. Haleakala are three magnificent courses at the Wailea Resort, where the Senior Skins Game was played for several years, and two more at Makena Golf Resort.
In between are several outstanding public layouts, including Kahili Golf Course in Wailuku, Elleaire Maui Golf Course (formerly Silversword) in Kihei, Grand Waikapu Country Club in Wailuku and the Dunes at Mauna Lani, a links-style course in Kahului.
WHERE TO STAY: The exclusive Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, where most of the pros stay with their wives during the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, is the jewel of Kapalua, but you can get almost as much for less at its charming neighbor, the Kapalua Bay Hotel.
Other fine accommodations can be found at the Kapalua Ridge Villas, the Napili Bay Resort, Embassy Suites Resort, the Kapalua Golf Villas, the Sands of Kahana, the Aston at Papakea Resort and the Aston Paki Maui.
In Kaanapali are the venerable Royal Lahaina Resort, the Sheraton Maui, the Hyatt Regency Maui, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel and the Marriott Maui -- not to mention countless condominiums.
In South Maui, you can choose from the Makena Beach & Golf Resort, Grand Wailea Resort, the Four Seasons Resort, the Outrigger Wailea Resort and the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui.
ON THE WEB: www.pukalanigolf.com.
THE LAST RESORT: Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, Oahu, Hawaii.
THE LAYOUT: For several years, Turtle Bay was the only resort in Hawaii to host two spots on what is known as the Aloha Tour, but its courses have been left to the tourists because Champions Tour and LPGA Tour events that were held there lost their sponsors.
The resort offers two challenging courses -- the George Fazio Course, which opened in 1971 and hosted the first Senior Skins Game in 1988, and the Arnold Palmer Course, which opened in 1992.
While both courses offer exceptional golf experiences, there's no question that the Palmer is the preferred layout, although the Fazio is exactly what is was intended to be when it opened -- a fun, sporty resort course.
Playing the Palmer Course presents two different golfing experiences. The front nine reminds the golfer of a Scottish links course, virtually without trees, while the back side winds through a tropical forest of ironwood trees (haole koa in Hawaiian) and the Punaho'olapa Marsh, a bird sanctuary.
Be sure to consult your course guide because water comes into play on almost every hole, and some of it cannot be seen from the tees or even the fairways.
Arnold Palmer enjoys Turtle Bay so much that he was married to the former Kathleen Gawthrop on the property before the start of the 2005 Turtle Bay Championship.
Somebody who probably enjoys Turtle Bay and Hawaii even more than Arnie is Hale Irwin, who won the Turtle Bay Championship five consecutive times. He also won three Senior Skins Game victories in Hawaii.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Matt Hall.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: With five sets of tees, the Palmer Course, which plays to a par of 72 and measures 7,199 yards from the back tees, is very playable for the resort golfer of any level.
The third through seventh holes, which wrap around a large lake, provide the meat of the front nine. The par-5, 543-yard third hole is rated No. 1 on the card, with water down the left side of the fairway and bunkers surrounding the green. Be careful, because you can't see that the water narrows the fairway considerably 220 yards from the green.
The strength of the back nine is the finish, which consists of two 450-yard par 4s and a 577-yard par-5 closing hole, where tournaments are won and lost. The 452-yard 17th, probably the signature hole of the Palmer Course, plays downwind to the ocean's edge, with seven fairway bunkers from the driving area to the elevated green.
Tom Kite came to the 18th hole one shot behind Irwin in the 2003 Turtle Bay Championship and tried to go for the green in two across the pond that guards the wide, shallow green -- which also has two bunkers waiting for shots that go long. Kite's approach from 235 yards with a fairway wood hit the rocks short of the green and fell back in the water.
Perhaps the most memorable feature of the Fazio Course is an exceptional set of par-3 holes, with water to contend with on three of them. No. 11, the only one without a water hazard, runs along the beach, and the ocean comes into play only if the tee shot is 50 or more yards offline.
The most intriguing hole on the Fazio Course is the 277-yard 14th hole, a risk/reward par 4. Take the risk and it's possible to make a three or even a two, but there's also a chance to make 6 or 7 because the hole is ringed by native vegetation and there is out of bounds on the left.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Among the many courses on Oahu are the Hawaii Prince Golf Club in Ewa Beach, Kapolei Golf Course and Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, the West and East Courses at Makaha Golf Club in Waianae, Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Mililani Golf Club, Pearl Country Club in Aiea, Waikele Golf Course, Luana Hills Country Club in Kailua and Koolau Golf Course in Kaneohe.
WHERE TO STAY: Although the modern mega resorts certainly provide a stimulating vacation experience, there's still nothing like discovering a slice of Old Hawaii. Anyone searching for a spot where time passes at tortoise speed might be surprised to find it on the island of Oahu at Turtle Bay, less than an hour's drive from the frenetic activity at Waikiki in Honolulu. The sprawling 880-acre property gives guests their choice of five miles of beach, 12 miles of oceanfront hiking trails and its two magnificent championship golf courses. It's also a short drive from the fabled surfing spots at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline.
Those who want the action and energy of Waikiki should enjoy the Hawaii Prince Hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Sheraton Waikiki and the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. Away from Honolulu is Marriott's Ihilani Resort & Spa in Ko Olina.
ON THE WEB: www.turtlebayresort.com.