IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Hawaii Prince Golf Club, Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii.
THE LAYOUT: The Hawaii Prince Hotel in Honolulu is the only hotel on Waikiki Beach that owns and operates a golf course for its guests, but the Hawaii Prince Golf Club also is a public course enjoyed by the locals and other visitors to the island.
The club is located about a 40-minute drive from Honolulu on the Ewa Plain, where Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay created three delightful nines that opened in 1992. Golfers will find three distinct golfing experiences.
There are the A Course, which is dotted by monkey pod trees and measures 3,514 yards from the back tees; the B Course, which winds through ironwood trees and plays to 3,609 yards, and the C Course, perhaps the most popular and lined by palm trees, covering 3,652 yards.
The property, which was host to the Hawaii State Open in 2000 and 2004, covers 270 acres and 10 large lakes come into play -- several on multiple holes. The fairways and Bermuda greens are dotted by 90 white sand bunkers, with dramatic views of the Waianae Mountains.
The Hawaii Prince is the first stop in the Prince Resorts' "Ninety-Nine Holes of Golf" tour. Also included are two exceptional golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. at the Makena Golf Club adjacent to the Maui Prince Resort on Maui, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii, with its groundbreaking course that was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and the Hapuna Prince Hotel, with its award-winning course designed by Palmer and Seay.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Tim Herek.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Mark Rolfing, NBC golf commentator and a resident of Hawaii, calls the last two holes of the B Course and the first two holes of the C Course "Hawaii's Longest Mile of Golf."
They are four of the best, longest and most challenging par 4s in succession any golfer would ever want to play.
B8 plays 433 yards to a green that has 21 palm trees as a backdrop and is rated No. 2 on that nine, and is followed by the No. 1 handicap hole, 440 yards to a green protected on the right by water and a devastating crosswind that the golfer does not feel because of a grove of trees.
The opening hole of the C Course is rated only as No. 7 on the card, even though it covers 484 yards from the back tees, and the next hole measures 459 yards and is rated the most difficult on that nine. From the back tees, that's 1,716 of real estate without a par 5.
The signature hole on the A Course is the 418-yard seventh, a demanding par 4 on which the tee shot must carry a gigantic lake that runs the length of the fairway on the right side. But that's not the only trouble on this hole. You cannot run the ball up onto the green in typical links style because of a large bunker 20 yards short of the putting surface.
Perhaps the best par 3 on the property is No. 7 on the C Course, 210 yards from the back tees, with two lakes to deal with on the right. It is the first leg of a dramatic finish that includes the scenic, 458-yard peninsula par-4 eighth hole and a 532-yard par-5 windup.
After golf, enjoy a meal in the Bird of Paradise Restaurant, and if you are staying in Honolulu, stop off to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on the way back to the city.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Among the many courses on Oahu are two spectacular resort courses at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore; 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 Wailea; Mililani Golf Club, Pearl Country Club in Aiea; Waikele Golf Course; Luana Hills Country Club in Wailea and Koolau Golf Course in Kaneohe. Koolau is considered by many to be the most difficult course in the United States, with a slope rating of 152 from the back tees.
WHERE TO STAY: The Hawaii Prince Hotel, at the gateway to Waikiki when driving from the Honolulu Airport, affords scenic views of the Pacific in addition to Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Ala Moana Park and the Koolau Mountains. The hotel offers a full-service day spa and a beauty salon in addition to a fitness center. Guests can take the hotel shuttle to any of the shops and restaurants along Waikiki or never have to leave the hotel -- which has its own high-end shops and two gourmet dining rooms, the Prince Court and the Hakone Restaurant.
You can find a slice of Old Hawaii less than an hour's drive from the frenetic activity at Waikiki at the Turtle Bay Resort. It's a short trip from fabled surfing spots at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Bonzai Pipeline.
Other hotels on Waikiki include the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Sheraton Waikiki Resort and the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach.
Away from Honolulu is Marriott's Ihilani Resort & Spa in Ko Olina.
ON THE WEB: www.princeresortshawaii.com.
THE LAST RESORT: Kapalua Resort in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.
THE LAYOUT: It was Arnold Palmer who put Kapalua on the golf map, not Tiger Woods and Ernie Els with their epic mano y mano playoff duel in the 2000 Mercedes Championship.
The tournament, now known as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, will be played in Hawaii for the 15th time in January. Steve Stricker captured his 12th PGA Tour title in the tournament this year.
Palmer, with help from Ed Seay, designed the first two championship courses in this corner of West Maui -- the Bay Course, which opened in 1975, and the Village Course, which followed in 1980 but is now closed because of the economic slowdown.
The famed Plantation Course, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, opened in 1989 and would bring thousands more tourists to the island once they saw this sweeping giant during the Lincoln Mercury Kapalua Invitational -- an unofficial PGA Tour event that was played in November and showed Maui could support a major event.
The Plantation Course, with a par of 73, measures 7,263 yards and plays to a USGA rating of 75.2 with a slope of 142, but despite the omnipresent trade winds it is very playable from the resort tees because of its expansive fairways.
The Bay Course, which has a par of 72, plays to 6,600 yards with a rating of 71.7 and a slope of 138.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Mike Jones.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Everyone wants to play the Plantation Course, especially the daunting 663-yard 18th hole, which can be reached with two long, precise shots because it plays dramatically downhill toward the ocean with the prevailing wind helping.
Els and Woods were tied for the lead going to the final hole in the 2000 Mercedes. Both made eagle to force a playoff, starting on the 18th, where both made birdie before continuing to No. 1. There, Woods sank a dramatic 35-foot downhill birdie putt to win the tournament.
Another memorable hole is the 203-yard eighth, which plays across a canyon of natural vegetation to a green that slopes from back to front, with a series of traps in the back to catch shots by those who use an extra club or two to ensure they carry the precipice. Hit your tee shot short and you need a new ball.
The Bay Course plays mostly on a plateau above the Pacific Ocean, but features two spectacular holes right on the water. The 357-yard fourth hole is a short but deceptive par-4 with a large bunker waiting for shots trying to cut the corner, pushed that way by the prevailing wind off the ocean. It's followed by the 205-yard fifth, which sits on a lava promontory and is perhaps the most scenic hole at Kapalua. It requires a tee shot across a corner of Oneola Bay, usually with a tailwind.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Five minutes down the Honoapi'ilani Highway is the Kaanapali Resort, where Shell's Wonderful World of Golf brought this slice of paradise into homes across the United States in 1963. The televised match featured Bob Charles of New Zealand, the reining British Open champion, and American Dave Regan. The Royal Kaanapali Course hosts the Wendy's Champions Skins Game on the Champions Tour season in January, and the Kaanapali Kai Course offers some of the best views of the Molokai Channel.
In South Maui on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala, the House of the Sun, are three magnificent resort courses at the Wailea Resort, and two more -- the North and South -- at secluded Makena Golf Resort.
In between are several outstanding public layouts, including Sandalwood Golf Course in Waikapu, Silversword Golf Course in Kihei, Grand Waikapu Country Club in Wailuku, the Dunes at Mauna Lani, a links-style course in Kahului, and Pukalani Golf Course, a delightful and relaxing Up Country experience with spectacular 360-degree views of the South Pacific.
WHERE TO STAY: The exclusive Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, where most of the pros stay with their wives during the season-opening 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 Papakea 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 Maui Prince Hotel, Grand Wailea Resort, the Four Seasons Resort, the Outrigger Wailea Resort, the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui and Renaissance Wailea Beach Resort.
ON THE WEB: www.kapaluamaui.com.