SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
May 15, 1972
Hawaii's Princeville, westernmost golf course in the U.S., is a development in tropic splendor touched by genius
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May 15, 1972

A Case Of Paradise Improved

Hawaii's Princeville, westernmost golf course in the U.S., is a development in tropic splendor touched by genius

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"The best golf courses are being built at resorts—and outside the continental U.S.," he says. "The reason is simple. They give you better land. Just like Doug Hoyt. A fine golf course is a lure to the house buyer. But you can't have a fine course if you take the good terrain for sites."

Jones adds, "It's unfortunate that because of the boom in land development related to golf courses, some developers turn for advice either to land planners who have only a superficial knowledge of the game, or else to some golf pros who may have no more real knowledge about the architecture of the courses they tear apart than they do of the design of the golf balls they endorse."

Fancy wording for a harsh thought, but it rings brutally true.

Essentially, a golf architect is a defender, a man setting up defenses against a series of shots. He hopes to make a course challenging but not unfair, rugged but fun, and always memorable. Some defend with large greens and length, others with small greens and narrowness.

"The one thing I've learned through experience is not to emphasize one aspect. I like a mixture. Large and small greens, contoured and level, tightly and openly bunkered tee-shot targets. And all of it blending into the look of the area," says Jones.

Jones got to do all of this at Princeville, and more. He had three different nines to design, all of which were to be equally demanding. Ocean, Woods and Lake were to be their names. Each has the mood and feeling and look of its name. Each is a par 36. Thus, any two nines that the player selects give him a near-7,000-yard course of par 72. And Jones offers no escape from unique shot-making in any direction.

On the Woods nine he placed the green of a par-3 on the other side of a jungle cavern. He fronted a par-4 with a lake. He put the green of another par-4 in a cluster of silver oaks after discovering that they were "anthrax trees," or trees planted nearly a century ago to mark the burial ground of some diseased cattle. At still another par-3, he invented a Zen bunker, chiefly to have a private joke. A Zen bunker, according to Jones, is a bunker with one huge and two semihuge stones sitting in the middle of the sand. It may please Zen and Jones, but it is no joke for high handicappers.

On the Lake nine Jones thought up a par-5 finisher that one almost needs to play with a motorboat. It is little more than a tee and a green with water in between, except for a couple of square feet where your tee shot and Second shot might land.

It was on the Ocean nine, however, that he really got going. It is a remarkable achievement on which the golfer feels that he might be playing through several different worlds, hitting every imaginable shot. There happen to be two or three prairie-type, wind-swept holes, a dainty pitch, cross-bunkering, doglegs, rolling greens, and still there are two holes falling into a deep valley of foliage with a lake. To top it off, there is a par-3 demanding a wood shot over the ocean from the brink of one high cliff to another—a hole that will surely take its place among the postcard par-3s in the world.

Standing on that tee one day, about 160 feet straight up from the Pacific, with mountains to the left, Japan to the right and the green way over there on another ledge, across the bashing waves and lava rocks, Bob Jones smiled and said, "Most golf architects go an entire career without ever getting to design a hole over an ocean. It's quite a feeling."

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