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Maui: Golf Heaven

As you may recall, one of the purposes of John's trip to Maui was golf. And what a wonderful place for visit if you enjoy the game. Even though Patty is not a regular on the links, she decided to play one time with us. And here they are on the Old Blue Course at Wailea. It used to be called simply the "Blue Course" but "Old" was added — I guess to give it a bit more panache.

John and I had played earlier in the week at Kapalua on the Bay Course but, stupid me, I forgot to take a camera that day. That error was corrected at Wailea using my small Canon.

The courses on Maui are among the most scenic in the world. Here is a typical fairway at Wailea — not only are the holes beautiful but the scenery beyond the course is breathtaking. For example, on this hole, we are looking toward the West Maui Mountains, perpetually enshrouded in clouds.

And then you turn and you are looking at the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. If you visit during the winter and you are a bit lucky, you might see a humpback whale spout or breach or dive. Let me tell you — the scenic vistas really make it hard to concentrate on your golf game. But who cares — you can focus on your score when you return to the mainland.

One of the other wonderful things about Old Blue at Wailea is all the flowering trees — here a plumeria tree — plus flowers and lava rock walls. In terms of sheer beauty, it doesn't get much better than this. I love it.

For those of you who have never smelled a plumeria blossom, you have not lived. To give you a hint — Heaven must smell like a plumeria blossom. So if you wake up sometime and smell that wonderful scent, either you're in Hawai`i or in Heaven.

There are magnificent homes lining the fairways. Another game we play on the course is picking out our future home in the event we win the Powerball Lotto. This one is surrounded by a hedge of Bougainvillea. The brightly colored bracts add so much color to contrast with all the green vegetation. Wonderful!

Bougainvillea is common in the urban landscape of Phoenix but not many golf courses use it for color on the course. 'Tis a pity. In fact, there is only one course in the Phoenix area that I know that even slightly resembles a Hawai`i course and that is the Phoenician.

Finally we approached the 18th hole which brought back some fond memories for me. Back in the mid-'80s when I lived for one year on Maui, I volunteered to help out on a charity golf tournament being staged on this very course. I had not yet started playing golf but it afforded an opportunity to see the course and see quite a few celebrities up close — tournament participants were paired with celebrities — and, of course, paid for the privilege.

I was walking the course selling programs and came to the 18th hole encountering a big crowd of spectators. The golfers were slowing down the tournament but the organizers did not dare do anything to speed up their play. The reason? It was the celebrities, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman, were cutting up and had both the golfers and the spectators in stitches.

I also noted that some of the celebrities were so nice — one never knows just from their on-stage or on-screen persona. For example, Jamie Farr, who is best known as Corporal Max Klinger in the TV series M*A*S*H, was one of the nicest people I could imagine. As he was playing, he encouraged the other members of his foursome and complemented their shots. And when he was asked to pose for a photo, he came over to the crowd and put his arm around the people who asked and had someone take the picture of all of them. He was great.

On the other hand, there were several celebrities that were just the opposite. I won't name names but one kept yelling at his wife who was riding in the cart. Another was approached for an autograph and refused saying, "I wasn't paid to come here and sign autographs". Phew!

The next golf outing was at Ka`anapali Beach, the South Course. It winds up the hill and provides some dramatic hole vistas such as this one. This is one of the older courses on Maui and the pro shop used to have historic panoramic photos of the course in those days. I noticed this time that they were gone. In my mind, they are sorely missed.

And just as you are about to make that perfect shot, you hear the chugging of a old fashion steam locomotive. A train? On Maui? Yes, this is the world-famous Sugar Cane Train. It is the remnant of a bye-gone era when sugar cane was hauled to the mill on the rails rather than the contemporary practice of hauling by trucks. You can pay a modest fee and ride the train from Lahaina to just past Ka`anapali Beach. But if you are playing golf, just hope that they don't sound the whistle just as you stroke your putt. No do-overs are allowed.

And what course would be complete without Bougainvillea and coconut palm trees? Certainly not this one. By the way, one thing that you cannot tell just from the photos is the amount of wind that the golfer must face when playing on Maui. The trade winds blow nearly every day — generally 15 to 25 MPH, occasionally blowing even stronger. Typically they are milder during the morning and more gusty during the afternoon. But for someone who regularly plays his golf in mostly calm Arizona, it is a real challenge to choose a proper club and aim to take the wind into account.

And what more can you say? It just doesn't get any prettier than this!

Of course the picture doesn't show the strong grain that the greens on Maui courses exhibit. For you non-golfers, a bit of explanation — the grain will influence how the ball rolls on the green. Putt with the grain and it is like putting downhill. Against the grain is like uphill. Putting at 90 degrees to the grain will tend to make it curve more. And so on.

One time, I spent two hours putting on the Kapalua Plantation Course practice green. The grain there was so pronounced and with the slope and the wind, I spend two hours practicing and had no more confidence of sinking a putt than when I began. Even the pros have complained and a couple years ago, Kapalua replaced all the greens on the Plantation Course with a newer variety of grass. It is better but the grain is still there.

Since we were playing the twilight times (about half price and the only way to make the green fees almost reasonable), sundown came quickly after we finished. And this one was spectacular. What a wonderful visual treat after a great day of golf.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc.