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Kapalua Village Course, Part 1

My favorite golf course on Maui was the Village Course at Kapalua. I say "was" because the course has been closed. Curiously, it was closed just a few years after they built a new large club house, necessitating renumbering the holes so that the hole closest to the club house was number one. As a result, the old number 18 became number 1; number 1 became number 2 and so on.

I have fond memories of playing on that previous configuration — Kona and I would play the twilight tee times — since the cost was half that of morning tee times. However, Kapalua set the twilight time so that the first group out would just finish before dark. Subsequent groups would find the last hole or last few holes barely visible. I remember hitting my tee shot on one such occasion and having absolutely no idea where the ball went. I felt like a blind man feeling the ground — but somehow we found it. Ah, such good memories.

So you ask, "if the course is closed, why do these photos look like it is still playable?" Good question. A short distance from this hole (number one when the course was still open) is the Kapalua Golf Academy which provides golf lessons to island visitors. They have maintained two holes for lessons and practice — as well as the driving range that was shared by the Golf Academy and the Village Course.

But look at these views! How could you close this gem? Oh, they thought they could make more money by renovating the course into a private facility. Of course they did not foresee the economic downturn that has prevented a private golf course from being successful. Who knows what the future will hold?

One of the reasons that I like this course so much is the vegetation both on and adjacent to the course. Some natural, some planted for the course. Here is a monkey pod tree.

And the ubiquitous (or so it seems) Brazilian Pepper Tree, AKA the Christmas Berry Tree.

This day was one of the few times that I have seen butterflies in the area. You'll recall that the Kapalua logo (shown with the real butterfly to the right) incorporates a butterfly with the body having the shape of a pineapple. The choice of the pineapple has long been obvious to me — pineapple fields surrounded the developed areas of Kapalua for many years — but which are now giving way to houses and other development.

But butterflies? I could only assume that they must have been abundant before all the development. Well, they seem to be back. Perhaps they have been hiding in the woods waiting for all the golfers to leave.

I have shared similar photos before but I am always amazed to see cactus in Hawai`i — even more amazed to see it climbing a tree. It almost looks like the cactus is trying to smother this eucalyptus tree.

Many people know these plants by sight if not by name since they are commonly used for landscaping in areas which do not get too cold. In Hawai`i they are called Ti Plants — with "Ti" pronounced like "Tea", the beverage. My sister tells me that in Florida the red ones are called "Pink Sisters".

A few steps later, we are on hole number two. Of course, it used to be hole number one — and I loved it as the first hole because it was a relatively short par four with a very wide fairway. You could screw up your first drive but still recover. Golfers hate to get off to a bad start and this hole make a good start much likelier.

And when you arrived at the green, you looked back for your first dramatic view. Tell me again why they closed this course? Oh, right — money.

Another joy of playing this course (when it was open) was viewing the scattered old farm equipment rusting in the sun. It is still there and still brings visions of plantation life, long before anyone thought this could be a destination resort.

Once past the first two holes, the course is not being maintained. However, Kapalua is allowing anyone to hike the cart path which eventually links up to trails in the vicinity of the Kapalua Arboretum. Be sure to carry water and even a Zone Bar or equivalent snack.

You might even want to carry a Frisbee. A number of these targets are found on the course for the game of Frisbee golf. I even saw two guys playing the game on the day I hiked the course.

But it is the reclamation job being performed by Mother Nature that held my fascination. She surprises us with a huge variety of plants — such as these flowers that look like they might be related to sunflowers — or are they related to daisies?

And just as I looked up, I was intrigued by this hole — now very much belonging to Mother Nature — but bringing back memories of what it looked like when I played here.

So much more to see — we will resume next week.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com