Brian Paul was walking off the 14th green at Kukui`ula when he spotted the tail. Paul, the head golf pro at this new Tom Weiskopf-designed course on Kauai, is accustomed to seeing humpback whales in the adjacent Kukui`ula bay, but this one was different. “It started slapping its tail against the water over and over again,” he recalls. One of the club members Paul was playing with, a resident of Hawaii for 30 years, said he had seen the phenomenon only once before- and that it signaled the whale was giving birth. “We counted 20 slaps, and then it stopped,” Paul says. “Sure enough, a few moments later this miniature spout, like something from a garden hose, comes out of the water, and a life was born.”
Paul’s perch between the 14th and 15th holes was an ideal vantage for witnessing the spectacle. But at Kukui`ula- where every hole offers ocean views- the splendors of the Garden Island are always on display. Opened in June, the course is part of the Kukui`ula private resort community, a 1,010-acre development on a mountainous stretch just five minutes west of Poipu Beach. A former sugar plantation, the property is tactfully being transformed into an exclusive retreat with plantation-style cottages (from $2.2 million to $3.6 million) and custom homesites (from $800,000 to about $4 million). Eleven homes have been completed thus far, as has a striking $100 million hub that overlooks Kukui`ula Bay and includes a 20,000-square-foot spa, restaurants, swimming pools, a family-themed game room, and the golf clubhouse.
Though a private members’ community, Kukui`ula will open to visitors on a limited basis beginning this fall. Guests will be able to stay in one of an eventual 50 cottages (from about $1,000 per night) within walking distance of the clubhouse area. Visitors will have member-style access to all of Kukui`ula’s amenities, most notable Weiskopf’s 18-hole gem.
Generously spread over 216 acres, Kukui`ula is a shining example of what a resort-community course should be, with stunning scenery and endless variety. “You never have the same experience twice,” Paul says. “Weiskopf’s challenge was to design a course that played fair and fun in a trade wind, a Kona wind [in the opposite direction], or on a dead-calm day.”
Regardless of the weather, the all-paspalum-grass course is always in top form. At Kukui`ula’s debut last summer, Weiskopf remarked that it was in the best opening-day condition of any of his 60-plus courses worldwide. The gloriously groomed track is bordered throughout by flora, including crown flowers along the sixth hole, citrus trees off the 10th fairway, and a small banana and pineapple grove near the 14th tee.
Kukui`ula also cultivates flowers, fruits, and vegetables at a private farm located in the hills above the course, where a 20-acre lake is surrounded by hiking and biking trails. Outdoor-minded members can further explore Kauai with Kukui’ula’s Island Pursuits team, which leads activities ranging from ocean fishing and stand-up paddling to kayaking and, in winter months, whale watching.
Golfers, of course, can simply search for humpbacks from the comfort of their carts. “Right about December is when you can hope to spot your first whales,” Paul says. “By March, you almost don’t even mention it anymore.”
Robb_Report_February (pdf download)