PRINCEVILLE GOLF CLUB (PRINCE)
Course Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr. (1987, 1990),
Renovation by Jones Jr. (January 2011-March 2012).
Year Opened: November 1987 and August 1990
Location: Kauai, Hawaii
Slope: 140. Rating: 76.2
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 448 Yds 10 - Par 5 588 Yds
2 - Par 5 597 Yds 11 - Par 3 187 Yds
3 - Par 3 192 Yds 12 - Par 4 390 Yds
4 - Par 5 554 Yds 13 - Par 4 432 Yds
5 - Par 4 471 Yds 14 - Par 3 211 Yds
6 - Par 4 428 Yds 15 - Par 5 576 Yds
7 - Par 3 207 Yds 16 - Par 4 375 Yds
8 - Par 4 460 Yds 17 - Par 4 443 Yds
9 - Par 4 363 Yds 18 - Par 4 455 Yds
Par 36 3,721 Yds Par 36 3,657 Yds
Awards Won: Rated #22 - Golf Digest - America's 100 greatest public (2013-14),
#2 by Golf.com - Best Public Courses in Hawaii (2014),
#4 by Golf Digest - Best Courses in Hawaii (2013-14),
Gold Medal winner - Golf Magazine - Premier Golf Resort (2012),
#2 by GolfWeek - Best Courses you can play in Hawaii (2008-12),
#20 by GolfWeek - America's Best 100 Resort Courses (2012),
America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses - Golf Digest (2009-12),
Five Star rating - Golf Digest - Best Places to Play,
Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Hawaii's Best Courses (2005-06).
Key Events Held: Prince Invitational (2011-present).
HISTORY: Although the golf course only dates back to 1987, the historical
significance of the Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is paramount to
Hawaii. You see, the course is named after Prince Albert Kamehameha, the only
son of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, dating back to the 19th century.
Born in 1858, Prince Albert was considered the last line of the family dynasty
and his birth was celebrated throughout the Hawaiian Islands. He was the first
son to be born to a reigning monarch of Hawaii in 20 years, but,
unfortunately, he would be the last.
Named after the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert died just three months after
his fourth birthday. An excerpt from a Honolulu newspaper, circa 1862, read,
"Born on the 20th of May, 1858, his Royal Highness had attained 4 years, 3
months and 7 days at his death. Lovely in his appearance, with delicately
formed features and bright, intelligent, meditative eyes, he early developed
those amiable qualities of the mind which made him the idolized love of his
parents, the hope of the nation." The King and Queen were devastated, so much
so that just one year following his son's passing, the King died.
The relevance of the history of the land is that the Prince Course is royalty
in the Hawaiian Islands. This is a venue that many will strive to achieve and
few, if any, will attain.
Robert Trent Jones Jr., the son of famed course architect Robert Trent Jones,
was the mastermind behind the design of this magnificent layout.
Jones II has crafted over 270 courses around the world in more than 40
countries on six continents, but it was his work on the island of Kauai where
he put his name on the map.
After several years of honing his craft with his father, Bobby left his dad's
firm and founded Robert Trent Jones II golf course architects. Known as the
father of environmental golf course design, Jones II has designed some of the
world's finest layouts, including the site of the 2015 U.S. Open Championship
at Chambers Bay in Washington.
Jones constructed his first solo effort just next door to The Prince, the 27
holes of the Makai Golf Club. In fact, of the nine courses on the island,
Jones has designed four, but it's his work on the Prince that sets this course
apart from the rest.
"One of the beauties of it, from a golf course architect's point of view,"
said Jones, was that in the Asia-Pacific the land was the most important
thing. They gave me, as an architect, pretty much free reign on enough land to
make a good, core golf course. They gave me the opportunity to spread the
course out, and The Prince course is the ultimate in this regard. It's spread
out on steroids, or ubergolf, around 350 acres, compared to the Old Course at
St. Andrews on 90 acres."
The Prince Course is an exotic ride through rolling terrain, featuring
enormous elevation changes and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the
nearby Hihimanu mountain peak. You'll be awestruck with the many signature
holes on the Prince.
"The result, is that when you get free reign on the land, you can preserve the
natural qualities of the land," continued Jones. "This was a win-win for the
developers and the golf world. It became one of the iconic golf courses
anywhere in the world and was number one in Golf Digest's top-100 course
ratings despite being extremely remote. If you're a real golfer, you have to
play the Prince. It's exceptional."
"When we did holes No. 12 and 13 down in the deep valley, that was high risk-
taking in architectural sense, especially with the water levels the way they
were due to the constant rains in Kauai," said Jones. "It was successful and
people were ooing and aahing about the holes, so we decided to add 15 and 16
and part of 17 and drop the holes behind the clubhouse. So this was a work in
progress, even as it was being built. It was like a quarterback making and
audible over a five-year period."
Former USGA Executive Committee member James Williams has been a longtime
visitor to the island of Kauai and Princeville in particular. "It's a place
that I've loved for a long time. We saw the course being created, as we used
to ride our bikes and go hiking there before and while they were building the
course. This site and this place is truly amazing."
As the years went by, the course had grown quite difficult, not to mention
thick with vegetation. It's not called the "Garden Isle" for nothing.
In any event, the closing of the golf course in the beginning of 2011 was
crucial to the success and revitalization of the Prince Course.
"Our firm implemented a wide-ranging refreshment of The Prince," said Jones,
"that will return the golf course to its original pristine condition and its
stature as the best course in Hawaii - essentially, we've given The Prince the
royal treatment that it deserves."
Jones could have easily rested on his laurels at The Prince, but that would
have been the easy way. From top to bottom, changes were made, starting with
the complete reconstruction of the putting greens with SeaDwarf Seashore
Paspalum turf and sub-surface material to better serve the Hawaiian climate.
In addition, bunkers were added and remodeled. "We have carefully redrafted
the bunkers to improve drainage, playability and strategic value while
introducing some new tees for added shot strategy and variety," Jones added.
To stay up-to-date with modern technology, Jones added new tees on the third,
fifth and 13th, but the biggest adjustment might have been tree removal and
clearing, as this was accomplished on nearly every hole throughout the
property. The project also included some fairway adjustments. "Fairway mowing
patterns have been widened dramatically to promote a more enjoyable experience
for players of all skill levels," Jones said.
"This revitalization makes the course more flexible for a wider range of
players while still providing championship-caliber challenges for more
seasoned golfers," Jones continued. "We've completed some reshaping that will
help canny players use the slopes and ground features to their advantage, as
we intended in our original design."
When the course reopened in March 2012 after the multi-million dollar
refreshment, the positive reviews poured in. Jones was particularly pleased
with his handiwork. "We are very excited about the improvements at the course
that will further elevate the Prince's continual position in America's Top 100
"We widened the golf course to give the player more strategic options," said
Jones. "We opened up some of the entrances to the greens, rejuvenated the
grasses, especially on the greens, reoriented a few of the bunkers, removed
three and added two in different locations and changed the strategy slightly.
It's a big and very manly golf course. We have moved some tees forward and
widened the fairways, so as to soften the experience for the "have fun"
"It's such a great layout, very much a timeless layout and extremely unique,"
added former PGA general manager T.J. Baggett of the Prince Course. "It's
really one of the most unique golf courses you'll ever play."
In addition to what Jones has done in the past few years, another renovation
is in store for The Prince. Williams is certainly excited about the future of
the layout. "Improvements that he made two years ago were good with a limited
budget, but with the changes he has planned, it's just going to be jaw
"It could host significant National Championships for sure, particularly when
he completes this next renovation," continued Williams. "As it stands today,
it's just spectacular and very playable. We love going there. The Prince
Course is just off the charts."
REVIEW: Most courses open play with a relatively benign opening hole, but the
Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is not most courses. This downhill
par-4 stretches to 448 yards from the elevated tee and features thick brush
down the right side and trees flanking the left. The fairway angles to the
right, so you can play down that avenue, but do not miss right, otherwise
you're taking a drop. Your approach, most likely with a mid-iron, now must
cross a creek and marsh toward the green, which runs slightly from back to
front. The putting surface is quite long but narrow with run-offs on both
sides. Now that's a starting hole.
Following a hole without sand, the second features plenty of the fluffy stuff,
not to mention it's the longest hole on the course, a whopping 597 yards.
Here, the key is the tee shot, as you must play short of the crossing ravine
and the two bunkers down the right, roughly 300 yards from the tee. Hardly
reachable in two, your second shot is played uphill toward a fairly wide
landing area. However, the closer you climb toward the green is where the sand
on either side of the fairway comes into play. The putting surface, which sits
well above the fairway, runs hard from back to front with a tier toward the
back quadrant. Bail out to the right if you must, as a deep greenside bunker
left is treacherous.
The difficult trend continues with the par-3 third, a slightly uphill one-
shotter that reaches just under 200 yards in length. Three bunkers protect the
putting surface, which features plenty of slope. Miss short of the green, and
a false-front will repel your approach down the fairway. It's hard to believe
that this hole is rated the easiest on the course ... certainly not on my
Number 4 is a visually stunning par-5 that wraps around a lake to the right
toward the ocean. With Cook pines framing the hole, the beauty can be reached
in two, but not without risk. Depending upon which tees you play, you'll need
to avoid the water down the right and sand on the left, but with a successful
tee ball, you never know. Your approach is next, and that can be tricky, as a
large fairway bunker down the left tightens the landing area and with the
water on the right, you need to be spot on. Finally, the difficulty of the
putting surface might be the hardest aspect of the hole, as the two-tiered
green is 38 paces in length. Let's not forget that missing this green to the
right might propel your ball down the slope and into the lake. Bailing out
left is the other option, but two traps will deter that thought process.
You've played four holes and only the first ranked in the top 10 of the most
difficult on the course. That changes dramatically when you reach the fifth
tee. At 471 yards long, the fifth is the longest par-4 on the course, as it
doglegs hard to the right. Although the fairway was softened after the recent
renovation, this hole requires two solid plays to reach the green. Playing
slightly downhill off the tee, bunkers on either side of the rolling landing
area will keep you honest. In addition, a marshy area down the right, just
past the trap must be avoided. Your approach to the very long green is a
smidge uphill, so check pin placement and take the correct stick. At 43 paces,
the putting surface is hard to gauge and the deep pot bunker, both short and
left, will give you plenty of angst. Good luck!
The sixth plays downhill, not only toward the green but to the mighty Pacific
Ocean. The view is sensational, but one must focus on this straightforward
par-4. The key here is the tee ball, as the fairway features two deep bunkers
down the right and thick rough left, and the corridor narrows the further down
you take it. The smart play is to lay back short of the trouble. Yes, it will
leave a longer second, but with the slope of the hole, you'll be able to
compensate for the sensible choice. The green is fairly long and narrow with
deep traps on either side. Rising from front to back, try to keep the ball
below the hole for your best shot at birdie. A bogey is not the worst thing in
the world, especially with the waves crashing below.
As good as the first six holes were, the seventh is stupendous. A massive
par-3 of over 200 yards, this gem is all carry over a thick vegetation ravine
with the ocean roaring to your left. Another massive putting surface,
rectangular in shape is 41 paces in length, so club selection is critical.
Four strategically placed bunkers guard this dynamic green. A bail out to the
right is quite common. According to RTJ II's website, "The seventh hole has
been described as a Hawaiian version of No. 16 at Cypress Point: It plays 205
yards dead into the wind, with crashing ocean surf stretching beyond Anini
Beach along the entire left side."
The most difficult hole on the opening nine is the long, par-4 eighth.
Climbing from tee to green, the fairway has been widened to the left of the
fairway bunkers, giving the appearance of a massive landing area. Yes and no,
as the two bunkers gain plenty of attention as you survey your options. The
right side is the best play because this will open up your approach to the
green, just from a longer position. With the Hihimanu Ridge in the rear,
you'll need a long iron or fairway metal to reach the putting surface in
regulation. A miss right will find sand, while left of the two-tiered green is
the best miss. Either way, you'll be under plenty of pressure to make par.
Number 9 is a chance to get a shot back from earlier struggles in the round.
Just 364 yards from the tips, this par-4 can be attacked easily with a fairway
metal off the tee. This will set up a short wedge to a fairly long and narrow
green. Avoiding the quartet of bunkers in the landing area is of utmost
importance. A slight draw off the right is the play, as the fairway slants to
the left. The tiered green can be tricky to putt, especially with a back-left
pin location, which will bring in the deep horseshoe-shaped bunker.
The 10th is a wonderful, risk-reward par-5, although from the back tees the
chances of getting home in two are slim at 588 yards. Having said that, it's a
great hole, as it doglegs sharply to the left. Your tee shot plays slightly
uphill to a generous, rolling fairway, with sand left and right. Now the fun
begins, as the hole swings to the left and a big decision comes into play. Cut
the dogleg and cross over the ravine or play out to the right over trees to a
fairway that sits well below the fairway. The carry over the ravine is well
over 200 yards, depending upon how close you drove down the left. That's all
carry to the green. The smart play is toward the right, where the fairway
opens up, leaving just a small wedge to the very accessible green. Bunkers do
tighten the landing area, but you should be able to negotiate the shot. The
putting surface is wide and only 26 paces in depth, slightly elevated and
features many undulating sections. The good news, when you look back, you see
the Pacific Ocean. There has to be some solace in that!
The shortest par-3 on the course, No. 11 is only 187 yards from the black
markers. That, however, only tells part of the story, as the shot is uphill
the entire way to the very long and undulating green. A ravine flanks the
entire left side of the hole, so any play just off the mark will be lost. The
putting surface is two-tiered and runs from middle to back and front. A back-
left pin is diabolical, but nothing a sweeping draw can't handle. With no
trees, the wind will play havoc with your approach.
Another signature hole on the Prince Course is the dynamic 12th, a short par-4
of only 390 yards. In fact, it plays significantly shorter, as the tee box
stands some 100 feet above the green. Carved into a ravine, the fairway is
quite narrow with trees guarding both sides of the landing area. If you
thought the tee shot was difficult, your approach to the green must be spot-
on, as the green falls off on the left and has a watery jungle to the right
and rear. The putting surface is not tricky, so you'll have a shot at birdie,
that is, if you hit the green in two!
The stout 13th, which was carved into the hillside, is a picturesque par-4
which bends sharply to the right. The key to survive is the tee shot, which
must find the narrow fairway. To the left, the landing area drops off sharply,
while right is thick vegetation. By the way, driver off the tee is not needed,
as a creek crosses the fairway at the nearest point in the dogleg. Playing
slightly uphill to the green, you're faced with a difficult approach to a very
deep green that boasts sand left and a creek right. Take an extra stick and
try not to get caught up with the natural waterfall and soothing garden grotto
behind the green.
The final par-3 on the course is the longest of the quartet at 211 yards from
the back tees. Playing downhill to the green, club selection is crucial, as
dense trees and vegetation flank the left and a deep, massive bunkers protects
the right. The putting surface is long and narrow at 44 paces, reminiscent of
your left foot without the toes. Avoid the back-left pin, otherwise you might
stink this one up.
Talk about a roller-coaster ride, the 15th is all that and then some. This
winding par-5 can be stretched to 576 yards from the black markers, but it
plays considerably shorter, as it's downhill from tee to green. Split into two
quadrants, the first portion of the fairway requires placement off the tee,
not brawn, as the landing area, which slopes hard from right to left and down,
runs out at 245 yards to the green. Be careful not to roll through the
fairway, otherwise a deep ravine, thick with vegetation, will swallow your
ball. Your second shot will be a choice of two options. Going for the green is
a distinct possibility because the greens sits 40-to-50 feet below or consider
laying up to the left to the very accommodating fairway. Attacking this hole
is risky, especially with the deep falloff right, but why not, especially if
you can make an eagle three.
At first look, No. 16 seems quite benign at 375 yards, but don't be fooled.
This hole, which doglegs sharply from right to left, plays uphill from tee to
green. The fairway is user-friendly, as long as you avoid the right fairway
bunker. Make sure you take an extra club or two with your approach, otherwise
your shot might roll back down the fairway. Miss left and you'll find a deep
collection area, while the right side features a pair of bunkers. The putting
surface is only 31 paces in depth and can be quite tricky, especially if
you're above the hole. Might be the longest 375 yard hole you'll ever play.
Only 12 yards separate the 17th and 18th holes in distance; however, the
penultimate hole is rated as the second-easiest on the course. Bending from
left to right, No. 17 requires an accurate tee shot, as bunkers pinch the
landing area. Most of the trouble is well to the right, so even if you land in
sand, you shouldn't fear the consequences. The fairway has plenty of slope, so
be prepared for an uneven approach to the fairly small green, just 23 paces in
depth. In addition, the putting surface is guarded appropriately by sand and
slope, so even getting on in regulation will not guarantee a par.
The closing hole on the Prince Course is another dogleg right par-4, reaching
455 yards in length. The fairway feeds from left to right, with several
landing area bunkers to protect the short grass. Thick underbrush lines the
entire right, so avoid at all costs. A long iron or fairway metal is needed to
get home, as your approach plays uphill to the elevated green. In addition,
the putting surface is quite long and narrow with a bunker on either side for
good measure. Picturesque with the clubhouse and Mt. Namolokama in full view,
but difficult, nonetheless.
FINAL WORD: Stunning, to say the least.
The Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is spectacular, difficult,
beautiful, demanding, challenging and, yes ... stunning!
When Robert Trent Jones Jr. crafted this layout, he threw away all he learned
from his legendary father and created something so unique that you'll never
see another course in the world that parallels the Prince.
"The overall experience is that, hole after hole after hole is imaginative,"
Jones added. "It requires creative shot-making and rewards good shots and
punishes poorly thought out shots."
Yes, it's difficult with its 76.2 rating, but it's also user-friendly enough
with its minimum of five sets of tees on each and every hole. The course
ranges from 5,400 yards to almost 7,400, so there's a spot for everyone.
According to Williams, the longest holes at the Prince are some of the most
exciting on the course. "The course is fair and quite dramatic with risk-
reward after risk-reward. The collection of par-5s, are as interesting a set
of par-5s as you'll ever see."
Carved through some of the most beautiful terrain that Kauai has to offer, the
Prince Course requires some quality golf shots, avoiding thick vegetation and
navigating slopes and canyons throughout the property.
There is no letup on this course. You need to go all out, not to mention think
around the layout. Driver is not always the play and don't forget the
elements. The wind will blow and Kauai is known as one of the wettest spots on
the planet. That, however, will not dampen your golf experience, as most of
the wet stuff happens in the mountains and, guess what, that means rainbows,
rainbows and rainbows.
"The Prince has magnificent natural beauty and it has great changes in moods,"
continued Jones. "From the plateaus that are open to the trade winds, to down
in the valley with waterfall holes 12 and 13 and back down No. 15, one of the
great par-5s anywhere in the world, and yet, they're three of the holes that
have no bunkers at all. You didn't need to overdress this beautiful lady, she
was glorious to start with. She didn't need any jewelry. We just took
advantage the magnificent character of the land as it was."
Kauai is known as the "Garden Isle," and the Prince Course is as lush and
tropical as it gets. The gorgeous vegetation and the conditioning of the
course is as good as you'll find anywhere.
The overall facility is world-class, with its massive 66,000-square foot
clubhouse, 13-acre practice facility and the Prince Golf Shop, all 5,500
square feet of glory and goodies.
The practice facility is worth talking about in detail, as it features three
different teeing locations, each one adjusted to different wind conditions. It
also includes a 1,200-square-foot putting green and a 1,200-square-foot
chipping green, so if it's honing your game while away from home, this is the
spot. Just make sure your spouse is happy at the spa.
The $5 million renovation of the golf course for 13 months in 2011-12 was
critical to the Prince Course in an effort to maintain its stature as the top
golf course in Hawaii. "The Prince Course has been known as a very difficult
golf course," Baggett said. "Improving playability was the big goal. Our goal
coming in was to reopen the Prince and really raise the bar of what the
experience is and the condition of the golf course as the No. 1 golf course in
Do you want to play this course over and over again while on vacation? Well,
there are plenty of great courses on the island, but none better than The
Prince. Just make sure you play the correct tees and enjoy.
Did they accomplish their goals? Asked and answered ... YES!
"This course has the bones of greatness," added Jones. "It's like Michelangelo
speaking about the marble face of his David sculpture. It is one of the best
properties I have ever worked with."
"From a purely shot-making point of view, The Prince has pure relentless,
beautiful golf holes, hole after hole after hole. There are no weak holes at
The Prince, this is the symphony of golf, it's not pop music."