The story of Waialae
By Neville Leck Last updated: 7th January 2014
The Waialae Country Club's championship golf course where the US PGA Tour's Sony Open is to be staged this week, is a private members club that was opened for play on February 1, 1927.
The first Hawaiian Open golf tournament sanctioned by the US PGA Tour, was held in the fall of 1965, but Hawaiian Opens (under various sponsorships) have, in fact, been played at Waialae since 1928.
In those by-gone days the club was known as the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Waialae Golf Course and had been built by the Territorial Hotel Company on land leased from the Bernice P. Bishop Estate as part of a promotional program to develop and grow the luxury travel market in Hawaii.
A luxury passenger liner, the Malolo, was also built and launched as part of the promotional program.
Seth Raynor, a world renowned golf architect of the time, and associate Charles Bank were the men charged with designing the course and supervising its construction.
The designers incorporated holes from some of the world's most famous courses in putting together a layout that, despite it's changes down the years, has always been rated at the top of Hawaii's best courses list.
The par three 13th, for example, is designed along the lines of a hole on the Biarritz Course in France.
Waialae's 8th hole is a carbon copy of the famous Redan hole on the North Berwick Course in Scotland.
Its16th hole is similar to the 6th hole of the National Course at Southampton on Long Island, New York
The 10th Hole introduces features taken from the 17th or Road hole at St. Andrews in Scotland.
Local players were able to use the course, and by payment of annual fees, became "privilege card holders" of the Waialae Golf Club.
On September 29, 1930, a group of these Waialae players formed a private club within the Waialae Golf Club which they called Waialae Country Club. The group was formally organized and by-laws were formally adopted.
It enlarged a small service building close to the main clubhouse, installed showers, and had its own clubhouse where a swimming pool is now situated.
The great depression of the 1930s severely reduced travel and bankrupted the Territorial Hotel Co.
Matson took over the obligations and interests of the Territorial Hotel Co but during these years play on the course was mainly confined to privileged card holders, most of whom were members of Waialae Country Club.
In 1941, fire destroyed the Waialae Pavilion which was used by Waialae Golf Club for dining and dancing and before it could be rebuilt the United States had entered World War II and the military had requisitioned the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and installed numerous military defenses along Oahu's coastline including on the golf course at Waialae.
After the war the military rebuilt the Waialae Pavilion in payment for the heavy use they had made of the golf course and other associated facilities during the war.
Another fire destroyed the old Waialae Country Club clubhouse in 1952, but through the ingenious conversion of the military structure into kitchen and dining facilities, and the building of some new locker rooms, Waialae was back in full operation within twenty-four months after the fire.
Tennis courts, a swimming pool and new parking units were added in 1958 and Waialae finally became a Country Club in fact, as well as in name.
But it was not the end of its saga of change.
Another fire and sales of land by the lease holders and the development of hotels like the Kahala Hilton Hotel and beach apartments on some of its sea-side fairways forced the Waialae Country club to make a host of other changes and for its members to learn to live with change that continues even today as the course and the club's other faculties are constantly upgraded.
Today it is an exclusive, private club where, aside from it's commitments to the US PGA Tour and the Sony Open, only members and their guests are allowed to play on it.
THE GOLF COURSE
Waialae's par-70, 18-hole championship course which nestles between the spectacular Koolau mountain range in the north and stunningly blue Pacific Ocean in the south has Bermuda type grasses on both its fairways and greens and is 7,068 yards off the back tees.
The course rating is 72.1 from the regular tees.
It features a natural stream and a lake which come into play on a good many of its holes.
For a course tour please click here
Apart from such regular golf club features as a driving range and other practice facilities, a club bar and lounge and locker rooms and showers, the Waialae Country Club also offers its members and their guests:
- Three hardcourt tennis courts and a practice court
- A swimming pool
- An up-to-date fitness centre offering its men and women members a wide range of exercise facilities
- Dining & banquet facilities
- A golf retail shop which is open to the public
- Phone: (808) 734-2151
- Fax: (808) 734-4791
- Mailing address: 4997 Kahala Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816
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