The 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii home course, Waialae Country Club, is a dramatic change from the expansive (and seemingly all downhill) Coore and Crenshaw fairways of the Plantation Course at Kapalua on the island paradise of Maui. Waialae Country Club is relatively flat and has narrow landing areas, an old-school Seth Raynor design, on the island paradise of O’ahu. These two scenic courses on islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean couldn’t be more of a contrast in styles.
While Kapalua has hosted the Tournament of Champions since 1999, you may only know Waialae Country Club from the first-ever U.S. golf N64 game "Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics" that came out in 1998.
Waialae Country Club architecture and history
Opened in 1927 (didn’t know people were playing golf in Hawaii that long ago), Waialae Country Club was initially designed by one of the Golden Age architects, Seth Raynor. After apprenticing to America’s first great architect Charles Blair (C.B.) Macdonald, Raynor went on to design numerous great courses that are known specifically for great expressions of template holes (Redan, Biarritz, Punchbowl, etc.) and strategic nuance. Among them are The Course at Yale, Fishers Island Club and Shoreacres.
There have been various, relatively minor renovations (lengthening holes, changing the location of a green or hole) at Waialae Country Club between 1927 and 1992, when Desmond Muirhead made additional changes and renovated the course into how it plays today.
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During the Sony Open, Waialae Country Club's nines are flipped. That means Tour players actually start on what members play as the 10th hole.
The course record is 61, last shot by Justin Thomas in 2015. Scoring well at Waialae Country Club all depends on how the trade winds are blowing. Much like a links course, the wind can be a real problem for players. It also isn’t helpful that these fairways aren’t 60-plus yards wide, as they are at Kapalua. There is more of a premium put on driving accuracy over length. The greens are more traditional and less severe in sloping. However, they're faster than Kapalua.
Waialae Country Club: Key holes
Hole 4 (Apiki): This hole has a Biarritz green complex with a large swale that bisects the center of the green. Flighting and playing the ball to correct portion of the green is imperative to avoid a potential 3-putt.
Hole 7 (Upiki): This hole is modeled after the Short sixth hole at the National Golf Links of America with bunkers surrounding the front and sides a pretty large green complex. Selecting the right club in the wind puts a premium on accuracy at this seemingly easy par 3.
Hole 16 (Welo): This hole might be home to one of the most iconic island golf course photos in the world with it’s ‘W’ palm trees behind the green.
Hole 17 (Alae): This hole is considered WCC’s signature hole which features a Redan-style green complex that requires anywhere from a short to long iron depending on the wind. It sits along the ocean making it TV-ready.