Finally, Good News For Pali Golfers

Don Chapman
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June 27, 2007
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You may recall a strongly worded column I wrote on Feb. 7, “The Sad State Of City Golf Courses,” after playing Pali and West Loch and finding their conditions deplorable - with large areas of dead grass and bare dirt on putting greens and fairways.

Pali, which I’ve been playing and enjoying since 1984, was especially tragic - like seeing a loved one with a terminal illness slowly wasting away.

As I said then, when playing a muni I don’t expect the perfectly manicured conditions of, say, a Mauna Lani or a Kapalua course. But I do expect an actual golf course with actual grass on fair-ways and greens.


Now there’s good news to report for fellow Pali fans. Here’s how I stumbled upon it.

While chatting last Thursday at the MidWeek/Star-Bulletin Hawaii’s Best awards party at the Honolulu Design Center with my old friend John Fuhrman, who runs the city’s Blaisdell Center and the Waikiki Shell, he introduced me to his boss, Sidney Quintal, director of the Department of Enterprise Services.

“Don Chapman!” he said. “You’re the guy who wrote all that stuff about Pali Golf Course!”

That’s me, I said, and it’s true, Pali’s condition is really crappy.

“I’m the guy in charge of it,” he said.

Well, how do you do?

It turns out that column was well-read at Honolulu Hale.

“I won’t say that it was the sole reason for what’s happening, but it did get some people’s attention at City Hall,” Sidney said.

People, I inferred, like Mayor Mufi.

Whatever the case, Sidney said that column helped prompt some changes. The most dramatic is that this week public bids close for the job of redoing each of Pali’s 18 greens.

“We’re bringing in all new turf,” Sidney said excitedly.

He said they’re going all out, and that the course will be closed for a month.

He also said that he’s now having weekly meetings with his course superintendents, and doing regular observation tours of each of the city’s six golf courses.

The other great news for Pali golfers is that Sidney has hired Leighton Wong, the guy who kept Royal Kunia green and alive during the bare-bones decade the City Council shut it down after the former Japanese owner went bankrupt and did not pay the multi-million-dollar “use fee” the city demanded. Leighton knows how to take care of a golf course on a limited budget and is the perfect guy for the mayor’s policy of not creating anything if it can’t be properly maintained.

With Leighton there, I see great things ahead for one of my favorite courses. In fact, I’ve

always said Pali has the capacity to be one of the top 10 courses in Hawaii if it just received decent maintenance, and could be to Honolulu what legendary Harding Park is to San Francisco

Anyway, Sidney promised that when the new greens are ready he’d invite me out to play, and he hoped that I’d write about that experience.

You can count on it.


I also mentioned to Sidney that I’d recently played West Loch again, as well as Makalena. West Loch was improved, though with still too many patches of bare dirt in fairways. Makalena’s greens were remarkably good, and the course is vastly improved from the last time I played it.

By the way, Sidney and John were at the bash for Hawaii’s Best (as voted by our readers) to receive the award for best venue to hear live music, which went to the Waikiki Shell - a real shocker there, eh.

They were also pleased to report that they have the funds to replace seats at the Shell.

That’s a good thing too, because the last time I sat there for a concert - Bonnie Raitt last winter - many seats were dangerously rickety and rusting with sharp metal edges. They’re at least as bad as the seats at UH’s Les Murakami Stadium, and that’s saying something.

But that’s another column.

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