Making Hawaii Golf No. 1

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - December 03, 2008
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Greg Nichols at the PGA Championship with Parker McLachlin, Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger and Scott Head

Golfers of Hawaii know how much we’re all facing tough economic times - but they aren’t taking the challenge lightly.

Faced with the prospect of being caught in a virtual economic sand bunker, the local golf industry is blasting out with big news.

First, industry stakeholders will meet at Koolau golf course in Kaneohe Dec. 9 to discuss the issues and challenges of today and to form a Hawaii Golf Industry Council. Attendees to the conference will include not only local golfing professionals and golf equipment distributors and other leaders in the golfing world, but also leaders from the market segments that directly or indirectly impact the golf industry - including people from the hotel and hospitality industries, visitor and tourism, real estate and development, advertising and public relations, and transportation.

“Hawaii should be the No. 1 golf destination in the country and in the world. How do we drive that message?” says Greg Nichols, Ko Olina Golf Club general manager and a 30-year veteran in the Oahu marketplace.

The second bit of big golfing news may help drive that message right down the fairway.


Just after the first of the year, local golfers and golfers from around the country and the world, should be excited to hear that a new golf course will be opening up in Ewa Beach in January. That’s when the new Ernie Els-designed course at the brand new Hoakalei Country Club will put out its first tee boxes.

“Hoakalei Country Club is not just a golf course, it’s the first private country club to open on Oahu in the past 30 years and the only private club located in West Oahu,” says Kris Kitt, the new general manager at Hoakalei. “Where else can you play an Ernie Els-designed course?”

The answer to that question is “not on Oahu - until now.” Kitt, along with owners and developers of Hoakalei, are hoping that Els’popularity both in Hawaii and around the globe will bring golfers to the beautiful West Oahu ocean-front locale.

“Ernie designs courses in the most exotic locations,” says Kitt. “He designed Hoakalei to host a PGA event in the future, but also made sure it would be enjoyable for players of all levels. His design ensures the course will never play the same from one day to the next - and even non-golfers will be mesmerized by the incredible scenic views.”

The grand opening of Hoakalei - with Els himself on hand - will be Jan. 12, 2009. The inaugural Els Hoakalei Cup one-day charity tournament will be held the next day, Jan. 13.

Despite the obvious excitement of a new course opening up, the realities of today’s economy and the effect on both the travel industry and the golf industry has local officials concerned. Insiders from both worlds, along with local marketing and political leaders, will be on hand for the Hawaii Golf Industry Conference Dec. 9.

“With the challenges we’re facing now, it’s important that we come together and work together,” says Nichols. “Because of what’s going on right now, the timing is very good for this conference.”

Nichols notes that other states, including Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico and California, are battling Hawaii in an ultra-competitive golf marketplace. With dollars shrinking, he feels it’s especially important for local stakeholders to meet in a setting like this.

The first part of the conference will be a release of informational data that could be used as a foundation.

“It’s exciting,” he says. “We’ve finally been able to commission an economic impact report for the state that truly reflects the effect the golf industry has on the state. At our first conference 10 years ago, we had a hypothesized estimated impact. Here we are 10 years later and we’ve created a real economic impact. That’s very important.”

With the conference just days away, the deadline for registration is Dec. 3. Call the Aloha Section PGA at 593-2230 or Greg Nichols at 686-9052.


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