Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)


From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:

Most golf fans are familiar with Kapalua Golf Club’s Plantation Course, home of the PGA Tour's opening event each year. Located on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui, the Plantation was built from open, windswept pineapple fields on the pronounced slope of a volcano and is irrigated by sprinklers pressured solely by gravity.

As the first design collaboration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, it unveiled their joint admiration for old-style courses. The blind drive on the fourth, the cut-the-corner drives on the fifth and sixth are all based on tee shots found at National Golf Links. So, too, are its punchbowl green and strings of diagonal bunkers. It's also a massive course, built on a huge scale, Coore says, to accommodate the wind and the slope and the fact that it gets mostly resort play.

So it's a big course. But what sets it apart in my mind are the little things. When I played the course years ago with Coore, it took only one hole for me to appreciate one of its subtleties. We were on the tee of the par-3 second, an OK hole but nothing riveting, nothing like the canyon-carry par-3 eighth or the ocean-backdropped par-3 11th. The second sits on a rare flat portion of the property. The green sits at a diagonal, angling left to right, and there's a string of bunkers staggering up the right side of the green. The first bunker appears to be directly in front of the green but is actually 40 yards short of it. When pointed out to me, I called it Gingerbread. Bill disagreed.

"The wind quarters off your left shoulder from behind you," he pointed out. "The green goes ever so slightly away from you from front to back and left to right. It is a very obvious situation, given the wind condition and the angle of this green; you know you should hit a shot left-to-right to fit the shot with the green.

"But if the flag is at the front, there’s no way to fly that ball all the way to the hole and stop it close. You may stop it somewhere on the green, but nowhere within a reasonable putt. So you have to aim short of the green. They maintain the approaches so beautifully over here—firm approaches mowed at probably a quarter of an inch; you can literally putt from out there if you chose to do so.

"But that brings that first bunker in play," Coore continued. "When the flag is up front, you are absolutely required to land your ball just over that first bunker in order to get it to bounce and run to that front pin position."

Kapalua's second is a simple-looking hole with a great deal of thought behind it. I suppose a lot of present-day architects would not have placed that forwardmost bunker on the hole, in the interests of playability for high-handicap resort golfers. But most of the old-time architects probably would have used such carry bunkers, especially in the days before irrigation, when greens were hard as a rock and every approach shot had to be bounced aboard.

Another reason why studying the history of architecture might just help your score.


Holes 18
Length 7596
Price $459
Facility Type Public
Designer Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore


100 Greatest the Second 100
100 Greatest Public
Best Courses in Every State

Ranking history:

Second 100 Greatest: Ranked since 2015.
2023-'24 ranking: 149th.
Previous ranking: 139th.

100 Greatest: Ranked 2011-2014.
Highest ranking: 88th, 2011-'12.

100 Greatest Public: Ranked since the inaugural edition in 2003.
2023-'24 ranking (and previous): 23rd.
Highest ranking: No. 17, 2011-'12.

Best in State: Ranked first, 2011-'12. Ranked second 2013-'16, 2019-'20. Ranked third, 2017-'18, 2021-'22, 2023-'24.
Current ranking: 3rd.


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