PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

Big Island: Rain Delay

December 20, 2009

The beverage cart girl called it. "There's a big storm coming in from Maui," she said. That was on the eighth hole of the Mauni Lani Resort's South Course. By the end of the 10th hole (like moths to a flame) golfers in carts were racing for cover. If you weren't rubbin', you weren't racin'. I was one of the lucky moths who made it. Some weren't so lucky. "It never rains on this side of the island," said one casual observer. The kiss of delay, you might say. Four hours later, and after a little bit of NFL, I resumed the round. The efficient lava rock drainage was impressive. There were pockets of puddles, but other than that, carts were free to roam the fairways with relative ease.

Locals will say the South Course is one of the best on the Big Island. It's pricey ($260) and it's non-pretentious (serve your own coffee, creamer in packets, grumpy starters, no GPS) but it's a fun ride. Only a few holes are along the ocean, but the ones that are, they're memorable. After I left the 15th hole, I tweeted: "If you blur your eyes and spin yourself around seven times, it almost looks like a variation of the 16th at Cypress."

The day started, at 7:15, with some spiritual cloud coverage:


And perseverance paid off. Four hours later I discovered, by the light of a standard steamy Hawaiian sun, the back nine was even better than what I'd say is a solid front nine. Several slight doglegs, mild undulating greens, pristine conditioning (even in the wake of a fierce storm), some sweet scenery--the course is perfectly interesting and vulnerable to a good score. The collective good cheer almost made me forget the course is too pricey for my public-golf blood.

Here's a picture of the 15th hole:


In the end: I made four birdies, two doubles and carded a 75 in what was my first 10-hour round.

Look for more about my trip to the Big Island in upcoming blogs and in a Golf Digest Away Game next year.

--Matty G.