Get within putting distance of golf’s greatest   16 DEC 2009: Usually major golf tournaments are easier and more enjoyable to watch on television. The exception to this rule is the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game held on the Ka’anapali Royal Course in Maui (coming January 16 and 17). Now here’s a chance to rub elbows with some of the world’s best professionals. The 2010 teams are: Fuzzy Zoeller and Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, Gary Player and Loren Roberts, Fred Couples and Nick Price. That’s truly an all-star line-up.


“Well I guess we’ll be going on a shopping spree at the Louis Vuitton store,” quipped Fuzzy Zoeller’s wife who was standing beside me last year when hubby sunk a 35-foot birdie putt on number four.

Indeed, the $30,000 “Skin” would certainly buy a few Vuitton totes. The ever wisecracking Fuzzy credited his partner and “caddie” Ben Crenshaw for the perfect read. At the end of the game, Fuzzy and Ben were the 2009 champs. But they had tough competition. Contenders included Gary Player, Bernhard Langer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Jay Haas.

I don’t know where else you can be within putting distance of some of golf’s greatest for free. That’s right, the public is encouraged to come out walk the course and there’s no admission fee.

There was plenty of hobnobbing off the course too. Folks at the fitness centre at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa got to watch a very spry Gary Player doing one-arm push-ups. Recent newlyweds Greg Norman and Chris Evert were spotted holding hands while jumping off the fabled Black Rock. (Ed note: Unfortunately wedded bliss was mind-bogglingly short-lived and the newlyweds are soon-to-be-exes)

Insider information tells me that the VIP’s had some special room service requests. Norman specified certain white wines (probably his own). Player wanted lots of fruit and mineral water. But the preferred “breakfast of champions” for Fuzzy was Absolut vodka and Cheetos.

Home to six world-class hotels, five condominium and vacation club resorts, a beachfront shopping complex, the historic Sugar Cane Train, and 36 holes of championship golf greens and what’s being called “the best beach in America,” there’s probably something to suit most of your client’s budgets at Ka'anapali.

Incidentally, Ka’anapali, once the playground of Hawaiian royalty, was the first planned resort community in Hawaii. They got a lot of things right. You can stroll along a beach path from one property to another and over to Whaler’s Village for some retail therapy and dinner at Hula Grill. You’ll have plenty of shopping and dining choices.

Ka’anapali also provides free shuttle service between properties and into Lahaina so a rental car might not be necessary, unless your clients want to explore the island and more of its fabulous fairways.

When it comes to the world’s best golf destinations Maui’s scorecard is a winner.

Once the big shots have finished their Skins, you’ll want to take a swing on Ka’anapali’s Royal course where course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. took advantage of the rolling terrain to create undulating fairways. The result is that flat lies are few and far between.

Arnold Palmer commented that the par-four finishing hole was one of the most challenging he’d ever played.

On Ka’anapali’s southern Kai course architect Arthur Jack Snyder’s premise is that golf should be fun. The good times begin on the par-five number one that oozes with birdie potential. This par-71 course is very user friendly but it’s no waltz in the park. The fairways are relatively tight and those prevailing trade winds need to be factored into your course strategy.

Further south on Maui’s west coast, the Wailea Golf Club encompasses two clubhouses, a twelve-acre training facility and three 18-hole layouts�the Blue, Emerald and Gold Courses. Both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine named Wailea one of the nation’s finest golf resorts, recognizing not only the quality of the courses but also the caliber of the destination.

North of Ka’anapali, the Kapalua Resort boasts 36 holes of outstanding golf at the Bay and Plantation courses (home of the PGA Tour season opener Mercedes-Benz Championship).

If your clients’ are looking for some superb golf at bargain prices, send them to The Dunes at Maui Lani, listed as “one of the five best-kept secret golf courses in America by Golf Digest.

Mid-day green fees in high season are US$99. Imagine playing a course that feels like a Scottish links but you’re in a tropical paradise.

Kahili, another unknown gem, plays along the slopes of the West Maui Mountains. Twilight rates are US$85.

After a round of golf my favourite time on Maui is at sunset when the sky turns tangerine and magenta, the birds go into a chirping frenzy in the trees, tropical flowers perfume the air and the traditional torch lighting ceremony ushers in a magical evening.

This is best enjoyed with a cocktail, preferably garnished with an umbrella.

Ka’anapali’s Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa’s Three for Free deal offers every third night free, plus breakfast and upgrade. Rates start at $415 per night, plus tax (free night deducted at check-out).


Wendy's Skins 2009 champs, Ben Crenshaw and Fuzzy Zoeller

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Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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