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United States [April 2007] – Day 6

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Categories: Flashback, Trip 2007-2, USA, Tags: , ,

Following an enjoyable luau, we continue on from Day 5.

Sunday 8th of April

Lana'i

We started the day waking amidst the picturesque and tranquil surrounds of the Four Seasons hotel and resort – not a bad way to start the day!

It turns out that there are two Four Seasons on Lana’i in two separate locations – “Lana’i at Manele Bay”, where we were staying, and “Lana’i at The Lodge” which is up in the hills near Lana’i City.  The latter – The Lodge – is adjoined to the Koele golf course, and there is a regular shuttle bus which allows guests to travel between the two sites on a regular basis.

Lana'i at The Lodge
[ C/- Four Seasons ]

The Experience at KoeleAfter a relaxing lunch at the main building, we booked our round at “The Experience at Koele” which is an international resort course, designed by Greg Norman.

It is one of two major courses on the island, the other being “The Challenge at Manele” which was designed by Jack Nicklaus.

Both courses are internationally renown and respected for their unique designs.  The Challenge is considered to be the tougher of the two courses, so we opted for the slightly less difficult option.

Lana’i at The Lodge

We took the shuttle bus up to “The Lodge” early with our golfing mate Tim Litton (who has a very respectable handicap).  Before journeying on to the course proper, we had some time to explore this other Four Seasons location.

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Lana’i at the Lodge

I think it could best be described as “an English hunting lodge in the middle of a Hawaiian island”, incredibly picturesque, from the carefully manicured lawns, to the shapely ponds and water  features and the lodge style furnishings.

After we explored a bit, it was time to make our way out to the golf course.

The Experience at Koele

Koele Golf Course

We made our way to the clubhouse and found the pro shop where we paid for our round.  Let’s just say that a round of golf at resorts like this are pretty pricey and leave it at that, shall we?

For our trouble, we received a little baggy containing ball markers, tees and a pencil, plus a decent quality score card.  I also bought a colour guide to each hole as a souvenir.

As our tee times had been pre-booked, we were pretty much ready to go straight up to the first tee and begin our round.

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Rob strikes on the 1st tee

The course is remarkable, not just because it’s been finely tuned from a design perspective, but because it incorporates three different climate zones.  This is reflected throughout in the temperature and altitude variations.

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Tim tees off / Judging his next shot

I won’t post details about how we scored – too embarrassing – but we didn’t lose too many golf balls, and just generally enjoyed the spirit of playing on a world-class course.

The golf carts included GPS and on-board LCD displays – which was the first time I’d seen this feature in action.  There was a menu option which allowed you to report a missing club, or have food brought out to your position!

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In-cart GPS and LCD monitor

It was beautiful scenery as far as the eye could see.  Some holes were markedly more difficult than others, and the rough – as wide as the fairways were, there still was plenty of it – was very dense and lush.  Tim often went exploring and discovered huge hidden caches of top quality golf balls.

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Expansive fairways

There was one hole (the 8th) where the green was on a little island, surrounded by sand traps (pictured above, left).  The climate changed as we progressed through the eighteen holes.

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The 8th hole featured a tiny island

At one point it started raining – a fine mist drizzling down as we hit a tropical rainforest climate!  We continued onwards, with Tim and I playing from the Men’s tees and Toni from the Ladies’ until we reached the signature hole on the course: the 17th.

The 17th Hole

This finely designed hole had it all – difficulty, views, elevation and worst of all: awe factor.

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The stunning 17th hole

Here’s one description of the amazing 17th:

The signature hole of the Experience at Koele, this 390-yard par 4 presents a spectacular 200-foot drop in elevation from tee to green. This hole is nestled in the deepest and most magnificent gorge on the Island of Lanai.

It’s sure to become one of the most spectacular and talked-about golf holes in the world. The green is guarded to the right by a 70-foot sentinel eucalyptus, so be warned to play your drive to the left. (Oh yes, trade winds usually blow to the right.)

To be honest, it was a little tricky to photograph, but you’ll have to try and imagine what it was like staring down above some 200-foot drop to admire (and worry) about the tiny green below.

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I actually had a great tee shot and my ball ended up just past the first sand trap on the right.  It was an amazing hole to play (I think I ended up bogeying).

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The 18th hole was very well crafted too, with great use of water features as a backdrop, not far from the clubhouse.  As we played through the final hole, I took a few more photos of the surrounds.

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A picturesque course

We revisited the first hole on our way back to the clubhouse, where I took some shots of the tee markers and the stone plaque adorning the tee location.

The Wrap-Up

Once we returned to the club house, we ate lunch watching over the first tee as much older Americans hooked and sliced their shots off into the deep, lush tropical forest.

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Afterwards, we returned to The Lodge and made our way onto the shuttle bus back to Manele Bay.  Toni was tired from the round, with her cold not helping things.

As I recall, we ate at the resort that night and then spent the evening in the first floor lounge playing poker and shuttle board.  Toni had to call it an early night on account of her cold and fatigue.

The next day features more exploration of this small Hawaiian island..

To be continued on Day 7.

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United States [April 2007] – Day 4

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Categories: Flashback, North America, Trip 2007-2, USA, Tags: , ,

Following on from a more pedestrian Day 3

Friday 6th of April

Today was our R&R day hanging out in the local Kona region.  No big trips in the car, and as we were flying out of the Big Island the next day – just a leisurely day.

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Day 4 – Kona Region

In the morning, before we ventured out, I took a few photos from around the resort before we decided to head out for breakfast.  The previous few days, we’d had breakfast at the resort – but we were up later and missed it on this day.

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So I took Toni out and she “enjoyed” her first ever breakfast at a Denny’s.  That done… we explored the local area.  You can see from the map above, we weren’t that far from the resort, and we had to be back in the afternoon as we had a round of golf booked.

We had a look a the “Hulihee Palace” which had been fairly badly damaged by an earthquake in 2006 – just over six months prior to our visit.  The entrance fee was a princely $15/pp and access was limited to the downstairs floor only – so we decided to move on.

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Hulihee Palace / Hale Halawai Park

We found our way south, at Hale Halawai Park which features a community hall, and a bright feature wall pictured above.  Just south of the park was another interesting building which we’d driven past a few times – the Wyland Galleries of Hawaii.

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Wyland Galleries of Hawaii / Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Next to this modern waterfront building was a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant, so we decided to have lunch.  The food was fine, and the atmosphere was laid back.

After we’d eaten, we hit a few more shops in downtown Kona – one visitor’s centre featured a large Macaw who was quite friendly.  They also had a large 3D map on the wall outside which was a little damaged, but really illustrated the volcanoes well.

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Visitor’s Centre / 3D Map of the Volcanoes

I went shopping at Hilo Hattie’s which is a local chain, and purchased a straw hat, a real Hawaiian shirt (made in Hawaii) and a plastic pretend ukulele so I could participate in a Hawaiian-dress themed event on the weekend.

We eventually drove back to the resort and got our golf gear ready for 18 holes of golf on the Kona Country Club’s Mountain Course.  The most obvious and striking thing about the course is that most of the holes are framed by old lava.


Kona Country Club/Mountain Course [Photo: http://hawaiiteetimes.com]

Shanking a ball left or right would have the ball bounce very randomly – and in my experience, many times back onto the fairway!  Although this led to some pretty amazing unintended shots, and although the ball ended up with a decent lie, the lava would wreck havoc on any ball unfortunate to land on lava.

We had a fairly respectable round before finishing up mid-afternoon.  The course was very nice and well maintained, although a little pricey by comparison to Australian courses.

After we had returned to the resort, we did our final bag packing and checked out of the resort.  We were almost ready to fly out, but there was one more thing to do..

We found or way to a coffee plantation up around the Captain Cook area called Kona Blue Sky Coffee.  The plantation had fruits, cocoa plants and coffee plants obviously.  We were shown how coffee beans are grown and roasted, and also how decaffeinated coffee is produced.

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Kona Blue Sky Coffee Plantation / Cocoa

Kona contributes the peaberry bean:

When we pick our kona coffee (by hand) most coffee cherries contain two coffee beans nestled face to face. That’s why coffeebeans are flat on one side. But, about 3-5% of coffee cherries hold just one small oval-shaped bean instead of two flat-sided beans.

These small oval beans are called "peaberry" beans. Peaberry kona coffee is rare simply because nature makes it so. Out of every 100 bags of Kona coffee produced, only 3-5 bags will be Peaberry.

..and it produces very nice coffee.  Naturally, we bought and brought back to Oz a decent amount of Kona coffee.

Once we had finished at the plantation, we ate dinner at a local sports bar not far from the resort, before returning to the airport (refuelling and returning our hire car) and then making our return flight to Oahu.

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[ Mike, Haidi, Toni, Rob, Paulo, Don and Paulo’s girlfriend]

We made our connecting flight in Oahu and hooked up with some of our new co-workers who were also transiting to Lana’i on the same flight.  When we arrived in Lana’i, some of our bags were missing and we had to wait half an hour for the next flight to bring our missing luggage.

We boarded a hotel shuttle and found our way to the Four Seasons Lana’i where we were checked in and called it a night.  Toni had by this point discovered that she was coming down with a dose of a cold or flu, and needed to rest.

The next day, we had time to explore the resort.

Continued – Day 5.