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Player’s Guide to Puakea Golf Course: The Inside Scoop with the Director of Golf

By August 9, 2023August 25th, 2023No Comments
puakea golf course

Understanding Puakea’s Unique Course Layout

The 18-hole, par 72 layout at Puakea Golf Course caters to golfers of all skill levels. Each hole has its own unique character: picture rolling mounds, strategically placed bunkers, and water features that require precision and strategy in your golf game. Spanning close to 7,000 yards, the golf course showcases a stunning spread of foliage, creating a picturesque backdrop for a memorable round.

This is our official player’s guide to Puakea Golf Course. Get ready to tee off and level up your golf strategy at our course in Līhuʻe on the island of Kaua‘i. Scroll down for our comprehensive guide to each hole, where Puakea Director of Golf T.J. Esaki-Kua shares his insider tips to help you navigate the course like a pro. Let’s embark on this golfing journey together and unlock the secrets of Puakea.

Puakea's Director of Golf T.J. Esaki-Kua

Meet Our Director of Golf

Born and raised on Kauaʻi, T.J. has returned home with his family to take the helm at the course he practiced and played at during his junior golf and collegiate years. With a rich golfing family heritage, T.J. brings a wealth of experience to the table. As a former University of Hawai‘i athlete and winner of the prestigious 101st Mānoa Cup, T.J.’s expertise is unmatched. Having operated golf retail locations, worked with a major equipment manufacturer, and learned from industry leaders, Puakea’s Director of Golf is uniquely positioned to guide you through each challenge throughout this course. T.J.’s insider tips will help you conquer Puakea like a pro. First tip: Don’t underestimate the impact of wind on your shots.

practice green at Puakea Golf Course

Practice Makes Perfect at Puakea

Before you jump into the golf cart to begin your golfing adventure, start mastering the greens at our spacious practice facility. Our all-grass driving range boasts six target greens, framed by the Wai‘ale‘ale Mountain Range. Sharpen your chipping and pitching skills in our dedicated practice area (one of the best short-game areas on the island), complete with a large bunker. Fine-tune your putting on our expansive practice green that offers a variety of slope conditions.

A Hole-by-Hole Golf Strategy to Puakea

In our online Player’s Guide, we share the features to avoid and the hidden gems to uncover at every turn to help you improve your golf game. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor to Kaua‘i, Puakea Golf Course promises an unforgettable day out on the green.

map of puakea golf course
Hole #1
Par 4  |  404 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: Your approach shot to the green plays uphill more than it looks. The green has a bowl shape with the low spot being on the middle left part of it.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: There’s a stream running the full length of the fairway, so you’ll want to stay in the left half of the fairway. Hitting your tee shot just short of the left fairway bunker is a safe play.
Hole #2
Par 5  |  558 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This hole is a straightaway par 5 with wind usually from the right. The green is blind and slopes away from your approach shot towards the back right of the green.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Avoid the fairway bunkers with your tee shot or this can easily become an extra-long hole.
Hole #3
Par 4  |  407 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: You’ll want to hit the right yardage from the tee to avoid the pond on the left.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: The right fairway bunker is an absolute no-no. Hitting it into that particular bunker removes any chance of reaching the green in regulation, making par a lot more difficult.
Hole 3 at Puakea Golf Course
Hole #4
Par 3  |  180 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: Kaua‘i’s tradewinds affect the ball’s flight on this hole more than you might think at first. When you’re hitting into a strong wind, take even more club than you think and be sure to make a smooth swing.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Avoid the short green side bunker. With the typical wind direction, there’s a risk of the ball plugging.
Hole #5
Par 4  |  359 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This hole is a short par 4. A solid drive up the fairway should leave you already within a short approach onto the green.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Avoid the bunkers on the left. They are at an awkward distance to the green and it’s easy to overshoot or hit short when you’re trying to get out of the sand.
Hole #6
Par 3  |  176 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: As one of Puakea Golf Course’s signature holes, this challenge can play anywhere from 10-25+ yards less than actual because of the elevation and wind. Be sure to assess those factors before deciding on which club to hit.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Aim for the back half of the green, no matter where the hole location is. This will help you avoid the water.
Hole 6 at Puakea Golf Course
Hole #7
Par 4  |  389 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: Swing smoothly into the wind to avoid the ball ballooning and being pushed all over. Plan for the second shot to play significantly longer than you might expect for a par 4, because of the direction of the tradewinds.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: This is a hole that rewards caution more than risk. The fairway bunkers on the left make it nearly impossible to hit the green in two shots.
Hole #8
Par 5  |  510 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: The wind blows strong from the right and into you, especially as the ball climbs above the tree line. Be aware of that factor when hitting shots on this hole.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Hug the right side with your second shot to take a large monkeypod tree out of play for your approach.
Hole #9
Par 4  |  438 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This hole is a long, into-the-wind par 4. Don’t try to do too much because that is when you will start to make mistakes. Take what the hole gives you and move on.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: This hole has a tough fairway bunker that takes par, and possibly bogey, out of play if you end up in the sand.
Hole #10
Par 4  |  401 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This hole is a short, downwind par 4. Hit your tee shot down the left half of the fairway and land your approach shot a few yards short of the hole to allow for the rollout.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: The large pond on the right turns a relatively easy hole into a tough one. Avoid it for an easy time.
Hole #11
Par 5  |  560 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This hole is a long par 5. Give yourself the best chance to succeed with your third shot. If you’re hitting from the right fairway, you’ll want to add 20-25 yards to what you see to account for the wind and slope.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Stay left and let the wind bring the ball onto the green while avoiding the short bunkers on the right.
Hole 11 at Puakea
Hole #12
Par 4  |  397 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: The wind can be stronger than you feel. Once the ball flies above the tree line left of the green, expect the wind to knock the ball shorter and to the right.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Mind the large pond on the right for your tee shot and second shot. Stay left edge to left half, and you’ll be fine.
Hole #13
Par 3  |  228 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This hole plays shorter than the yardage by 10-15 yards, sometimes more depending on the wind. Once the ball passes the mango tree on the right of the tee boxes, the wind will push the ball to the left.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Watch out for the pond on the right and the short right bunker.
Hole #14
Par 4  |  390 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This hole is a short downwind par 4. Tee it high and let it fly! As you approach the green, your shot will roll because of the exposure to so much wind.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: If you land in the left fairway bunkers, hitting the green becomes extremely difficult.
Hole #15
Par 4  |  446 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: Hug the right side of the hole from the tee box. The wind and slope will push everything left.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Stay below the hole in your approach. This green has quite a significant slope from back to front.
Hole #16
Par 3  |  134
yards from the green tees
  • Player’s Tip: This is a short but dangerous par 3. You will usually hit downwind, which means the trees will be in play for long. Carefully assess before deciding on what club to hit. This hole can play anywhere from 10 to 18 yards less than the actual yardage.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: Avoid going long. This hole is surrounded by jungle and valleys, so you won’t be getting that ball back if it slices.
Hole #17
Par 4  |  455 yards from the green tees
  • Player’s Tip: This is a really tough par 4, so don’t try to bite more off than you can chew. Aim toward the right half of the fairway for a safe tee shot. A big bunker protects the green, so it’s better to aim for the left side if you’re unsure about reaching it. Playing it safely and strategically will help you navigate this tough par 4 confidently.
    Caution (or) Avoid: Tee shot is important. Avoid the left tree line and out of bounds. Although taking a second shot on the right side may be a little tougher, it beats taking a penalty.
Hole #18
Par 5  |  522 yards from the green tees

  • Player’s Tip: This is a long, into-the-wind par 5. Quality shots will get you there just fine. Swing smooth and don’t force anything leading to mistakes.
  • Caution (or) Avoid: The fairway bunkers right off the tee will make hitting this green in regulation very difficult. You’ll want to focus on the fairway more than the length on this tee shot.

The Good Good’s Golf Vacation in Kaua‘i

In the Spring of 2023, the Good Good YouTube stars came to play Puakea Golf Course. With over 1 million subscribers, Good Good is a leading golf YouTube platform that connects viewers and golfers through engaging videos, challenges, and competitions. Watch as the six golfers tee off alongside Puakea’s own T.J. Esaki-Kua and Casey Watabu (a local legend who played in the 2007 Masters). Take in the breathtaking views, thrilling shots, and unforgettable moments as the 2 vs. 2 vs. 2 vs. 2 18-hole challenge takes on one of the best golf courses in Hawai‘i.