Mixing practice, play and the beauty of Hawaii
By: Scott Kramer
Hawaii may be laid back, but that doesn’t stop some savvy PGA Professionals from taking action to find unique ways to transform their ranges into a source of revenue. On the “Garden Isle” of Kauai, for instance, two top facilities found a way to put people on the range and course when they would have otherwise been empty.
At Princeville Makai Golf Club on the island’s North Shore, PGA Head Professional Tom Freestone has dubbed Monday evenings at the range Mahalo Monday Mixers. Golfers pay $75, come down to the range for an hour of group or personal instruction from PGA Teaching Professional Andrew Schmidt, and then get to go play the course’s three most popular holes – No. 3 overlooking Hanalei Bay, the short par-4 sixth and No. 7 that goes over a gorgeous cove – that cradle the ocean. Furthermore, that lets the golfers take in some beautiful Hawaiian sunsets.
“After an hour on the range getting a good basic golf swing down, Andrew takes them out on a threehole golf lesson in a scramble format,” says Freestone. “It’s a great format for beginner golfers to see and experience the three most-scenic holes on the course. As a beginner, it really helps to try to take their swing out onto the golf course. The whole idea is to get beginners out on the course in a fun environment, so that their first on-course golf excursion is seeing maybe the most beautiful golf holes in the world. They’re with the professional who’s showing them the dos and don’ts, but also making sure they’re having a fun, energetic experience that isn’t going to ruin golf for them forever.
“A lot of beginners come to a resort, tee off at 9 a.m. after breakfast, and their first experience is a group of golfers coming up behind them on the first tee box. Then the beginner gets nervous, and by the first fairway a player assistant is already telling them they’re behind. It becomes a pressured, embarrassing and frustrating golf experience. The goal of the Mahalo Mixer is to make sure they have a wonderful first experience on the golf course, guided by a professional so that they keep coming back.”
The price includes rental clubs, the hour-long instruction and some Prosecco at the end of the night to enjoy the sunset.
At Poipu Bay Golf Club on the south end of the island, the course offers golfers a $45 special “Practice and Play” package that lets them come onto the range from 3-5 p.m., hit all of the range balls they want and then go play the course’s first three holes afterwards. “For ‘Practice and Play,’ we typically convert hotel guests,” says PGA Head Professional Chad Dusenberry. “They don’t bring their clubs out to Hawaii because they weren’t initially expecting to play. So they pay $10 to use rental clubs in the ‘Practice and Play’ program and then they hit range balls and play the three holes. By the time they get to No. 3 and see the ocean view, they want to see more of the course. So we usually convert a couple of rounds from every program.”
Both courses say that as many as 10 golfers show up for these programs. Now that’s capturing the Aloha Spirit.