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Hawaiian Hallmark

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Photo: Courtesy of Mauna Kea Resort

Two years after an earthquake rendered parts of its landmark hotel structurally unsound, the Mauna Kea Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii has undergone an extensive renovation. The $150 million project updated the guest rooms at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and the golf course but at the same time preserved the mid-century character of the resort, a hallmark of exoticism when it opened in 1965.

Working in the footsteps of his father, Robert Trent Jones Sr., who carved the seaside layout out of a field of lava, Rees Jones replaced the common Bermuda grass with newer hybrids to produce tighter fairway lies and faster, smoother greens. He also added two hundred yards, relocated fairway bunkers and enhanced what he called his father’s “windswept and sculptured” bunker style (as it turns out, to a degree that poor irrigation had prevented the elder Jones from achieving originally). But over all, Mauna Kea’s lay-of-the-land holes appear much as they always have. “It’s not a contrived golf course,” Rees Jones says. “And you can see the ocean from every hole—you know where you are.”

The same can be said of the hotel. Developed by Laurance S. Rockefeller, the building is celebrated for its open-air architecture and its connection to the natural surroundings. John Hara, a Honolulu-based architect, enlarged the traditionally small guest rooms, often by converting three of them into two. He also replaced the louvered doors that lead out onto the large porches, or lanais, with clear glass to allow in more light. “The key concept here is understatement,” says Hara, “and we tried to remain true to that.”

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