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Passage in Paradise

Kiele was the overwhelming favorite of Sam and Russell. Despite a half-dozen holes that the kids called "ball eaters," Kiele was perfectly playable for them from the 5,417-yard women's tees. Since every par three is between 100 and 130 yards, the kids knew they'd have several holes where they might reach the greens in regulation and have chances for pars or bogeys. Kiele also has red-tee par fours of just 295, 280, 279 and 255 yards, though others are as long as 380. By the back nine, Sam was hitting his drives so confidently that his delighted dad suddenly realized he might have acquired a partner for life.

Kiele actually seemed to increase the boys' confidence, especially the superb greens, sometimes praised as the best in Hawaii. Kids know quality. "These greens are smoother than the other courses," said Sam, who didn't yet understand that you aren't supposed to sink a forty-foot seagoer every round. So he just lined up, fired away and kept doing it.

The drive from Poipu Bay to Kiele takes you from a superior seaside links to a kind of Nicklaus ode to heavenly Hawaiian golf moderation--not too hard, not too easy, totally spectacular. But when you head north, hold on to your ego. The forty-five-minute drive from Kiele to Princeville is like traveling to another golf planet. The Prince is out of this world.

Tiger Woods has called the Prince one of the best courses in the world. Many experts rank it in America's top fifty, as well as number one in Hawaii. Perhaps nowhere are there as many thrilling shots in a span of eighteen holes. If I were a scratch golfer, the Prince might be my favorite course--anywhere. However, my idea of a fine day on a tough course is eighties, not seventies, and if put under enough pressure, my game can fall apart.

The Prince is pure pressure. The tension starts on one as you stand on a mountain, look down at a sliver of fairway carved out of the tropics and realize that, thanks to a double dogleg, a prevailing crosswind, a nasty creek and a gorge, you have no idea where you're going or how you're supposed to get there. You think, And this might be what--a par eleven, perhaps?Actually, just a par four. But you won't make four. Believe me.

All around the Prince, I rhapsodized in the rain. Look at this eye-popping par four with the tee elevated a hundred feet above the fairway! Have you ever seen a more dramatic par five than this monster, where you have to hit over two chasms deep enough to conceal a family of T-rexes?Every time I'd go off on such a riff, Paul would say, "You love it because you're playing your best. If you hit the ball like you did yesterday, you'd have quit by now."

Almost every hole at the Prince has some disgustingly enviable view of Bali Hai, the sweeping Anini Beach or Queen Emma's Bluffs. However, the first four holes of the back nine stay locked in your mind like Amen Corner or the seventh through tenth holes along the cliffs at Pebble Beach.


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