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On the south Kona coastline of the Big Island, the Mauna Loa volcano blocks the northeast trade winds, making the seas calm and the rains gentle. For centuries Hawaiian civilization flourished under the rule of the resident royal dynasty, Kamehameha. At Hokulia, the eponymous new Jack Nicklaus-designed centerpiece of the latest private golf community from high-end developer Lyle Anderson, a local rule states that shots straying into marked-off areas must be left there—think of them as donations to the gods.

This is historically significant ground, which added to the usual construction headaches: Hokulia took more than a decade to complete. Throughout this 1,550-acre tract, Anderson's team had to identify and protect dozens of archaeological sites, including ancient stone walls, house platforms, walled farm enclosures, burial sites and a number of rock shrines and temples known as heiau. With these abundant reminders of the past, the property exudes spirituality, and the course, where one often encounters such sites as it wends through the volcanic-rock outcroppings and slanted terrain, does nothing to dispel the attendant calm.

Some of this Zen owes to the tranquil conditions that Nicklaus told T&L Golf "may be the best golfing weather in the world," some to the design itself. This 7,335-yard par seventy-two has some tough holes on the front side, including the par-four second, a 482-yard sweeping dogleg to a water-guarded green, but overall it's surprisingly amiable. Not surprisingly, it's gorgeous, especially from the twelfth tee onward, descending slowly toward the vastness of the Pacific.

Hokulia's master plan calls for 730 homesites of at least one acre each. Soon to come are a beach club, a spa and a hillside clubhouse offering views of the whales frolicking offshore; a second course may follow.
—James Y. Bartlett

For information about Hokulia, call 800-465-8542 or visit hokulia.com.

NOW PLAYING Moon Over Mexico

Jack Nicklaus can rightly claim to be the godfather of Mexican resort golf, with waterfront west-coast winners from Cabo del Sol to Vista Vallarta. Nicklaus's signature course at Cancun's new Moon Palace is his first on the east coast of Mexico. Located just ten minutes from the Cancun airport, it makes for a good, quick south-of-the-border getaway for northeasterners.

The new geography brought new topography: This 7,201-yard layout sits inland on a flat site amid dense vegetation, although, as Nicklaus notes, "We didn't carve this course from the jungle, we grew the jungle around it." The region is lush, and both the brush and the course have grown in quickly: Each hole plays through an isolated corridor, and the conditioning is excellent. To surmount the ordinary terrain, Nicklaus employed comprehensive bunkering and waste areas along with mucho agua.

Off the course, Moon Palace proves there is such a thing as an upscale all-inclusive megaresort, displaying first-rate service despite more than 2,000 rooms. A quick tip: The À la carte greens fees are steep, but the golf packages are a steal.
—Larry Olmsted

Greens Fees: $250. Tee Times: 800-635-1836 or visit palaceresorts.com.

COMEBACKER Tonier Harding

In 1998, golfers from around the world congregated on the fairways of San Francisco's Harding Park. Then they cut their engines, exited their rental cars and shuttled around Lake Merced to neighboring Olympic Club to watch the U.S. Open.

At the time, Harding deserved the insult. The classic city-owned course (which hosted the Tour's 1963 Lucky International Open) was in shabby shape, the victim of years of low-balled maintenance budgeting. Thanks to a fourteen-month, $16 million makeover (a total that also includes work done on its nine-hole Fleming layout), that unpaved parking lot is now looking a bit like paradise. Every inch of its old, scruffy, weedy playing surface has been torn up and replaced. New championship tees on fourteen holes have extended it to 7,202 yards. Unchanged, however, are its testing, densely treed doglegs and the stunning vistas from its seven lakeside holes.

"The goal was to make Harding the equal of Olympic," says Sandy Tatum, the longtime San Franciscan and former USGA president who spearheaded the renovation, which was done by Chris Gray of PGA Tour Design Services. "I think we've accomplished that."

That and more: Alongside Harding will soon be a sparkling new First Tee facility. Just how fetching is the reborn Harding?The course has signed a contract with the PGA Tour to host three events in the next ten years, starting in 2006, and could conceivably follow fellow munis Beth- page Black and Torrey Pines South as a U.S. Open host. Says Tatum, "I don't think it's out of the question—the golf course is certainly worthy." Parking wouldn't be a problem. Olympic owes Harding a favor.
—Chris Lewis

Greens Fees: To be announced. Tee Times: 415-661-1865 or visit parks.sfgov.org.

LONG WEEKEND Going Green in Asheville

By Evan Rothman

At Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, the epicenter of intellectual life in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, you'll find two full shelves devoted to shamanism and paganism. Nearby Beanstreets Coffee House sports a sign that reads, "If you're not satisfied, you have issues," and offers something called a primoccino, which consists of hot chocolate, whipped cream and three shots of espresso. The director of golf at the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, Dal Raiford, was a proud member of Students for a Democratic Society and peppers his golf conversations with references to transcendentalism and the folklorist Joseph Campbell. Asheville, located in the far left of the state, naturally, is a hotbed of liberalism year-round and the foliage capital of the Southeast from late September to early November—the ideal period to take in its fairways and Greens, er, greens. As for the ideal company, that's the spouse who loves leafage, the Arts and Crafts movement and la vida granola.

The biggest city in western North Carolina, with a population of more than 68,000, Asheville has its own easy-to-navigate airport, serviced by the regional carriers of both Delta and U.S. Airways, and by Continental direct from Newark, New Jersey. The pedestrian-friendly downtown, famed for its collection of art deco buildings, remained intact in large part because city fathers refused to default on Depression-era debt, earning Asheville the nickname "The City That Suffered Most." (The last obligations were repaid in 1976.) Running from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, southwest of the city, northeast to Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia, is one of the nation's most beloved byways, the Blue Ridge Parkway, famed for its autumn fireworks and sumptuous twists, as well as its zealously enforced 45 m.p.h. speed limit. It should be used whenever possible to get from place to place.


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