Checking In From Kapalua: Do I Have to Leave? (Video)
By Stephanie Wei under Wei Goes Golfing

Me standing on the 18th tee at the Plantation Course

It’s now been well-established that I have a serious addiction to my silly blog. Isn’t the whole point of vacation not to work? (I’ve been getting a lot of flak from friends and readers — at least no one can ever criticize me for not working hard.) But honestly, I’m having a great time in Maui and I just wanted to share some of my greatest “vacation” ever with my loyal readers.

First of all, a big thank you to the best host in the world, Kapalua’s Gary Planos (otherwise known as “the Mayor”) — it’s well known in the industry that he’s also the best tournament director for the PGA Tour (Mercedes Benz Championship, most recently known as the SBS Championship). Just ask any member of the media or player — this past January, champion Geoff Ogilvy touted him as such and now I’m experiencing his unrivaled hospitality firsthand. And yes, I’m very lucky. Gary told me that this is going to be the finest vacation I have until my honeymoon. It sure it looking that way (though I wish I could detach myself from my darn laptop).

Anyway, I’ve played three rounds and had a lesson since I arrived last Wednesday (which is some sort of record for me since I quit competitive golf). Last Thursday, Gary set me up with Ben Hongo, a teaching pro at Kapalua’s Golf Academy. I’m usually really weird with getting lessons because I’m loyal to my swing coach growing up (whom I haven’t seen in two years), but the last time I played was a month ago at Quaker Ridge and I was ready to toss my clubs in the Hudson River after that, so I really had nothing to lose. Turned out that Ben was very helpful and he caught all the things that I would work on with my long-time swing coach Joe Thiel. Considering I haven’t had a lesson in two years, my swing felt like a mess. I definitely need to hit the range and work on those things, but I’ve just been trying to play them out on the course (generally, not a good idea).

Me on No. 14 at the Plantation Course

Gary thought I should “warm up” at the Bay Course, so we played at around 7am on Friday morning. To be honest, I didn’t love it. It was your standard resort-y course and it was somewhat challenging, but it didn’t fit my eye, so I felt kind of blah toward it, personally. It might have just been the fact that I played awful.

Then on Saturday, the plan was to meet Gary at the Plantation Course, home of the PGA Tour’s season opener, at 11:30 for a noon tee time. Oh, you won’t believe it, but I slept through it and I’ll never live it down. I woke up at 11:45 in a panic. It’s not like I’d been out late partying or anything — I’d gone to bed at 11 the night before. Basically, between the weird hours I kept at the Ryder Cup and the lack of sleep afterward, I was totally beat and it finally caught up to me. Gary said, “You broke a record — you’re the first person to sleep through a noon tee time in my 40 years here. You’re making Jim Furyk look like a Nationwide Tour player!” Yeah, very embarrassing, but obviously I needed sleep. And yes, I realize that I effectively slept through a 6pm EST tee time. Hey, I woke up for a 7am the day before, so there!

Me next to the ravine on No. 5 and 6 at the Plantation Course (yes, it's clearly windy)

Some bad weather came in on Sunday, but I was determined to play the Plantation course, so Gary and I played in the afternoon when the rain had let up a bit. I immediately fell in love with this course. Sorry, but with all due respect, it makes the Bay course look like…well, I guess a good analogy would be comparing Bethpage Black to the Red. We started on the back nine, a par-3, and I knocked a five-iron to seven feet, but of course, I missed the putt. I’ve never liked Bermuda greens and I’ve been reminded why the past few days. I think the longest putt I’ve made in three rounds is around six feet. Pathetic, I know!

I am macho and refuse to play from the red tees because I have an ego problem. Thing is, the white tees at Plantation are almost 6,700 yards, which is, uh, very long for me, especially on the holes that are uphill and play into-the-wind, but I’m holding my own. I shot 83 on Sunday in tough conditions, but I also three-putted about five times probably. The wind was steadily blowing at 25-30mph all day. I was thinking maybe I should switch to the red tees the next time, so I could break 80 and boost my confidence — I mean, it’s already a challenge from the reds, but I want to break 80 from the white tees. I’m getting closer!

View from the first tee at the Plantation Course (18th hole is on the left and first hole is on the right)

For the first time in years (seriously…probably six years), I played two back-to-back rounds of golf (it’s not because I haven’t wanted to, but I have chronic back problems and it doesn’t hold up well for consecutive rounds — the heat and cart golf help here, though). I teed it up at the Plantation again on Monday. It had rained some in the morning, so the course was a little soft after the monsoon that blew in on Sunday. While the pros like soft, it’s not good for a hack like me who needs the extra yardage!

What I love about the Plantation is that there are no two holes that are exactly a like. It’s a tough but fair challenge. (It’d be awful to walk.) There are quite a few blind shots (which I love) and having Gary guide me through the course for the first time was very helpful. You have to use all the clubs in your bag, work the ball both ways (the wind forces you to) and on the ground in the air. Basically, the course forces creative shot-making. The wind is brutal, too. On Monday, there were gusts up to around 40mph. I hit a crappy drive, but kept it low and under the wind. Still, I had 120 yards left on the short uphill par-4. I took four clubs more than usual and flushed the shot, but I was still on the front of the green while the pin was toward the back.

Gary played the first seven holes with me, but then he had to go in because he had to deal real work. I ended up joining up with a single on No. 11 and another single caught up with us on No. 13. Oh, here’s a video blog of me sounding like a Kapalua shill but I actually mean every word on the seventh hole — thanks to Gary for being a great cameraman. I apologize for the wind interference, but if anything, it’s a great effect.

Oh, I fared a little better my second time around the Plantation. I shot 80 (it’s a par 73) — again with about five three-putts. I’m telling you, Bermuda is a pain in the butt if you’re not used to it. I’m playing again on Wednesday and I’m determined to break 80. In fact, I’m not leaving this island until I do.