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The Hawaiian island of Kauai has a well-earned reputation for rugged beauty and relative isolation from the mainstream tourist trade. Golf fans came to know it from 1994 through 2006, when the PGA Grand Slam of Golf was held each fall on the windswept fairways of Poipu Bay Golf Course, along the island's south shore. The Grand Slam was one of those Silly Season events involving major championship winners (won seven of the last nine years by Tiger Woods) that make people back home want to flee the cold and jump on a westbound airplane.
In this case, the 2,610-mile journey from Los Angeles would be well worth it. Kauai, with only 60,000 people populating its 550 square miles, is a place of stark natural contrasts with lovely beaches, lush gardens, steep ravines and jagged mountains-all drawing your eye during a round at Poipu Bay.
The course, created by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and opened in 1991, occupies 210 acres along the ocean and is designed to accommodate trade winds out of the southeast. Many of the greens are extremely long and aligned along the wind axis; the breeze is enough to make a 400-yard hole play driver/wedge downwind and driver/fairway-metal upwind.
The par-72 layout, stretching to 7,123 yards, wends its way near and around historic Hawaiian "heiau" (places of worship) and stone walls that are estimated to be 500 years old. The front nine plays inland, but the back nine loops out to the coast and culminates in a stirring stretch (holes 15 to 17) along an oceanfront bluff that makes it difficult to focus on your golf shot.