WAIKOLOA — When I was a kid, long summer days or weekends were spent playing outdoors. For a special treat, the family would pile into the station wagon and head to the local putt-putt golf course.
Nowadays, kids are more often found on the couch, transfixed on smartphones or other high-tech entertainment.
But last Tuesday, 7-year-olds Manase Larrua and Hendrix Schreiber got a taste of miniature golf at a preview day at the new Kings’ Shops Lakeside Putting course, a public 9-hole facility that opens today at Waikoloa Beach Resort.
“It was really fun. I liked the curves on the holes for a little challenge,” Hendrix said, whose father, Matt, manages the course. “Manase and I have been friends since we were babies. We just played for fun.”
Most miniature golf courses are known for their wacky jungle, safari or dinosaur themes — complete with mini windmills, waterfalls and other paraphernalia. The new Waikoloa putting course has a slightly more refined theme with palms trees, lava rock and local handcrafted artwork depicting whales and honu.
The 3,800-square-foot facility is adjacent to the upscale Kings’ Shops stores and is the island’s only miniature golf facility.
“It’s really exciting to have mini golf back on the island,” Matt said. “There used to be Swing Zone in Kona that closed several years ago. It was okay, but nothing like this.”
The idea came from Kings’ Shops’ primary owner, Scott Seligman of The Seligman Group.
“He wanted for at least 10 years to have a putting course installed along the lakeside of his property. It was an underutilized area of the shopping center with great scenic views,” Jill Izuno said, Kings’ Shops assistant general manager. “The putting course was the perfect solution as an entertainment component for visitors and locals alike, and guests of all ages.”
As a special offer this month, players can try their hand at two rounds of nine holes for the price of one.
The course was designed and installed by Southwest Greens, a Nicklaus Design affiliate that’s built more than 45,000 artificial turf projects worldwide. They’ve even catered to golf pros Jack Nicklaus, Justin Rose, Hale Irwin, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk’s whimsies with their very own custom designed, sand-filled synthetic golf greens.
The 9-hole miniature course at Kings’ Shops is made from Pro Putting Green Turf. The artificial surface doesn’t require watering, fertilizing or mowing, reducing the facility’s impact on Mother Nature.
As part of the local theme, artist Brian Watai painted a colorful whale mural at one end of the course. Two wooden honu sculptures crafted by Ohana Carvers appear to be swimming through the air alongside hole 2.
“We’re looking to add other native Hawaiian animal sculptures within the course, such as monk seal, pueo and nene, to make it fun and educational. We’ve invested in a quality product and design with details such as lighting and landscaping, and we’ll continue to develop the project throughout the next few months with additional products in mind,” Izuno said.
Groups of up to six can play a round, with a maximum of six strokes per hole, per player. Smaller or faster groups can be permitted to play through. Food, beverages and smoking are not allowed on the putting greens.
Kings’ Shops is looking to secure sponsorship for the mini course sometime in the next month or so. The sponsor’s logo would adorn all putters, golf balls, flags and towels.
“It will connect a name brand with the course,” Izuno said. “We were selective who we partnered with for the design. We wanted a family-friendly activity within the resort and to also draw in serious golfers.”
Interested sponsors can call Kings’ Shops General Manager Lynn Rostau at 886-8811.
Kings’ Shops Lakeside Putting is open Saturday through Thursday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Friday noon-8 p.m. Rates are $7.50 for children 12 and under and seniors 65 and older; $8 for kamaaina and anyone with a military I.D.; and $10 for visiting adults. The course can also be booked for group parties.