The popularity of the game of golf is waning, leading a Waikoloa developer to request permission to repurpose half of one of its two golf courses into single-family home lots and timeshare units.
Kumu Hou at Waikoloa would feature 1,164 timeshare units and 25 single-family home lots on 183 acres currently part of the 18-hole Kings’ Course in Waikoloa Beach Resort. The developer, Waikoloa Land Co., representing landowners Waikoloa Development Co. and Hilton Kingsland 1 LLC, would keep the 18-hole Beach Course in operation.
The 498-page application and 59-page addendum can be found at the Planning Commission website.
Deputy Planning Director Jeff Darrow said Tuesday the matter is likely to come up at the Leeward Planning Commission’s Nov. 18 meeting. The public can comment on the applications by emailing email@example.com.
The remaining nine holes of the Kings’ Course would eventually be returned to service, for a 27-hole golf course complex that will be kept to luxury resort quality for not less than 15 years from obtainment of final rezoning approvals, developers pledged.
“These actions recognize that the Resort’s current 36-hole golf complex is unsustainable in the long-term, given broad-based market changes that have decreased demand for golf at the Resort and elsewhere,” Tom Schnell, principal of PBR Hawaii & Associates, said in a June 21 letter to the county Planning Department.
Golf play at the Waikoloa Resort was down 30 percent from its peak even before the coronavirus pandemic set in, despite an increase in visitors to the resort, developers said.
“Decreasing golf play is consistent with national and international trends, where younger generations have demonstrated less interest in golf than their predecessors, resulting in both less play and numerous golf course closures across the country,” the project application states.
The application seeks to amend the 1977 special management area permit to create three new SMAs and to rezone two areas. The project contemplates a new brackish water irrigation system, public park facilities and other infrastructure and amenities.
The resort currently comprises 1,604 visitor units and 1,810 residential units, including timeshares, multifamily condominiums and single-family home lots. The project holds entitlements from previous county actions for 6,365 units, including 3,000 visitor units and 3,365 residential units.
Kohala Councilman Tim Richards said, from what he’s learned so far, the plan makes sense.
“Without being privy to the specific economics of the development, conceptually this project is being built within the designated resort area that would ideally enhance economic growth,” he said. “Not that we should hang our hat solely on tourism, but we cannot ignore it either as tourism has played a significant role in our economy for many decades.”
Developers anticipate buildout would occur in 2043 and 470 full-time jobs would be created, mostly at the resort. There are also plans to create more than 100 affordable housing units in the resort area near the project. Richards welcomed that plan.
“With our significant need for housing here on Hawaii Island, this is one opportunity to embrace that could result in families being able to work, play and thrive here in West Hawaii,” Richards said.
Developers said they choose the name “Kumu Hou” to signify a refreshed purpose or understanding of the lands included in the project area, as well as new beginnings for the resort as a whole.