Hawaii Course May Finally Open

The long-delayed Royal Kunia Golf Course may finally open. The 18-hole championship-length track was intended to be a private club at an eponymous community located in the exclusive Waipahu section of Honolulu. The course was finished in 1994, but has been in abeyance because the original owners failed to pay $13 million in neighborhood impact fees owed to the city. Although it was never allowed to open, the Robin Nelson-designed course has been maintained by a small staff.

The courseís opening may now occur as the city has backed off its desire to collect the money owed it. The original deal involved the developer, Royal Oahu Resort, paying the city $25 million. It paid $12 million, but couldnít pay the rest and the city refused to grant Royal Oahu the conditional-use permits needed to open the course. The property went into bankruptcy courts before being sold for $11.5 million last year to Liongain Hawaii Inc.

The new deal, brokered by the city, involves Liongain Hawaii paying the city $2.5 million plus $1 for each round played throughout the life of the course. Although the deal must still be approved by the Honolulu Planning Commission and the City Council, there donít seem to be any snags. The city has warmed to the facility because it will provide much-needed jobs and tax revenues. The course occupies 163 acres overlooking Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head and nearby mountain ranges. The site is so spectacular that the PGA Tour has made overtures about moving the Sony Hawaiian Open to it.

The course is the first of three layouts planned for the Royal Kunia master-planned community. The development has approval for 2,000 homes, 1,200 of which have already been built. In addition, the project has provisions for two more 18-hole courses. Although those plans havenít solidified as yet, the PGA Tour is looking at Royal Kunia as one of several sites on Oahu for a possible Tournament Players Club course.