All of the bunkers at Kapalua were rebuilt with Capillary Concrete (PGA TOUR)

This article was originally published by the PGA Tour

KAPALUA, Hawaii – The days of PGA TOUR stars tearing apart the Plantation Course at Kapalua during the Sentry Tournament of Champions might be over after an extensive refinement project took place over the last 12 months.

Sure – we can never underestimate the incredible skills of the winners only field in Maui but designers Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore along with Troon Golf’s design, development and agronomy team have ensured the course should present a little more bite this time around.

Consider the winning totals going backwards over the last few seasons. 23 under, 24 under, 22 under, 30 under, 21 under … and Ernie Els’ 72-hole record of 31 under in 2003 something the players may have trouble replicating going forward.

This is not a redesign – the feel of the course remains – but yet it is still a significantly different test after all 107 acres of fairways, tees and rough were replanted with Celebration Bermuda grass and all of the greens were rebuilt and grassed with TifEagle Bermuda grass. The greens were tweaked here and there to create more pin placement options.

All of the bunkers were rebuilt with new drainage and new sand and the tees were all laser leveled. New tees were built on certain holes to lengthen the course. Check out the specific changes on each hole at the bottom of the page.

“It’s going to be a little different this year. They made really good changes. It will be more difficult for sure,” two-time champion at Kapalua Dustin Johnson says.

Johnson arrived in Maui on Dec. 26 and has been doing daily reconnaissance at the course. But he – and others – know the changes will actually take more time to have their most desired effect. The fairways will eventually roll more – which will create the need to be smart with tee shot club selection – and the greens will be more receptive to great approach shots. But right now, as things grow in, the new greens are rock hard. And with some rain in December, the new fairways are a little soft.

“The ball usually would just kind of stay wherever it landed in the past, and now you’re really going to have to pay attention to where you’re landing it and how much roll-out you’re going to get into the wind versus downwind,” 2017 champion Justin Thomas said.

“Most of the time you’re trying to take a lot of spin off the ball, whereas now you’re trying to put a lot of spin on the ball. It’s definitely going to be different.”

“It’s going to play difficult just because the greens are so new. They’re really firm, so it’s hard to get the ball close to the hole,” Johnson added.

“They give you some more options, but it definitely makes it more difficult just because the slopes… are more severe. You’ve really got to make sure you’re on the right level … you can be putting up the slopes, you just don’t want to be putting down them.”

Rickie Fowler has been inside the top six on each of his three trips to Kapalua. He also believes that in time the changes will really be seen to be a masterstroke.

“It’ll play a little harder this week but the course is a bit more playable,” Fowler says.

“It’s only going to get better. Obviously it’s brand new … it’s going to be hard to get the ball close a lot of times. There will be certain pin placements and certain holes where you’ll be able to get it close, but it’s not really just point-and-shoot.”

Last year’s champion Xander Schauffele blitzed home with a Sunday 11-under 62. It equaled the course record. He knows that number might stand for a while now.

“Man, I’m sure there’s a 62 out there, you’re just going to smoke the field when you do it,” he said with cautious optimism.

“It would be a very special day to do a 62 out here now with the added length. It all depends on where they decide to put the pins and the tee boxes.”

For Thomas the biggest eye opener was in fact the changes to his approach shots on certain holes that have been lengthened. No longer are there a bunch of holes where the bombers can go hard off the tee and then just grab a wedge.

“There are definitely going to be some longer clubs into some holes … but I think it’s going to be a good test for us,” Thomas said.

“I hit 5-iron into 3 today and 5-iron into 4, and I’ve hit wedge and wedge into those two holes for however many years now. That’s a lot different.”

The chance to score will still be there but the players will have to work harder to get there. It’s just the sort of challenge TOUR winners should face.

KAPALUA GOLF’S PLANTATION COURSE HOLE-BY-HOLE CHANGES

General changes on all 18 holes:

• All bunkers were rebuilt with, Capillary Concrete, for optimal drainage and moisture levels, reshaped, and filled with new sand.
• All greens were rebuilt including new drainage, new sand and grassed with TifEagle Bermudagrass
• All tees were laser leveled
• The entire course was replanted with Celebration Bermuda grass

Hole 1:

• Professional tee rebuilt and expanded
• Fairway bunkers moved in toward the fairway
• The green size expanded, making more hole locations available
• The bail out area right of the green has been re-established from native grass to Bermuda grass
• Native grass area added behind the fairway bunkers, left of 1 tees and right of 1 fairway

Hole 2:

• The green was expanded
• Small landform was placed front left of the green surround

Hole 3:

• New professional tee added
• Forward tees rebuilt and lowered
• First two fairway bunkers removed
• New fairway bunker added on the right side
• Greenside bunker bottoms raised and reduced in size
• Green was expanded by 1000 square feet
• Native grass area added to the right of the green

Hole 4:

• First left fairway bunker removed and first right fairway bunker reduced in size 
• New professional tee and resort tee rebuilt and lowered
• The green was expanded making more hole locations available

Hole 5:

• New forward tee added
• New fairway bunker at 300 yards and a new approach bunker were added
• The green is slightly smaller
• The far right greenside bunker was removed
• The right greenside bunker bottom was raised 4 feet

Hole 6:

• The green expanded 900 square feet to the back and right side 
• The green now has more pin location options
• Native grass area added behind the forward tee

Hole 7:

• New professional tee added to the right of the existing tee and the old professional tee was removed
• The resort and forward tee complex was rebuilt and lowered
• A new landform was added in the middle of the landing zone off the tee
• The bunkers were reduced in size
• The green was reduced in size by approximately 750 square feet

Hole 8:

• Right side professional tee rebuilt and expanded
• Left side professional tee removed
• Forward tee raised 3 feet
• Entire green complex was rebuilt
• All bunkers moved slightly closer to the green
• Front bunker bottom raised by 4-5 feet
• Bailout areas created left and right to capture errant shots

Hole 9:

• New professional tee added
• Tee complex rebuilt and lowered
• A new forward tee added
• A new landform in the left rough/fairway landing area
• Left fairway bunkers moved-in toward the fairway

Hole 10:

• New professional tee added
• New native grass areas established in front of professional tee and back left of the green complex 
• The front left approach area was raised slightly to prevent balls from rolling off into the native area
• The green was softened and has many more pin locations available 
• The green is smaller by approximately 500 square feet

Hole 11:

• The green expanded by approximately 500 square feet

Hole 12:

• New native grass areas established right of the right fairway bunkers and behind the green complex
• All fairway bunkers were move slightly in toward the fairway
• The front left approach bunker was reduced in size

Hole 13:

• Native grass was established left of the fairway narrowing the hole off of the tee by 60 feet 
• A new forward tee was added
• The collection area past the fairway bunker was raised
• The approach was raised and softened
• The green was reduced in size by 1000 square feet
• More hole location options were added
• Native grass was established behind the green complex

Hole 14:

• The forward tee was rebuilt and shifted forward and left
• The first fairway bunker was removed
• The green expanded by 1200 square feet
• There are more pin location options available

Hole 15:

• The entire tee complex was rebuilt, lowered and one small tee was removed
• A new forward tee was added
• A new landform was added at the end of the first fairway
• A new landform was added in the approach area
• The bottom of the existing approach bunker was raised by 5 feet
• A new bunker was added behind the existing bunker
• Native grass was established on the right side of the first fairway slightly narrowing the hole off the tee by 6-10 feet
• The green was reduced in sized by 400 square feet

Hole 16:

• The first middle fairway bunker was removed
• The far left fairway bunker was removed
• A new landform was added on the left side of the fairway
• A new bunker was added at 280-300 yards in front of the existing approach bunker
• The front right greenside bunker was removed
• All of the greenside bunkers were reduced in size and moved closer to the green
• The green was reduced in size by 600 square feet
• More hole location options are now available
• Native grass was established on the left side of the hole, right of the green and behind the green

Hole 17:

• The first fairway bunker was removed
• A new landform was added front right of the green in the approach area 
• More hole location options are now available

Hole 18:

• The bunker bottoms were raised slightly
• A subtle landform was added front middle of the green in the approach 
• The green expanded by 1200 square feet
• There are more hole location options now available

Practice areas:

• The putting green was reduced in size by 33 percent
• A new chipping green, practice bunker and chipping green fairway were created
• The practice range tee was leveled and re-grassed
• A new slab was poured on the practice range tee to accommodate practice tee mats