Kona Country Club — a public golf course featuring 36 holes in Keauhou — is shuttering operations of its mauka course while it continues renovating the facility’s makai course and driving range.
Human Resources Manager Michelle Abe confirmed Wednesday the June 7 closure of the mountain course, which features 18 holes. Kona Country Club has already shut down and begun renovating its 18-hole ocean golf course and driving range. It will continue those efforts.
Abe declined to provide further information or a name or contact information for the golf club’s management. West Hawaii Today did provide Kona Country Club with contact information should a statement become available from the higher management.
The news, which an employee said was handed down Friday, left West Hawaii’s golf community abuzz with many wondering just what affect the closure will have on the public’s ability to golf in Kona.
“We’ve lost the lower course to renovation,” said Dick Skarnes, who’s been playing golf in Kona for the past 30 years. “Now, they are closing the top up. What’s next?”
Dawn Clark, a local real estate agent who plays golf at the Keauhou course, expressed concern about the potential impact and has already sent an email to Mayor Billy Kenoi asking what his intentions are for the golf course.
“A municipal golf course would be a great opportunity for the county to run a basic simple golf course,” she said. “It’s just crazy to let it shut down.”
Clark also added that tourism may be affected because the Keauhou-area golf course is a selling point.
“Kona is known as a resort town and this is just another kick in the pants for us,” she said.
“It’s how people advertise their vacation rentals.”
The County of Hawaii operates one municipal golf course on Hawaii Island, the Hilo Municipal Golf Course in East Hawaii, said Department of Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Bob Fitzgerald, who added he was aware of the impending closure of the Kona Country Club.
The county stopped, as of the 2012 budget, providing subsidies to West Hawaii golf courses providing residents with low green fees.
Mayor Billy Kenoi said Tuesday he’s tasked the Department of Parks and Recreation to look into the situation and county budget to find a solution. He said that entails taking another look at the county operating a public golf course in West Hawaii.
“The goal is for fairness and equity,” he said. “We want to provide services islandwide.”
Word of the closure also fueled rumors that Makalei Country Club, a public golf course located off Mamalahoa Highway in North Kona, was stopping operations. General Manager Lee Kagawa said while the golf course has been for sale for at least two years, it has no plans to close.
“Makalei is not closing,” Kagawa said Wednesday. “We are still open for business.”
The Kona Country Club, owned by Yukio Takahashi who also owned the former Kona Surf Hotel, consists of two 18-hole courses: a par-72 makai course built in 1966 and par-72 mauka course completed in 1991.