Ko'olau is considered by many the toughest golf course in the United States. I have a Ko'olau shirt that boasts the rating right on the sleeve. It's also one of the most beautiful golf courses I have ever played.
The number 1 handicap hole at Ko'olau (for the handicap
handicapped challenged that means the hardest hole) is number 18.
So, you're on the most difficult hole of the most challenging course in the country. What do you do? If you're Bret Melson, you ace it! Sure, he's part of the San Diego Golf Academy: Hawaii campus, it's his home course and he has probably played that hole hundreds of times, but none of that makes it any less of an amazing feat. And yes, a new world record for the longest ace. Congratulations, Bret! You can read (and hear) the whole story on the SDGA website. For most people, acing a par-3 is enough of an accomplishment. Acing any old par-4 would be absolutely incredible. I guess for Bret, that just wouldn't have done it.
It really is challenging!
I have played this golf course twice. The first time was three months after my very first round of golf. I played the forward tees which only have course and slope ratings of 72.9/129. I actually managed to make par on 18. The second time I played there was 7 months later so I'd been playing for 10 whole months and thought I should really experience the difficulty so I played from the blue tees (the next set back from the forwards - equivalent to white tees on average courses) with course/slope ratings of 78.7/153 for women (when I played the ratings from the tips for men weren't even that high but it looks like the course has been re-rated since then). And... I experienced the difficulty. I carded a 9 on 18. Yes, a 9. And I recorded the whole bittersweet experience on digital media.
My 18th hole experience at Ko'olau
From the tees at 18. The first of two forced carries (unless you're like Bret and decide to cross the rain forest on the right with your teeshot).
My first shot actually ended up here, near the drop area. (Local rules indicate that balls lost in ravines are a one stroke penalty, then played from the drop area on the other side on holes 1,5,6,7,8,10,11,12,14,16,18. Gotta speed up play somehow on this monster.) No penalty for me. Only one stroke so far. What could go so wrong now? Well, there's another forced carry up there but I'm no hero. I'll lay up...
...to here. Perfect - so far so good. Two strokes so far, I still have my golf ball and at this point I'd be happy to get a bogey. Forced carries off a tee aren't as daunting to me as danger on the deck. My hacking around commences with my 3 wood from here, which, when struck well would have been on the green. But alas, it finds the ravine.
I decided this was the drop area. Hitting 5 from here. Coincidentally, that patient man waiting on the green was also named Bret. Just some guy that joined on the back nine. There was no one behind us and I told him he could play ahead without me because I'd be taking lots of photos. But there he is... just waiting and waiting.
Two sand wedges later, I'm on the green in 6. Then I proceed to three putt. Yes, from here. I know, but I guess this course just rattled me. 5 over on one hole. Ouch.
Here's the overhead view. If I played this course every day, I might try carrying it all in one at some point like Bret Melson did. I wonder: if you go that way and it goes in the forest, do you get to drop over there instead of on the fairway on the left? That would save a few strokes. :)
Here I am attempting to cross yet another ravine on #6. Failed here, too, but only took a triple bogey on this hole. Damn you, Ko'olau! I'll be coming back for you!
Update: thought I should show the damaging evidence. Here's what you can't see in the previous photo.