The grass is always greener at Ewa Beach Golf Club in Hawaii

EWA BEACH, Hawaii – If you like healthy grass –- thick, thriving, green turf -- you'll love Ewa Beach Golf Club. It was the first golf course in Hawaii to be grassed with Seashore paspalum, an environmentally friendly turfgrass suited for tropical climates, and the greenskeeper at Ewa Beach is really good at growing it.

It's just one of the reasons that this course at the end of Ft. Weaver Road is a favorite among locals, and there are plenty of other reasons to like it as well. Opened in 1992, this 6,700-yard Robin Nelson design has a great variety of holes, excellent service and a good pace of play. Plus, it's reasonably priced, especially for residents.

But those visiting the island shouldn't overlook this hidden gem, either. If you've rented a car and are staying near Waikiki Beach, it's worth the 40-minute drive out to the Ewa Plain. And while it's not on the coast, it has a definite island feel to it.

Water, sand and trees at Ewa Beach Golf Club

Ewa Beach Golf Club was cut out of a kiawe forest. There are elevation changes, scores of bunkers and water hazards. Several greens are guarded by trees, including a couple of Weeping Willows around the third hole.

The golf course is often billed for its links characteristics, but you have to pay close attention to notice them. Like a traditional links layout, it's nine holes out and nine holes back. And there is one double green: the second and 16th share the same putting surface. But those are where the similarities end. Ewa Beach is an island, parkland golf course.

The course also plays longer than its yardage. That's because tee shots don't roll off the plush paspalum fairways. The back tees play more like 7,000 or 7,100 yards, the second set more like 6,800 yards and so on. Players who decide to tackle it from the pro tees will face several forced carries over water and a few long holes, but move up and the course is extremely manageable.

And while there are long holes like the 17th, which plays more than 600 yards, there are several good, short par 4s that will entice you to try to drive the green. That move comes with great risk, however, as the short par 4s have plenty of cavernous bunkers to create difficult second shots that could set up bogey or worse.

Ewa Beach Golf Club: Worth the drive

Ewa Beach isn't easy to get to, but it's worth the drive. Depending on the time of day, it could take longer than 40 minutes because of school zones and traffic lights, but it's basically two turns (one off the freeway) to get there.

"There are a lot of locals who don't know where we are," said Ricky Maramoto, who works in the golf shop. "It's a real hidden gem."

Once there, you'll find lots of friendly locals who play the course often and aren't afraid to give you a guided tour if you hook up with them in a foursome. The staff is also friendly, and the clubhouse facilities are more than adequate. The halfway house has a nice selection of snacks and sandwiches, including a local favorite, Spam musubi. (For those who haven't tried it, it's better than it sounds. The spam is usually marinated in teriyaki sauce, and the warm combination of salty seaweed wrap, sticky rice and sweetened Spam makes for a nice golf course snack.)

Conditions at Ewa Beach Golf Club are as good as you'll find. The only possible negative was the slow greens, but it's difficult to increase green speeds on paspalum, generally a thick-bladed grass.

The golf course also has terrific practice facilities with a grass range and large short-game area, including a chipping green, putting green and practice bunker. Lessons are available from the professional staff.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Ewa Beach Golf Club, roughly a half-hour's drive from Waikiki, was the first course in Hawaii to plant Seashore Paspalum grass, which provides prime playing conditions that stay lush and consistent. Kiawe trees pinch the fairways of the first nine holes of this Robin Nelson design. The back nine opens up, although the water lurks ominously at the end of the round.
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The grass is always greener at Ewa Beach Golf Club in Hawaii