There's a chance, it appears, that the famed Prince Course at Princeville Resort in Hanalei on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, might reopen to the public after all.
The golf course, which closed in early 2015 for renovations, had been slated to reopen as a private club after years as a resort course. But now those plans have been put on hold.
The resort's new ownership partners recently announced that Discovery Land Co. would no longer be managing the development of the 1,103-acre Princeville at Hanalei. Princeville Resort was acquired through a partnership between Hawaii landowner and developer The Resort Group and Reignwood International, owned by billionaire Thai-Chinese businessman Chanchai Ruayrungruang for $343 million in late 2014. One of the items of business was to hire Discovery Land to oversee the development of what would have been a private resort community.
According to a recent statement released by The Resort Group: "As stewards of Princeville at Hanalei for more than 10 years, The Resort Group takes its role on the North Shore and within the community very seriously. We appreciate all that Discovery Land Company has done for us during this time, and consider them experts at what they do... We remain committed to the sustainable, environmentally focused development of this uniquely beautiful location, and we expect to maintain nearly all of the local employment positions associated with the project."
So what does all this mean?
"We're in kind of a holding pattern, a re-conceptualization of the project," said Sam Ainslie, adviser to the Resort Group for the last eight months. "It was really a mutual decision [between Discovery Land Co., and The Resort Group]. We wanted to look at some different alternatives."
The original project called for the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Princeville Course -- considered one of the most stunning and difficult golf courses in Hawaii -- to be renovated and reopen as a private course. But now it could reopen as a resort course -- with or without members, or management -- could still open it as a private club.
Ainslie said all options are being considered at this point.
"What's the best use for the golf course with this being a resort community? Going private was the direction before, but not necessarily now," Ainslie said.
Princeville's Prince Course is among America's best
Opened in 1991, the 7,378-yard, par-72 course has elevated tees, ravines and aggressive natural vegetation. With its stunning vistas and variety of holes, it's been ranked among America's top 100 public courses.
It also has a slope/rating of 140/76.2 from the tips, and ownership realized the course was too difficult for the average player and high handicappers that would surely be part of a private membership. Of course, resort guests might enjoy it more if there was a little more room to miss shots. In particular, the first hole, a short par 4 with a small landing area in front of a large ravine that sets up a very difficult approach is one of the most difficult starting holes in golf.
"We want it to be more user friendly," said Ainslee, whose background is in golf course development. "Resistance to scoring needs to be something other than the lost golf ball."
Since its closure, the course has been maintained with a skeleton crew, but no renovation work has begun.
Discovery Land's role was to help oversee Princeville's master development plan, as well as construction, marketing, and private club community operations -- all are on hold now.
"The idea is simply to take a timeout," Ainslie said.
Officials are hoping course renovation work, overseen by Jones, can begin during the first quarter of 2016.