How Princeville Makai Golf Club’s ‘Best New Amenity’ Has Boosted Revenue And Engagement
It would be easy for a golf facility like Princeville Makai to rest on the laurels of its location on the North Shore of Kauai. In one direction, there are lush green mountains with ribbon-like waterfalls that plunge hundreds of feet. Other holes look out onto the crashing waves in picturesque Hanalei Bay. Oh, and then there are the stunning ocean views from soaring sea cliffs several hundred feet above the Pacific Ocean.
But the Troon-operated course got creative with the introduction of its nightly Sunset Golf Cart Tour, an offering that was recently named as the “best new amenity” at a U.S. public/resort course by Golf Inc. magazine. The 90-minute guided tours share the North Shore’s fascinating history and sights with guests from the Princeville area and the course’s partners hotel.
More than 5,000 visitors took the tour ($69 per cart) in 2018 and Makai is on pace to surpass that total this year, helping the facility generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra revenue beyond the golf itself.
Before visiting the course last year, I knew all about the terrific Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that’s ranked as one of the top 100 public courses in the U.S. But I hadn’t known about the Sunset Cart Tour.
After playing alongside head professional Tom Freestone one sunny afternoon, I joined him in a cart that evening to lead a long, winding line of carts to see local landmarks such as Hanalei Bay, Queen’s Bath, the Kilauea Lighthouse, Anini Reef and the North Shore beaches. We passed plumeria and hibiscus trees, spotted sea turtles in the surf far below, and saw the Hawaiian geese (Nene) as well as the albatross birds that fearlessly launch themselves from the sea cliffs.
The tour hits five stops along the coastline before pulling to a stop at the tee box of the course’s signature hole, the par-3 seventh hole, where visitors are treated to a dramatic view of the sun disappearing over the horizon. It dips behind the edge of a pyramid-shaped mountain called Mt. Makana, which served as fabled “Bali Hai” in the classic film South Pacific.
“Our number one goal with the Sunset Tour is to help visitors learn about the area,” says Makai General Manager Doug Sutter, who also leads the tours. “It’s also an opportunity for our staff to share the Aloha Spirit with guests. We’re excited by how the Tours have grown with golfers and non-golf visitors alike.”
It’s not only a terrific experience, but a great example of a golf facility thinking outside of the box to engage more non-golfers and create a new revenue stream. And for visitors to Kauai's North Shore, it's not to be missed, whether or not you're a golfer.