happy birthday old blue: the ‘grand lady of wailea’ celebrates her 40th

As the starting point for the new Wailea Resort in the 1970s, the Old Blue Golf Course was the first thing built in the area. The resort developers wanted to create a golf course that would put Wailea on everyone’s wish list of places to visit. Forty years later, the Old Blue is still going strong, and has devoted followers who enjoy a truly classic golf experience. We visited with Barry Helle, general manager, to obtain some insight into why this golf course is so popular.

TMC: Please tell us the history of the Old Blue Golf Course.

BH: The first nine holes opened in the fall of 1971, and the second nine in spring of 1972. Before the Old Blue was built, there was nothing on this land but a watermelon patch. The developers retained Arthur Jack Snyder to design the course, and gave him free reign to decide where and how it was going to be situated. He took the raw, virgin land and created this golf course in the classic way—by working with the lay of the land rather than against it. There was very little bulldozing. He created a course with a lot of natural character, and it’s still a great course today.

TMC: How Did the Old Blue get its name?

BH: It dates back to when there were two golf courses here—The Blue and The Orange. The Blue was named for the ocean, and The Orange for the sun. The Orange was remodeled in 1994 to become the Wailea Gold and Emerald courses.

TMC: What makes the Old Blue a great golf course?

BH: It’s the right golf course for just about everyone. If you’re a really good golfer, it will give you a challenge. But if you’re a high handicapper, it’s a fair golf course with wide fairways. There’s a very comfortable feel to this course, and it has old-fashioned charm. All the great golf courses like Augusta and Pebble Beach were built in the same manner—around the area’s natural terrain. We have repeat golfers who love to play The Blue, and say their visit to Maui wouldn’t be complete without it. It’s their favorite. Our golfers tell us one of the things they like best about The Blue is the easy, relaxed feeling here.

TMC: What are some of the Old Blue’s signature holes?

BH: Each hole is unique in its own way, and there’s an ocean view from every one. But a couple of holes are especially memorable. Number 4 is always a favorite. It’s a long par 4—you hit uphill onto a plateau; you play on top of the plateau where there is a killer ocean view; then you hit down to the green. It’s a true three-shot, par 5. Another memorable hole is #12, which is a short par 3, hitting from mauka to makai. It also has a stunning view. A fun story about #12 is that back in the early ‘90s we hosted the LPGA Women’s Kemper Open. At that particular hole, the rules officials were wondering why all of a sudden play had slowed down. Turns out, three groups of ladies had stopped playing to watch the whales cavorting in the ocean. They could have been penalized strokes or reprimanded for playing slowly, but they didn’t care!

TMC: What does the future hold for the Old Blue?

BH: The original clubhouse for this golf course was the building where Matteo’s Pizzeria used to be. We’re going to redevelop that site and relocate the golf operations there. A new restaurant operator is coming in, and we are going to erect four new buildings so we can have a fully modernized clubhouse with an expanded pro shop. We’re also going to add a driving range. We are taking The Blue back to its roots, and hope to have it all completed sometime in the second half of 2013.

TMC: How will the course change when it’s moved?

BH: We’re going to change the configuration and tweak a couple of holes—what is now #6 will become #1. It will basically be the same golf course, very similar to its original configuration.

TMC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

BH: Being that we run only one golf course, we pay close attention to customer service. We have many repeat customers, and we all know each other’s names. It’s like walking into “Cheers”—very friendly. That level of service is one of the things that sets us apart from other courses. Also, because of the wide fairways and great views, there’s no stress while playing The Blue. Golfing is what many visitors do when they come to Maui, and we want them to relax and have a great time. That’s what it’s all about!

–heidi pool



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