Waialae Country Club: One of Hawaii's Top Golf Courses

A view of the 16th green at Waialae Country Club in Hawaii.
Palm trees form a 'W' behind the 16th green at Waialae Country Club.

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images 

Waialae Country Club is located on the east side of Honolulu, Hawaii, northeast of Diamond Head State Monument and alongside Maunalua Bay. The club's golf course dates to the 1920s, its original design by one of the giants of early golf course architecture, Seth Raynor.

Waialae is consistently rated highly among Hawaii golf courses, but the reason it is famous is because it has been the site of a PGA Tour tournament since the 1960s.

Fast Facts Waialae Country Club

  • Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Type of Club: Private
  • Known For: Since 1965, site of the PGA Tour tournament now called the Sony Open.
  • Year Opened: 1927
  • Golf Course Architect: Seth Raynor, original; Desmond Muirhead, renovation (1992)
  • Interesting Fact: The front nine and back nine for members are reversed for the PGA Tour's Sony Open. Holes 1-9 for members are holes 10-18 for the pros.

The PGA Tour Sony Open—originally called the Hawaiian Open—debuted in 1965, and traditionally holds an early January slot on the tour schedule. For the PGA Tour event, Waialae is set up as a par-70 course of 7,044 yards, although it can play longer. For member play, the golf course is a par-72 of 6,456 yards.

The Waialae course is often termed "player friendly," which is a way of saying the golf course doesn't have a lot of punishing hazards or rough. Low scores are available to those playing well.

Some of the architectural standouts at Waialae include:

  • The par-3 13th features a biarritz green, modeled after the original one at Biarritz Golf Club in France.
  • The No. 8 hole at Waialae is modeled after the original Redan hole.
  • Waialae's No. 16 is modeled after the No. 6 hole of the National Golf Links on Long Island.
  • And on Waialae's 10th hole, the club says, Raynor incorporated elements of the famed Road Hole at St. Andrews.

Can You Play Waialae?

Are you a member at Waialae Country Club? Do you know a member? If you answered no to both questions, then you'll have a difficult time getting on the golf course.

Waialae is a private country club, open only to members and its members' guests. If you are a member of a different private club, you can talk to your director of golf about making a reciprocal request. You can also keep an eye on the Hawaii golf calendar — private clubs sometimes host charity tournaments that are open to the general public.

Course Scoring Records

The 18-hole course record at Waialae Country Club is 59, scored by Justin Thomas during the 2017 Sony Open. It was just the eighth sub-60 score in PGA Tour history. Thomas' 59 broke the record previously held by Davis Love III, who carded a 60 at Waialae in 1994.

Thomas also set the 72-hole, Sony Open tournament scoring record at Waialae in 2017 with a final score of 253. And that set a new PGA Tour record for lowest-ever 72-hole score.

Famous Things That Happened at Waialae

The most important thing, in terms of golf history, that has happened at Waialae Country Club is probably Justin Thomas' aforementioned scoring exploits during the 2017 Sony Open: He carded a 59 in one round, his 253 total was the best in PGA Tour history to that point.

But the most famous things have happened at Waialee are probably events involving Isao Aoki and Michelle Wie.

In 1983, Aoki (who was later elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame), needed a birdie on the final hole of the Sony Open to tie the lead and force a playoff. Instead, he holed-out a 128-yard pitching wedge from the rough for eagle to win outright. It is a shot frequently replayed in tour highlight packages to this day, and it made Aoki the first Japanese golfer to win a PGA Tour tournament.

In 2004, Wie, then 14 years old, was given a sponsor exemption to play the Sony Open at Waialae. She wasn't the first woman to play a PGA Tour tournament, but she was the first 14-year-old girl to do so. Many of the male pros predicted disaster. Instead, Wie came within one stroke of making the cut and beat quite a few of the guys, including some major championship winners.

Waialae was also the site of Tadd Fujikawa's 2007 Sony Open exploits: He made the cut at age 16, the youngest golfer in more than 50 years to make a PGA Tour cut.