Before I explain our round at Manele, I will preface this by saying I hate golf. It’s a game that requires mental fortitude, discipline, and thousands of hours of practice. All of which I lack or don’t have time for. It shines a spotlight on my inadequacies. Despite the fact that I never practice, I still expect to shoot even par and get unreasonably angry when I don’t.
But I like golfing because the activity gives me 3-5 hours of binge drinking and shit talking with my closest friends. This is especially great when I’m in a relationship. I can skip the farmers market or some horrific Sunday brunch that I usually get dragged to.
I was on Lanai for vacation when I got the opportunity to play at the Manele Golf Course at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Manele is an immaculate, PGA quality, picturesque course located on the edge of a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The Jack Nicklaus designed course feels like a private playground for island owner Larry Ellison.
Being on Lanai, Manele doesn’t get much traffic. Combine that with the fact that it’s immaculately maintained and it looks like nobody has ever played on it before. It’s an untouched golf oasis in the middle of the ocean. I’m not sure why they let us play here.
Oh, wait, yes I am, Tim is in the military and got us an insane discount. The standard price per person is $400 for 18 holes. We got in for $150 each. Once I stepped onto the first tee box, I realized that we got a helluva deal.
To celebrate the fact that we were allowed on the course for less than half the price, we brought a John Daly amount of alcohol. An entire bottle of Crown Royal Apple and 30 beers. This was overkill even by alcoholic standards.
We immediately realized that we might be the only people on the course that day. There could have been one other group but they were too far ahead of us to see them. I still don’t know how we got this lucky.
Since we were camping on the Four Seasons beach like homeless people instead of paying for the hotel we didn’t have to splurge on $600/night rooms. We really finessed Larry Ellison on this trip. I doubt he cares, he literally owns the island.
Speaking of homeless people, I felt like the homeless caddy in Happy Gilmore that, by a stroke of luck, finds himself on the PGA tour. We improbably gained entry to this empty golfing paradise with coolers full of liquor on a picturesque day. Best not to question it.
The Front 9
In golf, everybody knocks a few strokes off their score before they tell their friends that weren’t there. That’s part of the game. It’s a subconscious response that’s impossible to control. The lies come flying out of your mouth before you have a chance to stop them.
That being said, we all played really well this day.
I was hitting darts onto greens, my drives were staying in play, I even made a few 10 ft.+ putts. Things I never, ever do. Every time I go golfing I can count on one part of my game being decent while the rest of it is unsalvageable. If I’m hitting my driver well, I can’t putt. If I’m hitting darts with my irons they’re all rescue shots because my drives are slicing like crazy.
This is why golf makes people so mad. How is my swing perfect on one shot and then completely different on the next? Why can’t the ball just fucking GO WHERE I WANT, I HATE THIS GAME!
I remember hitting a 7-iron on my approach shot on the 3 or 4th hole. I absolutely drilled this ball and lost track of it immediately because my eyesight is 15/6,000 and I can barely see 10 ft. in front of me (yes I wear contacts, no they don’t fix everything). I immediately assume it’s in the rough where I’ll never find it when the rest of the group goes “dude, it’s on the green”. I felt like I had won the Superbowl.
The collective joy and excitement we all shared from being blessed with this opportunity was too much. We started taking shots of Crown Royal after every hole. Since there was nobody around us we were taking as many mulligans as we wanted, taking our time, and getting way too drunk.
There was no pressure, no rush, no waiting for some Korean foursome in front of us to hit 20 shots on every hole. We played at our own pace and once we had 5-6 drinks in our system, we were playing pretty damn well.
It was the best front 9 I’ve ever played. Then the alcohol caught up to us and things got even better.
The back 9
This was 4 years ago and my memories are soaked in alcohol so take all of this with a grain of salt.
From what I can recall, we didn’t eat at the turn (the break between the 9th and 10th hole) which was a huge mistake. That is one negative thing I will say about Manele, there was no “Cart Girl”, the cute girl who usually rides around the course with a cooler of beers and snacks. We desperately needed her and she abandoned us.
We soldier onto the 10th hole, way behind schedule since there’s nobody behind us and we’re making the absolute most out of this day knowing we’ll never be back. This is where we start to really take advantage of the empty course.
The 12th hole at Manele is a 205-yard par 3 where you have to hit across the water. The tee box is on one side of the cliff inlet and the green is on the other. We each hit about 20 balls, about 10% made them to the green.
The video doesn’t do this hole justice. In real life you can see the waves rippling off the rocks below. The way they designed the hole around the unique shape of the coastline gives the course a very natural, local feel. I’ve never seen anything like it. It also marked the point of the round where the alcohol turned on us. Instead of steadying our nerves it’s starting to affect our balance. The liquor is in charge now.
The wheels fall off
It’s around this time that Will decides to really push the golf cart to its limit. He thought we were Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as he rounded a corner to the 16th tee box. We’re going top speed through this concrete tunnel when he decides to slam on the brakes and skid for 5 yards.
The SKRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT from the tires shattered the peaceful silence on the course. Since we were in a tunnel, the sound echoed off the concrete and shot out like a bullhorn. At that exact moment, the marshall came around the corner into the tunnel from the opposite direction. It was TV sitcom-like timing. We couldn’t give him an excuse because he saw exactly what happened.
The Marshall was understandably upset about our behavior as well as us being about 2 hours behind on our pace of play. He tried to voice these concerns for about 2-minutes before he realized he wasn’t reasoning with our collective drunken indignance.
He drove away shaking his head and probably saying “I don’t get paid enough for this shit”. The joke was on him. We now had the keys to the kingdom and a complete lack of accountability.
The rest of the round is a complete blur. We were running around Manele like children, hitting balls in every direction and not keeping score. I can’t imagine what we looked like. Luckily, nobody was there so it didn’t matter. The Crown Royal was gone, our cooler of beers were now empty cans, and we were trampling over this course with juvenile glee.
We went to return the cart but the cart barn was closed. Instead of chastising us, the staff gave up and went home. I’m not sure if it was because we were too drunk and unruly or they see rich people pull this shit all the time so they’ve stopped caring. Either way, we avoided responsibility.
We just left the cart where we thought they wanted it and drove back to the beach. Yes, we were hammered but keep in mind we were less than 0.5 miles away from our campsite. As we arrive back and Jon passes out immediately, me and Will swim at the beach where I immediately lose my Rayban sunglasses in the water. Tim makes us dinner (somehow), we hang out around our campfire for a bit and then fall asleep.
More than golf
Everything came together that day and reminded us of how lucky we were to be on Hawaii and to have found each other.
There wasn’t a single ounce of negativity. No drama, nothing but limitless drunken fun. We were given a perfect opportunity and made the most of it. We left it all on the course.
Friendships happen gradually. You can’t really pinpoint when you became friends with somebody. We were all friends before that trip, but after this round of golf, we became much closer.
I learned to value moments like this. People move and lose touch much quicker than you realize. Most of the time when you drift apart, you just stop talking. There’s no conversation, no mutual agreement where you both say “friendship over”. Life pulls us all into different directions that are impossible to anticipate.
It seemed like we’d all stay in Hawaii forever and keep the party going. It was a naive idea but at the time, there was no end in sight. Now everybody is gone, and I’m about to leave the island as well, but I’m not sad. I use it as motivation to keep growing. This wasn’t the last good time we’ll have together, just one of the greats.
We’re all more successful and much better human beings than we were then. And days like this prove you’ve found the right people to accompany you through the chaotic shitshow that is life. Regardless of where we all end up or how things change in the future, we’ll always remember that perfect round of golf at the Manele Golf Course.