The PGA Tour starts their first full field event of the year at the Sony Open at Waialae CC.
The Sony Open was originally called the Hawaiian Open since its inception in 1965. It has been played at Waialae Country Club in every event.
Waialae CC is based in Honolulu and is a Seth Raynor design that was built in 1927. Raynor used a wide variety of design concepts and that has led to him being a very popular designer by golf architecture enthusiasts as some of his more well noted designs include The Carmago Club, Chicago Golf Club, Fishers Island, Old White TPC, Country Club of Charleston, Yeamans Hall and the Yale Club.
I’ve played a few Raynor designs and have generally been underwhelmed by them. Probably the most common concept I see out of Raynor designs is that he liked to take away the driver off the tee and loved elevated greens, neither of which I am a fan of. Donald Ross wasn’t afraid to take the driver out of a player’s hand, but he usually made it more of a gamble that if a player did hit driver and hit a great shot they would be rewarded. I never liked elevated greens because I don’t like the inability to see where the ball ends up with relation to the flag. I always thought one of Arnold Palmer’s brilliant design concepts is that he prefered to design greens that settled down at the bottom of the slope and that added to the beauty of the hole.
A couple of years ago Waialae received some anonymous votes by PGA Tour players for worst course on Tour. I actually like Waialae, but I can concede some of the disdain for the course as some holes have that patented Raynor extreme doglegs that force large curvatures off the tee and do not allow for driver. I think that wide angle doglegs are perhaps the worst design concept in all of golf course design.
But, what I like about Waialae…other than being in a great location and being an old school course…is that it does not favor bombers. It may favor short hitters with good wedge games a little too much, but in general it allows for a wide open variety of styles that can win here.
There’s a wide variety of shots that need to be hit and it’s almost impossible for anybody to hit a lot of fairways given how narrow they are and how the wind tends to blow. This forces a lot of brilliant rescue shots to save par and you should see a lot of birdies, but a lot of bogeys that can pop up at any time.
Lastly, the last Critical Hole on the course is the par-5 18th hole.
Projected Winning Score: -23
Jordan Spieth +500
Justin Thomas +800
Brian Harman +2,000
Zach Johnson +2,800
Daniel Berger +3,300
Webb Simpson +3,300
3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS
Kyle Stanley +7,000
Keegan Bradley +8,000
Chris Kirk +9,000
Chad Campbell +25,000