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Waialae Country Club is the most exclusive, members-only club in Hawaii. In early January, when the rest of America is coping with winter woes, it opens its meticulously groomed fairways to the public for the Sony Open, each year’s first full-field event of the PGA Tour. It is located on the placid coastline just a mile east of Diamond Head. Million-dollar luxury homes cluster the ridges overlooking the course as everyday traffic whooshes past along busy Kalanianaole Highway.
“Golf is a good walk spoiled” is a quote most often attributed to Mark Twain, although its true origin remains the subject of some debate. For even the most dedicated duffers the, maxim is painfully true.
That is the beauty of the Sony Open. You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy a stroll through the lush green expanse of Waialae’s course. Thousands throng the greens and fairways each year to follow their favorite players, or simply to enjoy the Sony Open’s hospitality.
A midway along the finishing holes features local food from Honolulu favorites, and pop-up golf clinics, interactive electronics displays, massage therapy tents, beer and refreshment tents, and a large picnic area. The Sony Open takes place during the NFL playoffs, and over the weekend large screen televisions show the games for hardcore fans of the gridiron as they stop for a beer and a burger in the shade between holes.
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In no other professional sport are spectators allowed to get up so close to players as they play. Sony Open attendees can get close enough to famous players to hear their discussions with caddies and good-natured jokes between competitors. A keen observer might note, for example, that legendary Vijay Singh’s iconic and lazy, loping stride is due to the fact that one of the soles of his golf shoes is an inch and a half higher than the other.
Many Sony Open attendees are there to support Hawaii talent competing at the elite professional level. In past years, residents have turned up to see names like Michelle Wie, once a teenage phenom, the first amateur female to compete at the Sony, and PGA pros Dean Wilson and Parker McLachlin.
For golf fans, the Sony Open is a chance to see their idols in person. For anyone else, it’s an opportunity to see professional athletes performing in their element. It is always a spectacle. Helicopters and single-propeller airplanes buzz overhead as public and private grandstands surrounding the greens buzz with hushed chatter before erupting with each unbelievable shot.
The PGA Sony Open is always a family affair, and it has a huge appeal to a wide demographic. Young parents with infants in strollers, pre-teen youngsters with PGA aspirations, local surfer-dude types, avid seniors, and all manner of workaday types meander the fairways of Waialae Country Club at the Sony Open every year.
Golf might not be for everyone. But who can resist a good walk unspoiled in paradise?