Uncommon Grounds

Tee off and kick back with the big boys at ultra-exclusive Kuki‘o Golf and Beach Club.

Kuki‘o Golf and Beach Club on the Big Island is a place of infinite possibilities, to say nothing of infinity pools and putting greens. New chef Nick Mastrascusa sounds as if he will fit in just fine with that infinite spirit.

“I want to focus on the wine and food and beverage so it becomes almost like an activity of the club, not just a restaurant,” says Mastrascusa, who moved over from the adjacent Four Seasons Hualalai in March. “You can go to the spa or you can go play golf or you can jump in the water, or you can do some sort of activity in the kitchen. I’m looking at building a cooking school next year—a cooking school/wine tasting room/chef store.”


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From a Fazio-designed course to multimillion dollar homes, Kuki‘o Golf and Beach Club is one of the most exclusive residential equity clubs around. Only residents of the community can join the club, which costs about $75,000 annually, after initiation fees.

Kuki‘o is a “private, residential equity club” that covers 1,100 acres in its first two phases (Kuki‘o and Manini‘owali), which are six miles north of the Kona airport and essentially sold out. There are 900 more acres at Ka‘upulehu, its sister property on the other side of Kona Village. Only residents of the community can join the club, which costs about $75,000 annually, after initiation fees. What that buys, in a community where lots range from $895,000 to $20 million and homes from $3.5 to $50 million, is all but infinite.

Golfers do not need a tee time because the course only sees some 12,000 rounds a year—most from November to January. On a recent Thursday, three twosomes cruised the course in solitude at 10:30 a.m.

Did we mention only 12 homes have full-time residents? Most days, only 200 people are on the entire Kuki‘o property. That doubles when school gets out and rises to about 1,000 during winter holidays.

Most property owners are from Northern California and work in the Silicon Valley or own businesses. A few years ago, Kuki‘o and a few other Kohala Coast properties put together the “Kona Shuttle,” a custom-designed 737 that flies back and forth from Oakland to Kona every Thursday and Sunday.

Membership for that perk maxed out this year. There are 255 Golf and Beach Club members and that number will be capped at 339.

The 18-hole Tom Fazio golf course, built in 2004, sits alone above the highway, buffeted by a breeze that sometimes eludes the warm coastline. There is a view of the ocean from every tee.

The view from the green isn’t bad either, whether you are looking at the Pacific Ocean, which appears to drop straight down from green’s edge on some holes, or up the slopes of Hualalai. The course stretches 7,419 yards from the tips, but is a user-friendly 5,231 from the forward tees.

Fazio’s design features an elevation change of some 400 feet and is dominated by stark lava and dark green paspalum grass, deep bunkers, wide fairways that funnel to the center and huge, multi-tiered greens. Fazio’s trademark false fronts abound, but he makes up for it with several tantalizing backdrops that allow imaginative approach shots.

There are two comfort stations, where golfers can partake from refrigerated treasure chests full of sandwiches, salads, snacks, ice cream and drinks that range from Red Bull and soda to beer, champagne and mixed margaritas and mai tais.

That is just for sustenance though. Mastrascusa, who grew up in Uruguay and played on the national soccer team, recently re-launched the golf course’s open-air restaurant, with a menu he calls “casual elegance.”

It has a Mediterranean feel, with an outdoor pizza bar, homemade pasta, Greek dishes, paellas and Spanish tapas. He envisions club members sitting down to a bottle of custom-made wine and ordering after they pour a glass and try a tapa taster.

“It has everything you need—attention to detail, service, great wine,” the 31-year-old says. “You can have a pizza, but you can have a bottle of wine that is $800 or $900 with it.”

Fazio also designed the 10-hole course at the Beach Club, which winds through homes. The course is long on aesthetics, but runs just 2,261 yards, with seven par-3s and three par-4s. It is not unusual to see families on the short course, along with folks in board shorts and slippers and pros giving lessons.

The Clubhouse at the Beach Club looks out at Maui and has a fitness facility, spa and Outdoor Pursuits beach area. The Maniniʻowali community also has a Sports Complex.

But back to the Beach Club, where Mastrascusa’s open-air Dining Pavilion overlooks Uluweuweu Bay. He is training his front-house staff to become first-degree sommeliers and creating a farm to grow vegetables and other foods to help bring the “highest quality product” possible to the table. Mastrascusa also plans to harvest and process honey and build a bakery.

His menu will focus on sushi, seafood and steaks, with a sushi station, farm fresh vegetables for salads and appetizers and fish fixed almost any way imaginable. He has beef coming in from three sites and chicken from a California ranch.

He calls it “a very genuine, intense approach.”

“The outcome is to get a synergy with the whole team where everyone speaks the same language, gets excited about the same things and transfers that to the guests,” Mastrascusa says. “They are the reason why we do all this, so when they come in and sit down at the restaurant they can feel it.”

Kuki‘o Golf and Beach Club
87 Mile Marker Queen
Kaahumanu Hwy., Kailua-Kona
325-4040 or www.kukio.com

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