How To Have A Fun Day At The LPGA Lotte Championship At Ko Olina
The LPGA Lotte Championship is the only nationally-televised sporting event that happens on the west side of Oʻahu. You can watch it on Golf Channel, but it’s a lot more fun to head out to the course.
Parking is free and easy, admission is less than the price of a movie ticket (and free for kids), and you can bring your own snacks to munch on while you watch the world’s best golfers vie for a $2 million purse.
Here are a few tips if you decide to go — the tournament runs from Wednesday to Saturday.
1) Park, But Skip The Shuttle
Once you park, you’ll buy your admission tickets ($10 each, free for ages 16 and under with a paying adult) at a tent.
Then you can take a shuttle to the tournament’s main entrance. Skip it.
Instead, head to the nearest holes (and beer cart) which are across Aliʻinui Drive. The par-5 5th hole is a fun one—players have to decide whether to go for the green on two … but if they do, they risk splashing in a pond that borders the left of the green.
Nearby, close to the 6th hole tee box, there’s a beer cart.
2) Pick a Group to Follow for a Few Holes
Enjoy a beverage at the 6th hole tee box, watching the magnificent drives these pros can hit. When you see a group that interests you, start following them. You can get so close to the golfers, it’s interesting to see the different types of shots they have to hit (and to watch their reactions).
Follow them through the 9th hole. You’ll be at the main tournament entrance.
3) See Players Up Close In the Club & Practice Area
This area is the hub of the tournament. You’ll see the scoring tent, where players duck in and out to record their official scores. The short game area and driving range are also here, and you can usually see players working on their game. Pretty regularly one will walk by. You can tell them by the click of their golf spikes on the cement.
4) Go See A Hole-in-One (Hopefully) and a Waterfall
Every golf course has a signature hole. The Ko Olina Golf Club’s is the par-3 12th. It’s the one you see when you drive in, with the waterfall.
Go check it out, and you might see a hole-in-one. Hyo Joo Kim hit one last year.
From the Ko Olina clubhouse, go west down the cart path that runs along the 10th and 11th holes and follow it to the 12th.
5) Watch Golfers Try to Win $1 Million
A new season-long competition in golf this year is the AON Risk/Reward Challenge. During each PGA and LPGA tournament, one hole is designated as the Aon Risk/Reward Challenge hole. Scores on this hole will be compiled during the season, and the golfer with the best score gets a pretty ok prize: a million bucks.
What’s extra cool about this is the prize is the same for the men and the women.
The LOTTE Championship Risk/Reward hole is the 431-yard, par-5 13th. It’s a tricky hole because of the prevailing winds coming off the Waiʻanae Mountains, which pushes tee shots toward a pond to the right of the fairway. The green has three tiers—so play is very different depending on where the pin is set.
6) Figure Out Where Michelle Wie Is
Oʻahu’s own Wie will play. She’s hoping to finish a tournament for just the second time this year. Wie had reconstructive surgery on her right hand in October, and is still in recovery.
Her left hand holds something more lasting — an engagement ring from fiance Jonnie West, an executive with the Golden State Warriors and son of Lakers legend Jerry West.
If you want to congratulate Michelle in person, you can do so at her annual charity ping pong tournament, Wie Love Ping Pong, at the Four Seasons on Saturday. Tickets are $300/person.
If that’s a little pricey, find her on the course. At six-feet-tall, with an intense gaze, she has a truly regal bearing. Hard to explain in writing, you should be a witness yourself.
A volunteer at the ticket desk should be able to help, or find the schedule of tee times here.
Other interesting golfers to check out:
Brooke Henderson: The 21-year-old Canadian is the defending LOTTE champion.
Ariya Jutanugarn: The top money winner on the tour in 2018, looking to bounce back after finishing tied for 61st at the ANA Inspiration, the first of the LPGA’s four majors.
Americans: The two top-ranked Americans in the field are Nelly Korda (#9) and Danielle Kang (#13).
Cristie Kerr: Kerr, who won the LOTTE in 2017, is entertaining to watch. She reacts like the rest of us do when we botch a shot, or when we hit a good one. It’s a fun verbal show.
Park Sung-hyun: Park won three times in 2019, and was the #1-ranked golfer in the world until last week. A win would give her the #1 spot back..
Nasa Hataoka: This 20-year-old from Japan won twice in 2018, and has one win already this year. She is ranked #5 in the world.
7) Hydrate and Watch a Few Holes at the 18th
The 18th green is Instagram-worthy, with the black swans peacefully floating on the pond, and the golfers in the background. There’s another concession stand here, and this one has snacks.
The play is fun to watch too, because the green slopes down to the pond. If you hit the green in the wrong spot or wrong angle, it will roll down into the water. But some golfers overcorrect and hit it over the green, ending up in the far bunker.
What to Bring
Let’s finish up with a few thoughts on what to bring: Comfortable walking shoes, a hat, some extra sunscreen, and a water bottle. You can bring snacks and drinks (no coolers, though). Bring a few smiles for the course workers, too — they’re local folks who volunteer for the week.