Insider's take on the 2015 Sony Open

Sony Open in Hawaii
Getty Images
Much of Waialae Country Club's charm during the Sony Open in Hawaii is its raw beauty.
By T.J. Auclair
Connect with T.J.

Series: Local Knowledge

Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 | 9:14 a.m.

The first full-field event of the New Year takes place on the PGA Tour this week with the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club.

Jimmy Walker is back as the defending champion, coming off a playoff-loss on Monday in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Maui.

Waialae couldn't be more different than Kapalua. Instead of the incredible elevation changes players faced in Maui last week, Waialae is flat as can be.

RELATED: Sony Open leaderboard | Auclair's 5 players to watch | Win or bust?

When you take into account Waialae's flatness and the fact that the weather is more often perfect than not, the tournament turns into a birdie bonanza.

"There's really no particular stretch of holes to make a run of birdies, however, a par on our par 5s -- No. 9 and No. 18 -- loses two strokes to the field," Waialae PGA Head Professional Kevin Carll told "Those have to be scoring holes."

That's what typically makes for an exciting finish at Waialae too -- that par-5 18th hole which is reachable in two with a well-placed drive.

Waialae is no stranger to the PGA Tour. The tournament has been contested there every year since 1965.

"The strategy involved with navigating each hole will keep you on your toes," Carll said, explaining how the course has been able to stand the test of time. "It's definitely not a bomber's course, however there are several holes in which a good drive will benefit the longer hitters. To sum it up, I would categorize Waialae Country Club as a traditional course."

Carll's favorite hole on the course is the 426-yard, par-4 second hole. It features a tee shot over a stream and a lake on the left side of the fairway that can come into play for the longer hitters.

"Hole No. 2 will hold your attention from the tee through the approach," Carll said. "For the tee ball, the prevailing trade wind is in the face and slightly left to right. Left of the fairway is a water hazard and right of the fairway is a grove of mango trees. The approach is played into a slightly right to left wind with a large bunker guarding the front right of the green. Four pars on this hole for the week is a good score."

If you find yourself on the lovely island of Oahu, Carll offered up three other courses -- along with dining options at or near each -- that you'll want to try out:

Turtle Bay Resort -- Arnold Palmer Course: "Good test of golf which forces you to use every club in the bag," Carll said. "You can't beat the view from the 17th green as it backs up to the ocean. And when you finish, try Lei Lei's Restaurant in the clubhouse. It has excellent seafood, steak, and chops and the staff is extremely friendly."

Ko Olina Golf Club: "This is a resort-friendly course which has hosted Champions Tour and LPGA Tour events," Carll said. "Nearby is the Monkeypod Kitchen. They have a great happy hour menu and their food is fresh, organic and tasty."

Royal Hawaiian Golf Club: "This is as dramatic a setting as you'll find anywhere," he said. "It's set amongst a rainforest, which provides incredible views. Afterwards, try out Haleiwa Joe's -- good seafood and prime rib, as well as a gorgeous view of the gardens and pond." 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.