Helicopters + Golf: One Man Is Banking on the Pair

Helicopters + Golf: One Man Is Banking on the Pair

Bob Yeager loves two things: Flying helicopters and playing golf. So when the occasion arose where he found a way to marry the two, that's exactly what he did. Now, those with a few extra grand to burn (they're out there) can tee up on a handful of the islands' most exclusive golf courses, connecting between them via private helicopter. In addition, Yeager will send you and your threesome on (and above) the links with a scratch golf guide, in case you wanted to know exactly what the pitch is of the 14th green.

Yeager's "Heli Golf" has actually been in operation since 1981, but until now, operated on an extremely exclusive basis. Securing landing permits on or near the courses, arranging for escorts and all the details limited him to only a dozen patrons per year. Yet recently, as Yeager's alternate business, Aloha International Employment Services, has taken off (he just opened an O'ahu office last month), and with the influx if private jet visitors, so has his drive to open the doors of Heli Golf to more golf aficionados.

Heli Golf now has permits to land at both Mauna Kea and Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawai'i, as well as on Lana'i near the Four Seasons' two courses (The Experience and The Challenge). On Maui, Heli Golf lands near Kapalua's Plantation Course on Maui, and also has an exclusive contract with the little-known (and private) King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu, near Wailuku. Yeager also mentioned hopes to work out contracts with the Halekulani and Turtle Bay to try and bring their VIP guests onboard, since they attract the highest level of clientele on O'ahu.

Here's how it works: Those seeking an uplifting golf experience swipe their Amex black card for $7,000 (up to $15,000, depending on courses played and type of helicopter), and are promptly picked up in a limousine and transported from their hotel to the heli pick-up, where a Sunshine or Blue Hawaiian helicopter soars them to the course of their choosing. In tow, a semi-pro or scratch golfer escorts the group. The guide has pre-arranged any club or equipment rentals needed for clients, as well as beverage and food needed before, on or after the links. After eating at the clubhouse, guests can fly to another location or return to their hotel.

"This is generally for the billion dollar portfolio client," said David Hoffman, sales and marketing for Heli Golf. "Not even as much the millionaires. It's for people who can drop $8,000 in an afternoon and hardly notice it. It's about having a once in a lifetime experience that 'one-ups' anything your buddy has done on the links. But at the same time, it's a spectacular experience."

For example, Hoffman shares that the club house at Maui's member-only King Kamehameha Golf Club was originally designed for Marilyn Monroe, and is often referred to as "The Monroe House". Although she never lived in it, the plans were made up to her specifications, and then built after her divorce from Arthur Miller, to be the clubhouse (with minor modifications). The building itself is rather unique; arriving from above it, and landing directly next to it, offers a rare glimpse at one of Maui's most interesting structures.

Hoffman says that nearly 75 percent of the visitors to Maui are repeat visitors. "This is something different for them to try," he adds.

A Heli Golf experience takes approximately one week to arrange, so clients and travel agents are encouraged to book ahead of time. Hoffman adds that the company pays substantial commissions to concierges and travel agents that may assist with bookings. Currently, Heli Golf counts between 3 and 8 patrons per month.

Visit www.HeliGolf.com or call (808) 873-8687 for more information, pricing and courses of play.

"It's about having a once in a lifetime experience that 'one-ups' anything your buddy has done on the links." –Hoffman