The initial movie (1963) was about a group of strangers seeking buried treasure. Just before he kicked the bucket, Jimmy Durante tells them the treasure is under the ‘Big W’.
Later, Jonathon Winters makes the revelation:
Though not in Hawai‘i, that ‘W’ apparently motivated others to create their own Big W at the Wai‘alae Country Club.
Word is that Wai‘alae member Ethan Abbott came up with the idea and the club eventually moved four existing palm trees behind the 7th green to create the Wai‘alae W. (GolfNewNet)
Wai‘alae’s Big W has been around since 2009 – over 80-years after the golf club was formed.
Wai‘alae was originally built at the time before flight; Matson Navigation C. had luxury ocean liners bringing wealthy tourists to Hawaii – but, they needed a hotel equally lavish to accommodate their passengers at Waikīkī (at that time, the 650 passengers arriving in Honolulu every two weeks were typically staying at Hawaiʻi’s two largest hotels, the Alexander Hotel and the Moana.)
The availability of the Waikīkī land began putting wheels into motion. A new hotel was planned and conceived as a luxurious resort for Matson passengers, the brainchild of Ed Tenney (who headed the “big five” firm of Castle and Cooke and Matson Navigation) and Matson manager William Roth (son-in-law to William Matson founder of Matson Navigation.)
Castle & Cooke, Matson Navigation and the Territorial Hotel Company successfully proposed a plan to build a luxury hotel, The Royal Hawaiian, with 400 rooms on the 15-acre parcel of Waikiki beach to be leased from Bishop Estate.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place on July 26, 1925. However, the official building permits were delayed while city officials changed the building code to allow increased building heights. After $4 million and 18 months, the resort was completed.
On February 1, 1927, the Royal Hawaiian (nicknamed The Pink Palace) was officially opened with the gala event of the decade. Over 1200 guest were invited for the celebration that started at 6:30 pm and lasted until 2 am.
The great depression of the 1930s severely reduced travel and resulted in bankruptcy of the Territorial Hotel Co. Matson took over the obligations and interests of the Territorial Hotel Co. which included the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Moana Hotel and Waiʻalae Golf Club.
ITT Sheraton purchased The Royal Hawaiian from Matson in June 1959. The Royal Tower Wing was added to the existing structure in 1969. The resort was sold in 1974 to Kyo-ya Company, Ltd., with Starwood Hotels & Resorts operating it under a long-term management contract.
In 2008, the Royal Hawaiian again underwent significant renovation (to the tune of $85-million) and held its official grand reopening on March 7, 2009. The Tower section was renovated yet again in November 2010 and reopened as The Royal Beach Tower with upgraded rooms.
The course was part of the Territorial Hotel Co’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel – the golf course opened for play on February 1, 1927 and was the land-based extension of the luxury cruise folks had on Matson cruise ships.
Local players were able to use the course, and by payment of annual fees for play became “privilege card holders” in the Territorial Hotel Company’s Waiʻalae Golf Club.
In 1930, a group of these Waiʻalae players formed a private club within the Waiʻalae Golf Club which they called Waiʻalae Country Club. It enlarged a small service building close to the main clubhouse, installed showers and had its own clubhouse where the swimming pool is now located.
Later (September 30, 1942,) Waiʻalae Country Club was incorporated. The military built a replacement for the Pavilion (a building used for dining and dancing that had burned down) because of the heavy use of the course by military personnel during the war.
Hawaiian Opens (under various sponsorships) have been held at Waiʻalae since 1928. The First PGA Tour Hawaiian Open Golf Tournament was held in the fall of 1965. Today, Waiʻalae is home to the Sony Open in Hawaiʻi. (Lots of images and information here is from the waialaecc-org.)