David Reese

CEO | Kohanaiki

Real Estate

Kohala Coast, The Big Island of Hawaii 

David Reese: The CEO of One of Hawaii’s Most Alluring Resorts on How Kohanaiki is Keeping its Members Happy During Mandatory Closures

Kohanaiki is a 450-acre, private residential community located on the Kona Coast of Hawaii and represents an evolution of the private club experience. A world-class paradise, the club offers onsite dining venues, Hawaii’s only Rees Jones golf course, outdoor adventures with a team of pro-athletes and more. The 67,000-square-foot clubhouse (debuted in January 2017) boasts everything from a secret whiskey room, wine cellar with 50 years of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and a Tracy Lee–designed spa to a snack-stocked movie theater and colorful bowling alley. Amenities include a nano-brewery and beer tasting room, caddy program where members can golf with a famous caddy, and wellness experts including a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture at the Kohanaiki Spa and a sound healing guru. Kohanaiki real estate options include estate home lots, custom single-family homes, and paired townhome-style residences, with prices ranging from $3M to over $20M.  CEO David Reese’s career has been defined by more than 18 years of luxury resort and private club experience. He first joined the Kohanaiki team back in 2008 and returned in 2014. A member of the PGA since 2002, David previously served as general manager of The Fountaingrove Club in Sonoma County; he was involved early on at Winchester Country Club in Meadow Vista, Calif.; and managed golf operations at CordeValle, a private club and Five-Star boutique hotel in San Martin, Calif.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? 

The safety and well-being of everyone on property is my top priority. We have been and will continue to follow the guidance from government agencies, legal counsel, and the club’s on-call physician. This is a very fluid situation and everything that is shared with us is most definitely considered as we carefully navigate through this pandemic. For our team, their safety and well-being is top priority, not only from a physical perspective, but from a financial standpoint as well. We are fortunate to have an extremely supportive ownership that has committed to continuing everyone’s employment, pay, and benefits. Other priorities include ensuring that we are up to speed on employment laws and programs related to COVID-19, spending money wisely during this time, and assuring that we are fully prepared to charge full speed ahead when we return to normal operations.

The $67M Kohanaiki Clubhouse.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?

Kohanaiki, along with all the private communities along the Kona Coast, have shut down the majority of operations per the state and federal mandates. We have around 80 members occupying their private residences on property and our various departments have gotten very creative with ways to continue service to members. We launched a “Kohanaiki Kitchen” program where members can place grocery orders for delivery to their home. Our food and beverage team is bringing some of our members’ favorite foods to Kohanaiki with hosting dinner specials like an In-N-Out burger night, KFC – Kohanaiki Fried Chicken night, and San Francisco chowder bowls, to name a few. Twice a week they deliver a surprise treat from homemade lilikoi (passionfruit) pound cake to beer and popcorn kits. The golf course is still in operation and every Tuesday we host a women’s skins game and provide lunch and beer. Thursdays is the men’s round. All members drive their own golf carts and respect the social distancing rules. Our operations team is sharing their tremendous talents with our membership via video and live stream programming. Fitness classes, surf lessons, cooking demonstrations, cocktail classes, and weekly wine picks from our resident sommelier are just some of the topics we have touched upon but the content opportunities are endless at Kohanaiki.

An estate home at Kohanaiki listed at $12.5M.

Once the safety of our team and our members was established, we moved forward with strategic planning, targeted maintenance projects, and initiatives to further engage our membership and buyer prospect database. We still have a strong and engaged pipeline of those excited to come out and experience all that is Kohanaiki once travel has resumed. We’re working on live web streams from the most scenic parts of property (you’d be hard-pressed to find one that isn’t), aerial flyovers of the property and virtual fly-throughs of some of our developer homes. We remain busy focusing on all initiatives to keep Kohanaiki top of mind and prep our team for what we anticipate to be a very busy summer sales season. The construction of several developer homes [e.g. see Estate Home 61] and a new neighborhood [called Panana] continue and our real estate team is working remotely to stay connected with members and those that have shown a keen interest in Kohanaiki homes.

An overview of Kohanaiki’s striking coast.

Membership “care packages,” are underway to bring Kohanaiki to members’ doorsteps— including Kona coffee, Kohanaiki-branded local honey, our popular post-dinner Mika Mints from Big Island Candies, a recipe book from Kohanaiki’s culinary team, and a pack of custom Kohanaiki playing cards to remind members of their home away from home.  We are also about to launch some exciting real estate incentives for our Hale Club members. Hale Club allows prospective homeowners to experience Kohanaiki life for a limited number of nights per year with accommodations in beautifully outfitted homes (hale) designed by Zak Architecture.

The construction of several developer homes and a new neighborhood continue and our real estate team is working remotely to stay connected with members and those that have shown a keen interest in Kohanaiki homes.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now? 

I think that everyone in the world will have a refined outlook on life. Life’s short, buy the beach house, and spend more quality time with your family. This will result in strong sales opportunities for destination private residential communities within the United States, especially Hawaii. We are all learning efficiencies as we adjust to working remotely, lessons that will hopefully carry into future business practices, and allow for more discretionary and personal time. People in our industry must focus on fully engaging their memberships and prospects, thinking outside the box to develop new and creative opportunities as we all compete to capture attention.

The interior of the Hale Club.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past? 

I have learned that difficult times, although it may not seem so at the time, do indeed pass. We must all focus on the present, do what needs to be done now, proactively and strategically move forward, and realize that over the long haul, this will be a small bump in the road.  Communication within one’s team is critical, especially during difficult times. We have a daily newsletter that goes to members and staff with updates on everything from the current COVID-19 situation in Hawaii to weather and ocean conditions. The staff have appreciated hearing how Kohanaiki has acknowledged the county, state, and federal mandates so we all can continue to operate at the highest levels of service.

Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime


Morning routine?

I’m trying to keep the same morning routine. Nothing has really changed except that I’m working from home more often than before and can have lunch with my family.

Currently binging?

I haven’t had the time yet to catch up on any TV shows, although I’ve heard that Don Cheadle’s second season of Black Monday is a hit along with Michael Robin’s All Rise. 

Currently reading? 

I haven’t had the time for personal reading as I’m currently head high in children’s books as I assist my wife with homeschooling.

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?

We have three children ages 2, 5, and 7 so we have our hands full with homeschooling, backyard sports, art projects, jungle gym, trampoline, and family movie night.

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?

Facetime with family and friends, barbecuing at home, daily exercise consisting of family walks, appropriate “social distancing” golf at Kohanaiki, and playing with my children. Our Peloton bike is being delivered today so I’m looking forward to my morning routine now beginning with an online spin class.

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?

Lake Tahoe. We had to recently cancel an annual family trip to the snow and can’t wait to get back to snowboarding. I also look forward to the return of endless family beach days in Hawaii.