Where to golf in Hawaii: A guide to the best courses on the Hawaiian Islands

by Roger on February 4, 2009

by Roger | February 4th, 2009  

With Hawaii’s many stunning vistas, perfect 80 degree weather and plenty of both rain and sunshine, it is no wonder the archipelago boasts some of the world’s best golf courses. Since the islands also attract travelers looking for some time in paradise away from it all, it is also no surprise that many people head to the islands just to golf (and maybe sip a few cocktails by the pool or at the beach). However, with so many different courses to choose from across the islands, it may be hard to decide which course you’d like to play on during your Hawaiian vacation. To help you make that decision, here is a run down of some of the best golf courses in Hawaii.

Kapalua Resort Plantation Course, Maui


Perhaps the most famous of the Hawaiian golf courses, the Kapalua Plantation Course is known for hosting the PGA Tour’s season opening Mercedes-Benz Championship every January. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua located near the two courses—the Bay Course and the Plantation Course—is certainly not for the budget traveler (though how many golf travelers are really budget travelers anyways), but provides some of the most luxurious accommodations for those looking for a high-end hotel to stay in when they aren’t hitting balls out on the course.

Princeville Resort Makai Golf Course, Kauai


While there are a plethora of things to do in Kauai, golfers should not miss one of the most spectacular golf courses in the entire world, the Prince Golf course at the Princeville resort on Kauai’s North Shore will stun golfers with the jaw-dropping beautiful scenery. With lush green velvet coasted mountains and spectacular ocean views as a backdrop, golfers will be surprised that it wasn’t this stunning scenery that has consistently landed the Prince Golf Course as one of the best golf courses in the world. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., this 18-hole, par-72 course was created to turn the rolling terrain into a link-style course that is sure to challenge and delight every golfer. Plus, what could be better than spending a day at not only one the best designed courses in the islands, but also having a picture-perfect view to look at all the while (that way at least if you don’t have a great day on the course, at least you’ll be comforted by fantastic views).

The Dunes at Maui Lani, Maui


This golf course was recently called “one of the five best kept secret golf courses in America” by Golf Digest. While this course may not be a famous or well-known as nearby Kapalua, The Dunes at Maui Lani has gotten many accolades from across the golfing community for being one of the best new golf courses in the world. Designed in tribute to the great links-style courses of Ireland, The Dunes at Maui Lani winds through stunning terrain and challenges all different levels of handicaps.

Kukio Makai Beach Golf Club, Kaiulua Kona, Hawaii


This 18-hole. Par-72 recently opened golf course on the Big Island not only boasts fantastic views of the ocean and one of Hawaii’s active volcanoes, but the course also offers up 7,417 yards of golf. The championship layout at this golf course also gives golfers of every skill level a fun challenge. For those who aren’t sure they have time for 18-holes (the kids may not want to wait around long enough for dad to play a whole course), than the Kukio Makai Golf Club also offers up a great 9-hole Executive course. Stars like Lance Armstrong have also stayed in homes near this golf course, and while Kukio Makai offers up a great course with great views, golfers will be delighted at the lower green fees that at some nearby courses.

Ka’anapali Golf Resort, Maui


Originally designed as a 9-hole executive course, this Maui golf course was redesigned by Arthur Jack Snyder in 1976 into an 18-hole, par-70 course and was re-designed again recently by Robin Nelson. Today the 6,400 yard course is perfect for the non-professional, leisure golfer as the subtle green are more forgiving and accommodate all levels of play. This is also the golf course that hosts a tournament every November during the Maui Invitational. Sitting on a beautiful piece of landed fringed with swaying palm trees and boasting ocean views, the land Ka’anapali golf course was built on originally housed a sugar cane plantation and a train once used to transport sugar cane that now is used for tours will steam past several of the holes reminding players of Hawaii’s rich cultural history. Players will also get to enjoy native Hawaiian flowers, lava rock boundaries make this a course that can enjoyed by both the beginner and avid golfer.

Poipu Bay Golf Course, Kauai


Another golf course located on Hawaii’s Garden Isle of Hawaii, the Poipu Golf Course is on the sun-drenched south shore of the island and offers golfers not only stunning views, but also a world renowned golf course. In fact, the Poipu Bay Golf Course was home to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994-2006 and has seen the likes of Tiger Woods and other golf greats on this 18-hole course nestled among the contours of Poipu Bay. Here, acclaimed designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. and nature have conspired to create a stunning venue for golfers of various abilities—from the pros to beginners—all while offering up views of emerald coasted mountains and a rolling plateau with 8-story cliffs dropping into the blue Pacific waters below. Golfers can also catch glimpses of the Hawaiian nene goose, monk seals and in the winter months, humpback whales just off shore.

Mauna Kea Golf Course, Hawaii


Recently named as being one of the best golf courses in the world by Conde Nast Traveler, the 18-hole, par-72 Mauna Kea Golf Course is known as one of Hawaii’s both more breathtakingly beautiful and most challenging courses. Another course designed by the famed Robert Trent Jones Jr., this course is consistently rated as a top golf courses in the U.S. Forget trying to avoid man-made ponds and sand pits, the signature 3rd hole is 175 yards long and the Pacific Ocean and shoreline cliffs stand in between the tee and the green—challenging every player while offering up fantastic views. While high coastal winds can sometimes make this course a bit too challenging, the ocean cliffs, palm tress and spectacular views make up for it. Make sure you book well in advance if you want to play at this famed course, as its popularity can make it hard to get a tee time.

Ko’olau Golf Course, Oahu


Golfers looking for a challenge should definitely test their skills on the Ko’olau Golf Course on Oahu’s eastern side. Carved out of a tropical rain forest on the windward side of the 2,000 foot Ko’olau Ridge mountain range below Oahu’s famed Pali lookout, this course not only offers up spectacular views, but also encompasses three distinct climate zones and features extreme elevation changes, winding ravines, lush native Hawaiian vegetation and views of cascading waterfalls. Rated as one of the toughest courses in the country, golfers won’t be able to be too distracted by the stunning scenery surrounding them on this diversely beautiful course. The dramatic vistas, challenging holes and Pacific breezes make this course one of Hawaii’s most spectacular.

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