The AAA Companion
November | December 2004
Volume 78 Issue 6
Hawaii's Course of Dream's
By Tracy Cabot & Marshall Whitfield
'Tis the night before your Hawaiian golf holiday. Your clubs are packed, your tickets are by the door. You fall asleep and have a wondrous dream: Hawaii's most spectacular golf holes stretch out before you, magically arranged in the ideal playing order. From a magnificent 663-yard first hole at Kapalua to Turtle Bay's roaring surf, from fairways fringed with black lava to greens high in mountain valleys — the course transports you through the varied scenery and moods of all six Hawaiian islands.
Countless bogeys and dozens of consultations with golf experts went into our nomination of Hawaii's most thrilling holes. Then, golf course architect Robin Nelson and NBC golf analyst Mark Rolfing helped finalize this selection and arranged the holes in the best playing sequence. Mark, who travels the world to cover golf for the network, affirms "You are headed to the greatest golf destination anywhere."
Follow us through these 18 great, fun-to-play holes, all on courses open to visitors. Along the way, you'll tour the Hawaiian Islands and discover some great courses you've never played. And then the dream will be yours.
1. Kapalua's Plantation Course #18:
par 5, 663 yards
On Maui's secluded northwest corner, with pine-scented trade winds and cloud-wreathed Molokai in the distance, stretches the longest hole on the PGA Tour. It's downwind and downhill; in the 1993 Lincoln-Mercury Pro Am, Andy Bean hit a driver and 5 iron for a double eagle. "The trick," reveals Marty Keiter, Kapalua's vice president of golf, "is to aim for the clubhouse on your first shot."
2. The Links Course at Turtle Bay #17:
par 4, 452 yards
Next, you're swept to Oahu's North Shore, where hardy ironwood trees resist the briny trade winds. Matt Hall, Turtle Bay's director of golf, grins as he explains, "It's a fairly simple par 4 — if you hit the landing area. If you don't, it's a real expedition through nine deep bunkers, and each one has a bad attitude." All attitudes improve at the green, however, perched on breathtaking Kahuku Point, with nothing but waves between you and the Aleutian Islands.
3. Kaluakoi #3:
par 3, 184 yards
Overlooking 4-mile-long Papohaku Beach, where the rural solitude of Molokai meets the wild ocean, this hole appears deceptively easy. Operations manager James Miller warns: "The trade wind's behind you, so drop down one or two clubs to a 7 or 8 iron and just aim for the front-center of the green. Trouble's on the left and the deep Pacific is just beyond."
4. Kauai Lagoons' Kiele Course #18:
par 4, 431 yards
You next find yourself on Kauai's lush, green south shore, driving directly into trade winds redolent of tropical flowers. Lagoons border the fairway's entire right side. Kenneth Kimura, golf operations manager, smiles as he points out "If you slice it off the tee, your ball will find a soft, quiet resting place 10 feet under water. Even if you keep your tee shot dry, you'll eventually be shooting to an island green that seems to get smaller the longer you look at it. Our advice is to aim, swing, and pray. And bring an extra ball, just in case."
5. Makena's North Course #12:
par 3, 185 yards
From sun-soaked South Maui, uninhabited Kahoolawe looms starkly across the Alalakeiki Channel, and in mid-channel, Molokini's half-sunken crater cradles a fleet of snorkel boats. You'll be hitting downhill over a lava flow ravine. Don Honma, Makena's director of golf, advises, "If you can take your eyes off the scenery, play a mid-iron shot to left center of the green. Aim for Molokini and hit high."
6. Royal Kunia Country Club #9:
par 5, 621 yards
High up on central Oahu, this downhill hole provides sweeping views of Honolulu, the "Crossroads of the Pacific." Cargo carriers and warships head for downtown and Pearl Harbor berths, jets line up for Honolulu International and skyscrapers gleam in the distance toward Diamond Head. Busy, busy. Up here, though, all is mellow, the trade winds blow sweet, and the hole's only water hazard is too far away to worry about. Head golf pro Darren Sano's relaxing advice fits the mood: "Just tee it high and let it fly."
7. Poipu Bay Resort Course #16:
par 4, 501 yards
Beyond lies an untamed stretch of South Kauai's cliff-lined coast, and scented trade winds are at your back. Director of golf Mike Castillo says: "The largest water hazard on the planet — the Pacific Ocean — is just yards away, so stay focused on keeping the ball in the fairway; then use the contour of the green to feed the ball to the hole."
8. Mauna Lani's South Course #15:
par 3, 202 yards
Set amidst the menacing lava fields on the Big Island's Kohala Coast, Mauna Lani beckons like an emerald-green oasis. At the edge of the Pacific, this boomerang-shaped hole curves around a crystalline snorkeling cove. "If you opt to try and carry the water," head golf pro Tom Sursely advises, "be sure your ball stays at least 35 feet above sea level for at least 200 yards."
9. "The Experience at Koele" #17:
par 4, 444 yards
Yet another face of Hawaii reveals itself on Lanai, in a mountain valley 2,200 feet above the ocean. Cool air from the misty rainforest on your left adds a tang of eucalyptus to the sweet scent of cut grass. "From the back tees, 250 feet above the fairway, you've got a great view of everything but the fairway," says Brendan Moynahan, head pro. "Just trust that there's a generous landing area down there, and favor the left."
10. Kapalua's Village Course #7:
par 4, 367 yards
You're high in the foothills of West Maui, surrounded by Kapalua's towering Norfolk Pines. It's now later in the day; Pailolo Channel looks choppy in the freshening trades, and clouds drape Molokai's high peaks. Below you, a picture-perfect little mountain lake guards the hole. Kapalua's vice president of golf, Marty Keiter, suggests, "Hit a big drive favoring the right. The wind will keep you out of the lake, and the ducks will spot your ball."
11. Waikoloa Beach Resort Kings' Course #7:
par 3, 184 yards
In Big Island's clear air, the astronomical observatories are clearly visible atop 13,796-foot Mauna Kea. Far below, carved from the Kohala Coast's other-worldly fields of black lava, this hole features a two-tiered green. Water closely hugs the right side of the putting surface. "It's tempting to shoot for the flag," says director of golf Dave Pritchett, "but if you land short of the second-tier slope, you'll be groaning as your ball runs into the water. It's best to play to the left and settle for par."
12. Wailea's Emerald Course #18:
par 5, 553 yards
Back in South Maui, whitecaps sparkle and the morning snorkel boats have left Molokini. At upscale resorts along the beach below you, attendants bring chilled towels to sunbathing guests. Wailea's pampering extends upslope, to include six sets of tees on this invitingly downhill, downwind hole. "If you want to gamble and can reach the green in two, be sure to stay left," counsels Rick Castillo, head golf pro. "This one makes you want to come back."
13. Princeville's Prince Course #7:
par 3, 205 yards
On Kauai's North Shore, rainbows arch toward Hanalei and the fabled Bali Hai mountains beyond. Between you and the green, however, a precipitous ravine drops 200 feet down to Anini Beach, where movie stars have beachfront homes. "You're playing into the wind, so the hole plays longer," warns Steven Murphy, head pro. "Play one to two clubs higher and don't be afraid of hitting long."
14. Makaha Resort #18:
par 4, 422 yards
The Waianae mountain range, highest on Oahu, rises 2,500 feet in near-vertical walls from Makaha's valley floor, giving a hushed sense of remoteness. Like an amphitheater, Makaha Valley opens westward toward the vast Pacific, and this hole captures the full panorama. "The trick here," explains golf pro Marc Smith, "is to keep your tee shot right of the bunkers. That will give you a better angle to the green."
15. Mauna Kea Resort, Hapuna Course #9:
par 4, 435 yards
From this part of Big Island's Kohala Coast, Mauna Loa comes into view, shoulder-to-shoulder with Mauna Kea. Their volcanic terrain seems to flow right down into the keawe trees, ilima shrubs and desert grass which provide Hapuna's hazards, and you feel like you're actually playing on the weathered flanks of the great peaks. Here's a caution from Brad Baptist, first-assistant head pro: "Be sure to aim left of the fairway bunker; it seems to be a golf ball magnet."
South Course #10:
par 5, 514 yards
Returning to south Maui, you may see whales spouting and breaching offshore. This stretch of ocean, sheltered from Hawaii's great north waves by the islands of Lanai and Molokai, is a favorite breeding and calving grounds for Humpback whales. It's the nearer bodies of water, though, that draw your attention. They dominate this hole. Dana Swanson, assistant golf pro, grins as he says, "You may wish you'd brought your snorkel for this one. If you have that old 'floater ball' in your bag, now's the time to pull it out."
17. Mauna Kea Resort, Mauna Kea Course #3:
par 3, 261 yards
Next, you're back on Big Island for Hawaii's most photographed golf hole, with Maui in the distance, green sea turtles swimming beneath the tee, and mature trees framing a gorgeously manicured green. Brad Baptist, first-assistant head pro, points out: "It's 261 yards to the pin, and 230 yards of that is ocean. There's no lay up on this hole, so aim at the right side of the green and don't be short."
Golf Course #18:
par 4, 476 yards
The Dream Course culminates high in Oahu's Koolau range. Here, carved from rain forest, awaits Hawaii's toughest hole. Golf operations manager Mathew Paquette explains: "It's a real easy par 6, but somewhat harder as a par 4. You'll need two, 200-yard carries over the same ravine, to a green that's well-guarded by a big Mango tree. You can brag about bogeying this one. After Koolau, every other course is a pitch-and-putt."
Tracy Cabot and Marshall Whitfield are freelance writers who live on the North Shore of Oahu. Besides being avid duffers, Marshall is a competitive body surfer and Tracy dances hula.
For more information about Hawaii and AAA's numerous and varied travel packages to Hawaii, visit a AAA Travel professional, or call 866-235-7070.
Hawaii vacation offers
Return to Table of Contents