Hawaii Course Recommendations


#21

I’m heading to Maui next year, staying at the Wailea Beach Resort. Other than Plantation, what other 2 clubs would you recommend? Is it easy to call and get in to KKC? As an Architect I’m more intrigued by the club house:)


#22

I used to travel to Hawaii every couple of years and play once or twice per trip (often with my wife riding along). Ah, the good old DINK days. I have played:

Kapalua Plantation (Maui)
Kapalua Bay (Maui)
Kaanapali Royal (Maui)
Wailea Gold (Maui)
Makena South (Maui) [NLE]
Prince Course (Kauai)
Makai (Kauai)
Wailua Muni (Kauai)
Poipu Bay (Kauai)
Experience at Koele (Lanai) [NLE]
Manele (Lanai)
Waikoloa Beach (Hawaii)
Mauna Lani North (Hawaii)

My main recommendations are:

Plantation Course at Kapalua
It’s worth the money. It’s a legit great course that you get to see every year on TV. Great view from every hole, excellent golf. Crazy fun shots, plays well in the wind, plays well on calm days (yes they do have calm days). There is nothing in the world quite like 18. I hit driver, then 3 iron thinking I was basically laying up but sure enough the ball took the slope and ran and ran and and ran … ended up over the green. And I couldn’t get it up and down.
The Bay Course is the only course on Maui with a hole that plays over the ocean, but even it isn’t a very good hole and the rest of the course sucks. There’s a putting course that’s kinda fun by the learning center, though (at least there was last time I was there).

Manele
Ten years ago you could take a day trip by ferry from Maui to Lanai and play 36 holes on the two courses on that island. It was an insanely great day and, while expensive, not unreasonably so by Hawaiian vacation standards (consider that you’re paying for golf and a boat trip and I think the per person cost was not that much more than what a single green fee at Kapalua cost). Of course, the Koele course is gone now and Larry Ellison bought the island so the Manele course may only be available to people staying at that resort these days. But if they still have any deals for getting over there, I say do it. It’s not the best course on the islands, but it is among them and the 12th and 17th holes are worth it alone. Incredible clifftop golf. The course is a bizarre routing basically stairstepped on the hillside but it means every hole has stunning views. Really a fantastic experience. Consider, my wife does not golf. I got her out of bed at dawn to get on a boat so I could play 36 holes of golf and almost a decade later she still talks about it as one of the coolest days in all our travels. Lanai FTW.

Makai
If you’re considering this, I’ll endorse it. It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde course. Holes on the south side of the road (inland) are nice enough but kinda mundane. The holes on the ocean side of the road, even those that aren’t fully out on the coast, are really open and great. There’s a par 3 on the front that plays over the cliffs and then a really cool driveable par 4 on the back that plays right along the ocean. You have to challenge the cliff if you want to try to reach the green. An amazing hole.

Lastly, Wailua Muni
It’s got muni conditions, but the views are great and the prices are amazing for a course right along the coast. A nice place to maybe get your swing in shape if you haven’t played for a while. A way better place to play than 80% of the much higher priced options on the islands.

A couple other thoughts …
Mauna Lani is kinda cool playing between all the lava fields, but it gets old in a hurry. (I live in Arizona and it reminds me of desert golf, which I’m not a fan of.) Definitely an experience, but not necessarily a fun one.

The Prince Course has re-opened but access to the course is apparently limited to homeowners only for now. There was an interesting article on it in LINKS.

Kaanapali is overpriced garbage.


#23

Thanks so much!

Manele sounds so cool! Being our first time in Hawaii we’re going to stick to Maui the 7 days we’re there. So far I’m thinking of playing Plantation, both of the Wailea Courses and hopefully King Kamehameha Club if I can get in.


#24

Don’t bother with the Kaanapali courses. I spent five days overlooking them and was not at all tempted to play them.

Totally endorse Kapalua Plantation at the price. And their rental clubs were mint. Brand new Titleist/Vokey/Scotty.


#25

Any particular reason on the Kaanapali hate? Played there a lot this summer and enjoyed it.

Rental clubs, from what I saw, sound the same as Kapalua. Friendly clubhouse and cart staff.


#26

Just totally uninspiring, playing along a main road, minimum eye candy, nothing to get the architectural juices flowing. Did nothing for me.


#27

Interesting. Definitely understand where you’re coming from. But with the views on that course, the architecture is not on my mind much.


#28

Yeah, the holes on the mountain side of the road were just bad. Boring RTJ golf holes going up and down a mountainside. With so many trees that even the views weren’t great.

There were some decent holes on the ocean side of the highway, though.


#29

First time, long time. Just joined the site and excited to contribute.

I’ll submit big time recommendations for Planation Course on Maui and Manele on Lanai. Planation is tons of fun with really good variety of holes. Manele is in my all-time top 5. Front nine is good but back nine is insane. These days you have to stay at the Four Seasons to play it, which means it is criminally underplayed. The day I played it I played 54 in a grand total of about 8-9 hours while taking it pretty casually.

If you’re visiting the Islands, and especially Maui which is a short boat ride to Lanai, I’d highly recommend booking one night at Four Seasons Lanai and playing 54 at Manele.


#30

Back nine at Manele is so great. 12 gets all the photos but 17 (played from the same tee but in the opposite direction) is really the better hole (Par 4 vs par 3).

This is the 17th

Unbelievable cliffs.


#31

Agreed 17 is a great hole. Did a wipey fade find its way into the Pacific my first time playing it? You bet it did.

Other memories of the back: 10 eases you in, short dogleg left, with your approach playing at the Ocean. 11 is a fun reachable downhill par 5. 12 is the postcard hole…200 yards all carry over the ocean from the back. 13 is another good short 4 with a narrow green where the angles mean you need to try to come in from the right side of the fairway. 16 is a fun downhill par 4 with the Pacfic again as a backdrop; massive fairway and downhill so bombs away! 18 is a tad weak as a closer but not terrible.

This got me scrolling through my phone for some other pics of the course.

IMG_9607 IMG_9598

IMG_9611
IMG_9604 IMG_9610


#32

This has been touched on throughout the thread but figured I’d put the question to those with experience directly. I’ve got Manele covered - spending a few days there. Before that we’ll be in Maui near Wailea. Inasmuch as I’ll play one or two rounds at Manele, and balancing my desire not to spend too much time golf widowing my new wife against my desire to maximize my golfing experience in a faraway place I won’t soon be returning to, what do people recommend? My gut tells me Wailea Gold because people have said great things about it, and it’s very close to where we’re staying. Plantation seems far away (and perhaps a slower round?), but also the best course in a vacuum. Then there’s King K, which seems a wildcard to me and perhaps more unique. Appreciate everyone’s thoughts.


#33

drew, I played Wailea Gold a long time ago so don’t have great recollection. Played Plantation much more recently. That said, I’d pick Plantation if I had to go back and play just one. Lots of fun. Plus when you watch the Tournament of Champions in early January to get your golf fix as the snow and ice cover the ground, it’s great to re-live your round and know each of the holes. Having played the course, it gives one even greater appreciation for when DJ almost aced the par 4 12th on the back with driver (433 yard hole).


#34

Plantation is very worthwhile, as it is by far the best course on Maui. When I played there it was not busy at all and that was during a relatively busy time of year in Maui (spring break). I’ve never noticed Hawaiian courses being especially packed. Just not that many people around, plus a place like Kapalua is expensive.

Kapalua is a hell of a long way from Wailea. It is a nice drive and I really like that north side of the island. If you can figure out other stuff you and your wife want to do in the Kapalua/Kaanapali/Lahaina area and make a day of it, then that’s the way to go. Not sure if the wife likes to ride along with you or if she shops or does spa stuff while you play. Any of that is an option in the area. Kapalua is a pretty nice ride along, my wife did that on our honeymoon. Great views from every hole. Since we were there in March my wife was actually whale watching from some spots.

Anyway, there’s a blowhole just a bit past Kapalua that’s fun to walk down to. And a great cheap (by Maui standards) mixed plate restaurant in Lahaina. And an aquarium near where they launch boats around Maalaea.

I played all the Wailea courses years ago. Gold was the best of them but none lit my hair on fire. #6 was the first par 4 I ever drove and made the putt for an eagle so that’s a nice memory. But sidehills and palm trees are better than sidehills and pine trees like you get at Kaanapali.

I liked the Makena courses a bit better but there’s only one (a sort of hybrid of the two that used to be there) still remaining and it seems to be private. Also it seems like the best holes didn’t survive.


#35

Thanks, all. Very helpful.


#36

Yeah, I just called the club and signed up for the “member for a day” package. Well worth the money.

I haven’t played there, but I’ve heard good things about Wailea gold.


#37

Throwing in my two cents here on two courses I played last time I was in Hawaii. Both of these reviews are somewhat negative. I don’t think you’re going to find many great golf courses in Hawaii because of the terrain and climate. You’re paying to play in Hawaii, not to play great golf.

Waikoloa Kings Course (Kona/Waikoloa, Big Island)- I thought this course was fine. You get a pretty significant discount if you’re staying at the Hilton that made the course very reasonable for Hawaii. The course is just meh, though. It’s non-offensive, and pretty playable. There’s not really anything super memorable about it though, and I don’t think I would pay full price to play it. There’s a companion course, the Beach Course, which I think is RTJ II. Didn’t play it, but Doak eviscerated it in his guide.

Poipu Bay (Kauai) - AVOID. It’s a classic Rees Jones course. The short version is that it’s Torrey Pines without the views. Good luck fitting your drive in the 20 yards between 2 fairway bunkers in your landing zone (or face a 180 yard approach by laying back!). A lot of the holes are fronted by bunkers, which means any poor golfer is going to be in the sand a lot. Holes 15-17 are really scenic but not good golf holes. 16 is the best of those, and it’s still just fit it into this 30 yard fairway and hit the green from 185 yards. Bleh. 18 is a god-awful par 5 with a nearly impossible second shot if you go for the green. Course would be a lot better if it got rid of 50% of the bunkers, so you know, not great. You can play portions of the course for a lot cheaper. If you have to play this course, I would do that.


#38

Probably been mentioned already, but on the Big Island I’d definitely play Hapuna. While on the island I played Mauna Kea, Mauna Lani North and South and Hualalai and Hapuna was by far my favorite for less than half the price.

It climbs way up on the mountain, and provides some unreal views and some fun holes as well.

Of the more expensive beachfront ones I played I thought Mauna Kea was by far the best. The back nine was serene.


#39

I played there last week. You don’t have to stay at the resort to play FYI. I agree with you though, what a course! One of the most fun courses I’ve played. My favorite in Hawaii so far.


#40

Well that’s good news about not needing to stay there. Hope to see that place again. Lots of ocean in your pictures I think I see a few of my golf balls in there. :joy: