At the time of this writing, the PGA Tour just finished up it’s two-week Hawaii swing that christens the beginning of the golf season.
Even though the days are still short, and the temperatures remain frigid in most parts of the Mainland, watching the world’s best in the tropics was joyful and happy.
It makes me long to get back to the islands. Feeling the trade winds in my hair, toes dipped in warm white sand, a mai thai in my hand, and watching the sun set over the blue Pacific. Sounds pretty good, right? Ok, I’ll stop rubbing it in.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a decent amount of my time in Hawaii, specifically on Maui. And I’ve even played some golf. True to form, many of our readers have plenty to say about golf on this island too.
Enough with the waxing poetic, let’s get going.
Old Blue Course at Wailea Golf Club
The Old Blue Course was designed by Arthur Jack Snyder. For a long time, this course has been a favorite for both its challenge and charm.
While the panoramas have to be seen to be believed, the layout demands your utmost attention. Sloping fairways, lava outcroppings, and coral sand bunkers present challenges on every hole.
A wide variety of holes also ask you to hit every club in your bag, and offer ample opportunity for risk and reward.
Your work isn’t done when you get to the greens either. They’re sloped and notoriously tricky to read. Pay attention to the grain and whether you’re headed up mountain or down mountain.
Gold Course at Wailea Golf Club
The Gold Course at Wailea Golf Club is the most challenging of the three. Since it opened, it’s been touted as one of the finest resort courses in the country.
The design traverses rugged lava fields not far from the coast. As a result, there’s not much room for error if you start hitting it crooked. Keep it in the short stuff.
This thinking man’s course is one I’ve played before and try to revisit every time I’m on Maui.
Emerald Course at Wailea Golf Club
If you’re just starting out with golf or are looking for a fun round with family and friends, the Emerald Course at Wailea Golf Club is the perfect venue.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, this course’s features are soft and forgiving. Coupled with some of the most amazing views to be had on the island of Maui, it’s close to impossible to have a bad day here.
A favorite for couples, women, beginners, and everyone else, don’t miss a chance to play the Emerald Course at Wailea Golf Club.
Kaanapali Royal Course
Formerly home to the ancient Royal Chiefs of Maui, this course affords incredible views and gently sloping fairways.
The layout is geographically diverse in that some holes are along the water while others wander into the foothills of the coastal mountains.
Regardless of what time of day you play the Royal Course, chances are the trade winds will be blowing. While they will help keep you cool, they can wreak havoc with shots that aren’t struck solidly. Choose clubs wisely and remember, when it’s breezy, swing it easy.
Rich with native history, offering views for days, and a layout that’s both challenging and fun, the Royal Course has everything you could want and more.
Kaanapali Kai Course
The other course at the famed Kaanapali Resort is the Kai Course. The property on which this track sits was once the vacation spot for the Royal Chiefs of Maui. It was in this very spot where they enjoyed games like lawn bowling, commiserated, and philosophized about everything good in life.
Today, you can have the same experience. The only difference being that the game of choice is golf instead of lawn bowling.
From a design standpoint, what you see is what you get. That only means that there aren’t too many surprises. Don’t get the impression that this course is boring.
Much like the Royal Course, this course is susceptible to trade winds. Be prepared to take a lot more club into the wind and a lot less on downwind shots.
Maui Nui Golf Club
Maui Nui Golf Club is considered one of the best values on the island. You can play here for less than $100. That’s cheap by Hawaii standards, take it from me.
At this property, you’ll experience generous fairways and large greens that are forgiving. It’s more than clear this course was designed for golfers of all levels to enjoy themselves.
While courses on other parts of the island are susceptible to ever-present coastal winds, Maui Nui is somewhat sheltered and almost always dry. The area receives less than 10 inches of rain per year.
Even though this track might lack some of the glitz and glamor of the fancier resorts, it has everything you need for an enjoyable day on the links.
Kahili Golf Course
A round at Kahili Golf Course allows you to understand why Maui is known as the Valley Isle. Unlike a lot of the courses mentioned above, this track is nestled into the foothills of the West Maui Mountains.
Designed by Rodney Knight and Robin Nelson, it opened for play in 1991. Since then, it’s remained a beloved staple for both locals and visitors.
The real fun to be had on this course is on the par fives. If you’re a bomber, feel free to swing away. The fairways are wide, and a well-placed tee shot makes a chance at eagle or birdie a real possibility.
Full of character and charm, Kahili Golf Course offers a distinct and welcomed flavor to the Maui golf scene.
The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course
Hence this course’s name, the Dunes at Maui Lani is the only course in Hawaii that exists on naturally occurring sand dunes.
When this course was designed, minimal earth was moved. Each hole was crafted in concert with the earth, not in spite of it.
A truly unique experience, this track is both fun to play and challenging. Expect to keep the ball in play, and to be precise with your approaches into the greens.
One of the best kept secrets on Maui, I highly recommend playing at the Dunes at Maui Lani.
Pukalani Country Club
Pukalani Country Club is arguably one of the more underrated courses on Maui.
The course is set high up in the hills of “Up-Country” Maui. For that reason, the layout features plenty of elevation change and undulation. The views of the distant coastline are also breathtaking.
Built all the way back in 1980, the design is full of character and quirks that many more modern courses lack. The greens are subtle, and you might encounter the occasional odd bounce in the fairways. That’s part of the fun.
Wherever you find yourself on this course, you’ll want to make sure you know where below the hole is on the greens. Putting from above can be treacherous.
Fun to play and remarkably uncrowded, I love Pukalani.
Waiehu Municipal Golf Course
In a land full of high-end prestigious golf facilities, it’s nice to know there’s a muni to be found amongst the lot. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Waiehu Municipal Golf Course.
This course overlooks the tourmaline blue sea with the infamous Waihe’e Reef in view as well.
Waiehu Muni is full of character even though the design is simple. You don’t need to hit it a mile off the tee. However, the small greens ask you to be dialed in with your approaches if you want a look at birdie.
The amenities are simple and efficient.
For a round with the locals that come from all walks of life, this track is a must play.
As I finish writing this guide, I find myself daydreaming about life on the island of Maui. I haven’t been for a while and it’s time I get back. If only I can get clearance from the tower… Seems doubtful right now.
While I haven’t played all the courses on Valley Isle, I’ve played enough to know that there’s no shortage of great public golf to be found. Our readers have only solidified my sentiments. Many thanks.
If I’ve missed anything, or you have additional insight to add, let us know in the comments. Mahalo!