My wife, kids, and I never ended up making it to Hawaii last year because of COVID. Out of all the travel I do every year, I’d be lying if I said our annual trip to Hawaii wasn’t my favorite.
Sure, the weather’s great and the sites are beautiful, but there’s just something special about being in Hawaii that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s Island Time and the slow pace of life, or the fact that my mind quits racing and I find inner peace, my center, zen, or whatever.
Now that I’ve got my philosophical ramble out of the way, let’s get to the real reason you’re reading this article. We’re here to talk about golf, specifically golf in Honolulu. While I spend time doing plenty of other, family-type things when I’m on vacation, everybody knows Daddy’s got to squeeze in some golf.
I’ve played a fair amount of golf in Honolulu, but not as much as some of our readers. My experience, combined largely with their input, is what culminated in this course guide.
Royal Hawaiian Golf Club
Pete Dye and Greg Norman collaborated to create Royal Hawaiian Golf Club which opened for play in 1993.
The course is nestled in an emerald valley between the Ko’olau Mountains and Mount Olomana. Because of this prime location, the views are breathtaking.
Just 20 minutes from Waikiki, this course is built with nature, not at it or around it. That’s evidenced by native palm, banana, and koa trees. Not to mention the many meandering streams full of native Hawaiian fish.
The layout is a challenging one. If you miss the fairway, chances are you won’t find your ball. Thankfully, multiple tees make the course playable and enjoyable for all matter of golfer.
Not cheap, but a round you certainly won’t forget.
Ko Olina Golf Club
Many consider Ko Olina to be the premier golf course on Oahu. It’s tough to argue against that claim.
You guessed it, Ted Robinson designed this venerable track too. Opened in 1990, this course features water hazards throughout that are both stunning and penal at the same time.
Undulating greens can make for some interesting putts. Pay attention to the hole locations and plan your approach shots accordingly.
There’s a lot more than just great golf to be found at Ko Olina. The resort’s amenities are world-class and the service more than lives up to expectations.
Pearl Country Club
Pearl Country Club has been revered as one of the finest courses on Oahu ever since it opened in 1967.
Undulating terrain and panoramic vistas are the hallmarks of this classic course. Be prepared for some uneven lies and elevation changes. This is a true shot maker’s test.
Overlooking Pearl Harbor, golfers are constantly reminded of this place’s importance in our history. Last time I was here, the perfect day consisted of a round of golf in the morning, and a tour of the WWII monument in the afternoon.
Both enjoyable and sobering at the same time.
Bayview Golf Course
Bayview has been around for a while too. Since 1963, in fact.
This isn’t a full-length, championship track. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing. Believe it or not, it’s one of my favorites in the area. Our readers echo the same sentiments.
Measuring only 3,400 yards and playing to a par of 60, this course is alive with character. Tight fairways and small, sloping greens present plenty of challenge, even though you’re usually hitting short clubs.
Bayview is also one of the best values on the island. That makes it even more attractive.
Hawaii Prince Golf Club
The 27 holes at Prince Hawaii Golf Club were designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay. You already know that Mr. Palmer is my personal golf hero, so of course I’ve played here numerous times.
Situated on the sunny Ewa Plain, this property encompasses 270 acres of undisturbed beauty. You won’t find any houses or commercial edifices surrounding the course. The Waianae Mountains in the distance create the perfect backdrop.
The layout of each nine is straightforward. No blind shots or hidden surprises. But you’ll need to think about what you’re doing if you’re going to score. The wind usually blows, and club selection can be tricky.
An overall great experience, be sure to carve out enough time for a round on each nine at Hawaii Prince.
Coral Creek Golf Course
I’ve yet to play Coral Creek, but our readers seem to think it’s pretty cool.
Known for being in excellent condition, this layout is said to be one of the more challenging layouts on Oahu.
Rolling fairways and small greens mean you have to aim small in order to miss small. Errant shots pay the price.
Local knowledge is key here, so if you have the chance, play a couple times to learn your way around.
Waikele Country Club
Located in Central Oahu, Waikele Country Club offers splendid views of both Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head.
Designed by none other than Ted Robinson, this course provides a stern test for the best players, while being enjoyable for even the most rank beginners. Water features and elevation changes can be found throughout.
The course’s Tiff Eagle greens are also said to be some of the best on the island. You just might get hot with the putter.
A true country club experience at a daily fee price, don’t miss out on Waikele Country Club.
Hawaii Kai – Championship Course
The no-questions asked local’s favorite is the Championship Course at Hawaii Kai.
Noticeable doglegs and frequent elevation changes can be found throughout this course. Club selection and proper course management are what’s needed to play well.
The good news is there are multiple sets of tees, and the fairways give you ample room with which to work.
This track is what we can safely call Honolulu’s muni. And you guys know I love munis. I play here at least once every time I visit, and it never gets old.
Kapolei Golf Club
Ted Robinson also designed Kapolei Golf Club, one of the finest public facilities in all of Hawaii.
Over the years, Kapolei has played host to tournaments on both the LPGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.
The course sits on 190 acres of what was formerly a sugar cane plantation. Suffice it to say the soil is fertile here and it’s easy to grow grass.
Floral gardens and five crystalline lakes add to this course’s splendid beauty. Not to mention there’s never a blade of grass out of place anywhere.
Even though this isn’t the cheapest round of golf in the Honolulu area, it’s more than worth the price of admission.
Hawaii Country Club
Most of the golf in and around Honolulu is exquisitely manicured and otherworldly breathtaking.
What makes Hawaii Country Club special is that it’s not the most perfectly kept course in the world. But that’s part of its beauty as far as I’m concerned. Golf doesn’t always have to be about pomp and circumstance.
In fact, all this facility asks is that you be wearing clothes when you show up to play. It doesn’t matter what they are or how they look.
The atmosphere is relaxed. No one really cares if you shoot 66 or 106. The point is that everyone should have fun.
Hawaii Country Club is also the best value on the island too. On the weekends you can play 18 holes for just $40, cart included. That’s pretty tough to beat in my book.
Just writing this article has me thinking about sunsets over the Pacific, a tropical breeze waving through my hair, and a mai thai in my hand. I hope with everything I’ve got I get to go back to Hawaii this year.
Alright, enough is enough.
In all seriousness, there’s more than enough quality public golf in Honolulu to whet any appetite. Even though some of it’s on the pricey side, golf here is an unforgettable experience. You just have to go and find out for yourself.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to everyone that contributed to this course guide. It sounds like many of you are anxious to get back to your favorite island too. Let’s hope it happens sooner than later.