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 »  Home  »  Magazine Departments  »  Featured Courses  »  Golf in Maui
Golf in Maui
By Tom Landers | Published  03/19/2008 | Featured Courses | Unrated
Nunui Ho’omahana! (Or for those from the mainland, great vacation!)

Life on the Hawaiian island of Maui moves at a different speed than it does anywhere else. Here, there is no rush, no constant bustling. The people of Maui take the time to savor every bit of what life has to offer.

Maui’s rich golf history reaches back to the 19th century, back when its first course was built on Kapalua. It wasn’t until the 1920s that golf really began to take hold of the isle, though. It was then that two new courses helped popularize golf among the Hawaiian people. The first was Maui Country Club, a course that was designed by Hawaii’s first golf pro, Alex Bell.

The Ka’anapali North course was Maui’s first tract of the resort variety. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., it opened in 1962. It was joined five years later by a sister course, Ka’anapali Kai, which was designed by Arthur Jack Snyder. Snyder’s presence on the Maui golf scene was far from over. In 1972 he was hired to design South Maui’s first two resort layouts: the Wailea Blue and Orange courses.

As the profile of Maui’s golf scene was raised, golfers from around the world began to take notice. Arnold Palmer and Frank Duane in 1975 designed the Bay Course three years later.
Through the years, Ka’anapali Kai has improved dramatically. Snyder renovated the South Course only a few years after completing its original design, fine-tuning it into a 6,555-yard, par-71 test. The course is thought by many to be a great place to play when in Maui. Especially now, after the recent Robin Nelson reinvention of Ka’anapali Kai transformed it into a 6,338-yard, par-70 championship venue. It is a prime reason for travelers to fly thousands of miles to Maui’s sunny shores.
Maui’s golf scene underwent tremendous growth in the 1980s. Palmer’s return kick-started the island’s upswing, as he and Ed Seay paired to create Kapalua’s Village course, Pukalani. Pukalani was Maui’s first upcountry layout, opening its front nine in 1980.

Shortly thereafter, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. followed the lead of his father by etching out his first 18 holes on Maui at Makena. The back nine of Pukalani was then completed by the team of Robert E. Baldock, Sr. and Jr. in 1984. Silversword was the next course to grace the island when Canadian architect Bill Newis carved it out in 1987. In the past two years, Elleair, as Silversword is now known), has undergone its own redesign, upgrading it to one of the top courses in Maui.

In 1991, Ted Robinson created Grand Waikapu (now called the King Kamehameha Golf Club), a private club that boasts a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired 50,000-square-foot clubhouse. Nelson and Rodney Wright created newly upgraded Sandalwood (now called the Kahili Golf Course), and Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore sculpted the Plantation course at Kapalua, which recently completed its own major renovations.

Two years later, Trent Jones, Jr. returned to expand Makena into a 36-hole complex that now consists of the North and South courses. Jones, Jr. stayed busy with the conversion of Snyder’s original Orange course, making it into a new 36-hole Wailea golf complex that hosted the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game for seven years.

Hawaii developer Bill Mills and course architect Nelson saw a bit of Ireland in Maui’s million-year-old sand dunes on the Kahului isthmus. It was there that they built the Dunes at Maui Lani, a course that Golf Digest once called “a tropical-paradise layout in an Irish dunes setting.”

Located on Maui’s northwest shore, the pristine Kapalua Resort stretches from emerald mountain peaks to the edge of the glistening Pacific Ocean.

A 23,000-acre natural paradise unfolds, featuring award-winning accommodations, premier Maui real estate, two world-class Maui golf courses, unspoiled beaches, misty mountains, ancient lava flows, and fields of fresh pineapple.

In addition to the two peerless golf courses, Kapalua has a phenomenal practice facility that touts the latest and greatest equipment on the market.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua
Designed by Crenshaw and Coore, the Plantation Course at Kapalua measures 7,263 yards from the back tees, has a slope of 142, a course rating of 75.2, and plays to a par of 73.

Opened in 1991, The Plantation Course is the site of PGA Tour’s season-opening event, the Mercedes-Benz Championship. The course is often rated among the most beautiful, unique layouts in the world. Every hole uses the rugged natural landscape to showcase stunning ocean views, and the course makes great use of the unusually sloping terrain, forcing players to put maximum thought into each and every shot.

The Plantation Course’s 18 scenic holes wind through 240 acres of pineapple fields, rolling green hills, and deep gorges. The 16th, 17th, and 18th, are three of the best finishing holes to be found in the world.

As any Hawaiian golfer will gladly tell you, the greens are all about the grain. Master the grain, and the sight of your putts dropping will be prettier than that of the Maui sun dipping below the Pacific each evening.

The Bay Course at Kapalua
The 6,600-yard, par-72 Bay Course opened in 1975 and was designed by Palmer and Duane. Its layout features rolling, hilly terrain, 68 bunkers, eight water hazards, a slope of 138, and a course rating of 71.7.

The Bay course is routed through thick stands of Cook pines and ironwood trees. Pineapple fields are also plainly visible from most holes. The course winds its way to the surf, where two holes, the par-4 4th and the par-3 5th, both meet the Pacific Ocean at Oneloa Bay. In fact, the Bay Course’s 5th hole is the only golf hole on Maui that plays clear over the crashing sea.
The back nine plays at various elevations and features a good mixture of water, bunkers, hills, ravines, and gulches. One example is the 371-yard uphill par-4 16th. This demanding hole calls for a tee shot to carry a water hazard and land on either side of a fairway divided by a winding gulch.

Wailea Area
Among the world’s great golf destinations, few shine as brightly as Wailea. Renowned for its ideal golf weather (typically sunny with gentle breezes), Wailea Golf Resort has been rated among the best golf courses in the country by both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest.

The three courses at Wailea Golf Club boast breathtaking ocean views from every hole and a clubhouse full of awards. Take advantage of the club’s wide array of services and amenities, including a David Leadbetter Academy.

Take the time to explore Wailea’s five luxurious hotels, five white sand beaches, superb condominiums and spas, and a variety of dining and recreational amenities. Some great diversions from golf exist at Wailea, including an incredible tennis academy and a sunset canoe ride to the island’s coral reefs.

The Gold Course at Wailea
From the back tees, the par-72 Wailea Gold Course measures 7,078 yards, has a slope of 137, and a course rating of 73.4.
Designed by Trent Jones, Jr., the rugged Gold meanders across the lower South Maui slopes of Haleakala and features the most diverse set of shots that you will find in Hawaii. Every club will get some play from the sloping fairways, pristine tees, and rough that is framed by lava, kiawe forest, tall indigenous Hawaiian grasses, and remnants of ancient rock walls built by early Hawaiians and preserved by Wailea for their historic value.

The Gold Course’s greens have a fine grain that is consistent and reliable. The Gold features 200-foot elevation changes, a mixture of long and short holes, right and left doglegs, lava outcroppings, and 93 bunkers.

The Gold Course has received numerous accolades, perhaps the most impressive of which was its tie for first place in a Conde Nast Traveler magazine readers’ poll to determine the “Best Golf Course Design in the World.” The Gold Course previously hosted the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game, which has now moved up the coastline to Kaanapali Golf Resort.

The Emerald Course at Wailea
The Emerald Course at Wailea opened for play in December of 1994.  Designed by Trent Jones, Jr. to be a “pure golf experience amidst a tropical garden,” the Emerald Course measures 6,825 yards from the back tees. The par-72 design has a slope of 130 and a course rating of 71.7.

The tropical landscape consists of subtle undulations and fairways dotted with gentle green knolls. Aesthetically, it is Maui’s most beautiful course. From a playing standpoint, it is one of the island’s friendliest. The first hole commands a 210-degree view of the Pacific Ocean and plays downhill to a fairway that funnels drives toward the center of the green.

The Old Blue Course at Wailea
This golf course is what it’s all about! Everything is wonderful at The Old Blue Course, especially the views, great service, and terrific golf. The 6,700-yard, par-72 Snyder-designed course opened in 1972 and has played a major role in Wailea’s golf history. From the back tees, its slope is 129, and its rating is 71.6, which makes this the perfect venue for the consummate resort golfer.

The Old Blue Course is a roomy layout with generous fairways and large, fast greens. It also happens to be the first golf course ever built in South Maui. The course’s 74 bunkers and four ponds need to be respected to prevent inflated scores, but luckily, the course’s beautiful layout does anything but lull golfers to sleep.

The course always presents a fair and rewarding golf experience, and has been recognized as a “Top 75 Resort Course” by Golf Digest. The ideal ending to a round at the Blue is Maui’s best Irish tap room, Mulligan’s.

It is true that there are countless places to go and things to do in Maui, but on an island with so much fun to be had, an area’s diversity can be quite the drawing card.

Ka’anapali, more than any other spot on the island, has it all. Accommodations range from the affordable to the posh, and the nightlife is always hopping. The natural beauty of the area rivals that of any spot on the island. One of Ka’anapali’s best activities is a dinner cruise on the Teralani, a sailing catamaran that is often the best place to spot majestic spinner dolphins swimming in the water. Also nearby is Lahaina, one of the world’s best beaches, with plenty of shops and restaurants to satisfy any taste.

The Royal Ka’anapali Course
For over 40 years, the Royal Ka’anapali course has played host to a score of Tour events such as the Ka’anapali Classic, Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf (Bob Charles won in 1963), The Canada (World) Cup (won by the U.S. team of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in 1964) and the LPGA Tour’s Women’s Kemper Open.

The Trent Jones, Sr. design features many wide fairways, large tiered greens, elevation changes, water, and fairway bunkers that are all well positioned to catch wayward tee shots. The course begins and ends at sea level, with a notorious lagoon coming into play on both numbers 1 and 18. The Royal Ka’anapali Course’s holes route upward and away from the beach, apexing in the foothills of the West Maui Mountains high above Ka’anapali’s sunny seashores.

The Ka’anapali Kai Course
K’anapali Kai originally opened in 1967 as an executive course.
To meet the demand of the time, in 1976, the South Course was redesigned by Snyder to be come a regulation 6,388-yard layout. Over the course of time, advances in golf equipment technology, coupled with the modernization of irrigation systems and the advent of better turfgrasses paved the way for a major revitalization at this Hawaiian favorite.

Famed course architect Nelson was tapped to take the best of Snyder’s work and bring it into the new millennium. The result is a new golf course, with classic architectural features from Snyder’s era still to be found. The course winds high up into the West Maui foothills, where views and vistas abound.

Since reopening, the Resort South has been hailed by the media, local golfers, and visitors alike. One of Ka’anapali’s slogans is “Where the world comes to play.” Nothing could be truer.

The island of Maui can be a dangerous place to visit. No, there isn’t anything to worry about when tackling any of the gorgeous golf courses, or while enjoying a cocktail on the white sand. What’s dangerous is the intoxicating effect the island and its people will have on you, begging you to come back for more.

Hotel Contact Information

The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui
Grand Wailea Resort, Hotel & Spa
Wailea Beach Villas
Wailea Marriott Beach Resort
The Kapalua Villas and Luxury Homes

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua

Westin Maui Resort & Spa
(866) 716-8112

Sheraton Maui Resort
Kaanapali Alii
(800) 642-6284
Maui Eldorado
800- 688-7444