Where’s the best place to play golf on the West Coast? We’ll give you hundreds of choices.
Golferswest.com continues its annual assessment of the Top Five courses to play within 12 West Coast states and British Columbia. Today, the 25-part series focuses on: Hawaii.
NO. 1 COURSE: KAPALUA PLANTATION COURSE
LOCATION: Kapalua, Maui
DIRECTIONS: From Kahului Airport head northeast on Lanui Circle to exit airport. Continue onto Hwy 380 (7.1 miles). Turn left at Hwy 30 (25.2 miles). Turn left at Office Rd. for the Kapalua Bay Course and the Kapalua Golf Academy. Continue on Hwy 30 (1.1 miles) for the Kapalua Plantation Course on right.
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site: web site: kapalua.com/hawaii-golf
OPENED: 1991 (Architects: Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore)
LAYOUT: Par 73, 7,411 yards. (four tee positions)
LOWDOWN: The Kapalua Plantation Course spans across rolling pineapple fields, Hawaiian canyons and rocky shorelines. This intraquit Maui golf course in Kapalua features 95 bunkers, expansive fairways, elevation changes and windy shorelines.
This course in the West Maui resort land of Kapalua has wide, wide fairways, giant greens with plenty of break and some fairly large ocean looks too. The designers and they worked hard to make sure that the 240 acres of hilly terrain set aside for the course was used to maximum effect.
There are uphill climbs and downhill rollercoasters. The par 3s are showy, particularly the eighth with a canyon clear and the 11th with its ocean perch, but the strength of Plantation Course can be found in its tough par 4s and monster par 5s. No. 1 – a downhill 473-yard par 4 – and No. 18 – a 663-yard par 5 that plays toward the ocean – are prime examples.
The Plantation Course, is the course of the champions, site of the PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions each January featuring an elite field of previous year’s PGA Tour winners. It is rated as the No. 1 Course in Hawaii by Golf Digest.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 18, par-5, 663 yards. While it’s more than challenging, the 18th provides one of the most breathtaking views on the whole island of Maui. This actually is a relatively straight-forward hole as virtually all 663 yards are visible from the tree. But hazards lurk, beginning with the forest that lines both sides of the fairway. The ideal tee shot is on the right side of the fairway as it slopes sharply right to left. Stay right the rest of the way, as well, because of a canyon that runs in front of the green. The views on this finishing hole are among the best in golf – anywhere in the world.
NO. 2 COURSE: PRINCE GOLF COURSE AT PRINCEVILLE
LOCATION: Princeville at Hanalei, Kauai
PHONE: 808 826-5000
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site: princeville.com/golf/prince-golf-course
DIRECTIONS: From Lihue airport: Exit north for 1.2 miles. Left on Hwy 570 and go southwest for a half mile. Turn right on Private and go west for a half mile. Turn right on Kapula Hwy and go north for 1.3 miles. Turn right on Hwy 56, Kuhio Hwy, and go 25 miles. Turn right on Ka Haky Rd.
OPENED: 1991 (Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.)
LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,309 yards. (five tee positions)
LOWDOWN: The Prince Course reopens March 1, 2012 after a $5 million renovation. Like the rest of Princeville at Hanalei, the Prince Golf Course enjoys magnificent views from 300 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It’s not the scenery that earned the Prince Course Golf Digest’s rating as ‘Hawaii’s No. 1 golf course,’ it’s the incredible design Robert Trent Jones, Jr., created to turn rolling terrain into a links-style course.
This 18-hole, par-72 course climbs slopes and careens down hills as a demanding layout that calls for your best-planned shots. Five different tees at each hole allow you to customize the game to meet your own skill level. Make it your goal to track your progress by choosing a more difficult tee when you return to the Prince Golf Course.
The Prince ranks among golf’s most unique settings and its toughest tests, thanks to championship yardage of more than 7,100 yards and the opportunity for disaster on virtually every shot. Many fairways hug cliffs, jungle walls and ravines. Carries are required regularly, while greens are heavily sloped and bunkered – just in case you avoid everything else.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 7, par-3, 205 yards. The Prince Course’s signature hole is an example of just how interesting and difficult this course is as an approach shot has golfers hitting to a tiny, elevated green perched on a narrow island. A deep gorge surrounds the green on two sides, while the ocean beckons on the third.
NO. 3 COURSE: HAPUNA
LOCATION: On the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, 30 minutes from Kona International Airport.
DIRECTIONS: As you leave the Airport, turn left onto Queen Kaahumanu Highway 19, heading toward Kawaihae. Look for the signs for the small town of Puako (from this turn off you are about 2 miles from the hotel entrance). You’ll pass the state highway sign for Hapuna Beach State Park, go over the overpass and shortly thereafter, look for the entrance to Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel – the entrance will be on the right side.
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site: princeresortshawaii.com/hapuna-beach-prince-hotel/hapuna-golf.php
OPENED: 1992 (Architects: Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay)
LAYOUT: 6,875 yard, par 72. (Four tee positions)
LOWDOWN: With its seemingly endless views and dramatic elevation changes beginning at sea level and rising to 700 feet, Hapuna Golf Course nestles into the rugged desert terrain above the west shore of Hawaii’s Big Island.
This Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay course is a championship “links-style” design that was built in 1992 and stretches to just under 6,900 yards. The Pacific Ocean serves as the picture perfect backdrop and can be seen from every hole.
Teeing off at just under 700 feet of elevation, the signature par 4, 12th hole provides one of the most spectacular panoramic views on the Big Island – including Maui in the distance. Hapuna Golf Course has gained a reputation as a hidden gem and for that reason is always a local favorite. Hapuna’s challenging play and environmental sensitivity make it one of Hawaii’s most unique golf courses.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 3, 545-yard par 5: Arnold Palmer’s brazen style of play is typified in this design. The fairway bends to the left all the way to the green but actually ends temporarily at about 240 yards off the tee. The green is well protected especially by the water on the left, so any shot into this green whether long or short carries with it a sense of peril.
NO. 4 COURSE: KAUAI LAGOONS
LOCATION: Lihue, Kauai
DIRECTIONS: The Marriott-operated Kauai Lagoons Golf Club is located in the picturesque southeast corner of Kauai, and is easily reachable by complimentary shuttle service from the Lihue airport (courtesy phone located outside of baggage claim area at airport.
PHONE: 808 241-6000
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site: web site: marriottgolf.com
OPENED: 1988 (Architect: Jack Nicklaus)
LAYOUT: Par 71, 7,120 yards (four tee positions)
LOWDOWN: The Kiele Moana Nine, which boasts the longest continuous stretch of ocean holes of any golf course in Hawaii, is paired with the Kiele Mauka Nine to create the 18-hole signature layout at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club.
The Kiele Mauka Nine features the par-3, fifth hole that course designer Jack Nicklaus called “one of the best holes anywhere.” Measuring 219 yards from the back and requiring a tee shot over a valley of mango and guava trees, the fifth hole tests each golfer’s skill and nerve. This hole is third of a four-hole span the Kauai Lagoons golf staff refer to it as the ‘amen corner’ — once you make it past that, say ‘amen’ and keep going.
SIGNATURE HOLE: (Kiele Moana Nine) No. 7 par-4, 331 yards (pictured at the top). Don’t be fooled by the rather short distance of this hole. Stray left on your tee shot or approach and you’ll be watching your ball splash into the Pacific Ocean. The fairway slopes right to left. It is best to stay right with your tee shot and keep your second shot about 100 yards short of the green, giving you an easy sand wedge into the green.
NO. 5 COURSE: OCEAN COURSE AT KONA
LOCATION: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
DIRECTIONS: From Kona International Airport: Turn right (south) at the main highway 19 (Kuakini Hwy) Turn right on Kamehameha III (Kam III) Rd. Go down the hill and make a left on Alii Dr. The entrance will be on the right-hand side. From downtown Kona: Go south on Alii Dr. Stay on Alii Dr. until you’ll see the entrance on the right-hand side. From Volcano Area: Take Hwy 11 north. Travel approximately 80 miles towards Kona. At Kamehameha III Rd., turn left. Turn left on Alii Dr. The entrance will be on the right-hand side.
PHONE(S):(888) 707-4522, (808) 322-2595, (808) 324-2726, (808)-324-2724, (808) 322-3431, (808) 324-2720
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check web site: web site: konogolf.com
OPENED: 1966 (Architect: William P. Bell)
LAYOUT: Par 72, 6,613 yards (three tee positions)
LOWDOWN: The Ocean Course is one of two championship courses at Kona Country Club. As its name implies, this course has an oceanfront location with views of the surrounding mountains that are home to its sister course, the Mountain Course.
The Ocean Course provides an easier, but no less enjoyable round than its sibling. The layout features wide-open fairways and numerous strategically placed sand bunkers. The turquoise waters and black lava outcroppings provide natural hazards.
While both Kona C.C. golf courses provide a variety of challenges, the Ocean Course is a gentle, more player-friendly option that still features the same stunning views as the Mountain Course.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 3, par- 3, 223 yards. The first two holes of the round will get you nice and loose and prepared for one of the most picturesque and challenging holes on the course – especially if the wind is coming off the Pacific Ocean and into your face. Though long in distance, the third hole is magnificent in its beauty. The view from the tee is breathtaking as you look directly at the Pacific Ocean.
– Jim Street