In some circles, Maui is synonymous with golf. Nowhere else on earth can you tee off to whale spouts, putt under rainbows and play next door to a dormant, but still alive, volcano. Not all golf courses are created equally, and fortunately on Maui, we have some of the best courses in the world, and certainly we have a diverse collection of former plantation courses, municipal, private, semi-private country clubs and luxury resort courses.
Maui Country Club
Golf came to the Maui in 1927, with the Maui Country Club, still open today (public play is on Mondays), with nine holes. In 1930, another course was built, the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course.
Royal Kaanapali Course
Golf didn't really get going on Maui until 1962 when the Royal Kaanapali North Course was open (designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.) as an amenity to the new resort area. The South Course at the resort was added in 1970 and redesigned (by Arthur Jack Snyder) in 1977.
Wailea / Makena Courses
The 1970’s saw resorts sprouting up along Maui’s panoramic coastlines and golf courses were always the first thing built in any resort area: Wailea rolled out its first course, the Blue Course in 1972 (followed by the Orange in 1978 and the Emerald course in 1994), Kapalua opened the Bay Course in 1975 (followed by the Village in 1980 and the Plantation in 1991). In 1981, Makena, Maui’s last destination resort to be built, launched its golf course.
Visitors playing golf on Maui quickly see the natural beauty, but also notice some natural hazards they many not have encountered before, like razor sharp rocks, gusty tradewinds, an occasional Hawaiian nene goose on the course and sultry, tropical heat. There are a few man-made hazards as well, like the cost of green fees at resort courses. Take a few tips from local golfers: ask about twilight rates, generally in the afternoon, with plenty of time to play 18 holes at a fraction of the early morning green fees.
Or forgo the beach and resort courses and head for the lesser known courses that offer challenging golf like The Dunes at Maui Lani, 31 Ku'ualoha, outside of Kahului in Maui’s central plains, 873-0422 or the Pukalani Country Club, 55 Pukalani St., in Pukalani on the cooler slopes of Haleakala, 527-1314.
The Dunes at Maui Lani
The Dunes at Maui Lani, which opened in 1999, is a “secret” among local golfers. This low cost course costs ($95 with cart, $45 after 2 pm, which is about half as expensive as many of the coastal resorts) gives golfers a real bang for the buck: rolling hills, a forest of sweet smelling kiawe trees, breath-taking views of Mt. Haleakala, and dramatic sand dunes, some up to 80 feet high.
When architect Robin Nelson first walked the property, he realized what a tremendous
opportunity he had here with these big dunes, which are an epochal reminder from long ago when the ocean washed through the valley.
Sprinkled throughout the par 72, 6,800-yard course are some 66 sand bunkers and you’ll probably get to know quite a few of them when you play there. Though Maui Lani’[s fourth might be the most scenic and most photographed hole on the course, it's the ninth with which Nelson obviously had the most fun.
The ninth is a 547-yard par five with a flat landing zone for the drive, watch out for the kiawe trees smack in the middle of the fairway. The second shot is a choice between an iron lay-up for a flat lie to the elevated green, or a fairway wood to get as far up the incline as you can. At the base of the incline are two oversized bunkers that appear closer than they are, and can fool the uninitiated.
Pukalani Country Club
Another bargain golf course is the par 72, 6,962 yard Pukalani Country Club course located at a cool 1,100 feet, or as general manager Yasuo Nishida puts it: “It’s the best value on Maui - a well maintained golf course at a bargain price, just $50.”
Built in 1970, the course has an unusual twist at the third hole, where it offers two different options: a tough iron shot from the tee across a deep gully to the green or a shot down the side of the gully across to a second green over sand traps below (we recommend choosing to shoot down the side of the gully, it's actually easier).
No matter which course you choose, here are a few tips from the pros on how to get the most out of your golf game on Maui:
& Watch out for the wind - brisk breezes from 10 to 30 mph are not unusual.
• Pay attention when putting - on the greens, your putt will always break towards the ocean.
• Sand traps - hit deeper and more aggressive in the sand because the sand used in Hawaii is firmer (with all that wind here, light sand would just blow away).
• Bring a camera - half of the game is stopping to admire the views.