There may be no better world-class golf destination than the Hawaiian island of Maui. The weather’s perfect year-round, the courses are perpetually kept in immaculate condition, and the layouts are both challenging and enjoyable for all skill levels. Oh, and the views of the Pacific are simply stunning at most of the courses. The “musts” to play:
At the northwest corner of the island, both Kapalua Resort courses — the Plantation and the Bay Courses — are vastly different from one another. Winding through the West Maui Mountains, the Plantation perpetually ranks among the planet’s best. It hosts the PGA Tour opening event every year. Wide fairways and large greens help offset the course length and the wind, which can gust at any time. Thankfully, the holes are contoured to move errant shots back toward the fairway. The 18th hole – the Plantation’s longest — stretches 663 yards from the tips, but it’s all downhill. There are jaw-dropping views from the elevated tee box, which may be the island’s single-best vantage point.
Meanwhile, the Bay is located down near sea level, about a mile from the Plantation clubhouse. It’s hilly, has plenty of water hazards and bunkers, and meanders right down to the shore – all the while being player friendly and allowing you to score well. Front nine holes traverse through massive trees and tropical plants. The par-3 5th is Maui’s only hole that plays directly down at the ocean. The back nine then weaves through elevation changes, hills and ravines. The 16th hole – replete with a split fairway — is ranked as one of Hawaii’s best par-4s.
About 75 minutes south of Kapalua is the Wailea area, a four-mile beach stretch with four outstanding resort courses. Wailea Golf Club’s Old Blue course is perpetually ranked as one of the most enjoyable Hawaii courses. This 40-year-old gem lets you have fun without taking away the challenge. It packs vivid scenery and wide-open fairways, and is an ideal vacation course to play in that you don’t have to think too much. It’s the perfect antidote after an evening of drinking Lava Flows. Greens are large, and all putts break towards the ocean. Beware, though: Winds pick up as the day goes on.
Old Blue’s two sibling layouts – the Gold and Emerald Courses – were both designed by renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The Gold is the more-demanding of the two, with a plethora of lava rock waste areas. At 7,078 yards, it’s Maui’s second-longest course from the tips. The greens are large, but hold the ball well. The views are simply amazing, as they are on the Emerald Course, where every hole offers a window to the Pacific. The Emerald plays in the same fun spirit as Old Blue, but with a little bit more bite. The fairways seem narrower and the greens larger. But even slight mis-hits tend to find the fairways.
Finally, Makena Beach & Golf Resort is another Wailea-area jewel designed by Jones, Jr. While enjoyable and fantastically maintained, it can be difficult at times thanks to less-than-forgiving hills and hazards. The course makes you think through every shot before you swing. Fairways are relatively narrow, and there are plenty of traps in play. Perhaps the prettiest par-3 in the state is the 12th hole, a 185-yarder over a canyon and facing the ocean.
Beware, though: These courses can spoil you for life. Your courses back home will seem so mundane forever after.
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