Island Greens“This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world.”
— Mark Twain
In 1898, Samuel Mills Damon, a wealthy Hawaiian banker, built Hawaii’s first official 18-hole golf course. Even though it was on his estate, Damon didn’t charge any greens fees. A nice gesture, but the free rounds didn’t last long. Three years into its operation, Damon’s son made the course semiprivate and, because of the warm, tropical climate, lopped off nine of its holes. Playing 18, it seems, was just too hot to handle.
Today, the course is still around (known as Moanalua Golf Club in Honolulu, it retains its semiprivate, nine-hole status), but the weather hasn’t gotten any cooler. Thankfully, those itchy woolen suits have long been abandoned for clothes that “wick,” so weather that was once considered too hot is now—how do you put it?—just right.
So too is the golf. When you consider that Hawaii’s six major islands boast more than 90 golf courses (many of which rank atop numerous “Best of” lists), it’s easy to see why the 50th state is one of the world’s most popular golf destinations. Most courses feature ocean views and obstacles specific to this tropical archipelago: lava outcroppings, jungle ravines and, of course, the world’s largest water hazard, the Pacific Ocean.
That being said, from the many photos of and the extensive television coverage the Aloha State receives, it would be easy to mistake its golf as merely tranquil, leisurely and aesthetically pleasing. To that impression we add these words: “trade winds.” While most courses enjoy picture-postcard views, strong trade winds frequently turn serene moments into testy ones. (Don’t worry, we’ve provided tips on how to handle those “breezes.”) But that’s what makes playing golf in paradise so exciting. Now if only every round was free again.
|Hawaii THE "BIG ISLAND"|
|Mauna Kea Golf Course|
7,124 Yards, Par 72 | Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
Greens Fees: $110-$210 | (808) 882-7222 | www.princeresortshawaii.com
From abundant views of the Pacific to the snow-capped Mauna Kea volcano, it’s easy to see why the 40-year-old course remains one of Hawaii’s most popular experiences. Mauna Kea’s third hole is so famous, you can buy framed photos of it.
| Mauna Lani Resort Golf Course|
6,812 Yards, Par 72 (North Course) | Architects: Homer Flint and Raymond Cain
6,938 Yards, Par 72 (South Course) | Architects: Nelson/Wright/Haworth
Greens Fees: $70-$205 | (808) 885-6655 | www.maunalani.com
Built on a lava bed, the North Course has a reputation for being slightly more difficult than its sister to the south. No. 17 will attract shutterbugs. The par-3 is tucked away inside a natural lava amphitheater.
| Waikoloa Golf Course|
6,560 Yards, Par 70 (Beach Course) | Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
7,074 Yards, Par 72 (Kings’ Course) | Architects: Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish
Greens Fees: $130-$185 | (877) WAIKOLOA | www.waikoloabeachresort.com
Robert Trent Jones Jr. once said that Waikoloa’s Beach Course was the most “beautiful and unusual course I ever designed.” The course was carved from a lava flow and hugs the Kohala coastline. The challenging Kings’ Course features a trademark Tom Weiskopf design element. On both sets of nine, he tempts you to drive a par-4.
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