Hawaii's Top 5 Golf Destinations

By Ryan Watson

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America’s 50th state and resident tropical paradise, Hawaii, has long been a destination for travelers the world over. For golfers, Hawaii provides some of the best courses coupled with the kinds of views you would normally need a passport to experience. The following are a list of five of Hawaii’s best courses that can satisfy any golfing tourist.

Kaanapali Golf Resort

photo credit: Kaanapali Golf Resort

2290 Kaanapali Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
(866) 454-4653

Kaanapali Golf Resort offers two courses to entice golfers. However, these courses are very different. The Ka’anapali Kai Golf Course is set up more for the casual golfer, and while still a course in beautiful Hawaii, is largely a distraction in the face of the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed Royal Ka’anapali Golf Course. Though it does have ocean views, Royal Ka’anapali is not an ocean course like many of the beautiful courses throughout Hawaii. Instead, the course sets itself apart as it winds through the foothills of the West Maui Mountains. The course gets progressively harder throughout the round, rewarding correct shotmaking decisions. The legendary Arnold Palmer once remarked that Royal Ka’anapali’s 18th hole was one of the more challenging, and enjoyable, finishing holes he had ever played.

Wailea Golf Club


photo credit: Wailea Golf Club

Gold & Emerald Course
100 Wailea Golf Club Drive
Blue Course
100 Wailea Ike Drive
Maui, HI 96753
(808) 875-7450

The Wailea Golf Club is home to 3 courses. Many golfers will enjoy the retro feel of the Blue course, designed by Arthur Jack Snyder and the first course built at Wailea. However, the Blue course has since been eclipsed by the Emerald and Gold courses which are routinely considered some of Hawaii’s best courses. The Emerald course is the easier of the two, and was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. in 1994. The Gold Course, also designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. in 1994, is a challenge to any golfer. Featuring bunkers boarding the fairways and surrounding every green, it has the potential for a frustrating afternoon. Both the Emerald and Green Courses are known for their spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the unique lava rock outcroppings. No matter which course you choose to play, golfers of all abilities can find a challenge on the beautiful courses of Wailea Golf Club.

Poipu Bay Golf Course

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photo credit: Poipu Bay Golf Course

2250 Ainako St.
Koloa, HI 96756
(808) 742-8711

Poipu Bay is another storied Robert Trent Jones design that first opened in 1991. From 1994-2006, the course hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, and that championship pedigree can be felt when playing this course. The course warms up on the front 9 into a much more challenging and spectacular back 9. The course features palm tree lined fairways and beautiful cliffside ocean vistas. The course also deals with intermittently strong winds coming from the ocean, providing golfers with a unique challenge. The interesting and challenging layout keep many golfers coming back to Poipu, and it is consistently ranked among Hawaii’s best public courses.

Hualalai Golf Club

Image result for Hualalai Golf Club

photo credit: Nicklaus.com

72-100 Kaupulehu Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
(808) 325-8000

Hualalai Golf Club is home to two courses, the Nicklaus and the members-only Ke-olu course. Luckily for golf travelers, the Nicklaus is one of Hawaii’s best courses. As its name suggests, the course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and is open to guests of the Four Seasons Resort. Traveling through lava rock formations and with views of the surrounding mountains, the course only uses minor elevation changes. The course is challenging primarily because of the layout, including bunker placement, rather than dramatic changes in topography. One notable par 3 contains a bunker in the middle of the fairway to force golfers into accuracy. The course is well known for its signature oceanside 17th hole, featuring a forced carry over black lava rocks and the white sand bunkers bordering the green.

Kapalua Resort

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photo credit: Kapalua Resort

2000 Plantation Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 669-8044

Long considered the gold standard in Hawaiian golf, Kapalua Resort features two of the state’s most beautiful courses. The Bay course features scenic views that plays with numerous ocean views and enough strategic bunkering to keep it interesting. However, the jewel of Hawaiian golf is the Plantation course. Designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, the course takes full advantage of the varied terrain with ocean views, dense forests, and the mountainous Hawaiian topography all playing their part. The Plantation course is home to the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions, and golfers enjoy the chance to play on the same course as the greats. A standout hole is the ending 18th hole, which is a jaw-dropping 663 yard par-5. The sloping hole allows golfers to open up and drive as hard as they can as they hope to end the round strong. The inventive design, beautiful views, and top-notch course maintenance keep many golfers returning to Kapalua every year.

About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.