The Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the most majestic golf courses in the world. Playing them while visiting in style and comfort certainly enhances the journey (regardless of the number of your scorecard), so here are four quick profiles of where you can maximize your holiday in paradise.
Oahu- Prince Waikiki
By starting your visit that combines a stay at the Prince Waikiki and playing a course designed by The King (Arnold Palmer was a co-designer with Ed Seay of the Hawaii Prince Club) you’re feeling like royalty for sure.
Located right in front of the marina on the west side of Waikiki Beach, Oahu’s contemporary oceanfront hotel Prince Waikiki features luxurious guest rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling ocean views.
The price for the best deal for a luxury hotel in all of Waikiki, Hawaii is that you’ll need to make an extended walk to get to the far reaches of famous Waikiki Beach, but just down the street in the other direction is the Ala Mona Center/Mall where you can be shopping at one of the biggest luxury shopping centers in Hawaii.
The good news is that the hotel’s dining options will satisfy the appetite you’ve built up. This includes entrees like prime rib at 100 Sails and the freshest of fish from Katsumidor Sushi Tokyo.
The hotel’s affiliation with the Hawaii Prince Golf Club means that you’ll be able to tell your golf buddies back home that you played one of the state’s more distinct courses. Three interchangeable nines create a variety of playing conditions.
Situated on the sunny Ewa Plain, the resort’s golf course boasts 270 acres of sheer beauty and offers stunning views of the rain-carved Waianae Mountains. Long, verdant fairways are lined with numerous white sand bunkers and ten strategically placed lakes.
And when you return to the hotel, after you ease your aches by visiting the Naio Bliss Spa, you can then regale your guests of your golf experience with a cocktail in your hand while enjoying a brilliant sunset sitting in the pool and Jacuzzi or a private cabana on the hotel’s fifth floor.
Lanai- Four Seasons
Private and brilliant are just a few words that will come to mind when you arrive at the Four Seasons Lanai.
One of the keys to its appeal is that being located on the pristine island of Lāna‘i, the resort reflects a very different vibe than Oahu, primarily that of a simpler pace of life and the spirit of old Hawaii. One feels the island’s unique living environment and cultural-historical legacy that spans nearly 1,000 years of Hawaiian residency and diverse cultural heritage.
Through its evocative architecture and rich furnishings, resort guests can’t help but feel embraced by Hawaii’s diverse and storied Polynesian influences
That sense extends into all 213 rooms and suites that feature such elements as teak and zebra wood walls and floors of mahogany laid with wool hand-woven area rugs.
Most of the guest quarters overlook Hulopo‘e Bay and the Pacific Ocean, while some give on to the resort’s lushly landscaped gardens.
Just a short cart ride away is your prize. Truly golf in paradise.
Winner of numerous awards, the Manele Course (Golfweek – Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2021; GOLF Magazine – Top 100 Courses You Can Play, 25 Most Luxurious Resorts; Golf Digest – 100 Greatest Public Courses; #1Hawaii; Editor’s Choice 202; Today’s Golfer – Golf World’s Top 100: Best Golf Courses of America), is built on lava outcroppings and features three holes on cliffs which use the Pacific Ocean as a water hazard. Par 72 – 7,039 yards with a Slope of 135 – Rating 73.7, it was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1993.
More Notable Holes:
#2: The true character of the course challenges every shot on this long 442-yard par 4. This uphill, slight dogleg left hole requires two forced carries over shallow ravines to an elevated two-tiered green secured by inviting bunkers.
#12: The Signature Hole is a stunning par 3, with the tee off from a cliff 150 feet above the ocean. The green is 200 feet across the water on an adjacent cliff. You may want to take a little extra club, long is definitely better than short on this one. In addition to its fame as one of the most beautiful holes in the world, #12 is also where Bill Gates was married.
#17: This 444-yard par 4 is one of the most challenging ocean holes and dramatic tee shots in golf. There are no bunkers on the drive, however the fairway is narrow and you must carry the cliffs. Your second shot is downhill to a cliffside, kidney-shaped green which is defended by a large mound and a bunker in front.
#18: A strong finishing hole, just the way Jack likes them, is this 432-yard par 4. Bring it home to the clubhouse-long and straight off the tee is all you need to hit this narrow fairway. Your approach to the green favors a left to right shot.
Please note, whether by land or sea, in between your tee times, this resort offers far more activities for about anything you can imagine.
Besides a lagoon-style, free-form central pool that features a cascading waterfall and two spas, there’s also a catamaran for a snorkeling or scuba adventure, deep sea fishing, sailing, hiking, tennis, horseback riding, a zipline course with sweeping views of Kaiholena Gulch, 4×4 Off-Roading, an electric Quietkat mountain bike tour, even helicopter tours of the island.
After all that exertion or if tranquility is simply what you are seeking in the first place, one can relax by the oceanfront swimming pools or in their botanical gardens or assorted hot tubs. Additionally, one can delve further into the garden to find sublime sanctuaries, well-suited for relaxing on secluded chaises and daybeds.
Of course there’s the traditional option of taking advantage of the Four Seasons’ idyllic stretch of white sand beach and clear blue ocean using their renowned pampering service.
Maui- Fairmont Kea Lani
Also highly-renowned are the great options that await golfers in Maui. And one of the best is the Fairmont Kea Lani resort in the upscale sector of Wailea. It offers a first-class experience with excellent golf just down the street.
Opened in Hawaii in 1991, with its arched breezeways, lily pad-topped ponds, serene gardens, palm-lined corridors and glistening pools, great balcony views from each of the all-suite and villa accommodations, the Fairmont Kea Lani appears as an all-white royal palace. Which was the intention of architect Jose Luis Ezquerra, an expert in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean design, who sought to represent Hawaii’s royal past by giving the property a palatial feel, a tribute to the former kings of Hawaii.
With an open-air lobby that has stone floors and domed ceilings and arches, you’ll feel like a king as the service carries your bags to your quarters which are spacious and come with separate living spaces, oversized marble bathrooms (with a soaking tub, walk-in shower, dual pedestal sinks, and a separate toilet closet), two flat-screen TVs and furnished balconies that offer excellent views of Maui’s coast.
And if you like those views (and you will), wait until you play any or all of the three courses at the Wailea Golf Club.
The Gold, Blue and Emerald courses provide an array of amazing views (many overlooking the ocean), challenging elevation changes, some holes with generous fairways, but more than a few with vexing greens.
Perhaps the most challenging of the three, Gold, designed by master architect Robert Trent Jones II, demands both strategies and finesse to score well. Former home of the Champions Skins Game, this layout has hosted legendary pros like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, with key defenses being bunkers in the driving zones and heavy bunkering surrounding every green.
Another distinction for the Gold course is that it is quite uncommon for the first hole to be the course’s signature. But this 1st Hole 422-yard, Par 4 is aptly designated as from the elevated tee players are afforded a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Lava rock turns the hole to the left where a downhill view of the green is afforded and four bunkers protect the green.
Honored multiple times by industry experts including Golfweek, Golf Digest, Golf Advisor, and Golf Magazine, if you struggle to keep your approach shots airborne long, well at least there’s the scenery.
With its lush landscape and expansive ocean views, be careful of the seductive Emerald course because while it is called ‘candy for the eyes and therapy for the senses’, its layout can knock you for a loop. It’s a real risk/reward course and will constantly test your club selection and ball placement skills.
Rounding out the tropical playground of Wailea is the Blue course.
It is located in the foothills of Haleakalā and features coral sand bunkers and lush landscaping, and it provides a uniquely challenging course with unforgettable vistas over the island’s largest dormant volcano.
“Relatively short in modern terms, but plenty of narrow fairways and some of the toughest greens among the three courses,” said Marcus Judge, Head Golf Professional Wailea Golf Club, “I usually characterize it as probably the easiest from tee to green of the three, but the most difficult once you’re on the green.”
Despite their distinct challenges, all are very playable resort golf courses.
“These are not courses where you’re going to come off 18 feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson,” said Judge with a grin.
And about an hour’s drive north, you’ll want to make time to play both the Plantation and Bay Courses in Kapalua.
Upon returning to your palatial manor, you’ll find plenty of water options to cool off. There’s the ocean where Polo Beach, surrounded on both sides by lava rock walls, gives this resort a secluded feel. There are three pools, including a water slide and a hot tub.
For dining options, the resort features Ko – a full-service restaurant with an interesting mixture of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Filipino, and Japanese-influenced dishes such as Hawaiian seafood lau lau, duck steamed bao buns and Filipino noodles. Nick’s Fishmarket offers plenty of fresh catch seafood, but also harbors a 2,000-bottle wine cellar. And if you like to hang out by the pool while you dine, there’s the Ama Bar and Grill.
Oahu – Turtle Bay
Rounding out your golf holiday in Hawaii, before catching your flight out of Honolulu Airport, no visit would be complete without a short trip to the North Shore of Oahu where The King has another spectacular venue for you to stay and play.
Arnold Palmer’s course at the Turtle Bay resort (architect George Fazio built the other course), is a true gem and one of the best in Hawaii.
Rated one of Golf Magazine’s “Top 10 New Courses” in America and ranked 4th among Golf Digest’s “Best New Resort Courses in America” the year it opened (1992), one of the cool experiences about this layout is that the golfer is provided with a pair of distinct experiences.
The front nine will challenge golfers with a Scottish Links style layout, while the back nine has a more tropical setting as it meanders through a tropical jungle and forest of ironwoods. The course forms a horseshoe around the Punaho’olapa marsh, an unspoiled 100-acre wetlands and bird sanctuary.
And one better not fear the water, because it comes into play on 14 holes. Of course, where there’s water there’s sand and Arnie has more than 70 menacing the fairways and protecting the greens. And perhaps that sandy challenge is no more threatening than at the 17th, the signature hole which offers panoramic Pacific Ocean views from the green while the hole is dotted with nine bunkers, making it as challenging as it is scenic.
And certainly scenic is the word to describe the Turtle Bay Resort itself.
Ocean bungalows, suites with panoramic ocean views, horseback riding, catching a wave with Rocky and his friendly surfing dogs, bike and canoe tours, locally grown produce and fresh fish, yoga on the water, swimming with the native turtles, this resort is a place that connects with the people, culture, and adventure of the North Shore.
Together, these four resorts capture The Spirit of Aloha for the golfer wanting to capture a “slice” of paradise.