Palmer-designed Hapuna Golf Course on the Big Island more than holds its own with Mauna Kea

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

KAMUELA, Hawaii -- Any idea that Hapuna Golf Course is just the other venue at Mauna Kea resort on the Big Island is quickly dismissed once you start playing it.

Hapuna Golf Course at Mauna Kea - hole 6
First-time visitors are usually surprised to find out how many ocean views there are at Hapuna Golf Course.
Hapuna Golf Course at Mauna Kea - hole 6Hapuna Golf Course at Mauna Kea - hole 5Hapuna Golf Course at Mauna Kea - hole 12Hapuna Golf Course at Mauna Kea - hole 18
If you go

Hapuna Golf Course

4 stars out of 5 (based on 8 reviews)
See all reviews | Submit your rating

Hapuna Golf Course stretches along the beautiful Kohala coastline before rising to over 700 feet above sea level. The snow-topped Mauna Kea volcano serves as a dramatic backdrop and there are seemingly endless views of the Pacific. Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay collaborated to create a visually stunning links course that utilizes the natural contours of the landscape and silky fescue grasses.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 6875 yards | Book online | ... details »

It may not be as hard as its big-brother course -- Mauna Kea Golf Course, which is on the other side of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway -- but it's almost as pretty. And it's probably more fun, too, because it's not as difficult.

Not that the Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay-designed Hapuna is a pushover.

Although it's some 400 yards shorter than Mauna Kea Golf Course, it's still 6,875 yards with plenty of challenge off the tee and an ever-present breeze that can sometimes become quite formidable.

Still, once you find the fairways on this rolling spread that features more than 700 feet of elevation, the approaches and the greens are easier. And that translates into scoring opportunities and fun.

Plus, you can expect significant green-fee savings over Mauna Kea. And considering that the same superintendent now oversees both courses -- meaning course conditions at Hapuna are on par with Mauna Kea -- that's a pretty good deal.

"I think Hapuna is very underrated," said Mauna Kea Head Golf Professional Johnny Eusebio. "The thing about Hapuna is that even though it's not on the ocean, you can see the ocean from any tee or green."

Views abound at Hapuna

Considered one of the most environmentally sensitive golf courses in Hawaii -- you'll see plenty of wildlife and a few domestic sheep -- Hapuna overlooks the Kohala Coast, the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, and the Kohala Mountains.

The holes meander through mesquite and black lava beds, providing a striking contrast between green grass and surrounding native areas. And for the most part, the holes are isolated from each other, giving each playing group a sense of isolation.

You could take your pick of signature holes. You get a sense right away that they're all pretty interesting and scenic.

The third, for example, is a downhill par 5 that doglegs left around a lake.

The par-4 sixth not only features an ocean view but an unusual bunker left of the green that's sure to catch your attention.

The 11th is in another good par 5, this time making a turn uphill to the right to a green perched above the tee.

And the downhill 15th, with a row of palms glistening in the distance, provides another panoramic view of the sea in the distance.

Hapuna's finishing stretch is as good as it gets: The 17th and 18th are terrific par 4s, with the last hole playing 462 yards from the tips. The nice part is that from the front set of four tee boxes, 18 is just 338 yards, meaning the course truly is set up for all levels of players.

And the practice facilities -- with an extensive short-game area and range, as well as the clubhouse, which offers terrific dining -- are both top-notch.

Hapuna Golf Course: The verdict

This is one golf course you shouldn't skip if you make a trip to the Big Island. It's reasonably priced, super interesting and features one great view after another. While it's not right on the ocean, there are plenty of ocean views because of the elevated tees. It's also in terrific shape.

It's also very playable for all levels of players, although some of the tee shots can appear a little bit intimidating. All in all, it's a great changeup from its big sibling, Mauna Kea Golf Course.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Big Island Golf

    Vic Williams wrote on: Oct 16, 2012

    Hey Mike, I love this course. Played it with a couple locals years ago and had a great time. Mauna Kea's close-up views of the Pacific are tough to beat but Hapuna's higher-up vistas don't disappoint, and the final tumbling stanza is memorable. Here's our most recent take on the Big Island, including Hapuna: