Long live the king: Abundant challenges and solitude at King Kamehameha Golf Club on Maui

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

WAILUKU, Hawaii -- The solitude is deafening. The golf is world class.

King Kamehameha Golf Club
King Kamehameha Golf Club, a Ted Robinson Sr. design, is situated on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains.
King Kamehameha Golf Club King Kamehameha G.C.King Kamehameha Golf Club - waterKing Kamehameha golf course
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King Kamehameha Golf Club

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Maui's only 18-hole private club, King Kamehameha Golf Club marries nature with classic design. The Ted Robinson Sr.-designed course, named in honor of Hawaii's greatest king, is located on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains.

18 Holes | Private golf course | Par: 72 | 7060 yards | ... details »

Welcome to King Kamehameha Golf Club.

This layout, designed by Ted Robinson Sr. and recently reworked by his son, Ted Robinson Jr., presents 7,060 yards of golf at its finest, in one of the finest settings in the world, Maui.

Situated on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains with views of the north and south coasts, King Kamehameha G.C. is private and offers the ultimate in a golf experience.

David Sanders, the first to sign up as a member at King Kamehameha when it reopened in May 2006, pulls no punches when talking about his home course.

"Maui is full of resort courses, and a lot of times you can find yourself in a five-hour round," said Sanders, who lives in the Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta, for much of the year. "And that can be frustrating for those who want to get out and play at a good pace."

He's also a huge fan of the course conditions.

"It doesn't get much better out here," Sanders said. "The greens are perfect, and the condition of the course is always immaculate. At a lot of courses, players forget about the etiquette of fixing divots and ball marks and that can be frustrating. Here, the members take great pride in making sure they hold up their end when it comes to keeping the course pristine."

Indeed. These stunning fairways are as good as the greens on some golf courses; you could putt on these babies with no problem. The velvety-smooth greens roll true, and that's a good thing because the undulating greens rank as a true test of King Kamehameha Golf Club.

And we're not talking subtle breaks. For example, pick a spot three feet left of the pin, roll it, sit back and watch. You won't see the golf ball bounce offline on these greens. If you've picked the right line and speed - they're fast - you will make the putt.

Rick Castillo, Kamehameha Golf Club's director of golf, beamed as he talked about the design of the course.

"It's not a long course by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not a pushover," he said.

Castillo said the greens cover about 6,900 square feet, compared to about 8,800 square feet for many other island courses.

"Hitting the greens is the key," he said.

And Castillo cautions players not to stray from the fairways.

"The bunkers here are great, but getting up and down from them is no easy task," he said with a smile. "Like most courses, avoiding them is a good thing."

Players step to the first tee, and the senses flood with brightly colored landscaping, abundant on the 580-yard, par-5, straightaway hole. Trees line the fairway, but the landing area is generous. Deep bunkers guard the green and force players to assess the risk-reward of trying to get home in two. Unless you're a big hitter with superb control of a 3-wood, set yourself up with a third-shot wedge to try for that opening birdie.

Along the way, players will find more risk-reward situations, especially on the five holes with water in play. Be careful and don't bite off more than you can chew, or you'll find yourself reloading.

"We really think this is an amazing course," Castillo said. "Combine the great design with the beauty of it and the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright clubhouse, and you can see why we think it's the best course on Maui."

Another reason is the finishing hole. Kamehameha Golf Club's 559-yard, par-5 closer is "the best finishing hole on Maui," according to Castillo. "You can make a great score here, because it's a reachable par 5. But with the water and the bunkering, you can also make a big number. It's that challenging."

Kamehameha Golf Club: The ambiance

For starters, this is a golf club - and that's it. There are no housing tracts. The only noise you're likely to hear is your own heartbeat after a great shot, or the Nenes (geese) who are smart enough to call this place home. No freeways disrupt the solitude, and, at times, you'll feel like you're the most important person on the island. And for this round, you will be - in the eyes of the staff at King Kamehameha Golf Club.

You can be a member for a day

If you're interested in joining Kamehameha Golf Club, try this great offer: Play the golf course and enjoy lunch in the famed Frank Lloyd Wright clubhouse for $180 as a member for a day. Once you've seen the opulence of the course and its playability, you'll want to come back for more. Tee times are limited.

Got a spouse who doesn't golf? No problem here. Your non-golfing spouse can ride for nine holes to take in the beauty, then head in for a relaxing spa treatment while you play back nine. Just provide notice of 24 hours, and they'll be all set to handle for your needs.

Kamehameha Golf Club: The history

Framed swatches of cloth (keiki kapa moe or baby blankets) spread through the Kamehameha G.C. clubhouse, honoring 11 of Maui's chiefs. Kapa is made from the bark of mulberry trees. Other historical items, including a traditional Ahu (alter), greets visitors as they enter the club.

Kamehameha Golf Club: The extras

Make sure your day at Kamehameha Golf Club includes time in the locker room. The furo (Japanese hot tub), sauna, bar (yes, a bar), showers and lounge are simply magnificent. If you're looking for a place to relax after the round of golf - not that you'll need it - this is it.

Bill BowmanBill Bowman, Contributor

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.

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