King Kamehameha Golf Club on Maui: King of conditioning, views and pampering

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

WAILUKU, Hawaii -- King Kamehameha Golf Club is billed as Maui's only 18-hole private course. Right away, that probably gets visiting golfers to think it's inaccessible or, worse yet, it won't measure up to the spectacular resort courses on the island.

King Kamehameha Golf Club - No. 13
With mountains on one side and the ocean below, the visuals can be stunning at King Kamehameha Golf Club on Maui.
King Kamehameha Golf Club - No. 13King Kamehameha Golf Club King Kamehameha Golf Club - clubhouseKing Kamehameha Golf Club - artworkKing Kamehameha Golf Club - locker room
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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 »

Wrong on both counts.

It is accessible on a limited basis. Like any private club looking to bolster revenue, first and foremost, it would like to sell memberships. That means you can play it or try it out, maybe once or twice, but it's not like you can play there on a regular basis without joining.

And for visitors, that's perfect; just make sure to include it in the rotation among Kapalua Resort, Wailea Golf Club and Kaanapali Kai. It's that good.

King Kamehameha's views just keep on giving

As for scenery, it doesn't get any better than King Kamehameha Golf Club. Laid out along the side of the West Maui Mountains, you also get panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean as well.

And talk about elevation change. Throughout there are elevated tee shots and slopes -- lots of them. In fact, holes that might seem short on the surface can play extremely long, like the 387-yard ninth, which often plays uphill and into the wind. The approach shot can easily be three clubs longer and that's after a drive that goes nowhere nearly as long as you thought off the tee.

Designed by Ted Robinson and later refinished by Ted Robinson Jr. in 2005, the golf course meanders up and down, sideways and ends with smallish, undulating greens. The front nine is actually more difficult than the back nine, but both are plenty of challenge. Along the way, not only do you get the sensational background scenery of the mountains and the ocean, but the golf course in manicured to the nth degree.

Ornamentals bloom, and there are babbling brooks and waterfalls throughout, including the par-5 finishing hole, where you drive your golf cart under the last stream and waterfall to the back of the green in front of a magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse.

The finishing hole, by the way, is one of the best on Maui. At 559 yards, it's reachable because it's downhill, but a lake guards and the aforementioned waterfall guards the green.

Inside, there's plenty more at which to marvel. A beautiful golf shop is surrounded by artifacts that include depictions of Hawaii's most famous king (the club's namesake) and the genealogy of 11 of Maui's chiefs in a series of keiki kapa moe (baby blankets).

The clubhouse also includes artwork by many of the island's other most prominent artists, including Jo-Anne Kahanamoku-Sterling, who created a feather cape in colors chosen to honor the owner of King Kamehameha Golf Club.

For dining, there's the intimate Wai Kahe Room and suncourt. The menu includes Hawaiian regional cuisine with a Eurasian flair as well as traditional Japanese food. Food service is also available in both men's and women's lounges.

King Kamehameha Golf Club: The verdict

What's not to like about the King? Great conditioning, a superb layout and views as good as almost anywhere in the world. Honestly, King Kamehameha rivals the Plantation Course at Kapalua, and that's saying a lot.

Practice facilities are also impressive with a full grass range, short-game area and putting greens. Training aids, such as alignment sticks and weighted clubs, are a nice touch on the range for warming up before a round.

The big bonus, however, is the clubhouse. Both the men's and women's locker rooms are lavish with spa facilities, including therapeutic showers, whirlpools and saunas. And with the club's member-for-a-day program ($170, $150 afternoons during the week), you truly do feel like a member at a high-end club.

That price, by the way, is at worst average among Maui's resort courses; so in essence, it's a bargain, especially considering what you get for it.

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.

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