Makena Golf Course on Maui tantalizes the senses, tests your game

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

MAKENA, Hawaii -- Nestled at the southern tip of Maui is a golf experience that has to be played to be believed: Makena Golf Course at the Makena Beach & Golf Resort.

Makena Golf Course - hole 12
Makena Golf Course's 12th hole features one of the finest views to be found anywhere.
Makena Golf Course - hole 12Makena Golf Course - hole 14Makena Golf Course - hole 7Makena Golf Course - hole 15Makena Golf Course - hole 5
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Makena Golf Course

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Maui's Makena Golf Course is a championship Robert Trent Jones Jr. design with Pacific Ocean and mountain views amidst volcanic rock.

18 Holes | Private golf course | Par: 72 | 7038 yards | ... details »

Cut dramatically around a dormant volcano, there are no homes on or around the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design. It's just you and the course. Tranquility never looked, smelled, felt or sounded so serene.

Dramatic doglegs and elevation changes really add to the experience at Makena Golf Course, which plays 6,914 yards from the tips and 5,303 yards from the forward tees. With perfect weather much of the year -- there's little or no wind or rain to dampen the golf outing, and water comes into play on just one hole -- the golf course needs some defense. So along with perfectly placed bunkers, the dramatic elevation changes and doglegs will give players plenty to think about.

While you're playing don't forget to check out the gorgeous views, which are everywhere.

"This was the first time we played here and it was great," said Mark Seretny, playing the course with friends from Alberta. "It's a very challenging course, and the ocean views are just great. It was pretty amazing out there."

The golf course's climb is also pretty amazing. The layout climbs dramatically for the first 11 holes as players wind their way over and around gullies and stream beds. Golfers will also quickly realize that driver off the tee isn't always the smart choice.

Take the par-4 third hole, for example. It plays just 363 yards, but it doglegs 90 degrees right about 200 yards off the tee. Take too much club, and the shot will wind up in a bunker at the end of the fairway. Take too little club, and players will have tree trouble with the second shot. Bunkers left, right and long make pulling the right club for the approach shot just as vital as off the tee. It's a short hole, but a big test.

The sixth hole, a 364-yard par 4, provides another challenge off the tee: Do I hit the tee shot left or right? With a split fairway, the choice is made easier depending on pin placement. If the pin is close to the bunker guarding the front right of the green, the left side is the definite play as the approach shot will be wide open. It's another hole with birdie possibilities, but errant shots can wreak havoc.

The 12th hole will start players heading back downhill. It also has one of the finest views anywhere. Take a moment to appreciate the view -- and maybe take a photo or two.

"Golfers truly enjoy the 12th hole," said Tim Murphy, director of golf. "It's a spectacular hole. Play a smart shot to the middle of the green and try not to be distracted by the tremendous beauty of the Pacific Ocean in the background."

You can try not to be distracted, but you won't succeed. It's just a jaw-dropping view. And during whale-watching season you're likely to see whales jumping out of the water.

"It's one of the great par 3s in all of Hawaii," Murphy said.

Add in Kiawe trees, lava rocks and beautiful, dense foliage, and you've got a golf course that will tantalize the senses -- as well as your game -- from start to finish.

Makena Golf Course: The verdict

Makena Golf Course at the Makena Beach & Golf Resort is definitely worth the trip to the southern tip of Maui.

And it's not just the golf that brings visitors to Makena. The restaurant features fabulous food as well as amazing ocean views. Visitors and locals should also check out The Makena Vista, located between the 13th green and the 14th tee. It's a popular site for weddings and special events. More stunning views and lush landscaping will add to that special day.

Isn't it time to check out a slice of paradise?

"Makena Beach & Golf Resort is a world-class destination property," said Murphy. "The Makena Golf Course is a must-play golf experience. Playing along the slopes of Haleakala, golfers' shots are framed by beautiful views of the majestic Pacific Ocean."

Enough said.

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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