You'll want to bring a camera when you play golf at Royal Kunia Country Club on Oahu

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

WAIPAHU, Hawaii - Golfers like to talk about the views beyond the golf course at Royal Kunia Country Club. From most points on the course, you can see Honolulu, Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor. In the backdrop, there are also the Ko'olau and Waianae mountain ranges.

Royal Kunia Country Club on Oahu
Golfers rave about the views from Royal Kunia Country Club.
Royal Kunia Country Club on OahuRoyal Kunia Country Club - No. 17Royal Kunia Country Club - No. 9Royal Kunia Country Club - No. 16Royal Kunia Country Club - No. 12
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Royal Kunia Country Club

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Royal Kunia Country Club boasts a reputation as one of the best and most scenic golf courses on Oahu. The course is perched high above the Ewa plain, offering panoramic views of the entire South Shore, stretching from Pearl Harbor to the downtown skyline of Honolulu to the famed Diamond Head.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7007 yards | Book online | ... details »

But the views of the interior of the golf course aren't too bad, either.

"I like the views and layout," said Ernie Oki, a local sheriff's deputy who plays Royal Kunia regularly. "It's awesome."

Located about 20 minutes from Waikiki on Oahu's Leeward Coast, Royal Kunia Country Club provides plenty of elevation change and 18 unique holes -- half of them with water hazards, some with elevated tees, a few waterfalls and some pretty challenging golf.

Japanese-owned Royal Kunia C.C. is a favorite among the locals, who like the challenge of the 7,007-yard layout and the vistas. But it's also a solid play for tourists who have a rental car and don't mind driving a little to find a good 18 holes.

"We are trying to get more tourists to come out here," General Manager Kozo Yamagishi said.

Local residents enjoy significant savings. And while green fees are considerably higher for non-residents, there are deals to be had at certain times of the day and week.

Royal Kunia Country Club isn't easy

Opened in 2003, Royal Kunia is one of many golf courses that architect Robin Nelson designed in Hawaii. Nelson took advantage of the rolling terrain to give golfers great looks off the tee, which is important since there is plenty of trouble on many of the holes.

Yet, it's comforting to be able to see the trouble. Like on the par-4 second, the course's No. 1 hole. You can see around the corner of this dogleg right around a lake, so you know on the tee what it's going to take to play this hole well -- a well-placed tee shot that hugs the lake, so the approach isn't too daunting.

The golf course, from the back tees, has plenty of length, which is evident on some of the holes. Two par 5s, for example, are longer than 600 yards. And the ninth, at 621 yards, also has hazards galore, including a large lake. Catch it on a day when it plays into the wind, and it's tough.

But this is also a golf course where if players tackle the appropriate tees, they will have fun. There are four sets of markers, with the first set shortening the course to less than 5,000 yards.

"We really want to make this course family and women friendly," Yamagishi said.

Royal Kunia Country Club: The verdict

Driving up to the modest clubhouse, you might not be expecting much. But it doesn't take long before you realize that Royal Kunia Country Club is more than ordinary. It's in good shape, will keep your interest, and you will want to take some pictures of the scenery below the golf course.

It's also very playable for golfers at every level. From the front set of tee markers, much of the trouble is taken out of play, and you can play around most hazards if getting the ball airborne is a challenge. Yet, better players will find this course is a really good test. Play Royal Kunia without a double bogey or worse, and you've accomplished something.

Practice facilities at Royal Kunia are certainly adequate. The range has mats, but it does afford a place to loosen up. There are also putting and chipping greens available. And visitors can also rent clubs or shoes.

Inside the golf shop, there's a selection of all the necessary gear, and the clubhouse restaurant is excellent. From its cheeseburgers with a local flare to a selection of native dishes, you don't even have to play golf at Royal Kunia to want to eat there.

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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