You'll want to bring a camera when you play golf at Royal Kunia Country Club on Oahu
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.
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.
October 21, 2010