Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course: Superior service and great golf
Don't ask the folks at Wailea Golf Club which course is on the ocean. Fact is, all three offer Pacific Ocean views from every hole.
Located on the island of Maui, Wailea Golf Club has three 18-hole courses. The Gold, regarded as the toughest and the home of the Senior Skins Game next year, the Emerald, regarded as the most playable, and the Blue, by far the oldest of the three.
Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course, the newest of the three courses after opening in December 1994, is the one that gets the most play from visitors who want a challenge, but not to the degree of the ultra-tough Gold. It measures 6,825 yards from the Emerald (back) tees and is a par-72.
"It's playable," said Ken Schwoerer, who was playing 18 with his wife, Reidun, on their 32nd anniversary in May. "The fairways seem generous and the greens hold well."
While Pacific views are offered from every hole, some are nicer than others. It all gets started on the 532-yard second hole. Players can eyeball this tough par-5 even as sailboats drift lazily in the distance far to the left of the tee box. Many of those boats are headed toward Molokeni, a prime island spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Unless you harbor the dream of reaching this hole in two shots, stay down the right side of the fairway to try and get home in three. Long hitters should stay left because that will cut down the distance on their approach shots. This green breaks toward the ocean, which means left.
Though Maui isn't like the volcano-filled Big Island, there are lava rocks on the 346-yard fourth hole, including ones you need to avoid in back of the green. The big black rocks will play rough with your ball so it would be best to stay away from them because it's not advised to climb on these craggy things.
They will slice up anything, so falling on them could easily end your round. Just chalk up your lost ball to the lava gods. In order to even reach the green, you will need to negotiate three traps that sit in the middle of the fairway less than 100 yards from the green.
Wind isn't usually much of a concern on the course, but it does come into play on the 157-yard eighth. The green is slightly elevated and makes the hole play a good 10-15 yards longer. If the wind is blowing in your face, it can affect your call by two clubs. There also are low spots on the green that will force your ball to run off if hit just right. Or just wrong, depending on your point of view.
"Every time we play in Maui, we play in a lot of wind," Ken Schwoerer said. "But that wasn't a problem here."
The 10th and 17th holes on Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course are unique in many ways. They are the only two on the course where water comes into play and they share a green. The Scottish tradition was the first double green to be put down in Hawaii.
Let's start with the 10th, a 392-yard toughie. If you stay on the right side of the fairway, you will avoid the water altogether. If you do take the left route, make sure you play an accurate second shot because water runs down the left side from 91 yards out. The green is deep, but doesn't allow much landing room from side to side.
The 17th plays much shorter, 332 yards from the back tees. At 300 yards from the blue tees, it's not out of the question to try for the green. For those extremely long hitters, there is a break. The fairway slopes from right to left, away from the water. So you should be able to get a little run, possibly enough to trickle onto the green.
If you're a little more like the rest of us, just take your tee shot down the right side to cut down on the distance. Such a shot would require an approach over the water, but those in control of their short irons will have no worries.
One of the Emerald Course's highlights is the 148-yard 13th. The hole plays even shorter because the green lies well below the five tee boxes. Just avoid the bunkers in front and on the right side of the putting surface. But getting to the green is the easy part. It's not until you pull out the putter that the adventure truly begins.
The toughest green on the course will challenge you even on the shortest of putts. Because the green slopes seriously downhill from back to front, you must take that into account even if you're pin-high.
If you do decide to try one of the resort's other two tracks, remember that Wailea Golf Club's Gold Course is tough, measuring more than 7,000 yards from the back tees. Wailea describes the layout as a "thinking player's course, rewarding good strategy and finesse."
The golf course also features several lava rock walls which were built two centuries ago and were left intact during course construction. Conde Nast Traveler ranked Wailea Golf Club's Gold Course as the best-designed in the world. The course is also undergoing bunker renovations in preparation for the Seniors Skins Game. All the sand is being removed and sifted. A total of 1,500 tons of sand will also be added to the course, according to resort public relations manager Luly Unemori.
Wailea Golf Club's Blue Course was the original Wailea 18, built nearly 30 years ago. It sits on the lowest slopes of Mount Haleakala and measures 6,758 yards from the back tees. There is a little more development on this course simply because it was the first one here. Many long-time visitors to Maui choose the Blue course.
No matter where you play, count on superior service and great golf. That's what Wailea is all about.