The jewel of Maui: Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course
WAILEA, Maui, Hawaii - When planning a business trip to Maui recently, I was told emphatically that I must do what the natives do. Golf. Made perfect sense to me, and who was I to argue with local customs?
The weather is perfect, the courses are perfect, and the scenery is excerpted directly from those fantasy golf courses listed in all the golf magazines. You know, those exotic golf locations that you tell yourself you're always going to travel to, but never quite can fit it in? Wailea Golf Club is definitely another must-play course to put on that list.
Those that live here take all this perfection as par for the course, if you'll excuse the pun. However, I stood at the first hole of Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course with a sense of reverence. I'm from Colorado where majestic mountain sceneries edge most courses, or at least can be seen in the horizon. Oceans, on the other hand, are not a part of the Colorado package.
Seventeen miles from the airport is a slice of Maui, an approximately 1,500-acre slice known as the award-winning Wailea Resort, which includes residential homes and the 54-hole golf course. Wailea is one of just two Hawaii resorts (the other is Kapalua) that offers 54 holes of golf at the end of your club. Nestled along 1.5 miles of Maui's spectacular southern coastline, Wailea G.C. is one of the largest and most acclaimed Hawaii golf facilities. It features three championship courses, the Wailea Gold Course, Wailea Emerald Course and Wailea Blue Course, two full-service pro shops and the finest outdoor training facility in the Pacific.
Architect Robert Trent Jones designed the Gold and Emerald courses, while Arthur Jack Snyder had a designing hand in the Blue course. Four sets of tees on the Gold and Emerald and three sets on the Blue really create a different game depending on your choice of tees and skill level. The Grand Lady of Wailea, the Blue Course, was the first course built in Wailea and celebrated its 28th anniversary this year. The Gold Course, Wailea's Rugged Beauty, opened in December of 1993, and the Emerald followed a year later, chalking up a final expansion bill of $80 million. You bet they're proud of this golf course.
The Emerald is labeled Wailea Golf Club's tropical playground, an appropriate name for a round of golf on a jewel of a course. Rated one of the best new courses by Golf Magazine and Golf Digest, as well as one of North America's most women friendly courses by Golf For Women, the Emerald course lives up to its name. Tropical flowers flourish in great abundance and bright colors are splashed throughout the course like an opulent oil painting. Native blossoms include plumeria, bird of paradise, alamanda, gazenia, bougainvillea, beach morning glory, "firecracker" plants and more.
But just because it's a pretty course, don't be fooled. The Emerald is a superbly designed course created for pure golf enjoyment, scenery is just one of those added pleasures gained from golfing in Maui. From the back, you'll be challenged by 6,825 yards of pure golfing tests. You'll need to keep on your toes, keep your head in the game, double check your yardages, don't over shoot, and don't undershoot - just like any course you may have played. However, Jones built big greens, and on your approach shot, there's often a difference of two or three clubs from the front of the green to the back. Hit the wrong club and a three putt and a beer might be on your agenda.
Fortunately, the worst hazards are the visual ones: the Pacific Ocean, the rolling hills with surprise valleys, the wide and deep bunkers, and the towering palm trees. The other hazards will be the distracting scenery and the beverage cart.
Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course begins with an elevated tee, driving onto a green only about 380 yards away. A grove of palm trees flutter on the right and the fairway is a rolling hill to the left. Left isn't necessarily trouble, if you don't mind your second shot being straight up, well over your head and onto the green. The glittering turquoise ocean provides the backdrop for the green, something you'll see quite often, as there is an ocean view on virtually all the holes.
Jones is the master of minimalist strategy, and you'll experience this first-hand at the 7th hole. On the right side of this 411-yard par-4, two large and wide limbed trees are one of the most strategically placed and irritating obstacles on the course. You can see it from the tee and you know it's there, but mastermind architect Jones must have placed a golf ball magnet there to suck a slice in that direction, quicker than the beverage cart can provide solace.
Two unique holes on Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course are the 10th and 17th. These holes share a large double green. Fronting the green is the only lake on the course. If you want to see more of the Maui native's world, Hole 18 has a spectacular view of the neighboring islands and the ancient volcanic cinder cone. And you'll get to see plenty of it, as this is a long par 5 at 553 yards.
To complete your Maui golf experience, Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course ends at the clubhouse with one last look at the course and the ocean. The ebb and flow of the ocean's surf in the background, along with a cold drink, are the perfect complements to a grand day of golf.
January 5, 2002