Divine nine in Oahu: Plenty of good golf on Hawaii's most fast-paced island

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

HONOLULU -- Public golf on Hawaii's most populated island, Oahu, has a different feel than most of the rest of the state. In Oahu you'll likely share the tees with plenty of locals, there aren't as many ocean views and many of the golf courses aren't nearly as isolated as they are on the Big Island.

Hawaii Prince Golf Club - C course - No. 6
Prince Golf Club is situated about 20 minutes from the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, but the 27 holes are worth the trip.
Hawaii Prince Golf Club - C course - No. 6Ko'olau Golf Club - No. 18Arnold Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort - No. 17Ewa Beach Golf Club - No. 17
If you go

Still, it's golf Hawaiian style, and even for tourists, it's not terribly expensive. Oahu offers a good variety of golf courses, from resort-style layouts such as Turtle Bay to local favorites Ko'olau Golf Club and Ewa Beach G.C.

So if you're staying in Honolulu and need a break from the beach scene at Waikiki, here are some good golf choices -- all within an hour or so of Hawaii's most populated city.

Coral Creek Golf Course

Designed by Robin Nelson and Neil Haworth, Coral Creek Golf Course features 18 distinctly different holes that make their way through trees and around numerous water hazards. Opened in 1999, this 6,808-yard golf course has elevated greens that are well protected by bunkers. Water comes into play on at least 13 holes, mostly in the form of natural spring-fed lakes or coral creeks. An ever-present breeze challenges players to hit their best shots.

Arnold Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort

The more challenging of the two 18-hole layouts, the Arnold Palmer Course at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore has hosted Champions Tour and LPGA Tour events, as well as the annual Turtle Bay Resort Hawaii State Open. With lagoons and Ironwood trees throughout, this 7,000-yard all-paspalum layout isn't your typical South Pacific golf course. With plenty of large bunkers, lakes and streams, the golf course will challenge every aspect of your game, including course management. The Pacific Ocean doesn't come into view until the signature par-4 17th hole, but it's a panorama you most likely won't forget.

Ewa Beach Golf Club

Located on the Ewa Plain a few hundred yards from the beach, Ewa Beach Golf Club was the first golf course in Hawaii to feature Seashore Paspalum grass, an environmentally friendly turf that can be irrigated with effluent water. Designed by Nelson, the layout remotely resembles a links course in that it's nine out and nine in. There is also a double green on No. 2 and No. 16, the only such feature on the entire island. Any other similarities to links courses, however, are soon dismissed as Nelson routed the golf course through a Kiawe forest. Conditions are plush -- fairways, roughs and greens -- and there isn't a home on the entire site.

Hawaii Prince Golf Club

This 27-hole Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay layout, which is also located on Ewa Plain, used to be nothing but waving fields of sugar cane. Today, it's a diverse golf layout that's more challenging than it looks with plenty of mounding, water in play, scores of bunkers, and, on one nine, tree-lined fairways. Offered as an amenity to the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, the golf course occupies 270 acres, offering great views of the rain-carved Waianae Mountains. The most challenging combination is Hawaii Prince Golf Club's C/A Course.

Kapolei Golf Course

Architect Ted Robinson moved massive amounts of dirt to create a memorable and scenic layout that served as the host course of the LPGA Tour's Hawaiian Ladies Open from 1996-2001. Opened in 1994, Kapolei Golf Course can be stretched to more than 7,000 yards, but with four sets of tees is playable for all levels. The golf course features plenty of coconut palm trees, floral gardens and five lakes.

Ko'olau Golf Club

Carved out of a tropical forest, Ko'olau Golf Club is considered one of the most challenging golf courses in the world. It's also one of the most beautiful. Designed by Dick Nugent and Jack Tuthill, the 7,310-yard, par-72 layout has a slope/rating of 152/75.7 from the back tees, but the mountain views and lush tropical setting are what really get your attention.

Ko Olina Golf Club

This former home of LPGA Tour and Champions Tour events will challenge the better players and provide plenty of fun to everyone. With waterfalls, a great 19th hole, terrific locker room facilities and wide fairways, Ko Olina Golf Club has been a favorite for visitors and locals alike. Designed by Robinson, this 6,800-yard, par-72 layout has a number of memorable holes, including a pair of cool par 3s. The eighth is arguably the golf course's signature hole, with cascading water filling up a hazard that guards an elevated green. And to get to the 12th hole you have to drive your cart under a waterfall.

Luana Hills Country Club

Luana Hills Country Club's original owners commissioned Pete Dye to build a difficult golf course out of the jungle, and he did. Bring plenty of golf balls because even the best players will sacrifice a few to the deep ravines that often front or flank greens and fairways. Still, with the mountains jutting into majestic rain clouds and the incredible lush, green scenery, it's an experience not to be forgotten. And don't let the 6,500 yards in length fool into playing the back tees; it's that difficult.

Royal Kunia Country Club

One of the things you'll love about Royal Kunia Country Club are the views. Behind the ninth green, for example, is the backdrop of Pearl Harbor, downtown Honolulu and Diamond Head. As the most recent Oahu golf course to open, Royal Kunia Country Club, another Nelson design, marks the last of six new courses that emerged along the Kunia Road/Ft. Weaver Road corridor. Moving across gently rolling terrain, the golf course has a variety of par 4s and demanding par 5s. Playing along and into the prevailing trade winds add to the challenge.

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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