Kai golf course at Kaanapali on Maui really is women, kid friendly

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Of the two courses at Kaanapali, it's the Royal Course that gets the most notoriety and rightly so. It's challenging with great views of the Pacific.

Kaanapali Kai golf course - 11th
Placement of the forward tees on the Kaanapali Kai course is well thought out.
Kaanapali Kai golf course - 11thKaanapali Kai golf course - hole 2Kaanapali Kai golf course - 9th Kaanapali Kai golf course - hole 18
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Yet, if you ask many of the locals which one they prefer to play, many of them will tell you that most of the time, they'd rather take on the Kai Course.

The reason is simple: They have more fun there.

Not to take anything away from the Royal Course, but for less skilled players, families and certainly players who don't hit it as far, the Kai Course fits the bill. And it terms of views, the Kai Course holds its own in that department, too.

Kai's executive roots

Kaanapali Kai was originally created as an executive course, but in 1976 architect Jack Snyder redesigned the course as a 6,388-yard par 70. More recently, Robin Nelson, the most prolific architect in Hawaii, renovated the golf course.

If you want to know how women friendly the Kai Course is, in 2008 it hosted the ladies of the Golf Channel's "Big Break" series. Of course, those women were pretty good players, but women, men, children and players of all levels love to play the course.

One of the reasons is that the forward tees -- or Hibiscus tees as they are called on the Kai Course -- are where they should be. On many courses, they're too far back. A 20- or 30-yard advantage over the tips or even regular tees is not enough for a player who only hits the ball 150-170 yards off the tee. On a par 4, for example, that kind of positioning often leads approach shots that are longer than the tee shots, and many times it's into greens that don't have openings to roll the ball onto the green.

Not so on the Kai Course, which measures just 4,522 yards from the forward tees. For example, the second hole is just 246 yards from the Hibiscus, while the back tees are 370 yards. It's a 124-yard advantage, and players who are playing their correct tees (single digit from the back) should be hitting short irons or wedges into the green after a good drive.

"It's beautiful to play," said Nancy Stone, who was making her first trip to Maui. "And I liked the fact that the forward tees were well thought out. I'm not hitting hybrids or fairway woods into every hole."

Kaanapali Kai: Beautiful and challenging

Not to be ignored, however, is that the Kai Course holds its own in the scenery department. While the course isn't on the ocean, it runs above the Royal Course and provides plenty of Pacific Ocean vistas.

Also, the land which Kaanapali Golf Courses was founded used to be a sugar cane plantation, and players will see the Sugar Cane Train steam past several holes on the course (now used for tours. Many of the holes are lie in natural canals, gulches and border lava rock. And there is plenty trees and flora, including the aforementioned hibiscus.

And just in case you got the impression that the course is a pushover, think again. There are several holes that will test you, especially from the back tees. The last three, including the par-4 18th, which features a narrow tee shot and approach over water, can be a real bear.

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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