Home free: Play Maui golf courses without the residential development

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

WAILEA, Maui, Hawaii -- Hawaiian real estate may be coveted, but that doesn't mean you want to be hitting balls out of anyone's backyard on your golf vacation.

King Kamehameha Golf Club
King Kamehameha Golf Club is a golf club - and that's it. There is no tract housing.
King Kamehameha Golf Club Makena North golf courseKahili Golf CourseEmerald Course at Wailea Golf Club
If you go

Some of the dozen or so golf courses on Maui, however, were built without any type of residential attachment. Not only does that make for some of the island's best, natural scenery and quiet surroundings, but it can also be a very good thing when the trade winds are howling across the fairway.

Here a closer look at the golf courses on Maui where you can swing for the fences without hitting over them.

King Kamehameha Golf Club

King Kamehameha Golf Club is Maui's loftiest golf experience -- literally and figuratively.

Set 750 feet high up into the West Maui mountains, this private club with a "member-for-the-day" option features a secluded golf course set on the sloping hills, where the only sound is a little breeze and trickling waterfalls set beside several greens. Most holes above and below one another are parallel to the mountainside, while a couple of par 3s play sharply downhill. With the West Maui mountains beside you and the rest of Maui below, the closest homes you'll see are a few miles away along the south Maui coast.

The fact no homes are anywhere near the golf course, designed by Ted Robinson Sr. and Ted Robinson Jr., makes the 74,000-square-foot clubhouse, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, stand out that much more. Originally designed to be the home of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, the plans were later enlarged to house Maui's most exclusive golf club.

Kahili Golf Course

Golf courses that are among the most affordable in Hawaii might indicate the design has an unremarkable setting or was simply a vehicle for residential development. That's not the case at Kahili Golf Course.

Kahili opened in 1991 under the name Sandalwood Golf Course. Hawaii expert golf course architect Robin Nelson designed this 6,570-yard layout, which has some great variety. Located just below King Kamehameha Golf Club, the Kahili Golf Course still sits high enough into the West Maui mountainside and is clear of houses. Instead, holes dogleg through a mix of open and more low-lying, densely forested holes.

Gold and Emerald Courses at Wailea Golf Club

The original Old Blue golf course is the centerpiece of the Wailea community's residential development. But on the newer Wailea Gold and Wailea Emerald Courses, the only development you're playing around are the centuries-old stone wall remnants (named "papohaku") from the fishing villages that used to reside here.

Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed both the Gold and the Emerald Courses in the early 1990s. Each plays on the base of Mount Haleakala, leading down toward the sea. The Gold is the tougher of the two, while the Emerald is one of Maui's most player-friendly courses. Each has a similar setting: plenty of flower beds, lava rock, small ponds and fairways sculpted into the sloping hillsides.

The Gold, Emerald and Old Blue Courses come with an added bonus from upstairs: Some of the calmest fairways in Hawaii thanks to the 10,000-foot volcano shielding the brunt of the Hawaiian trade winds.

Makena Golf Course at Makena Beach & Golf Resort

Making up Maui's southern end, Makena is made up of about 1,800 acres -- and virtually none of it has development on it. Makena Golf Course (originally Makena North), one of two golf courses here (the South Course is currently closed), winds up and down the hillside and plays on more dramatic elevation changes and mostly higher ground compared to Wailea, which is next door.

There is plenty of trouble to get into on the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course -- creeks, native areas and woods -- but no residences. While the South Course closed just prior to the real estate bust to make way for housing that would later stall out, the North remains entirely natural. The North also isn't shy about both uphill and downhill holes.

The North's 14th hole is Maui's second-longest par 5 and plays from the course's highest point and most scenic vista of Pu'u Ola'i, the volcanic cinder cone at the southern tip of Maui. From the tee, the hole tumbles downhill back into trees and ends at a green set beside lava rock.

More Maui golf courses without residences

Maui's municipal course, Waiehu G.C., has a scenic, natural setting on the northeast shoreline. It's a bargain for residents at just $5-10, but visitors will pony up $55 to play where many locals do.

Also, the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, while technically part of residential development, has very little presence on the course (you'd have to hit a pretty awful shot to hit anyone's yard).

In south Maui, daily-fee Ellair Golf Club has some condos on the perimeter and plays beside the road, but most holes are quiet and free of homes.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment