Your insider travel guide to golf on Maui
KIHEI, Maui, Hawaii -- The Hawaiian island of Maui is one of the world's most beloved vacation destinations due to its weather, scenery, culture and activities.
Convenience is also a big reason why visitors seem to always find their way back to Maui. It's only about an hour's drive from Wailea in south Maui to Ka'anapali in west Maui, and in between there are countless beaches and many more activities and things to see.
And there's plenty of golf.
Golf in south Maui
The shoreline of south Maui faces west and includes a row of condo and hotel properties that offer some of the island's best sunset views. In addition to many neighborhoods, this makes south Maui a place where locals, timeshare owners and resort guests all mingle among one another.
The 54-hole Wailea Golf Club is the epicenter of the south Maui golf scene. The side-by-side Emerald Course and Gold Course -- which are set on black lava and overlook the calm south Maui waters -- are among the island's finest resort courses. Sitting at the base of Mount Haleakala, each is often shielded from the trade winds, making the setting all that more peaceful. Next door is Wailea Golf Club's Old Blue Course, a shorter, player-friendly layout that predates the Gold and the Emerald.
On the southern end of Maui is Makena, a destination for those who want a Maui getaway far from the action of Kihei and Wailea. Makena Beach & Golf Resort (formerly the Maui Prince Hotel) originally had two golf courses, Makena North and Makena South, but currently only Makena North is open. It's a beautiful and natural Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that plays up and down the slopes of Mount Haleakala.
Also in south Maui, there's Elleair Golf Club, an affordable daily-fee course in the heart of Kihei and only a few minutes from Wailea.
Golf in central Maui
The Kahului isthmus is a flat, sandy stretch of land that separates the West Maui Mountains and Mount Haleakala. This is where you'll fly over on descent and where the industrious city of Kahului sits.
There are a few golf courses here, starting with the Dunes at Maui Lani, a locally adored, value-friendly course that offers affordable tee time rates for vacationers and locals alike. The Robin Nelson design is a sandy, links-inspired play with a fantastic variety of holes and ever-present, close-up views of the West Maui Mountains.
Two side-by-side sister properties are King Kamehameha Golf Club and Kahili Golf Course. King Kamehameha, home of a marvelous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse set high into the West Maui Mountains, was built with the intention of being the island's only private golf club. Today, it has a couple hundred members but also offers a "member for the day" rate that welcomes visitors to enjoy championship golf alongside the mountain as well as one of the game's finest clubhouses.
Kahili, on the other hand, is one of the island's greatest values. This course, formerly known as Sandalwood Golf Course, presents a challenging natural layout designed by Nelson.
Golf in west Maui
West Maui is anchored by the historic port city of Lahaina, formerly the capital of ancient Maui and rich in sugar cane and pineapple production. This is where the Ka'anapali development began back in the 1960s, delivering a strip of beachfront hotels and Royal Ka'anapali, which was the first signature course to attract worldwide golfers to Maui. Next door is Ka'anapali Kai, which plays along the mountainside overlooking the ocean and Lanai.
Just a few minutes up the coast from Ka'anapali is the newer Kapalua development, home of the PGA Tour host Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort. It sits high on jungly slopes overlooking the ocean. In addition, the older Bay Course at Kapalua Resort features Maui's only golf hole with a tee shot over the ocean.
More golf in Maui
The island's municipal course, Waiehu Golf Course, is a well trafficked local play and not in the best condition compared to the other resort and public courses. Non-resident green fees also aren't as magical ($55 compared to $5-10 for residents).
The oldest club on the island is Maui Country Club, a small, private nine-hole course near Kahului that offers some limited visitor play.
In Maui's "upcountry" -- about 10 minutes from the airport -- is Pukalani Country Club, which is the centerpiece of a town that sits high above Kahului on the road up to Mount Haleakala.
If the dozen or so courses on Maui aren't enough, Lanai is just a one-hour boat ride from Lahaina and is home to two Four Seasons resorts, and each has its own golf course: The Challenge at Manele and The Experience at Koele.
Maui off the golf course
Visitors to Maui are, in all likelihood, going to spend a few days off the golf course exploring the island's many other treasures.
A lot of tourists will begin their vacation at the top: the summit of Mount Haleakala. Set 10,000 feet high, the sunrise views from this perch are spectacular. Some tour companies offer a downhill bicycle tour that is an exhilarating ride down the peak.
For a full day of exploration on Maui, take the Road to Hana, a small village located on Maui's rainy, eastern side. The journey takes you on a long, winding road past small, local shops and hikes that lead to mountain ponds and waterfalls.
Maui is also loaded with beaches, both busy and quiet, where you can even watch whales during the winter season. The best spot for sunset is along south Maui or on Maui's west side near Lahaina, where the sun sets behind nearby Lanai.
Additionally, you can find great seafood restaurants at a resort or in town, and there are plenty of great sports bars on Maui to catch football and other action.
November 3, 2011