Top 10 Courses: Hawaii

Heres our list of the top 10 courses in the islands of Hawaii

1. NANEA (Kailua-Kona, Big Island) David McLay Kidd’s only Hawaiian design is both the best and most exclusive private course in the state, a testing links-like layout set on the slope of Mt. Hualalai. It’s also the first course in North America to be sown completely with Paspalum grass.

courses hawaii
Nanea (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

2. MANELE (Lanai City, Lanai) Perched on a lava bed 200 feet above the Pacific, this Jack Nicklaus Signature layout for the Four Seasons resort offers panoramic sea views from every point with three holes tiptoeing along the cliffs.

3. KAPALUA (PLANTATION) (Kapalua, Maui) Arguably the best mountain course in the world, this big, bold Coore & Crenshaw layout—home each January to the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions—is all about elevation change. The closing par five is 668 yards, but playing steeply downhill and downwind is reachable in two to long hitters.

4. KUKI’O (Kailua-Kona, Big Island) Dramatic elevation change is again the hallmark at Tom Fazio’s only Hawaiian course, which unfurls over a stretch of rugged lava-based coastline. Starting beside the beach, it rises nearly 500 feet into the back nine, unveiling views of the Kona-Kohala coast.

5. MAUNA KEA (Kohala Coast, Big Island) The grande dame of Hawaiian golf was designed in 1964 by Robert Trent Jones as the centerpiece of Hawaii’s first golf resort, owned by Laurance Rockefeller. At the time, its iconic par-three 3rd, playing dramatically across an ocean cove, was hailed as “the most beautiful hole in the world.”

6. HOKULI’A (Kailua-Kona, Big Island) Set on a slope on the leeward side of the island, this Jack Nicklaus private course enjoys year-round warm temperatures and gentle breezes rather than strong winds, but the course is nonetheless a full test. The 482-yard 2nd, its green clasped by a pond, may be the toughest par four in the state.

7. KOHANAIKI (Kailua-Kona, Big Island) This private course, Rees Jones’s only Hawaiian design, boasts more oceanfront holes—six—than any course in Hawaii. Two hundred protected ponds and 14 ancient rock shrines add to both the challenge and beauty.

8. KUKUI’ULA (Koloa, Kauai) Tom Weiskopf’s Hawaiian showpiece, pride of the only private club on the Garden Isle, plays across the site of a former sugar plantation dotted with gardens and orchards. Generous fairways and massive greens make this a welcoming course—until the fickle trade winds kick up.

9. HUALALAI (NICKLAUS) (Kailua-Kona, Big Island) Carved from a lava bed beside the sea, this resort course, site of the Champions Tour’s annual Mitsubishi Electric Championship, begins benignly but builds to a crescendo on the back nine, with the last three holes set dauntingly near the earth’s largest water hazard.

10. POIPU BAY (Koloa, Kauai) The site of the now-defunct Grand Slam of Golf, contested among the year’s major championship winners and won seven times by Tiger Woods, this Robert Trent Jones Jr. course sprawls between lush green mountains and ocean cliffs. Poipu is Hawaiian for “crashing waves” and the last third of this course lives up to that name.

What courses in Hawaii did we miss? Let us know in the comment section.