Hawaii: Golf in the Aloha State of Mind

When scouting out a golf and travel destination in the Aloha state, it’s almost impossible to hit a bad shot. However, if there is one trip in the 808 area […]


The Challenge at Manele Bay
Built in 1993
Designed by Jack Nicklaus
Named Best 100 Golf Resorts, Conde Nast Traveler
Gold Medal Resort, Golf Magazine

When scouting out a golf and travel destination in the Aloha state, it’s almost impossible to hit a bad shot. However, if there is one trip in the 808 area code that demands your attention, this is it. On the west side of the spectacular island of Maui, you will find the Kapalua Resort, featuring two out-of-this-world championship golf courses, the Bay Course and Plantation Course, making Kapalua one of the golfer’s favorite Maui destinations. Additionally, when visiting Maui, it is a must for golf lovers as well as anyone looking to take in what is well regarded as the most scenic island in all of Hawaii, the island of Lanai. Just a prop (plane), chopper, or ferry ride from Kapalua, Lanai is considered Maui’s sister island and features one of the most incredible resort and golf courses this country has to offer, the esteemed Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay.

Elevated high on the northwest end of the Maui Mountains lies the golf jewel known as Kapalua Resort. When thinking of Kapalua, the first thought golfers think of is the Plantation Course. Home to the yearly PGA event in January, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions features an elite field of the previous year’s PGA Tour winners. The field has included golf greats such as, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, as well as many of the new up and coming stars including Jordan Spieth, Zack Johnson, and Adam Scott. The par 73 (yes, 73) course stretches out to a mammoth 7,411 yards. If I were to rename the course, it would have to be the Monster Course, for everything about it is monster-like, from the monstrous fairways, roughs, bunkers, and greens, and it does not stop at the views. Sprawling across over 240 acres of lush rolling fairways, severe elevation changes, and views of the ocean and islands of Lanai and Molokai in the distance make this one beautiful monster. The only time you lose sight of the ocean are on a couple of your golf cart drives from the green to the following tee box, one of which stretches almost a mile long where you might feel as though you left the golf course and entered an open-aired Jeep off-road tour through a rainforest. The par 5, 18th hole is 663 yards and the longest hole played on the PGA Tour. If you are willing to forget about the scorecard and just enjoy your round, the Plantation Course is one of the most unique and mesmerizing golf experiences you can find on the globe.


Kapalua Bay Course
Built in 1975
Designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane
Host to many PGA and LPGA Tour Events
Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary (1st in the U.S. to receive this distinction)

Although overshadowed by its big brother up the road, the Kapalua Bay course is not to be missed on your trip. The Bay Course is somewhat of a relief after playing Plantation but definitely no pushover. The par 72, 6,600 yard course is also rich in PGA history, as it was host to the first ever prime-time televised PGA event, the 1983 Kapalua International. When playing the front 9, you have to give it your all not to lose concentration on holes 5 and 6; if you do and your ball goes slightly off target, it will end up in the ocean. The signature par 3, 5th hole is 205 yards from the championship tees, and it is all carry over the Pacific Ocean. The Bay Course has a lot of character and is kept in impeccable condition year ‘round.


Kapalua Plantation Course
Completed in 1991
Designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore
Host to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Named Top 100 Golf Courses in America, Golf Digest

The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is the place you want to kick up your feet (pool or beachside) when completing your spectacular day of golf. The resort offers 463 recently redesigned guest rooms and suites, many with ocean views offering unmatched luxury mixed with island flair. With six different dining options ranging from poolside casual dining in your bathing suit to the amazing island themed dishes at the Plantation House, you are sure to be satisfied. Don’t forget to be pampered and leave exceptionally relaxed when leaving the 17,500 square foot Ritz-Carlton Spa which offers a variety of spa services.

A mere 45-minute ferry ride from Kapalua’s nearby town of Lahaina, Lanai is way too close not to visit while exploring Maui. Although the sixth largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Lanai is the smallest publicly accessible inhabited island, with a population of just over 3,000. With no traffic lights and one K-12 school serving the entire island, it definitely has a small island feel. Complete with a tiny city, one school, and two fabulous resorts with golf courses, when visiting Lanai you will feel like you are on your own private island. In 2012 Oracle CEO Larry Ellison purchased 98% of the island. With the acquisition, Ellison has begun a lot of restoration and updating to this already beautiful place.


The Ritz Carlton Kapalua is quintessentially “Oceanfront”

Voted one of Travel & Leisure readers’ Best Beach Hotels, Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is perched above a stunning white sand beach with endless views of lava cliffs and ocean-front throughout the entire property. The elegant resort features 236 guest rooms featuring island inspired décor all opening to a private, comfortably furnished outdoor lanai. If you are traveling with family or just looking for more spacious accommodations, the wide variety of suites are top notch and will make you feel as if you are at home in paradise. The dining options at Four Seasons Manele Bay are all magnificent. The signature One Forty Restaurant offers breakfast and an extensive steak and seafood dinner menu as well as an accomplished wine list featuring fine labels. If you are looking for contemporary Italian cuisine, Kailani offers the freshest ingredients with fish sourced directly from Hawaii’s fishers daily. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is in the final stages of opening a Nobu Japanese Cuisine, offering guests the finest sushi on the island. No matter what your choice is, you can’t go wrong.


Accommodations within a guest room at the Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay

When talking about the country’s best ocean golf courses, Pebble Beach is often the first course to be discussed. Once you have experienced The Challenge at Manele golf course, you may rethink your preference. Set high above the crashing surf of Hulopo’e Bay and built on acres of natural lava, this course is a masterpiece. This 7,039, par 72 championship golf course combines a spectacular natural setting with challenging hole designs. Although you are never too far removed from the ocean, there are three holes (including the signature 12th hole that plays 202 yards and can play significantly longer with wind) in which the Pacific Ocean doubles as a water hazard. Director of Golf Scott Ashworth and his staff do a wonderful job of making sure every golfer has a great experience. With a scant 30 to 40 rounds played each day, you will feel like you have the course to yourself. When finishing your round, make sure to grab an island-infused lunch and/or drink at the spectacular Views restaurant. Located directly next to the pro shop, Views, as the name suggests, offers diners cliffside panoramic ocean vistas and breathtaking fairway scenery while offering exquisite cuisine.

So, when you book your trip to Maui, do yourself a favor and do not leave its sister island of Lanai off your travel plans. With ferries departing and arriving several times daily, it makes it an easy day excursion from Maui. However, I highly recommend staying for at least a couple of nights. The unparalleled beauty of the property and most important, the service you will experience from the first-class staff, will make it extremely difficult to part ways with the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay.


Mix it up and go for a dip in the freshwater offered at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua pool