Maui’s natural beauty and surroundings offer some of the most jaw-dropping vistas imaginable on a golf course; add a variety of challenging, well-designed courses and it’s easy to explain the island’s popularity with golfers. Holes run across small bays, past craggy lava outcrops, and up into cool forested mountains. Most courses have mesmerizing ocean views, some close enough to feel the salt in the air. Although many of the courses are affiliated with resorts (and therefore a little pricier), the general-public courses are no less impressive. Playing on Lanai is another option.
Greens Fees: Golf can be costly on Maui. Greens fees listed here are the highest course rates per round on weekdays and weekends for U.S. residents. (Some courses charge non-U.S. residents higher prices.) Rental clubs may or may not be included with the greens fee. Discounts are often available for resort guests, for twilight tee times, and for those who book online.
Resort courses, in particular, offer more than the usual three sets of tees, so bite off as much or as little challenge as you like. Tee it up from the tips and you can end up playing a few 600-yard par 5s and see a few 250-yard forced carries.
Discounts and Deals
Maui Golf Shop. Discounted tee times and club rentals are offered here. 1215 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, Hawaii, 96753. 808/875–4653; 800/981–5512; www.golf-maui.com.
Maui Golf Tournaments
Maui has a number of golf tournaments, most of which are of professional caliber and worth watching. Many are also televised nationally.
Sentry Tournament of Champions. Held in January on Kapalua's Plantation Course, this tournament is an attention-getter—the first official PGA tour event. 2000 Plantation Club Dr., Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761. 877/527–2582; www.golfatkapalua.com.
Ka Lima O Maui 100 Holes of Golf. Every May, self-proclaimed "lunatic" golfers play from sunrise to sunset in Wailea's annual Memorial Day weekend fundraiser for Ka Lima O Maui, a local charity that provides job training and employment for disabled adults. 100 Wailea Golf Club Dr., Kihei, Hawaii, 96753. 808/875–7450; www.kalimaomaui.org.
Kaanapali Golf Courses. The Royal Kaanapali (North) Course (1962) is one of three in Hawaii designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the godfather of modern golf architecture. The greens average a whopping 10,000 square feet, necessary because of the often-severe undulation. The par-4 18th hole (into the prevailing trade breezes, with out-of-bounds on the left and a lake on the right) is notoriously tough. Designed by Arthur Jack Snyder, the Kaanapali Kai (South) Course (1976) shares similar seaside-into-the-hills terrain, but is rated a couple of strokes easier, mostly because putts are less treacherous. 2290 Kaanapali Pkwy., Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761. 808/661–3691; 866/454–4653; www.kaanapaligolfcourses.com. Royal Kaanapali (North) Course $255, Kaanapali Kai (South) Course $205.
Kapalua Golf. Perhaps Hawaii's best-known golf resort and the crown jewel of golf on Maui, Kapalua hosts the PGA Tour's first event each January: the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course. On this famed course, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore (1991) tried to incorporate traditional shot values in a nontraditional site, taking into account slope, gravity, and the prevailing trade winds. The par-5 18th hole, for instance, plays 663 yards from the back tees (600 yards from the resort tees). The hole drops 170 feet in elevation, narrowing as it goes to a partially guarded green, and plays downwind and down-grain. Despite the longer-than-usual distance, the slope is great enough and the wind at your back usually brisk enough to reach the green with two well-struck shots—a truly unbelievable finish to a course that will challenge, frustrate, and reward the patient golfer.
The Bay Course (Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane, 1975) is the more traditional of Kapalua's courses, with gentle rolling fairways and generous greens. The most memorable hole is the par-3 5th hole, with a tee shot that must carry over a turquoise inlet of Oneloa Bay. Each of the courses has a separate clubhouse. 2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua, Hawaii, 96761. 808/669–8044; 877/527–2582; www.golfatkapalua.com. Bay Course $229, Plantation Course $329.
Kapalua Golf Academy. Along with 23 acres of practice turf, an 18-hole putting course, and 3-hole walking course, the Kapalua Golf Academy offers individual lessons, corporate clinics, golf schools, daily clinics, and custom off-site instruction. 1000 Office Rd., Kapalua, Hawaii, 96761. 808/665–5455; 877/527–2582; www.golfatkapalua.com.
The South Shore
Maui Nui Golf Club. Maui Nui Golf Club is an exacting test. Fairways tend to be narrow, especially in landing areas, and can be quite challenging when the trade winds come up in the afternoon. The course is lined with enough coconut trees to make them a collective hazard, not just a nutty nuisance. 1345 Piilani Hwy., Kihei, Hawaii, 96753. 808/874–0777; www.mauinuigolfclub.com. $99.
Wailea Blue Course. Wailea's original course, the Blue Course (1971), nicknamed "The Grand Lady of Wailea," is operated from a separate clubhouse from the Gold and Emerald courses, its newer siblings. Here, judging elevation change is key. Fairways and greens tend to be wider and more forgiving than on the newer courses, and they run through colorful flora that includes hibiscus, wiliwili, bougainvillea, and plumeria. 100 Wailea Ike Dr., Wailea, Hawaii, 96753. 808/875–7450; 888/328–6284; www.waileagolf.com. $190.
Wailea Golf Club. Wailea is the only Hawaii resort to offer three different courses: Gold, Emerald, and Blue—the latter at a different location with a separate pro shop. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. (Gold and Emerald) and Arthur Jack Snyder (Blue), these courses share similar terrain, carved into the leeward slopes of Haleakala. Although the ocean does not come into play, its beauty is visible on almost every hole. Remember, putts break dramatically toward the ocean.
Jones refers to the Gold Course at Wailea (1994) as the "masculine" course. It's all trees and lava, and regarded as the hardest of the three courses. The trick here is to note even subtle changes in elevation. The par-3 8th, for example, plays from an elevated tee across a lava ravine to a large, well-bunkered green framed by palm trees, the blue sea, and tiny Molokini. The course demands strategy and careful club selection. The Emerald Course (1994) is the "feminine" layout with lots of flowers and bunkering away from greens. Although this may seem to render the bunker benign, the opposite is true. A bunker well in front of a green disguises the distance to the hole. Likewise, the Emerald's extensive flower beds are dangerous distractions because of their beauty. The Gold and Emerald courses share a clubhouse, practice facility, and 19th hole. 100 Wailea Golf Club Dr., Wailea, Hawaii, 96753. 808/875–7450; 888/328–6284; www.waileagolf.com. Gold Course $250, Emerald Course $250.
The Dunes at Maui Lani. Robin Nelson is at his minimalist best here, creating a bit of British links in the middle of the Pacific. Holes run through ancient, lightly wooded sand dunes, 5 miles inland from Kahului Harbor. Thanks to the natural humps and slopes of the dunes, Nelson had to move very little dirt and created a natural beauty. During the design phase he visited Ireland, and not so coincidentally the par-3 3rd looks a lot like the Dell at Lahinch: a white dune on the right sloping down into a deep bunker and partially obscuring the right side of the green—just one of several blind to semiblind shots here. 1333 Maui Lani Pkwy., Kahului, Hawaii, 96732. 808/873–0422; www.dunesatmauilani.com. $95.
Kahili Golf Course. The former Sandalwood Course (1991) designed by Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright is now one of two 18-hole courses—one private (King Kamehameha) and one public (Kahili)—that are managed by Troon Golf. Course holes run along the slopes of the West Maui Mountains, overlooking Maui's central plain, and feature panoramic ocean views of both the North and South shores. Consistent winds negate the course's shorter length. 2500 Honoapiilani Hwy., Wailuku, Hawaii, 96793. 808/242–4653; www.kahiligolf.com. $129.
Waiehu Golf Course. Maui's lone municipal course and undoubtedly the best bargain on the island, Waiehu is really two courses in one. The front nine, dating to 1930, feature authentic seaside links that run along Waihee Reef. The back nine, built on a series of sand dunes that look up toward the lush valleys of the West Maui Mountains, were designed by Arthur Jack Snyder and opened in 1963. 200 Halewaiu Rd., Wailuku, Hawaii, 96793. 808/243–7400; www.mauicounty.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/157. $58; $20 for golf cart.
Pukalani Country Club. At 1,110 feet above sea level, Pukalani (Bob Baldock, 1980) provides one of the finest vistas in all Hawaii. Holes run up, down, and across the slopes of Haleakala. The trade winds tend to come up in the late morning and afternoon. This, combined with frequent elevation change, makes club selection a test. The fairways tend to be wide, but greens are undulating and quick. 360 Pukalani St., Pukalani, Hawaii, 96768. 808/572–1314; www.pukalanigolf.com. $89.