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Along with glorious beaches and fabulous resorts, the tropical islands of Hawaii are home to beautiful golf courses set against tumbling waterfalls, verdant volcanic slopes, lush forests, and the Pacific Ocean. We pick the best options for your dream vacation.
There are six islands to choose from for visitors, Hawaii Island – also known as ‘The Big Island’ – Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu, each with its own unique ambiance and attractions, and perfect summer or winter destinations.
Honolulu, on Oahu’s south shore, is the capital and gateway to the islands. The Waikiki neighbourhood is its cultural centre with fabulous dining, nightlife and shopping, and famous for its crescent beach backed by palms and hotels, with volcanic Diamond Head crater looming in the distance.
Hawaii has a tropical climate with great weather for golf all year round. There are really only two seasons, summer with an average temperature of 29° C, and winter with an average of 25° C, along with pleasant cooling trade winds and localised rainfall in the mountains and valleys.
Nestled in one of Hawaii’s largest nature preserves on the island of Maui, this resort features white sand beaches, two marine sanctuaries, award-winning accommodations, and premier real estate. There’s The Kapalua Villas located throughout the resort, The Ritz-Carlton Maui – a 5-star resort with guest rooms, suites and residences, tennis facilities, a superb spa and dining options – and Montage Kapalua Bay, a collection of ocean view rooms overlooking the bay.
The iconic Plantation Course here is a must-play. This Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore links-style design is built upon a former pineapple plantation, bordered by white beaches and the West Maui Mountains. The Sentry Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour is played here each January, but its wide fairways and generous greens make it very playable and fun for the average golfer. Golf doesn’t get more beautiful than this.
Played through towering palms and beautiful hibiscus, the Bay Course at the resort is also a beautiful layout. It’s hosted multiple PGA and LPGA Tour Events and is famous for having the only hole to play over the Pacific Ocean in Maui. Golfers of all skill levels will appreciate the gorgeous views.
This 5-star resort is located on the The Big Island’s picturesque Kona-Kohala coast and is surrounded by white sand beaches and dramatic black-lava landscapes. There’s nearly 250 guest rooms, with more than 20 room, suite and villa categories, some housed in intimate two-story bungalows arranged in small crescents along the beachfront. There’s seven pools, great dining options, an Ocean Adventures team, tennis courts, and a spa.
The Jack Nicklaus signature Championship course here has been crafted with great sensitivity to its unique environment, beginning in a lush oasis, flowing across bright green fairways contoured against black lava, then returning to the ocean for the final stunning holes. It’s an unforgettable golf experience.
This 5-star resort on the island of Lanai is pure luxury. Perched on a red-lava cliff amid a marine reserve, it’s an idyllic place for a golf getaway. It’s right by Hulopo’e Beach and the free-form pools in the grounds are surrounded with palm trees and tropical foliage. The rooms are incredibly stylish, as is the indulgent spa and there’s several high quality dining options.
Manele Golf Course at the resort is a Jack Nicklaus design. High atop 200-foot cliffs, the course offers dramatic views of the ocean from all 18 holes. Lush fairways are bordered by black lava outcroppings, and Jack considers this to be one of his finest designs, ideal for a championship event, yet comfortable for a round among friends.
If you want to play other courses by Jack Nicklaus in Hawaii, there’s the Ocean Course at Hokuala on the island of Kauai which provides a half mile stretch of pure oceanfront golf, the longest in Hawaii, and spectacular ocean vistas.
Hokuli’a, on the Big Island, is a signature course from Jack which maximizes the dramatic ocean views at nearly every tee box and green. The course enjoys huge elevation changes, gentle ocean breezes and warm temperatures all year round. It features high tee shots overlooking the Pacific Ocean, steep uphill climbs, drivable par 4s, stone walls reminiscent of links golf in Scotland, and picturesque par 3s. Fantastic.
This 4-star resort on the island of Oahu’s North Shore is just a few minutes away from popular attractions, including Haleiwa town, Polynesian Culture Center, and the famed surf breaks at Banzai and Waimea Bay. There’s over 400 guest rooms and suites, all with lovely ocean views, and ocean-side bungalows. There’s six restaurants, a spa and an incredible array of water sports.
With five miles of ocean frontage covering 1,300 pristine acres, the resort is also home to a great course by Arnold Palmer. The Palmer Course is a testing layout that meanders its way through natural wetlands and dense Hawaiian jungle, with water coming into play on 14 of the holes, including the signature 17th which serves up superb panoramic ocean views.
Mauna Lani is a luxury beachfront resort on The Big Island’s Kohala Coast which offers a choice of Pacific Ocean facing rooms or bungalows set amid tropical gardens. It’s got a stunning spa and its iconic restaurant, the oceanfront CanoeHouse, has amazing views of the crystal blue sea. It has two great golf courses built on a spectacular ocean-side lava bed offering a quintessential Hawaiian golf experience.
The championship standard North Course carves its way through forests with spectacular views of the ocean. The highlight of the round is the signature par-3 17th, a beautiful hole tucked into a natural lava amphitheatre. The South Course is equally stunning and its 15th hole is one of the most photographed over-the-water golf course holes in the world.
On the island of Kauai, this huge resort sits on the north shore, perched on a hillside overlooking the breathtaking cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, surrounded by lush tropical flora. It’s home to a luxury hotel – the St. Regis Princeville Hotel – as well as elegant vacation residences, and two excellent golf courses. The St. Regis sits in an idyllic location terraced into the oceanfront ridge overlooking Hanalei Bay.
Prince Golf Course at the resort, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, is bestowed a glorious location along Kauai’s dramatic coastline. It was his second layout to open here along with his original Makai Course, which was his first ever solo design and one of the most scenic courses you will ever play.
The Prince is the resort’s premier course, sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains. There are a number of really memorable holes, none more so than the long 15th. Surrounded by snaking ravines, the acclaimed designer said it was possibly the best par-5 he has ever created.
Nanea Golf Club, located beneath the slopes of Mount Hualalai on The Big Island, is arguably the best course in Hawaii. Weaving through lava rock and tropical surroundings, it delivers one of the most unique golf offerings in America. It maintains Augusta-like conditions alongside ocean views throughout the round. It was designed in 2003 by Bandon Dunes architect David McLay Kidd to resemble the great links of Scotland and Ireland. It’s very exclusive and those lucky enough to play here will remember it forever.
Mauna Kea, amid the lava fields of Hawaii’s Big Island, is one of Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s best designs, later updated by his son Rees. It was the first course to be built on the island’s dramatic ocean-side landscape. The 3rd hole is one of the most photographed holes in all of golf. Set against the Pacific, the green is perched precariously upon a volcanic rock, with nothing but the ocean between the tee and the green.
Poipu Bay Golf Course, on the shores of Kauai and framed by emerald mountains, is blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery in Hawaii. Get lucky and you may well spot humpback whales and Hawaiian monk seals swimming in the ocean. The panoramic ocean vistas are matched by a fantastic layout which played host to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf between 1994 and 2006.
Make Hawaii your next dream golf destination.