Hawaii has long been a favorite vacation destination thanks to its temperate weather, lush greenery and dramatic, lava-carved coastline. This charmed natural environment also makes Hawaii an ideal location for unforgettable golf courses. Designed by masters like Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones, Jr., GAYOT.com's Top 10 Golf Courses in Hawaii take advantage of the Islands' rich flora, stunning vistas and varied terrain for a rewarding links experience that everyone from novices to professionals can enjoy.
Prince Golf Course at Princeville
If you're up to the challenge, the Prince Golf Course at The St. Regis Princeville Resort will test your talent. The recently renovated par 72 course, named after the Hawaiian Prince Albert Kamehameha, was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. with five sets of golf tees for various levels of ability. The black tees are the most difficult and reserved for players with a handicap of five or less. Even if you're not yet up to par, you can play the red (novice) tees and soak up the incredible views of the north Kauai mountains. Since this course is set against the ocean on Kauai's green North Shore, the winds can become quite strong, so make sure to plan ahead and bring extra golf balls. Conclude your day at the Princeville Clubhouse and walk downstairs to Roy Yamaguchi's Tavern at Princeville where you can treat yourself to a Mai Tai, some Island poké or a cheeseburger with Katsu bacon.
The Experience at Koele
Set 2,000 feet above sea level, The Experience at Koele lures players with lush landscaping, beautiful ocean, lake and mountain vistas and incredibly varied terrain. The waterfalls, ravines, pine foliage and occasional roaming wildlife accent the impressive holes you'll want to write home about. This traditional, par 72 resort course, sister course to The Challenge at Manele, was designed by Greg Norman in 1991 with architect Ted Robinson's eye for seamlessly integrating the architecture with its impressive natural setting and water elements. The pièce de résistance is signature hole 17, a 250-foot drop from the tee located in a lush gorge. Amenities such as a pro shop, putting green, club rental, driving range and instruction are par for the course at this unforgettable island experience.
The Challenge at Manele
If you played The Experience at Koele and breezed through its eighteen holes, walk next door to The Challenge at Manele, its sister course also situated at the Four Seasons Lanai. Set dramatically above Hulopoe Bay, The Challenge has two holes built on cliffs where you must pitch the ball over the ocean to get to the green. The par 72 course was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus to be challenging to every level of golfer. If you visit in the winter months, you may be lucky enough to see a pod of whales passing by from the fairway. When tee time is over, stop by chef Nobu Matsuhisa's luxurious Nobu Lanai for some top sushi.
Gold Course at Wailea Golf Club
The Gold Course at Wailea makes a great first impression with memorable views of the ocean and the Molokini islet. Architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. worked the land's prehistoric lava rock and the natural rise and fall of the terrain into the design of the course. This "thinking player's course" is the most challenging of Wailea's three courses, but offers four tee boxes at each hole to allow visitors to play at their own pace and skill level. If you need a lesson, visit the outpost of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. Guests of the resort can also take advantage of various "Stay and Play" packages to get the best bang for their buck. For a post-game meal, head to Mulligan"s on the Blue, serving up sophisticated Irish pub fare overlooking Wailea's Blue Course.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort
Tee off like Tiger and enjoy pristine ocean-side turf at the home of the PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui. Set on a 22,000-acre, historic pineapple plantation and flanked by both the Pacific Ocean and the West Maui mountains, the public, par 73 Kapalua Plantation Course offers a stunning setting for a day on the green. Its elevation changes and prevailing winds make this course, designed by famed duo Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, ideal for intermediate golfers. After a day on the fairway, head to The Plantation House restaurant located in the clubhouse. Sit back and enjoy one of their recommended wines and indulge in dishes like fresh island ahi with wasabi potato purée.
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