When you plan a vacation, what activities do you schedule first? Is it going to be a relaxing getaway, or will you have every second filled up with adventures and tours? I guess it all depends on where you are going, and for how long. For avid golfers, no matter where we go, multiple tee times are definitely in order. A vacation just isn’t a vacation without hitting a few rounds, especially if you’re vacationing with friends. Recently, I went on trip to the absolutely beautiful islands of Hawaii. As you can imagine, golfing at as many courses as I could was my first priority.
This wasn’t my first time to the islands, but I don’t make it out often enough, so I have to take full advantage of my time there. Over the two weeks we were there, we stayed on three of the eight main islands: Oahu, Kauai, and Maui. I had never been to Kauai before, but now I think it is my new favorite. Compared with the tourist-packed streets of Honolulu on Oahu, Kauai was the tropical paradise that it seems you only either dream of or see in movies. Needless to say, this was going to be a great vacation. Now, I know that there are a lot of amazing golf courses in Hawaii, and I think I could write forever about them, but here I just want to talk about my top favorite course on the three islands that I have personally played on.
The Garden Island of this beautiful archipelago boasts the #1-rated course in Hawaii, and for good reason, too. The Prince at Princeville course re-opened in March of 2012 after a hefty $5 million renovation. The moment I set foot on the green, I was in love. Over the span of 18 holes, the golfer takes a scenic tour of the North Shore that is absolutely breathtaking. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., this challenging course has brand-new bunkers, sand traps and greens that will test your skill as well as your concentration. I highly recommend this course over any other in Hawaii. If you ever have the chance to visit Kauai and her greens, this should be your priority stop.
Located on the scenic (and very famous) North Shore of Hawaii’s most populated and visited island, the Turtle Bay Resort has two world famous courses, each designed by a legend in the sport: Arnold Palmer and George Fazio. Combined, the courses offer 36 holes through ironwood forests and breezy beach fronts. One critic of the course claimed it resembled, in many ways, playing on a Scottish green. Turtle Bay has hosted PGA tournaments and is frequently visited by the greats of the game. If you intent to vacation on O’ahu, get out of busy Waikiki and get up to the North Shore for a real taste of the Islands, with some of the best golf in the world to boot.
Just down the Ko’olau Loa mountain range from Turtle Bay is the Ko’olau Golf Club. This course has a very different feel from its Northern neighbor. This course is away from the beach, tucked away in a rain forest setting that gives the impression you are playing in the middle of the jungle in some remote corner of the world. These 18 holes are some of the most challenging on the island. Often considered the toughest course on O’ahu, and ranked in the top 100 most challenging courses in the U.S., Ko’olau will provide a day of fantastic golf, with amazing views of Hawaii’s jagged mountains and post card-like scenes of the not-too-distant Pacific Ocean.
Next stop on my vacation was Maui. This island is a wonderful mix of both Kauai and O’ahu. It isn’t as densely populated as the former, but has that untouched, scenic feel of the latter. While on Maui, I was able to golf at several different courses, but I think my favorite was at Kapalua. Like Turtle Bay on O’ahu, Kapalua has two separate courses: Kapalua Plantation and Kapalua Bay. Each has its advantages, but I preferred Plantation. It is host of PGA Tour’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. This course is quite challenging and is more than worth your while.
Although these are just a fraction of the many golf courses located in the Aloha State, I highly recommend these to you, and you can judge for yourself. If you are thinking of vacationing in the near future, and want to spend some time on the green, you can never go wrong in choosing Hawaii for your destination.