Next time you think about taking a golf trip to Hawaii, get more specific about your destination and consider Kaua'i. Known as "The Garden Isle," Kaua'i features a diverse landscape that includes rainforest, mountains, valleys, canyons, and some of the most beautiful beaches you'll ever find. The vibe on the island is relaxed throughout, but the north and south sections of Kaua'i offer specific features that set each of them apart.
If you're thinking about a golf trip to the island, you'll likely want to book tee times and accommodations in both areas. Here's a quick rundown on the very best stay and play options on the Garden Isle:
Princeville Makai Golf Club
Perennially ranked as one of the best public golf courses in the country, Princeville Makai Golf Club is an absolute must play for visitors to Kaua'i. Located on the north shore next to the stunning St. Regis Princeville Resort, Princeville Makai was Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s first solo course design (opened in 1971) and originally consisted of 27 holes. The course was later redesigned in 2009 by combining the impressive Ocean and Lakes nines and installing Paspalum turf grass (both fairways and greens) that's resistant to damaging salt water, significantly improving playing conditions year round. Many holes throughout the full 18 feature amazing views of Hanalei Bay and Makana Mountain (aka, Bali Hai), highlighted by the signature 7th hole, a long par-3 over seaside cliffs that will challenge even the most steadfast player. In addition, Princeville Makai offers a nine-hole, less challenging woods course for more casual players.
Wailua Golf Course
A favorite of locals and visitors alike, Wailua Golf Course sits hard against the Pacific along the Coconut Coast, just a short drive down the island's eastern shore from Princeville. Originally a simple nine-hole layout, a second nine was added in the early 1960's by Toyo Shirai and now offers a full-blown challenge for players of all abilities. Considered by many to be one of the very finest muni courses in the entire country, Wailua now features a $2 million irrigation system that helps keep the track in tip top shape regardless of the season. It's also a super-convenient option for travelers as it's just outside Lihue, easily accessible from the airport. Anyone who likes a down-home feeling will have a particular appreciation for Wailua's cozy clubhouse where you can get a beer and solid serving of Loco Moco without worrying about donning your blazer or penny loafers, or even taking off your cap.
Ocean Course at Hokuala
Also located near Lihue Airport the Ocean Course at Hokuala is an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature course that features over a half-mile of Pacific Ocean views. Originally designed in the late 1980's as a 27-hole facility, the course was partially reworked by Nicklaus in 2011 to include three completely new holes on the back nine as well as the addition of new TifEagle greens and white sand bunkers. Now a Timbers Resorts property, the current 18-hole course represents the best of the previous 27 and includes the stunning par-3 14th over cliffs and water. Currently the property is developing a second inland track to accompany the Ocean Course as well as a luxurious boutique hotel and brand-new clubhouse. Nearby is beautiful Kalapaki Beach for those who prefer to cool off with a quick dip after their round of primo resort golf.
Puakea Golf Course
If you're looking for a course that shows off some of the true island beauty of Kaua'i look no further than Puakea. Rolling through ravines at the base of Mount Ha'upu, the course features both views of the Pacific as well as plenty of streams, ponds, and local flora and fauna. Originally designed by Robin Nelson on the remains of a sugar cane plantation, the first 10 holes opened in 1997 while the final eight holes were finally available for play in 2003. The course blends multiple "feels" along the routing, the early part of the course running near buildings and homes with later portions providing views of the rugged land used to film "Jurassic Park" and several other Hollywood movies. Highlights include several holes surrounded by water and the par-3 6th that features a massive drop from green to tee with tropical forest in the background.
Poipu Bay Golf Course
As the former site of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, Poipu Bay has hosted the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and numerous other greats. A Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, the track was renovated in 2011 with Paspalum greens that resist salt-water damage to maintain pristine conditioning. Many of the holes on the 210 acres of oceanfront property at Poipu Bay feature ocean and mountain views, as well as 85 bunkers and five water hazards, creating one of the most visually stunning tracks in all of Hawaii. The experience at Poipu Bay is capped off with a signature stretch of holes along the Pacific with massive cliffs and challenging elevated tees. Players who want to enjoy other impressive amenities during their stay can find accommodations at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, located right next to the golf course.
For more information on the best courses on The Garden Isle visit: golfkauaihawaii.com.
Stay in Style
There are numerous places to find comfortable accommodations on Kaua'i, but if you're in the mood for the best of the best you should check out both the St. Regis Princeville Resort on the north shore and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Koloa, on the southern tip of the island.
The St. Regis, which is right next to the Princeville Makai Golf Club, is pure luxury, complete with a first class spa, beautiful beach and pool complex, and a variety of fine dining options that includes the amazing Makana Terrace, which offers views of both Hanalei Bay and Makana Mountain.
The Grand Hyatt, located next to Poipu Bay Golf Course, offers a slightly more relaxed feel but no less in the way of luxuries, which include a massive outdoor pool and beach area, the 45,000 square foot Anara Spa, numerous dining options including Tidepools, and one of the greatest lobby views of the Pacific Ocean you'll ever experience.