As one of the most alluring island chains in the world, Hawaii is known for its spectacular natural beauty. With massive volcanoes, perfect beaches, and crystal blue oceans, it’s not difficult to see why Hawaii is such a popular vacation spot.
It may be no surprise to find out that Hawaii is also a fantastic golf destination. So if you’re an avid golfer and plan on visiting Hawaii soon, here’s a curated list of the best golf courses in Hawaii. From courses with slippery greens that slope towards the ocean to resort courses, you’re sure to find something on this list that you’ll love.
What Makes Golf Courses in Hawaii Unique
Before jumping into the list of best golf courses in Hawaii, let’s talk about what makes Hawaii golf so unique in the first place.
For starters, Hawaii is famous for its beautiful ocean views. You’ll find that this is doubly true within golf courses. Often, course architects take into account the natural environment and build a golf course that celebrates the oceanside location and even puts the seawater in play.
Similarly, it’s not uncommon to find fairways lined with solidified lava at golf courses in Hawaii. You’ll be able to tell your friends that you hit your golf ball into a volcano after playing at some Hawaii golf courses.
Finally, Hawaii is also known for its beautiful palm trees; you’ll never forget that fact when playing at these courses. Frequently, palm trees will not only line the holes but be in play. So you’ll experience what it feels like to use palm trees as landmarks and play around them.
The Best 9 Golf Courses in Hawaii
Now that you know what golfing in Hawaii is all about, let’s dive into 9 of the best golf courses in Hawaii.
1. Kohanaiki Golf & Ocean Club – Kona, The Big Island
Featuring a Rees-Jones oceanfront design, the Kohanaiki Golf & Ocean Club is on 450 acres of Hawaii land. Initially, the area was home to Hawaii’s greatest king, Kamehameha I. For that reason, you’ll still find cultural landmarks, personal artifacts, and rock carvings scattered around the course.
Not only does Kohanaiki Golf & Ocean Club provide you with an incredible golf experience, but they also have many fantastic real estate ownership options. Who knows, you might find that you love the course so much that you want a house backing it. If that’s the case, Kohanaiki has got you covered as well!
2. Princeville Makai Golf Club – Princeville, Kauai
As Robert Trent Jones’s first solo design, the Princeville Makai Golf Club is one of the world’s most stunning golf courses and resorts. Some of its accolades include:
- One of the Top 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses in America (Golf Digest)
- One of the Top 3 Best Courses You Can Play in Hawaii (GolfWeek)
- Named to America’s “Top 5 Great Golf Settings” (National Geographic Traveler)
In fantastic condition and with six oceanfront holes, Princeville Makai is the golf course you’ll want to be at if you want to experience the true “Aloha” spirit. Are you tired of playing golf? Not to worry. Princeville Makai also offers guests disc golf, yoga, tennis, and many more amenities.
This course will have you nod your head and think, “I want to stay here forever.” Challenging, fair, but most importantly, scenic, Princeville Makai is some of the best golf you’ll experience in Hawaii (and beyond).
3. Hualalai Golf Course – Kona, The Big Island
Crafted by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, Hualalai Golf Course is a championship course at its finest. Over 7100 yards with flowing green fairways starkly contrasted against the black lava floors of Hawaii, the designers of Hualalai paid exceptional attention to the environment.
Here you’ll experience the whole gamut of sceneries. These sceneries include breathtaking mountain views from certain tee boxes, the ocean as your backdrop on many of your putts, and beautiful trees that will line your fairways on many holes.
Whether you decide to walk or ride, Hualalai’s gentle sloping terrain will make the golfing experience smooth. The best part: your green fee covers golf for the entire day, so if you feel like playing more than 18 holes, you’re more than welcome to do so!
4. Poipu Bay Golf Course – Koloa, Kauai
As the golf course that used to host the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, you can bet that the Poipu Bay Golf Course is in good shape. This track is located in the southernmost part of the Kauai and allows players to experience true championship golf.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Poipu Bay Golf Course occupies a land wedged between the sea and the hilly mountains. The translation of the word “Poipu” is “crashing waves,” and when players reach the back nine, they’ll realize why the course is named that. Robert Trent Jones Jr. does a phenomenal job of incorporating the natural beauty of Hawaiin oceanside on the second half of the golf course.
From 1994 to 2006, the Poipu Bay Golf Course hosted the prestigious Grand Slam of Golf, in which the four major winners would compete in front of a large televised audience for colossal bragging rights. A little trivia: Tiger Woods won seven of those twelve Grand Slams!
5. Mauna Lani Resort North Course – Waimea, The Big Island
The North Course at Mauna Lani Resort represents what Hawaii golf is all about. Built directly on a lava bed, the North Course is characterized by its smooth-rolling terrain punctuated with the occasional Kiawe forests.
Designed by Homer Flint and Raymond Cain, the North Course is known for making players use their creativity and shot-making skills. The course winds around private resort properties, and it isn’t uncommon to see wild goats on the native grasses beside the fairways.
If you’re looking for an incredible photo opportunity to let people know “I was golfing in Hawaii,” you’ll want to pay attention to the 17th hole at Mauna Lani Resort. Players hit from an elevated tee box to an amphitheater-type green at the base of the lava bowl. If that’s not Instagram-worthy, I don’t know what is.
6. King Kamehameha Golf Club – Wailuku, Maui
Named after the greatest king that ruled the Hawaii islands, King Kamehameha Golf Club is one of (if not) the best private golf clubs in Hawaii. The clubhouse is designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and overlooks the Central Maui Valley.
The golf itself is nothing to sneer at either. Initially designed by Ted Robinson, King Kamehameha Golf club focuses on three main elements: flexibility, memorability, and natural beauty. Regardless of your skill level, you’ll find something to love here as you tackle tiered greens, challenging bunker placements, and fantastic water features.
7. Kapalua Plantation Course – Lahaina, Maui
No list of golf courses in Hawaii is complete without mentioning the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, the Plantation Course is consistently ranked as the best golf course in Hawaii. Offering breathtaking ocean views from nearly every hole, the Plantation Course is long enough from the tips to challenge even the pros but also wide enough to provide an enjoyable round for the average golfer.
Housing legendary names in golf like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and Dustin Johnson, the Plantation Course at Kapalua genuinely deserves its number one ranking. The dramatic elevation changes are one of the most excellent parts of the Plantation Course.
On hole 18, you have a good shot of hitting the longest drive of your life. With an elevated tee box and a fairway that helps kick your ball down the slopes, all you need to do is put a good golf swing on your driver, and you’re set!
8. Manele Golf Course – Lanai City, Lanai
Designed by the Golden Bear (Jack Nicklaus) himself, Manele Golf Course is exclusively available to Four Seasons resort guests. Don’t let that stop you from visiting it, though. Built directly on lava outcroppings, Manele Golf Course features the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop on many holes and also engages the natural Hawaiian cliffs as part of the course.
With all of its natural beauty and ruggedness, Manele Golf Course may be one of the most beautiful golf courses you will ever play. As you head into your round, you’ll naturally work your way up a mountain and be treated to stunning views of Hulop’e Bay.
However, once you reach the fifth hole, you turn downhill, and the rest of the course snakes downward. Many spots from here on out hug the shoreline and will require you to play some intelligent golf if you’re to keep your score intact.
9. Kuki’o Golf & Beach Club – Kona, The Big Island
Tom Fazio once said, “Kukio is one of the greatest clubs I have ever been to. It is my only design in Hawaii.” With views of both the Kona and Kohala Coast, Kuki’o Golf & Beach Club offers players a challenging and exciting experience as they wind through several natural zones and experience changes in elevation of up to 400 feet.
Though Kuki’o Golf & Beach Club is on a coastal site, none of the fairways are set close to the ocean. For this reason, the track takes a couple of twists and turns to afford players the views of the beautiful coasts.
Long and beautiful, Kuki’o Golf & Beach Club features a stark color contrast in the back nine with black lava rock pitted against white bunker sand. Some of the par threes on this course are the best you’ll ever experience in your life!
Which One of These Golf Courses in Hawaii Will You Play?
Hawaii is a beautiful place to visit and a top destination for all things resort-related. But, surprising or not, this also includes the golf courses in Hawaii. With the beautiful pacific ocean as a backdrop, stark black lava in play on many holes, and wicked pure putting greens, it’s likely that you’ll play some of the best golf of your life in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
This post has covered nine of the most spectacular golf courses in Hawaii. So, if you’re planning a visit to Hawaii, stop by one of these golf courses and visit it. You definitely won’t regret it!
Jeff is a current Harvard student and author of the blog Financial Pupil (https://financialpupil.com/) who is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things personal finance-related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys the pursuit of financial freedom. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.