The Big Island and golf go hand in hand and is practically a love story. Each year thousands of players flock here for a chance to hit a driver while looking at unobstructed views of the Pacific. Besides the wondrous views there is another facet of the Big Island that makes it the golf destination it is today that some may even call the Big Island Hawaii’s golf capital.
There are two sides to the Big Island known as windward and leeward. Put simply windward is the side facing the wind. What makes it notable is it receives the majority of rainfall, making this side of the island lush, wet, and humid. Now take the leeward side by contrast and you have nearly sunny year-round weather and expansive white sand beaches especially along the stretch of coast from the Gold Coast of Kohala to Kailua Kona.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Championship Golf Course
The first course ever built on the Big Island was the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Championship Golf Course in 1964 by Robert Trent Jones Sr. Situated on the black lava fields of the Kohala Coast, the course and the resort remain long-standing icons of the Big Island’s Gold Coast. Mauna Kea was the first luxury resort to develop residential ownership as part of the grounds.
But for many, acquiring a property situated on the fairway of this esteemed course is their pipe dream. Inventory in Mauna Kea remains tight, as many of the residential estates are multi-generational assets with long-standing relationships with the resort.
Mauna Lani Resort North Course
A short drive south along the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway will lead you to a second coastal course, The Mauna Lani Resort North Course. Built on a lava bed, it is a much more forgiving course than Mauna Kea but equally as well kept with its palm tree lined fairways and rolling carpet terrain. The vistas, lava rock terrain, and rolling elevations make the North Course the better of the two Mauna Lani courses.
There are a mix of residences and undeveloped plots of land available surrounding the 36-hole Mauna Lani North and South courses as the surrounding resorts try to follow the example set with the Mauna Kea Resort Residences.
Development continues at Champion Ridge, Mauna Lani Resort’s gated residential community where existing homes take advantage of the year-round sun with indoor-outdoor design, hardwood cabinetry, and lanais that look out over the Pacific.
Four Seasons Resort Hualālai
Continuing the trend of courses down the Queen Ka’ahumanu highway is the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai in Kailua-Kona. This course hosts the PGA Tour Champions’ Mitsubishi Electric Championship every year and was renovated in 2020. This year’s event takes place on January 20-22. While the renovations were necessary, the resort brought Nicklaus in as a consultant to maintain his original vision for the course.
Like all amenities of a Four Seasons Resort, the course was designed with proper sensitivity to the surrounding landscape. The first hole is situated within a kipuka (oasis) with black lava rock straddling either side of a vibrant green fairway. The course winds through the rocky landscape as it ultimately makes its final departure on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Truly one of the best settings to play championship-level golf.
Kukio Championship Golf Course
A second and equally stunning private course nearly borders the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai. Routinely named one of the top private courses on the Big Island, the meticulously designed Kukio Championship Golf Course is as thrilling as it is challenging. Designed in 2003, it is the only golf course in Hawaii crafted by renowned course architect Tom Fazio. The 18-hole course occupies a long and winding 7,419 yards with a variety of elevation changes giving the player breathtaking views of Kakapa and Kukio Bay. By far the most memorable holes are the 164-yard 11th and 225-yard 17th.
Nanea Golf Club
Ranked by Golfweek in 2020 as the best private course in Hawaii, Nanea Golf Club is amongst the most exclusive clubs in Hawaii. Designed in 2003 by esteemed golf course developer David McKlay-Kidd for Charles Schwab and Safeway Billionaire George Roberts, it is a creative links style course with long and straight fairways, catering to the long hitters. This is a sprawling, beautifully maintained course with excellent facilities. The clubhouse takes inspiration from the five volcanoes and is made to resemble each of the summits.