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The 6 best golf holes and courses on the Big Island

Lava fields and sea views make for spectacular golf on the Big Island of Hawaii. Not every course can have every hole running along the ocean. If it did, you might get taken from the majesty of the view and duff the shot! What makes golf interesting on the Big Island is how each course uses the natural features of the lava on that particular part of the island. Hualalai Golf Club The Hualalai Golf Club is available to guests who stay at the Four Seasons. And, just like about everything on the property, golf is treated like a five-star amenity not an after thought. The course features incredible turf as it winds through natural lava flows that were laid down in 1801, so expect interesting varieties of lava rocks and formations. The most interesting hole is the par 5, 7th where as you turn the corner for the third shot, you have to navigate lava outcroppings while getting a dramatic view of the ocean. If you need a tune up lesson on arrival, then Matthew Hasegawa PGA Golf Professional can tune up your game for the specific Hawaiian conditions. Waikoloa Beach Course The Waikoloa Beach Course meanders through the Waikoloa development with zigs and zags and some ups and downs. Almost no holes run parallel to each other, so you really get to focus on that hole and the natural landscape. As with both Waikoloa courses, expect mild winds, so tee boxes are wind-specific to your abilities that day. The par 5, 7th, gives a panoramic ocean view for both second and third shots. Mauna Lani South Course As the site for many Senior Skins tournaments, the Mauna Lani South Course means you better be pretty precise with your second and third shots. This is not a hilly course but rather winds naturally through the lava fields with twists and turns in every direction through the manicured grounds. While it does have ocean holes, probably the most interesting is the par 4, 8th, where when you come around the corner, the view is of the green with the Mauna Kea volcano in the background. Hapuna Golf Course The Hapuna Golf Course on the Kohala Coast is a little different than the other courses, as it has dramatic elevation changes from basically sea level to almost 900 feet above the ocean. So, expect a lot of ups and downs as it winds from lush environments to the high-Hawaiian desert. As you start making it to the crest of the course, the views begin northward to Maui. From the tee box on the par 4, 6th hole, you get a great visual of the bay and Maui. Waikoloa Kings Course The Waikoloa Kings Course does not get the accolades and play of the Beach Course, yet it is just as interesting as it wanders through an older lava flow with ancient trails. From the back tees, this 7,000 yard, links-style course requires a variety of golf shots. For those who want to test their mettle, the 290-yard par 4, 5th hole invites you to drive the green provided you can figure a way around or above the large lava rock guarding the path. Mauna Kea Golf Course Likely the most photographed course on the Big Island is the Mauna Kea Golf Course. From the back tees, this course is rated at 76.6/144. Like its’ sister course, the Hapuna Prince, Mauna Kea has some interesting ups and downs. However, what makes this unique golf is the challenge of the par three holes. From the back, the par 3, 3rd hole measures 272 yards. What makes this difficult is you have to carry the tee shot over the ocean, and over a cliff where the sea break and prevailing winds create a misty curtain that loves to consume your golf ball.

Neil Wolkodoff

Neil Wolkodoff is a golf and travel writer from Denver, Colorado. He covers golf, dining, activities and accommodations from the luxury and unique perspective. He has even been golfing with goats.

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  1. A golf course across natural lava flows? Putting next to volcanic rock? That is surely an experience worth every penny. The other courses look excellent too. I never thought of Hawaii as that big a golf destination as I usually stick to Scotland – but my wife is fond of the Island and perhaps it’s time we went back, with a few sneaky rounds of golf from me.

  2. I will be directing this article to my soon to be husband! We are going on a three week honeymoon to Hawaii next year and I know that he won’t be able to survive not playing golf for that long. Great to know that there are so many different places to play. I might even have a go myself.

  3. I showed this post to my father and he loved it – he’s always on golf holidays, I’d like to go with him one day!! He was totally sold on the Mauna Kea course because of the tee shot over the ocean and cliff!! I’m just sold because it’s the most photographed – I’d love to get some shots of that lovely landscape.

  4. Louise, each course is just as scenic, just different reasons. However, you can see why the MK shot over the ocean is the most photographed hole. I should note, most of the time, there is a nice ocean breeze at those courses, which also is part of the experience.

  5. I absolutely love golf so these locations all look ideal. I haven’t been to Hawaii but planning on going next year. I’ll have to visit one of these golf courses when I’m there. Very interesting read!

  6. I actually find golf really relaxing and I guess if you are gonna play anywhere then Hawaii is the place! Waikoloa looks amazing I think I would get distracted from my game by all the beautiful views. It sounds tricky but a lot of fun and I love a challenge plus a beach is an added bonus post game.

  7. If you get the chance, you must play Kukio. Beautiful course, I think it is private if I remember correctly. Very well maintained course and views are stunning.

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