Maui – Golfing in a tropical paradise

To be fully transparent, the island of Maui in Hawaii may be where I am happiest on the planet. In my eyes, Maui offers the perfect mix of tropical beauty, climate, beaches, enough urban development to make life easy, and of course, world-class golf.

Throughout scattered trips to Maui over the years, I have never felt anything but joy at being able to sample all the island has to offer, both on and off the course. As such, I fully suggest it as a holiday for couples, families, or even avid golfers.

If you are thinking of tackling Maui as your next destination, this guide will help you work out how to tackle the island from a golfer’s perspective.

Where to stay

I have deliberately started with this question as it may have a large bearing on where you focus your golf activities. The majority of tourism activity in Maui is centered around two areas.

To the northwest, you have the Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua tourist areas. And to the southwest of the Wailea area. The good news is that you can’t go wrong with either.

Up north, you will find slightly lusher and more tropical scenery and more rain, especially around Kapalua. Down south is slightly more arid in appearance.

Different tourists still have different thoughts on this, but I prefer the north. I think the resorts and beaches are slightly more family-friendly, offer slightly more value for money, and as you will see in the golf course section, the crown jewel of Maui is located here.

Regardless there is only an hour from Kapalua to Wailea, so you can play courses in both and explore both if needed.

The Courses

There are 14 golf courses of note in Hawaii, and the most highly regarded courses all offer public or resort-style access. In the northwest, you will find both Kapalua and Kaanapali courses.

Kapalua Plantation will be well known to most golf fans worldwide as the host of the annual Tournament of Champions event on the PGA Tour. To cut to the chase, playing Kapalua was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my golf life. 

Perhaps it was the familiarity with the holes or some of the spectacular shots the course makes you attempt, but I immediately felt comfortable on course and could not fault anything of note.

The course is not cheap ($350 plus), and it is a brute, especially if it is blowing. Plus, you will need a cart as there are long trips for greens to tees. But the views you get back out to sea are outstanding.

If you can afford it, Kapalua Plantation is a must-play.

The Bay Course at Kapalua is a pleasant and more relaxing option. More in tune with typical resort courses, the fairways are generous, but the course still offers challenges. Arguably, it may feel a bit overpriced, but I can accept the rates they demand, given its location.

On the other hand, Kaanapali Golf Course left me a touch confused about how I felt about the general offering. Kaanapali, the area is spectacular and a great place to base yourself. But at $255 for non-resort guests, the premier Royal course felt a tad overpriced. The course feels tropical, but you only visit the sea on one occasion, and whilst well maintained and enjoyable, the overall experience did not seem that memorable.

The Kai course is of a lower standard in general but still enjoyable, with some amazing views from a higher-up vista.

If you did not know what was up the road in Kapalua or only wanted to stay in the Kaanapali area, the courses would be fine. I believe there is better on the island.

Down south, the golf scene is dominated by Wailea Golf Club’s three courses, and if you choose to stay in this part of the island, you really do not need to leave. All three courses are well maintained and offer spectacular holes, scenery, and views. Pricing around $200 is a fair price for a round in paradise.

Makena Golf Course is located at the very south of the Wailea clubs, and whilst private, it can also be classed as spectacular. If you have connections that present an opportunity to play the course, it is a must. Reports online do paint a slightly shady picture of Makena, but the latest reports indicate improvement.

In the middle of Maui, where many of the locals live, there are also a handful of splattered golf courses. King Kamehameha Golf Club may be the best of the bunch but is a private course. On the other hand, Maui Nui is well priced compared to other courses on the island and very open to guests.

All in all, you will find golf to suit all standards and budgets. Do your research and hope the wind stays down.

Accommodation

There is always something for everyone in Hawaii. Generally, pricing is not considered cheap, but if you rent a condo/apartment from Air BNB, you can find ways to do things affordably. It does pay to check on whether your accommodation qualifies you for any cheaper rates at certain courses. Most of the top tracks will offer discounts for resort guests.

Transport 

Maui is a location where a rental car will pay off in dividends if you can splurge for it. Your ability to sample more of the island will be greatly enhanced, and you will be able to escape to find a lot more local treats and secrets. An open-top Jeep is always a popular way to feel like a local

Local Tips

The world-famous Road to Hana is located in Maui. Put aside a day to do the trip the way it is intended. The scenery is jaw-dropping, and you can even travel back through the middle of the island if you want to combine your drive with a round at one of the more ‘local’ courses.

If there is one thing you MUST do on Maui, it is to stop in at Leodas Pie Kitchen in Lahaina. Regardless of whether you have had a good or bad day golfing, I promise a Leodas dessert pie will be the highlight of your day.

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