An Expert Guide to Golf Courses in MauiPublished on 03/14/2023 · 9 min readMaui is a top golf destination for a reason. Golf expert Rob H. shares some of his favorite courses - and other spots - to visit on your trip.
The Island of Maui has always held a special place in my heart. My family often vacations on the Island, and we’ve stayed on the east side near Kihei, as well as on the west side near Kapalua. My favorite golf course is here - The Plantation Course at Kapalua. My favorite food dish is here - Loco Moco. My favorite dessert is here - Hula Pie.
But I digress. Golf here is AMAZING!!!! Most courses have ocean views on multiple holes on any given course.
No need to rescue your hook from Tamatoa’s lair, I have got you covered on where to play and how to successfully get around during a round on Maui.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf - Best for PGA Tour Experience
- Location: Kapalua, Hi
- Holes: 18
- Par: 73
- Rating: 77.2
- Slope: 144
- Yardage: 7,284
Home of the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions every winter, the Kapalua Plantation Course offers wide fairways and large greens. It is a longer course - over 7,500 yards from the back tees - but offers plenty of downhill tee shots to maximize your yardage off the tee.
Greens fees range near the $350 mark per person. This place is expensive but so worth it. The course is always in great shape. They could hold a PGA Tour event there every day, if they wanted. The views cannot be beat, you can see the islands of Lanai and Molokai across the channel. The driving range is secluded, so if you are nervous you can get the jitters out before you play. They have always kept the tee times limit, so each group was really spaced apart. You are never waiting on the group in front of you or pressured by the group behind you. When the trade winds are blowing, this course can get very long. Come and play where the pros play.
This is my favorite course I have played. The course is always in great shape, and it sits above the resort so you are not weaving through condos and villas. The course is very open, and you can miss shots left and right on most holes, but the rough will grab your club, so play smart.
I love holes 1, 17, and 18. They are all extremely downhill. These three holes are 25 percent of course’s yardage. When playing the 1st hole, you only have to get it to the edge of the slope; from the white tees, it is only 200 yards, and your ball will roll down a huge hill, from which point you will have a shorter iron into the green. 17 and 18 are a long par 4 and par 5 respectively, and the downhill is so severe you will only have a mid iron in one 17 and can reach the 18 in two shots. Unlike courses like Torrey Pines in San Diego, you can play the back tees where the professionals play from during their tournaments.
The Bay Course at Kapalua Golf - Best for Hanging Out
- Location: Kapalua, Hi
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Rating: 73.5
- Slope: 135
- Yardage: 6,600
The Bay Course opened back in 1975 and has since hosted at least 20 professional events. You can get lost on the beautiful landscapes and forget you are playing golf. The signature hole is the 17th. It is a par 3 over the Pacific Ocean.
What a fun course! Any golfer can play here, since you can be a little offline and get away with it. It is a weird experience, especially on the 15th hole when you look towards the green and see the ocean, but you are hitting your tee shots next to giant Cook pine trees. (If you have never been to Maui, you probably do not associate pine trees to tropical weather.)
I always love the courses that can bring you close to the ocean to play over it. You should definitely give yourself a mulligan if you need it on the 17th hole. Most of the time, the dolphins will be playing with your first golf ball. The driving range is short and elevated, so you cannot hit anything over 200 yards.
I would also note that this course has the best restaurant, Taverna Maui, I have eaten at that is connected to a golf course. It is a casual sit-down experience with amazing Italian-inspired cuisine - I highly recommend the Fritto Misto. You can definitely hang out on the patio and watch golfers tee off on 1 or come in on 18.
Ka’anapali Kai and Royal Golf Courses - Best for Resort Deals
- Location: Ka’anapali, Hi
- Holes: 36
- Par: 71 (Royal) / 70 (Kai)
- Rating: 71.8 (Royal) / 70.7 (Kai)
- Slope: 129 (Royal) / 135 (Kai)
- Yardage: 6,700 (Royal) / 6,388 (Kai)
The courses at Ka’anapali offer two different types of golf experiences. You have the Royal Kaanapali, which is mostly played near the beach and is a flatter course of play. You also have the Kaanapali Kai Course, which is more on the hill above the resort. You will find more undulations and blind shots here. They usually offer discounted rates when you book multiple rounds at the courses. Check out the shop area of their website to find these deals - do not book a tee time through the website.
Both courses offer great tests for your golf game, though I personally prefer the Royal Course over the Kai.
The Royal Course has a lot more character to it. The opening six holes and the closing three holes are all next to the resort and ocean and have a ton of character to them. The 5th hole is my favorite hole. It is a downhill par 4 where you are hitting back to the ocean. The fun part comes on the second shot when you have to hit a good shot, because pedestrians are 10 yards off the green walking through the resort. It is great to hear all the reactions when you hit the green. 17 and 18 are a fun way to finish as you have to hit over the same lake twice on both tee shots.
That said, the Kai course has a great view of the ocean and the Island of Lanai, and you are secluded from other golfers. The 14th hole is my favorite on the Kai side. It is a downhill par 3 that backs up to the main highway. You are always a little scared of going long and hitting a car!
Wailea Emerald Course - Best for An Enjoyable Round
- Location: Wailea, HI
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Rating: 71.7
- Slope: 130
- Yardage: 6,825
The Emerald Course is one of three courses at Wailea, with the others being the Wailea Blue Course (“Old Blue”) and the Wailea Gold Course. If you are playing the Blue Course, it has a separate pro shop than the other two courses and does not have a driving range.
The Wailea Emerald course is routinely rated the best course for women in the country by Golf Magazine. But it’s not just for women! Anyone can play. The fairways are smooth - not a lot of bumps or divots to contend with. They are also wide with lots of landing room off the tee box.
Golfers be warned. Do not try to overpower this course. The generous fairways are wide, but the architect uses the landscape to try to get you to hit longer than you need. The rough here is penal, and trees and natural areas are close to the rough. Don’t be “macho” and club down. Your score will thank you.
This is very apparent with my favorite hole: #1. It has a wide fairway but at the edges, it slopes off into the trees and native grasses. This is an easy hole if you hit your 200 yard club off the tee and get the ball into the fairway. Don’t be like me and hit your driver; you’ll end up in the trees and make double bogey.
While Maui offers many different golf courses to play, there is a lot to do off of the links. Go out and explore the east side of Maui, where there are a lot of outdoor activities and food eateries.
The Road to Hana offers a day-long adventure with lava tubes you can go through, black sand beaches, and little shacks on the side of the road that have amazing food. North of Kapalua, there is a Honolua Bay. It has the best snorkeling, especially for beginners, as there are not a lot of breaking waves near it. If you are there in the winter time, get on a boat and go check out the whales playing off the coast. Stop by Kimos in Lahaina or Hula grill in Ka’anapali village for Hula Pie, but make sure to share this. It is monstrous. Moose Mcgillicutty offers my favorite dish Loco Moco, an egg on top of a hamburger patty all placed on top of rice covered in gravy. My other favorite places to eat at are Da Kitchen, another great Loco Moco place; Cheeseburgers in Paradise, whose Lahaina location is right on the water; and Mama’s Fish House, if you are looking for fine dining.
Most of the courses I have reviewed here are attached to resorts, which usually drives up the price. If you are looking for great value tee times, check out Maui Nui Golf Club near Kihei or the Dunes at Maui Lani in central Maui. The ultimate price-saver course is Waiehu Golf Course; you can only book tee times two days out, but it is right on the beach just outside of Kahului.
If you are an avid golfer or a play once in a while type golfer, Maui has a golf experience for you. And if you want to start playing, head to the Kapalua resort, where they have an amazing practice facility and golf academy that will get you swinging in no time.
On a trip to Maui, you are playing all of your golf on the sides of volcanoes. All the putts will want to break towards the ocean. Remember you are in Hawaii. If you need any gear to get you swinging, reach out to a Golf expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations. Live Aloha.