Best golf in Hawaii The Big Island
The stunning par-3 third at Mauna Kea can play as long as 272 yards. (Mike Bailey)
When it comes to golf in Hawaii you can’t go wrong with any of the four main islands – Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. In fact, each island has such great golf that you could argue any one of them is best of the bunch. The Big Island, with its varying climates and topography, offers the widest array of golf courses in Hawaii.
If you're thinking about a Hawaii golf vacation, it never hurts to think big.
As in, the Big Island of Hawaii.
It's twice as big as all the other islands combined, and it's also the newest, which makes for some interesting topography. Black lava beaches against the deep blue Pacific provide dramatic contrasts. Add the manicured green turf of some of the best golf courses in Hawaii, and well, you get the picture.
Volcano mountains, such as Mauna Kea at 14,000 feet, cast their shadows over much of the island, dividing air masses and creating nearly a dozen micro climates. Mauna Kea even has snow on its peaks in the winter time.
The Big Island is always changing. Visitors can check out Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and even make their way down to Kalapana on the east side of the park to watch the lava flow into the ocean. Witnessing creation live is especially impressive at night.
'The great thing about the Big Island are the great outdoor options after golf,' said Johnny Eusebio, golf operations manager for the Waikoloa Beach Resort on Kohala Coast. 'Volcanoes, beaches, fishing, and other water sports are all on this island. The Big Island has 11 of the 13 climates and as a result there are many types of courses from coastal golf, great elevations in terrain, tree-lined courses, and courses surrounded by lava. I feel every course here on the Big Island presents a unique experience. They all give you a different feel.'
Speaking of climates, the Big Island arguably has the best golf weather in the world, especially on the Kohala Coast on the northwest side of the island. This is where you'll find many of the Big Island's top resorts and courses. For example, during the week of the Sony Open on Oahu, when flooding rain hit most of the state and postponed the first round of the tournament, Mauna Kea was open for play with hardly a drop of rain. The area only gets about 6 inches a year, although the Hilo area, on the east side of the island, has been known to get up to 300 inches of precipitation annually.
'It's probably the driest place in Hawaii,' said Josh Silliman, director of golf at Mauna Kea, of the Kohala Coast. 'We had some clouds (during the Sony Open), and it might have scared some people away, but for the most part, the rain stayed north of us.'
When asked for another reason golfers should pick the Big Island, Silliman said, half-joking, half serious: 'Mauna Kea.'
Silliman was just being truthful. Mauna Kea Golf Course, ranked No. 19 on Golf Magazine's 'Top 100 courses You Can Play' list, is an exceptional Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that opened in 1964 and features one of the most picturesque par 3s in the world. The third hole (pictured above), which can be set as long as 272 yards from a new tee, plays over rocks and ocean to a peninsula green.
Recently renovated by Rees Jones, the 7,370-yard golf course has never looked better.
'Rees came in and made it even tougher,' Silliman said. 'It's a championship golf course on a resort property, which is kind of unique.'
But Mauna Kea isn't the only good game in the area. The nearby Mauna Lani Resort has two terrific layouts. The Francis H. I'i Brown South Course at Mauna Lani has an iconic hole as well, the 15th, a show-stopping par 3 that jets into the deep blue ocean and catches the attention of golfers.
But while the South Course, with its impressive coastline holes seems to get much of the attention, Mauna Lani's North Course is no slouch either. Both courses are designed by Homer Flint, R. F. Cain and Robin Nelson, and those who play the North Course regularly say it's on par or better than the South with a few ocean views of its own and some terrifically designed holes. Besides Mauna Kea and Mauna Lani, golfers also might want to consider the Kings Course and Beach Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort.
Other worthwhile golf experiences in the area include Waikoloa Village Golf Club, Mauna Kea's sister course, Hapuna, and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Hualalai Golf Course at the Four Seasons Resort. The Hualalai course, which winds along black lava fields perched above the Pacific, hosts the Champions Tour Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.
A little farther south down the coast is Kona Country Club, which has two excellent contrasting golf courses. Kona's Ocean Course, as its name would imply, is a classic William Bell layout that opened in 1964 and plays alongside the Pacific. The Ali'i Mountain Course, laid out on land that was once a playground to Hawaiian royalty, climbs into the foothills, offering elevation changes as well as overhead views of the coastline below.
Golfers might also want to consider the Dick Nugent-designed Makalei Hawaii Country Club in Kailua Kona, Opened in 1992, the course measures 7,091 yards from the tips and is one of the few Hawaii golf courses to feature bentgrass greens.
Or for some golf a little more off the beaten path, try Sea Mountain Golf Course on the south side of the island, Hilo Municipal G.C. on the east side or Waimea Country Club, a low-key public course with affordable rates and excellent conditions located on the north side.
For more information, check out HawaiiGolf.com's guide to Big Island golf.
Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener
HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.
Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.
''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''
Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.
''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''
Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.
''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.
Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open
The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:
Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)
What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.
Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.
Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.
Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.
Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.
Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one
Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.
Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia
SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.
Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.
''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.
But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.
In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.
''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.
The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.
''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''
NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.