Resort golf perfection: Wailea's Emerald Course on Maui
- Brandon Tucker
- Dec 5, 2011 12:00 AM ET
WAILEA, Maui, Hawaii -- Walking the fairways of the Emerald Course at Wailea Golf Club first thing in the morning is about as ideal as golf in Hawaii can be.
South Maui is known for its peaceful waters, thanks to Mount Haleakala (which is 10,000 feet high) shielding the brunt of the island trade winds. The volcano also serves as a shield to the morning sun. So as you play the first few holes, which play along its base, the shadowed fairways become bright green as the rays finally hit the grass.
This slow, dramatic sunrise is a marvelous way to enjoy one of your mornings on Maui, so book an early tee time and get a good night's sleep to enjoy it to the fullest.
The Emerald, despite being overshadowed by the Gold Course in most rankings, is the most played golf course of the Wailea trio. Play 18 holes on the Emerald and it's easy to see why.
Like the Gold, the Emerald plays through an entirely natural setting accented with lava rock and native vegetation that thrives with the volcanic soil beneath. Black lava walls, known as papohaku, can be found in spots as a reminder that this land was once home to old fishing villages. And, of course, the ocean views are constant.
Robert Trent Jones Jr., architect of both the Emerald and the Gold, did his job to showcase this environment and create a course that any handicapper will enjoy. Holes are wonderfully sculpted along the slopes and seem to play more downhill than uphill -- what resort golf is all about. His effort on the Emerald caters to the average golfer, while the Gold is the most challenging play at Wailea.
The Emerald isn't out to be the toughest Maui golf course, but it's at the top of the list for most picturesque. The course boasts postcard hole after postcard hole, and none of them are so penal that they'll ruin your morning. This is a course where golfers have to try pretty hard to make double bogeys.
The first hole is about as player friendly as a hole can be, tumbling straight downhill toward the ocean with a generous fairway leading to a green. The 18th, however, is as good of a closing hole as there is on Maui. It's a par 5 that plays gently downhill to the sea toward Pu'u Olai, the volcanic cinder cone. It's certainly not a pushover, but it's the perfect length to reach in two with a good drive.
Emerald Course at Wailea Golf Club: The verdict
Not only is the setting of the Emerald as peaceful as Hawaii can offer, the hole variety is quite good as well, thanks to features like a large, double green shared by the 10th and 17th holes. Jones' design is tough enough to challenge lower-handicap players from the back tees, which play 6,825 yards. The course seems to play shorter than its yardage since more shots are downhill than uphill, so factor that in when deciding which of the four sets of tees to play.
Facilities at Wailea Golf Club, home to the Gold and the Emerald, are top notch (Wailea's Old Blue Course is located at a separate facility nearby). There's a driving range and practice area (the David Leadbetter Academy also has a school here that teaches at the top of the driving range). Gannon's, the clubhouse restaurant, is one of Maui's signature restaurants and has separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. No matter the time of day, diners can enjoy an open-air atmosphere at sunset and a variety of meat and seafood dishes.
Stay and play in south Maui at Wailea and Makena
The are a handful of oceanfront luxury resort properties in Wailea that offer special stay-and-play rates to the three courses at Wailea Golf Club, including the Fairmont Kea Lani, the Grand Wailea and the Four Seasons Wailea.
In addition to the Wailea resorts, those who want to find the most secluded spot on south Maui can go to the southernmost tip to Makena Beach & Golf Resort. Makena received new ownership and management in 2010, not to mention millions in renovations and enhancements. Guests who stay at Makena can receive complimentary driver service to all things in Wailea as well.
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