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Tough to beat Maui in December

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WAILEA, MAUI, Hawaii – In the weeks leading up to Christmas and the ensuing Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, it's the calm before the holiday storm in Maui – and it's a golfer's paradise.

I just wrapped up an eight-day, eight-round golf trip on the island, and it's hard to imagine it coming at a better time. Rick Castillo, director of golf at King Kamehameha and Kahili Golf Course has been on the island 31 years, and agreed I found the sweet spot.

'The first two to three weeks of December,' he said when I asked about the best time of year to play golf. 'The island and the courses are not that busy, and they're greener from getting a little more rain.'

Despite great conditions and ideal weather in the high 70s or low 80s, a lot of places are charging an off-peak rate until about a week before Christmas. It's pretty easy to find hotel rooms all over the island. Traffic was also never an issue, even on the one-lane coastal roads.

It also was easy to find cheap flights. From Austin, Texas I had a slew of choices under $600, after tax, round-trip to Maui's Kahului (OGG) airport. Once the holiday season begins, it's tough to find flights under $800.

The golf was especially fun because the weather was great and I was hardly ever waiting on the tee. None of my eight rounds took more than four hours. I even tested my luck with a 2:30 p.m. tee time at Wailea Golf Club's Old Blue, and we zipped around in about three hours flat, with about 30 minutes to spare before dark.

The only down side of the trip was what was described to me as a 'once-a-year kind of storm' that swept through the islands. It brought about 12 hours of rain to Maui and flooded some parts of Oahu and Kauai. I ended up postponing my 8 a.m. tee time on the Kapalua Plantation Course to 1 p.m., and zipped around a wide-open course in three hours.

So, if you're accustomed to planning your Hawaii golf vacation around the holidays, consider moving some things around and bumping it up to early December next year.

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