Best Golf in Hawaii Maui
Hitting greens is paramount at King Kahehameha Golf Club (King Kahehameha G.C.)
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. With the kickoff of the 2011 PGA Tour season at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua's Plantation course, we begin this month making a case for Maui.
LAHAINA, Hawaii – Once a playground for royalty, these days golf's elite set comes to Maui more than any other Hawaiian island.
The PGA Tour rewards the previous year's event winners with an invitation to the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation course. The limited-field event welcomes players with a guaranteed paycheck and Hawaiian hospitality to go with a par-73 design with jumbo jet-sized fairways.
Beyond hosting the game's current best at Kapalua, golf’s legends are regular visitors to Maui at the Wendy's Champions Skins Game at Royal Ka'anapali. This year's four-team, two-man field includes regulars Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, who will go after a piece of $770,000 in prize money Jan. 29-30.
The pros have a lot of cash up for grabs in Maui in January, but when they leave, Maui's wealth of golf awaits the rest of us. The island serves up more than a dozen worthy golf courses to sample, and the top plays are all within about an hour's drive of one another. Each offers a different experience from the next, though there is one constant: panoramic views bringing together green mountain and sparkling blue ocean backdrops. The former seat of the King Kamehameha dynasty, the town of Lahaina near Ka'anapali was once known as 'lele,' meaning 'relentless sun' and that's what you can expect on your vacation.
Maui's best resort golf rivals any Hawaiian island
As the island's PGA Tour host, Kapalua is Maui's highest profile facility, and the seaside Bay course hosted an LPGA event in 2008. But Kapalua's lush jungle environment is hardly indicative of the rest of Maui's golf scene.
The shift toward drier terrain happens just a few miles south in Ka'anapali.
Though most of Maui's golf courses have opened since the 1990s Royal Ka'anapali debuted in 1962 with a bang: A tee shot from Bing Crosby welcomed a new era in Maui golf with a championship-caliber Robert Trent Jones Sr. design.
Ka'anapali Kai opened beside the Royal and features a shorter course with plenty of its own spectacular holes overlooking the neighboring island of Lanai and during the winter the occasional whale breach. While Kapalua was built amongst a pineapple plantation, the Kai runs along old railroad tracks once used by the Sugar Cane Train, which now shuttles tourists along the mountainside along former fields.
Continue south along the coastal road from Lahaina towards the eastern side of the West Maui Mountains, and you'll come across King Kamehameha Golf Club. Set at 700 feet above sea level along the mountain slopes, you can see the pinkish, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse from miles around. With a member-for-a-day rate that includes lunch, it's an affordable luxury and makes for the island's best all-day experience after including the luxurious clubhouse and locker room amenities.
Wailea Golf Club, the resort community that features three golf courses, lies at the base of the 10,000-foot Mt. Haleakala. Not only is the dormant volcano instrumental in helping to protect the three courses from some of the island's more inclement weather and higher winds, it's given the Gold Course and Emerald Course at Wailea G.C. an unmistakable setting.
The two courses were built without attached residential plans and atop black volcanic rock and around native rock walls, creating a sharp contrast with green grass and blue ocean. The Gold Course hosted the Wendy's Skins Game before it moved to Royal Ka'anapali in 2008, and rivals King Kamehameha and the Kapalua Plantation as the island's toughest test from the championship tees. Wailea’s Old Blue Course is also as worthy challenge.
Golf on Maui's daily-fee courses
Every bartender, bellman and driver you meet in Maui seems to have a regular golf habit – when they're not getting preferred 'kama'aina' local access on the resort courses they head for one of the island's more affordable daily fees.
Just below King Kamehameha is where many locals and seasonal residents have their weekly game: Kahili Golf Course. The club opened in 1991 as Grand Waikapu Golf Club, but its brightest are here and now with new ownership and a commitment to service and conditions to go along with the Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright mountainside design.
Down the mountain, the Dunes at Maui Lani boasts a location that is central to the majority of Maui's population and accommodates them with a lighted driving range. The course itself has a rare setting on the sandy dunes land of the Kahului Istmus. The Robin Nelson design utilizes the links-like terrain with Scottish-type pot bunkering and bump-and-run playing style when the tradewinds are up.
Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.
Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.
“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”
Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.
To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.
“More punishment,” he said.
DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.
Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.
Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.
Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.
It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.
With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.
Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.
TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:
• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.
• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.
• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery.
• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”
• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.
• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.
• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.
Woods fires shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.
His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.
“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.
“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”
Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.
It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.