Hawaiian Islands golf. Ka-ching, baby. Sell the kids or take out a third on the over-leveraged flat, right? Wrong. Golf in the islands can be had for something other than $300 a round.
Touring pros might not make annual visits to these courses, but the settings are as stunning, the trades as cooling, the three-putts as maddening and the post-round mai-tais as tasty as at the glamour courses.
Green fees cited are peak-period rates, typically, but not always, on weekends and holidays. All courses have discounts later in the day, midweek, online and or seasonally. Unless noted, rates include shared cart.
The cost: $79 a round
The numbers: Tee options from 6,698, 6,161 or 5,242 yards; par 72
The takeaway: Makalei steps into the limelight with an elevation change of more than 1,000 feet top to bottom. The course is as verdant as they come, and you can look out and see Big Blue far below. Lava peeks out here and there, but it’s the layout of holes stacked up like a giant’s staircase that sticks with you. And the mongooses.
Info: Makalei Golf Club, 72-3890 Hawaii Belt Road, Kailua-Kona; (808) 325 6625
Waikoloa Village Golf Club
The cost: $91 a round
The numbers: Tee options from 6,814, 6,230, 5,791 or 5,501 yards; par 72
The takeaway: This isn’t the Hilton resort Waikoloa Village of Disney-esque exuberance. This is the town of Waikoloa‘s course, upslope from the Kohala shore, where kamaaina play as do knowing visitors. This is the dry side of the island with sere grasslands and free-range goats. The play is parkland, with mature trees framing broad, sweeping fairways and wall-to-wall grass.
Info: Waikoloa Village Golf Club, 68-1798 Melia St., Waikoloa Village; (808) 883-9621
Puakea Golf Club
The cost: $104 a round
The numbers: Tee options from 6,954, 6,471, 6,061or 5,225 yards; par 72
The takeaway: Puakea is close to Lihue Airport — one course is right under the flight path — which makes squeezing in a pre-departure round that much easier. It’s also handy to Hamura Saimin, a love-in-the-bowl noodle shop. Puakea might appear as just another course on the edge of town with all the topography of a pancake. But its heart is Jurassic, with watery, green-draped canyons, riots of foliage and jolts of color.
Info: Puakea Golf Club, 4150 Nuhou St., Lihue; (808) 245-8756
Wailua Municipal Golf Course
The cost: $60 a round. You can add $20 for a cart, but walking this one is a treat.
The numbers: Tee options from 6,991, 6,585, or 5,974 yards; par 73
The takeaway: Wailua has been around for as long as golf has been on the islands and has hosted several top-tier events. What’s key here is playing through coconut palms on a nattily designed course and doing it for a pittance.
Info: Wailua Municipal Golf Course, 3-5350 Kuhio Highway, Lihue; (808) 241-6666
Dunes at Maui Lani
The cost: $99 a round
The numbers: Tee options from 6,841, 6,413, 5,833, 4,768 or 4,278 yards; par 72
The takeaway: Unlike courses built atop lava or in a forest primeval, Dunes was deposited on eons-old accretions of sand. That means the course was crafted more by nature’s contours than bulldozers. It gets extra props for providing several sets of forward tees that are part of the design rather than being scattered like afterthoughts.
Info: Dunes at Maui Lani, 1333 Maui Lani Parkway, Kahului; (808) 873-0422
The cost: $119 round
The numbers: Tee options from 6,554, 5,967 or 4,877 yards; par 72
The takeaway: The aesthetic pay dirt at Kahili, nestled in the West Maui Mountains, is views of two coasts and Haleakala soaring heavenward. It’s also worth talking or buying — $249 for a round of golf — your way into the almost-private King Kamehameha Golf Club next door to look at its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed, 74,000-square-foot clubhouse; it’s the massive edifice you see on the right when driving toward Kihei and Waimea.
Info: Kahili Golf Course, 2500 Honoapiilani Highway, Wailuku; (808) 242-4653
Hawaii Kai Golf Course-Executive Course
The cost: $55 a round
The numbers: Tee options from 2,196 or 2,061 yards; par 54
The takeaway: Yes, I did suggest you fly 2,600 miles to play a par-3 course. Three reasons come to mind: First, it’s Oahu, which means there’s a lot to do, so time is of the essence. Second, it’s Oahu, and it’s gorgeous. Third, Oahu or not, most of us have deplorable short games — missing greens with short irons, chipping with the grace of a jackhammer and let’s not mention putting — so consider it needed work performed in paradise.
Info: Hawaii Kai Golf Course-Executive Course, 8902 Kalanianaole Highway, Honolulu; (808) 395-2358
Turtle Bay Resort-Fazio Course
The cost: $129 a round
The numbers: Tee options from 6,628, 6,083 or 5,355 yards; par 72
The takeaway: Value golf, meaning a compelling course and a fair price, is in short supply on Oahu. Thankfully, Turtle Bay’s older, gentler George Fazio-designed course lets us get our golf on without needing a platinum credit card. Its North Shore location keeps down the crowds, the vibe is easy, and it’s a great walking course. The layout heads down to the Pacific in places.
Info: Turtle Bay Resort-Fazio Course, 57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku; (866) 475-2567