by Dave and Jane Finn
Maui, Hawaii – It’s only late December and already we are tired of winter so picture this…It’s just before dawn and the sky above the Au ‘aa Channel that runs between Maui, Lana’i and Molokai is tinged with pink as the sun kisses the top of the West Maui Mountains. You’re savouring the last sip of a perfectly brewed Royal Kona coffee before heading out to play your first round at one of Ka’anapali’s two resort courses when out of the corner of your eye you spot a spout on the horizon just before a majestic humpback whale breaches and dives deep. Aloha… welcome to paradise.
It seemed only fitting that our first stop was Ka’anapali where the legend began in 1962 when Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed Maui’s first golf course. The following year the Sheraton at Black Rock opened to cater to the likes of Sam Snead and Bing Crosby who simply thought of it as ‘home’. Today there are more than fourteen golf courses within striking distance of the Sheraton and an infinite array of accommodations for travelers like us who simply want to enjoy the good life with family and friends on one of the best beaches in Hawaii.
Both Ka’anapali Kai and Royal Ka’anapali offer similar topography of gently sloping terrain and wide fairways however the Royal Course has much larger greens. Resort golf at its finest. Despite fifty years of growth the spirit of Ohana (family) remains strong. Nowhere was this more apparent than when we sat down with David Havens the Director of Instruction for the Ka’anapali courses. Diplomatically he refrained from mentioning his ‘quiet 66’ that certainly humbled this amateur. We talked about how the area had grown and how the courses have evolved to enhance the visitor’s experience. David was equally passionate about his Spare for Change Charity program that gets used clubs into the hands of under-privileged kids, an investment not only in the future of golf but in his community.
Ka’anapali Beach Resort guests pay $145USD for the Kai Course and $189 for the Royal Course or $299 to play both courses with power cart. There are over 5,000 rooms within walking distance to this resort including the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa, The Westin Maui Resort and Spa and The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas and each offer Stay’N Play packages.
The next day we headed northeast to Napili and while the drive was only a matter of minutes the change in weather was dramatic. You see the topography of the island that adds to the beauty and uniqueness of each course has also created a series of micro climates, each with its own set of risks and rewards. Hence the local saying that if you don’t like the weather then wait five minutes or move five miles! Today the sky is a kaleidoscope of rainbows and with the tradewinds tapering off the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is finally underway at the
Kapalua Plantation Course
We were just in time to catch a bit of the action before teeing off at her sister course known simply as The Bay Course.
Kapalua can be loosely translated as ‘arms embracing the sea’ and as we made our way around this Arnold Palmer design that takes full advantage of five adjacent bays and three white-sand beaches we soon understood that stunning panoramas would prove to our biggest hazards. In particular, I can recall in vivid detail The Bay’s signature 5th hole that set the stage for the day’s play. It’s a spectacular Par 3 that straddles the ocean cliffs forcing you to alter your club selection drastically depending on the wind direction. Definitely a property you’d never tire of even if you played it every day! Current guest green fees for The Bay Course range from $195 to $215USD and $235 to $295 for the Plantation Course. We stayed across the street from The Bay Course at the Napili Kai Resort in one of their well-appointed, fully equipped low rise condo units overlooking Napili Beach. This way we were able to enjoy romantic dining on our own lanai as well as tempt our taste buds at their scrumptious Seahouse Restaurant.
But no matter how much you love golf be sure to take a few hours to wander the seaside streets of Lahaina and explore the history of what was once a whaling capital but now serves as the gateway to the best whale watching in the world. From November to March the surrounding waters are home to thousands of humpbacks who come here to mate or give birth before returning to Alaska, Russia and of course Canada, to enjoy an endless summer.
From Lahaina it’s a short hour and a half drive to South Maui to experience Kihei, Wailea and Makena where we found the pace of life a little slower, the winds a little calmer and the resorts blend more easily with the natural landscape.
If you are looking for a little more solitude and a natural experience make it a point to check out Makena Beach and Golf Resort, the last property you hit before the rocky road that leads to the virtually uninhabited La Perouse Bay.
Golf starts with the Wailea Golf Club owned and operated by GolfBC and serves up a unique set of challenges whether you’re playing the original ‘Old’ Blue Course , the Emerald Course which was voted ‘one of North America’s most women-friendly courses’ by Golf for Women or the Gold Course which will really test your thinking game. Regardless of whether you play one or all three of these champion courses, the four to six tee blocks on each hole ensure that they are playable by everyone.
The Wailea Emerald Course is the most popular, featuring short par 3’s with subtle elevation changes on the fairways and greens and sand that is in mint condition. It was also my personal favourite perhaps because I started with an opening birdie on a nice downhill Par 4 that seemed to run straight into the Pacific. The views just kept getting better, even if my score didn’t. Frankly, the panoramic vistas were more stunning than my play!
Rates with cart are the same for both the Emerald and Gold Course that range from $195 to $215USD whereas the Blue Course is $99 to $119 depending on the time of day.
What spoke to us about Hawaii? What makes it such a great golfing destination? In a word – the people! Perhaps a friend of ours sums it up best. She’s named her cottage Maui North because despite the fact that she has traveled the world nowhere else has felt so welcome and at home. Maybe now’s your time to visit Maui and make some memories of your own.
For more information on your Aloha in Maui visit www.visitmaui.com.
Dave & Jane Finn are golf travel writers and photographers from Canada. You can read more about their adventures at www.golftravelandleisure.com