The 8 Best Golf Courses on Maui | A Local's Guide to Teeing It Up on Maui

Enjoy the Best Golf Courses on Maui

One of the reasons I love living on Maui is certainly the access to an abundance of year-round world-class golf.  Not only does the weather allow for playing 12 months a year, but the island is such an amazing backdrop for a great variety of beautiful and challenging golf courses. Before I get ahead of myself, I should preface all of this with the fact that I’m not a scratch golfer or even close, but I can put an ok round together. Most of all,  I appreciate getting some time outside and just going out for a fun round with friends while enjoying a few refreshments along the way. 

That being said, some of the courses on Maui are tough! The wind is only one of the things you’ll notice affecting your score, but we also have a lot of courses with amazing, well-maintained, yet tricky greens. From the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean to the emerald hills and sandy beaches throughout Maui, the island is filled with gorgeous backdrops that you can admire while you enjoy a round of golf. So, even the scenery can be an excuse for your score if you’re looking for one!

With ideal golfing weather year-round, spending time on a golf course is the perfect way to spend a beautiful day on the island. While you can find golf courses dotting the landscape from coast to coast, there are a few beautiful, challenging courses that should rank at the top of your list. What are the best golf courses on Maui that you should experience soon? Keep reading to see my list of personal favorites and get some inside info on how to play them also. 

1. Kapalua Plantation Golf Course

Kapalua Plantation Maui Golf

Since 1991, residents and visitors to the island have enjoyed testing their skills at the Kapalua Plantation Golf Course. This course is owned by the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort, but all are invited to play. This stunning, 18-hole course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The architects were involved in the 2018 renovation of the course as well. During the renovation, resurfacing was completed with Tif Eagle Bermuda and Celebration Bermuda grasses. Each January, the PGA Tour hosts its Sentry Tournament of Champions here. As you might expect, the 7,411-yard, par-73 course will challenge even the most skilled golfers.

The course is perched in the West Maui Mountains close to Kapalua Bay on the northwestern shore of the island. From almost every hole, golfers can delight in expansive ocean and island views. The course makes ample use of the island’s tall grasses and Norfolk Pines along many fairways to add to the challenge and beauty of the course. An additional challenge comes from the gusty breezes that blow in from the ocean. Communities close to the Kapalua Plantation Golf Course are Kapalua Plantation Estates, Honolua Ridge, and Mahana Estates.

The pros make the Planation Course look way too easy. It’s actually kind of a beast. Seriously uneven lies are everywhere, especially in the fairways. Many holes play into the wind, the balls easily kick into the thick stuff, turning a good shot into a drop pretty quickly.

The greens are very large with lots of breaks and lag putting is a necessary skill to avoid 3 putting. But, at the end of the day, it’s amazing! Hands down my favorite course on the island or in all of Hawaii for that matter. When you’re playing the massive, iconic 18th down the hill, you’ll definitely have a feeling of having played a very special round of golf.

2. Makena Golf and Beach Club

Makena Golf on Maui

The Makena Golf Course at the Makena Golf and Beach Club is a private venue located just off the coast of Makena in the ultra-exclusive enclave developed by Discovery Land Company.  It was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. in 1991 on the beautiful grounds oceanfront near some of the best beaches of Makena; Maluaka Beach and Big Beach.

The course was remodeled by the infamous Tom Fazio in 2014 and it has seen significant improvements. The club offers a gourmet bar and grille at the midway point with some pretty incredible offerings for those fortunate enough to play here. Play is reserved for members, those who own property in Makena, and the occasional guest, as guest play is restricted.  

The landscape throughout the golf course is breathtaking and is only surpassed by the views. Its unique combination of rolling yet steep grounds and well-placed holes provide panoramic mountain, island, and ocean views from many angles. The course plays like a resort course and is generally pretty forgiving and is always immaculately maintained.

You can take in everything from palm trees, historic lava flows, and fingertip-style bunkers to gorgeous sunsets and more as you make your way through the course. The golf course is located next to ultra-luxury oceanfront residential communities like Maluaka Estates and Old Makena Road.

3. Wailea Gold Course

Wailea Golf Courses

The Wailea Gold Course is widely known as the most challenging golf course of the three prestigious Wailea Golf Courses. It was designed in 1994 by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Its 18 holes span across more than 7,000 yards and this par-72 course previously hosted the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game.

The Wailea Golf Club offers a great selection of amenities and services for golfers to enjoy. These include a driving range and an on-site golf pro. Rental clubs and carts are also available for your convenience.

You’ll find it’s pretty forgiving off the tee, which I need and helps significantly to cut back on the dreaded OB penalties. They run a pretty smooth operation out there as well and even when it’s busy the pace is pretty good. Expect to be paired up if you don’t already have a foursome during busy times like the holidays and most of the summer. Unlike the Wailea Blue Course that is surrounded by properties like Kai Malu and Wailea Golf Estates, there are no houses to worry about hitting here!

The Wailea Gold Course has unique design elements that combine to create a challenging round of golf. However, with four to six tee boxes available, the course is suitable for all golfers. At the same time, the features celebrate the natural beauty of the island and perfectly frame the beautiful views available from various vantage points.

The lushness of the fairways stands in contrast to the strong beauty of lava rocks and the brilliance of the Pacific Ocean. Some holes have thin fairways and are placed in between lava rocks for an added challenge. 

4. Kapalua Bay Golf Course

The Kapalua Bay Golf Course is the sister to the Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Golf Course. Designed in 1975 by Frances Duane and Arnold Palmer, it is the oldest course at the resort. Notably, its appeal has held steady over the years. In fact, it has hosted almost two dozen major pro tournaments over the years, including the 1983 Kapalua International and the Kapalua LPGA Classic.

Some of the sport’s most memorable moments have taken place at this par-72 course covering 6,600 yards. For instance, this is where Greg Norman scored his first American win and where David Llewellyn and Ian Woosman took the World Cup of Golf for Wales.

The Bay course offers some unpredictable weather, much like its sister course the Plantation. It also offers some forgiveness of the tee, but also some significant wind, particularly in the later afternoons. After moving to Maui over a decade ago, I've started to learn how to play a variety of lower trajectory shots that work better in windy conditions!

The Kapalua Bay Golf Course is more forgiving in many ways than the Plantation Golf Course, so it is ideal for most skill levels. However, it is particularly known for a challenging hole that requires you to hit a par-3 target while crossing over the Oneloa Bay. As you make your way through the full course, you can appreciate the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, the Ironwoods Beach, and Molokai in the distance. Communities located close to the golf course are Kapalua Golf Villas, Kapalua Ridge Villas, and Pineapple Hill.

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5. Royal Kaanapali Golf Course

Kaanapali Golf Courses Maui

The Royal Kaanapali Golf Course located at the Ka’anapali Resort is one of the older courses on the island, and it has been impeccably maintained over the years. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. in 1962. The par-71 course, which is located close to Lahaina, has hosted the LPGA Kemper Cup, the Champions Tour Ka’anapali Classic, and numerous other major events. It offers a golf pro-on-site as well as a driving range, club rentals, and cart rentals.

My favorite thing about the Royal course is the greens. They have been consistently pure and fast for years, treat them with a lot of respect or you’ll see some 3 and maybe 4 putts on the card. 

The 18-hole course covers approximately 6,700 yards as it reaches between the rugged coast and the edge of the West Maui Mountains. Its unique layout produces the challenge of a robust elevation change across many holes. The fairways are beautifully undulated and are dotted by palm trees, roughs, and bunkers.

Uniquely, the course features a historic plaque at each tee to share Ka’anapali’s story with all who golf there. The golf course is situated close to the Masters at Ka’anapali condos and Ka’anapali Hillside residential communities.

6. Wailea Emerald Course

Wailea Emerald Golf Course Maui

Like the Gold Course, the Wailea Emerald Course is situated at the Wailea Golf Club. Of the club’s three courses, it distinctly offers the perfect balance between natural beauty and challenging holes. It is an 18-hole golf course that was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. in 1994.

This par-72 course covers more than 6,800 yards of rolling terrain. While you enjoy your round of golf at the Wailea Golf Club, you can take full advantage of the on-site golf pro, the driving range, and the rentals for carts and clubs.

I love both the Emerald and the Gold, but I feel like if you only get to play one, play the Gold, that’s why I ranked Emerald slightly lower than the Gold. The Emerald course is also extremely well-kept and the layout is fun and challenging, yet forgiving in places.

The Wailea Emerald Course has been impeccably designed with expansive fairways and up to six tee boxes, making it a great option for golfers of all skill levels. From many of the fairways, you can admire ocean views as well as brilliant colors from the plumeria and bougainvillea plants. The 10th and 17th holes have a double green that will give you a reason to pause and enjoy the splendor all around you. It features a tree-lined lake set against the Pacific Ocean.

7. Maui Lani Golf Course

Maui Lani Golf Course Maui

The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course offers a unique golfing experience that is far removed from the hustle and bustle of busy tourist areas. It is the only links-style course on the island, and it is a par-72 public course that covers 6,841 yards. The course was designed in 1999 by Robin Nelson and Mark Miller. It utilizes both Bermuda and Tif-419 grasses, and it offers a full range of amenities and services.

These include an indoor practice area, a putting green, a driving range, an on-site golf pro, a golf academy, a golf simulator, and even an on-site bar for refreshments. Cart and club rentals are also available.

Across its 18 holes, it has an undeniably majestic quality that is defined by lush, rolling fairways, deep bunkers, and the perfect combination of native and trees and grasses for an added challenge. In the distance, you can enjoy brilliant mountain vistas for a bold splash of natural beauty. The Maui Lani Golf Course is situated close to the master-planned Maui Lani residential community.

Maui Lani is most commonly played by locals, but since the greens were redone to PGA tour quality a few years ago, many are starting to catch on that there is a really fun golf course right in the heart of Kahului. The course has a few blind corners and challenging shots, but it's really fun and has a great low-key, laid-back atmosphere. 

8. King Kamehameha Golf Course

A list of Maui’s best golf courses would not be complete without mentioning the King Kamehameha Golf Course in Wailuku. With five sets of tees and well-placed bunkers, this course is perfect for all skill levels. It was originally designed by Ted Robinson, Sr., and the revitalization was completed by Ted Robinson, Jr. many years later. Interestingly enough, the 74,000 square-foot clubhouse was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957 for Marylin Monroe, but she never actually took occupancy. It features fine artwork, massage therapy, banquet-style dining, and more.

Much of the challenge of the King Kamehameha Golf Course is derived from its beautiful location. It sits on steeply inclined slopes in the West Maui Mountains. Many of the holes have bold elevation changes that make the course both physically and mentally challenging. The uppermost area of the golf club sits 750 above sea level. Notably, from its perch, it offers mountain, valley, and bi-coastal views from many holes. The course can get very windy and the turf gets a little firm, so watch for the bounces and rollouts here. 

Tee It Up at Maui's Best Golf Courses

While all of the best golf courses on Maui take full advantage of the island’s natural vistas and challenging terrain, they also stand apart in exciting ways. Regardless of your skill level, you undoubtedly will fall in love with some of the best golf courses on Maui after you experience all that they offer. 

There are several other fun courses on the island including the Ka’anapali Kai Course, the Wailea Blue Course, and Pukalani Country Club, and if you have time I recommend you play them all, like I have, to get your own personal favorite list! Thanks for checking this article out, if you enjoyed it please share!

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Evan Harlow Maui

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Posted by Evan Harlow R(S) 82003
on December 10th, 2021