Maui County's Best 18 Golf Holes - Front Nine
Inside Golf's Travelling golf writer/reporter Gord Montgomery made the sacrificial journey from his home base in Spruce Grove, Alberta to the paradise that is Maui and managed to play some very nice golf courses. And obviously whenever one has that opportunity it's imperitive that a 'best of' list gets compiled. Sooo.....here it is. We start with the first nine of Gord's Best 18 holes in the County of Maui.
by Gord Montgomery
One thing about playing golf in Maui is there is always a course somewhere with your name written on a scorecard – you know, a place where you just can’t wait to tee it up.
To help make your decision of where to play a bit easier, or maybe a bit harder dependent on how you want to look at it, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 18 holes, at least for this writer, that anyone can play in Maui.
They’re not all back-breakers and not all easy birdie holes – these are just the ones we’d like to find all clustered together in one group, for one memorable, enjoyable round of golf..
While it’s a tough job to pick and choose the Top 18, these made my ‘A’ List for fun, challenging holes to tee it up.
No. 1 – What better way to start a round than with a scenic shot, both from the tee box and with a camera?
That’s the case with the opening hole of the Top 18 on Maui, the par 4, 354-yard downhill, right to left sloping hole at the Wailea Emerald Golf Course.
While this hole isn’t overly difficult, it can create some problems if you get off your line, both in front of, and behind, the green.
You don’t really need a driver as the fairway goes downward and the right side of the short grass is the best place to put your drive leaving you an easy approach and maybe even a putt at a birdie to start this great round.
No. 2 – This is actually the second hole at the Royal Ka’anapali Golf Course, a demanding par 3.
From the blue tees, this hole plays 190-yards to a long but narrow green, well protected by a huge bunker on the front right side and another to the left around the middle of the green.
While this holes is maybe a bit long for a par 3, it’s made even more difficult by the fact it plays uphill quite a bit, which isn’t really noticeable off the tee.
Par here is a good score but walking away with a bogey isn’t all that bad either – especially if you’re faced with a pin in the back of the green and you find yourself (like I seem to every time I play this hole) facing a long shot out of that bunker short right.
No. 3 – At this point, there’s nothing to get your blood moving more than a drive to a plateau that leads to a blind second shot to a sloping green, meaning you must be standing on the tee box on No. 6 at the famed Plantation Course.
This par 4, a 378-yarder from the Regular Tees has a large fairway bunker in the landing area that draws in even good tee shots, thus making that second shot even more of a challenge.
The saving grace here is that with that second shot that drops down at a steep angle, even something that isn’t hit cleanly can end up near, or on, the putting surface.
Another neat thing on this hole is if you yank your approach shot to the left, it can and will hit a large slope and roll down onto the wickedly tilted green, saving you the challenge of having to get up and down for par, or worse.
Anything at the back of the green when the pin is at the front is almost a guaranteed 3-putt as there is a huge swale that can prove to be devastating to one’s scorecard.
No. 4 – The first of our par-5 holes comes from The Dunes at Maui Lani, and it’s a doozy.
The tee shot on this 490-yard hole must be straight and that can be a challenge given the wind that blows through here.
There’s OB left and trees right meaning bogeys are always lurking nearby on this particular hole.
As you work toward the green, the fairway goes uphill dramatically on your approach shot, and at least one and perhaps even two more clubs are necessary than you think to navigate the elevation change and leave yourself a chance for a birdie.
No. 5 – This is No. 14 on the Kai Course in Ka’anapali, a rather simple looking par 3 measuring in at 194 yards.
At least it looks simple, especially since it’s virtually all down hill. This illusion changes in a hurry when you step onto the tee box.
The green is a reasonable size but is protected all the way down the right side by trees – really thick stands of trees that eat golf balls for breakfast, lunch and supper if you stray even a few yards off course.
The good news here is there’s plenty of room to bail out left although you then stare those trees down as you hit your approach into a relatively receptive green.
No. 6 - We just had to stick another par 5 in here because, well because we could.
We picked No. 9 at the Experience at Koele on Lana’I, a great 516-yard hole that runs downhill part of the way, but is well protected on the left with trees.
The third shot is to a partial island green making anything short, wet, putting the pressure on to make the right selection of clubs, which is a little different than most Maui County courses as you’re about 6,000 feet above sea level at this track.
No. 7 – Since we’re on some islands, we may as well stick in another hole with great views of the ocean here.
Next up is No. 17 at The Challenge at Manele on Lana’I, brought to you by none other than the Golden Bear himself.
The hole is 373-yards and a dogleg right where the ocean is fully in view, along with some nasty long rough and yes, a few other obstacles along the way.
This hole is demanding in its beauty as it’s tough to stay focused – “Oh, look! A whale!” – on what you’re supposed to be doing.
No. 8 – The 17th hole at Experience at Koele on Lana’i (a part of Maui County) is both a tough test and a beautiful hole. This track was designed by Greg Norman and can be played as part of a twin bill with The Challenge, if you so desire.
A par 4 playing to 417-yards from the Blue tees, your first shot is what it’s all about here.
With an elevation drop of over 200 feet to what appears an incredibly tight landing area – there’s a thick forest all the way down the left side and a water hazard right – accuracy is demanded off the tee.
By setting the ball down safely in a fairway, that from high above looks about as wide as a shoelace, par isn’t that hard to come by thanks to a fairly short approach shot because this hole is all about that first shot.
No. 9 – The ninth at the Plantation Course has to wrap up our opening nine.
A par 5 at ‘only’ 490-yards, this hole is tougher than it appears. Two good approach shots leave you with what appears an easy wedge into the green but the uphill nature of that final shot can leave you shaking your head when it comes up short and the ball starts coming back at you on the ground as fast as it went through the air toward the green.
This hole is a real challenge, but again a fun one especially when the wind is in your face and you have to go driver; 3-wood; 3-wood; 8-iron (or more) to get home – if you’re lucky.
To Be Continued...Stay Tuned For Gord's Back Nine Soon.