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Great Holes of the Kohala Coast

Golfing Highlights from the Big Island

Third hole at Mauna Kea.
Ray Navis

Golfers who follow the PGA and Champions tours have been treated to a visual splendor with the recently televised events showcasing golf in Hawaii. The best collection of courses in the Hawaiian Islands is probably along the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. This area is home to some of the world’s best oceanfront par three holes.

3rd Hole at Mauna Kea

The Golf Course at Mauna Kea was opened in 1964 and features one of the most famous holes in golf. The par three third hole plays over an inlet to a peninsula green with crashing waves in front of the player. It maxes out at 262 yards, and even the best golfers will feel their heart pounding. The hole can be played from 160 yards as well, just in case you do not want to donate balls to the Pacific.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is run by Prince Resorts and is very high end. Most guests will stay in the main tower where room space has been enhanced by turning three rooms into two. The bluff-top location allows for unforgettable vistas in every direction.

The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is the sister property with its own 18-hole Arnold Palmer design. This layout winds its way up into the hills nearby and provides commanding views of the entire Kohala Coast. The Hapuna Beach property is ideal for families, with larger accommodations very close to the beach.

17th Hole at Hualalai

Just north of the Kona Airport is the Four Seasons Hualalai, home to the annual Champions Tour event. This is a very plush community with an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature layout. The course features generous fairways that navigate through lava fields overlooking the Pacific. The 17th hole is the one you will always remember with its oceanfront location. Wind can play havoc here on this 170-yard par three, but most days the hole is fairly forgiving.

The Four Seasons is set on spacious grounds with bungalow accommodations inspired by Hawaii’s Golden Age. Guests are never too far from one of several pools or the beach known for its sea turtles. Native art adorns the open air common areas to further enhance the island décor. The tennis and fitness facilities are among the best in Hawaii.

15th Hole at Mauna Lani South

The Mauna Lani Resort is home to the North and South 18-hole courses. The 15th hole on the South Course tips out at 216 yards and plays over an oceanfront lava-crusted inlet. There is a generous landing area short and right should you choose to be conservative. Those going for birdie will need a bolder play with wind always a problem.

The South Course served host for many years to the Senior Skins Game. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer provided many great moments in this spectacular setting. Both layouts at Mauna Lani are player-friendly, making it a good choice if you have less skilled players in your group. They even have a short nine-hole course for beginners called the Keiki Course. The practice areas are large, and there are many instruction options here ranging from individual lessons to weeklong academies.

Renaissance Los Angeles Airport.
Courtesy Photo

Navigating LAX

Most Santa Barbara residents will make this trip with a nonstop from LAX to Kona. Staying overnight near the airport can make this experience much easier on the family.

The Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel would be my first choice. The location on Airport Boulevard is easy to get to and a bit less congested than other airport hotels. The rooms are very nice and the Club Level provides a very nice upgrade. This service includes breakfast and light fare in the evenings in a large lounge area overlooking the runways at LAX. Visit Marriott.com for further details.

This hotel is nice enough to consider as a stopping point for any activity that takes you to the L.A. area. Those going away for a week or so will be able to park for free with their Park ‘n Fly package. Keep this hotel in mind for relatives coming from a long way off. Hertz Rent a Car is just a block away for drop-offs. Best to drop the car off the night before and take the hotel shuttle or a cab to the curbside check-in at your airline.


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