Best Courses to Play
Where & When to Play
Maui/Lanai Course Reviews
A Golf Day on Lanai
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Where and When
to play golf on Maui and Lanai

 By Clif Council, PGA
Pattern of Maui's windsMost think of golfing the Hawaiian Islands as a sunny and warm experience with gentle trade winds. But those who have been here know that the conditions vary and each island has its own unique weather pattern. Being the middle of the Pacific Ocean and in the tropical section 23 above the equator gives Hawaii some of the best weather conditions in the world. The yearly temperature only changes 2 degrees between summer and winter but most prefer the winter conditions because it's slightly cooler and the trade winds can stop for weeks at a time.

So where do I play and when? Here are some of my suggestions as a 35-year resident and PGA teaching pro.
Courses marked with a star are MUST PLAYS!

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Rule of thumb:
Play the windy courses early morning or late afternoon.

The prevailing East to West trades come from southern Mexico and run into the Hawaii islands after 3,000 miles of open sea. Warmed by the tropical waters, the trades sometimes produce rainsqualls and short showers as they bump into the old volcano slopes on the eastern or windward sides of Maui. From Hana to Paia, and Wailuku to Kapalua the trade winds and showers prevail during the morning hours, since the wind is moving slower during the cooler periods of the day. As the temperature increases the trades increase in velocity and blow the clouds over the island faster making the rainsqualls shorter.

Maui's Scottish links course, The Dunes
Pot bunkers guard the green on the Dunes 14th.
  1. The Dunes at Maui Lani was recently voted one of the best new courses in America. Great course with lots of natural sand dunes, large lakes in the middle of the front nine and on the finishing par 5... one of Maui's toughest finishing holes with the trade winds blowing. I'd rate The Dunes one of the must plays in Hawaii. For more, see How to Play the Dunes.

  2. Pukakani Country Club. This upcountry course is fun and not expensive. It gets lots of play in the winter as the weather is normally very nice early in the morning. The 1500-foot elevation makes for cooler playing conditions and nice views of West Maui and Haleakala. The trade winds start around 11am so play early and get back to the condo for an afternoon on the beach or relax by the pool.

  3. Kahili Golf Club, formerly Sandalwood, is nestled into the windward side of the West Maui Mountains. It can catch a good deal of wind and sometimes drizzles in the afternoon. Kahili is a fun course, but watch out for those raised par 3s and the side hill lies. A natural layout set along West Maui foothills, oceanviews.

  4. Kapalua Plantation Course features panoramic ocean views.
    The Plantation Course... long and tough.
    Kapalua - Plantation Course Known for hosting the SBS Championship, the Plantation is an exciting wide-open golf course that plays tight because of the crossing trade winds and waist high tall grass surrounding the boundaries. Conditions can be calmer in the morning but it rains frequently until the trades blow the clouds away.The Bay Course is another Maui favorite and plays down to the ocean on holes #4 and #5, along the Tall Cook Pines and Ironswoods. The front nine can be windy but the oceanholes make it a "Must Play" Book here.

  5. Waiehu Muni, known as the poor man's Pebble Beach, this is Maui's first coastline course built. It has a fun front nine with most of the holes bounding the ocean and a hilly back nine with lots of short par 4's. Greens can be little weedy, but overall this is a fun course for golfers wanting an oceanfront experience. Be prepared for slow going and lots of six-somes, as the course gets 400 players per day.

Rule of thumb:
Perfect conditions in the morning, windy in the afternoons.

The West & South coasts or leeward side are known for their sunny calm conditions which golfers and beach lovers enjoy. It is calmer and drier because the trade winds blow around these areas leaving a pocket of still air and sunny conditions for most of the morning. These windless areas are Lahaina & Kaanapali on the West and Kihei, Wailea & Makena in the South. The most popular resorts are located here behind the big volcanoe that dominates and shelters the areas. Even the whales like it as they come into the calm waters to give birth and mate again.

The 15th green is on the water at Makena South
The 15th green on Makena South is a par 3 right on the water.
  1. Makena North is one of Maui's favorites. The North plays up and down the mountain and is a very challenging course. The North upper nine was rennovated and has the faster hybrid berumda greens on the upper nine. Makena is best in the morning before it gets too hot and humid. At Makena you may also see a afternoon cloud cover in the afternoon. Make sure you play Makena North during your Maui stay. For playing tips see How to Play Makena North. Is Now Closed

  2. 8th hole on Wailea Gold Course
    View from the tee at he 8th hole on Wailea's Gold Course.
    Wailea - Blue, Emerald & Gold Courses are near Makena, so approximately the same weather conditions apply. Morning play is cooler with less wind. The Blue Course's wide fairways make it popular with the average golfer. For the ladies, Wailea's Emerald Course is a MUST PLAY... Golf Digest voted the Emerald Course "most friendly for ladies." However, from the back tees it's no pushover. Most challenging of the three is the Gold Course with its great ocean views. It has lush fairways and fast greens. All three Wailea course are "must plays."

  3. The Sugar Cane Train crosses the tressle at the tee of the 7th hole on Kaanapali's South course
    The Sugar Cane Train crosses the tressle at the tee of the 7th hole on Kaanapali's South course.
    Elleair which is now called Maui Nui is best played in the morning before the wind kicks up around 11 am. Maui Nui is a fun family course for late afternoon golf, good twilgiht rates

  4. Kaanapali features two courses for great AM play. The North Course(Royal) is the former PGA Senior Tournament site and plays two holes along the beach. The South Course(Kai) is "easier" with wider fairways and is perhaps the only golf course in the country transversed by a steam railway line... bring your camera!

Rule of thumb:
Play Koele in the morning, Manele in the afternoon.

Another view of Koele's 17th hole
Another view of Koele's 17th hole

The Experience at Koele is up on the mountain above Lanai City at about 1,800 feet of elevation and plays through lush greenery and Cook Pines. It boasts the 444 yd. par 4 17th hole that shoots, from the back tees, into Lanai's deepest ravine 250 ft. below. Morning play is best while the day is calm. It can get cool up there, so you may want to bring along a sweater. By afternoon, the winds kick up so best played early if you plan to play both courses. Course is now closed!!

Aerial view of the cliff-hugging holes on The Challenge
Aerial view of the cliff-hugging holes on The Challenge

The Challenge at Manele plays along the water and across the high ocean cliffs. Every hole has sweeping ocean views and many require precision shots from cliff to cliff. Conditions are good either morning or afternoon.
But, if you play both courses, we suggest you play The Challenge in the afternoon as it leaves you closer to the ferry allowing a more relaxed 19th hole. Last ferry leaves at 6:30pm so don't miss it. This is a special golfing experience in Hawaii so don't miss out, play both the same day!
Book with Maui Golf Shop and SAVE.

Course Reviews
Click on the name of the course to read our review.
MAUI • The DunesElleair now Maui NuiKaanapali RoyalKaanapali Kai
Kapalua BayKapalua Plantation
Makena North ClosedMaui Country Club
Pukalani Country ClubKahili Golf ClubWaiehu Municipal
Wailea BlueWailea EmeraldWailea Gold
LANAI • The ChallengeThe Experience (CLOSED)

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Our Picks for the Best Courses to Play
Which are the must-play courses? Which should you play if you're on a budget? Which are the Pro's favorites? Below are our recommendations in order of preference. Click the link to read the Review.

Next Best Five Resort Courses to Play

Top Five Courses
$125 and Under

Wailea Gold  
The Dunes
Kapalua Plantation  
Maui Nui
Experience at Koele (closed)  
Pukalani CC
Kaanapali Royal  
Waiehu Muni

Pro's Top Ten Picks

Challenge at Manele
Kaanapali Royal
The Dunes
Wailea Emerald
Kapalua Plantation
Kapalua Bay
Wailea Gold
Keole (closed)

Cheapest Course

By the way, my favorite course on Maui was Makena North.
See How to Play Makena North for my tips. Closed

The signature #8 hole at The ExperienceTop Tip: Spend the Day Golfing Lanai
The Challenge at Manele and The Experience at Koele offer an unforgettable experience for the avid golfer. They are Nicklaus and Norman signature courses, one at the top of Lana'i and the other right on the ocean... with a Maui to Lana'i boat trip to boot! KOELE CLOSED!!

Make this an all-day golfing adventure.
Hole #17 at The Challenge

Take the first ferry from Lahaina Harbor at 6:45 am and enjoy the short ocean trip as the sun rises over Haleakala and the dolphins dance around the boat. Maybe a whale will pop up as you enter Manele Bay. The local shuttle service will take you to The Experience at Koele in Lanai City for an early 18 holes on the mountain. The $10 shuttle fee is good for the entire day and allows you to ride to both courses and back to the boat. KOELE IS NOW CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE..

After lunch go on to The Challenge for another 18 holes on the cliffs of Manele Bay. This is a once in a lifetime all-day golf adventure you must experience! Catch the 4:30 or 6:30 ferry and watch the sunset with a Mai Tai at your favorite Lahaina restaurant. You'll be asleep by 9pm when you get home. Book your Lanai Golfing Day (including the ferry) with Maui Golf Shop and SAVE.

And remember, you can rent your clubs at the Maui Golf Shop for as little as $35/ day weekly rate $135. See our rates on Rentals HERE.
For the best golf deals and prices come to Maui Golf Shop before you play.

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