Selecting a golf course on the Big Island of Hawaii is like perusing over a dinner menu at a five-star restaurant: There are many enticing options to choose from. Hawaii’s largest island—it’s double the size of all the other main Hawaiian islands combined—has about 20 offerings for the golf aficionado, from popular public courses to spectacular championship layouts.
Mauna Kea Golf Course
Some of the finest resort courses in the world are located north of Kailua-Kona, along the island’s scenic Kohala Coast. The “granddaddy” of them all is the Mauna Kea Golf Course, an 18-hole layout designed by noted golf architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The challenges here are magnified by the wonderfully distracting views of the azure Pacific Ocean, rugged lava beds and snow-capped Mauna Kea. The signature third hole, a 210-yard par 3, requires a tee shot that carries over 180 yards of the ocean to reach the green.
Hapuna Golf Course
Nearby is the Mauna Kea’s sister course, the Hapuna Golf Course. Built on the side of a hill overlooking the ocean, this championship course includes dramatic views of the Kohala Coast as well as the Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Kohala mountains. The USGA ranked the Hapuna as one of the most environmentally sensitive courses in America.
Mauna Lani Resort
The Mauna Lani Resort includes two 18-hole courses. The South Course is the former home of the PGA Senior Skins Game. Its 15th hole, a 196-yard par 3, is one of the most photographed golf holes in the world. It requires a tee shot over the ocean to the green. Rolling terrain and groves of kiawe trees are among the characteristics of the North Course. The signature hole here is the 17th, a 132-yard, par 3 challenge that begins with a drive from an elevated tee to a black lava-framed green.
Hualalai Golf Course
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Hualalai Golf Course features brilliant green fairways contoured against immaculately sculpted black lava. The signature 17th hole was carved from lava and features an imposing bunker that runs down the entire side of the fairway.
Waikoloa Village Golf Club
The Waikoloa Village Golf Club, perched a thousand feet above sea level, offers commanding views of the Kohala Coast. The 6,687-yard, par 72 course is nestled between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes and is a favorite of both professionals and novices.
Volcano Golf & Country Club
Other notable golf offerings on the Big Island include the Volcano Golf & Country Club, a semi-private course located next to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here, the high elevation level (4,280 feet) makes for longer drives. The 15th hole is a long par 4 that requires hitting into the wind and getting the ball onto an elevated green past a stand of eucalyptus trees.