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When and Where to Play

Where and When to play golf on Maui and Lanai

By Clif Council, PGA.

Prevailing Trade Winds Most think of golfing in 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 in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and in the tropical section 23º 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 for playing Maui Golf Courses as a 30-year resident and PGA teaching pro.


Windward

Rule of thumb:
Play the windy areas early morning or late afternoon. It can rain in the morning.

The prevailing East to West trades come from southern Mexico and run into the Hawaiian 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. The Dunes
  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. Book here.
  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. Book here. We Recommend a 8 - 9 am tee time.
  4. Kapalua - Plantation
  5. Kapalua Golf Course- Kapalua Plantation & Kapalua Bay. Known for hosting the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Kapalua 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. I recommend playing in the Midmorning, as the course plays easier with the trades blowing downwind on the long tough holes and take advantage of the mid day twilight rate . This one of Hawaii's longest courses. Call early in the week as the twilight times go fast and you may not be able to finish all 18 holes during the winter months.Book here.
  6. Waiehu Muni, known as the poor man's Pebble Beach, 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 a little weedy, but overall this is a fun course for golfers wanting an oceanfront experience. Be prepared for a slow going and lots of six-somes, as the course gets 400 players per day. TIP: Although you're allowed to walk this course, spend the $$s for the cart unless you're in good shape... the hills on the back nine can really grind you down.

Leeward

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 volcano that dominates and shelters the areas. Even the whales like it as they come into the calm waters to give birth and mate again.
    Makena North
  1. Makena North is one of our favorite Maui Golf Courses. The Makena Golf Course plays up and down the mountain and is a very challenging course. Makena may also see a tropical shower in the afternoon. Makena offers incredible views of the entire southern coast of the island, with Molokini lined up behind many of the greens, like a true landmark. Make sure you play Makena North during your Maui stay. For views, challenge, and peace and quite, the Makena North course is the place to play. Book Now



  2. Wailea - Blue, Emerald & Gold
  3. Wailea Golf Courses- Wailea Blue, Wailea Emerald & Wailea Gold Courses are near Makena, so approximately the same weather conditions apply. Morning play is cooler with less wind. Wailea Blue offers wide fairways making it popular with the high-handicappers. For the ladies, Wailea Emeralds 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 Wailea Gold with its great ocean views. It has lush fairways and fast greens. Wailea Gold is a "must play for a Challenge." Book Now


  4. Elleair
  5. Elleair Golf Course is best played in the morning before the wind kicks up around 11 am. The course was designed by lengendary Canadian course architect Bill Newis. The holes feature wide fairways with a good mixture of long and short par 4s. Elleair Golf Course is a great course for the budget minded golfer. Book Now


  6. Kaanapali features two courses for great AM play- Kaanapali Royal and Kaanapali Kai. Kaanapai Royal is the former PGA Senior Tournament site and plays two holes along the beach. Kaanapali 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! Book here.

Lanai - Our Most popular golf package- Play both Lanai Golf Courses! Awesome!

Rule of thumb:
Lanai Golf Courses- PlayKoele in the morning, Manele in the afternoon.
    The Experience at Koele
  1. 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 and you may also have rain. Book here.



  2. The Challenge at Manele
  3. 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. Book here.

  4. But, if you play both Lanai Golf 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
    6:45 pm so don't miss it. This is a special golfing experience in Hawaii so don't miss out, play both the same day!

Top Tip: Spend the Day Golfing Lanai's Golf Courses

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! Book here.

Spend the Day Golfing Lanai 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.
Lunch : There isn't a restaurant at the Experience at Koele. The Challenge at Manele has a Club House with lunch options. If you finish your first round before noon, you should take the 12:00 shuttle to The Challenge at Maneleand have lunch at the clubhouse restaurant. If you take the 1pm shuttle there are a couple of options for lunch: order off the snack cart on the Manele course or pre-order your lunch and it will be ready when you get there