The Luxury Golf Experience at the Kapalua Resort

July 8, 2019

Situated along Maui’s northwest shore, the five-star Kapalua Resort is an eco-chic paradise that blends harmoniously into the surrounding rain forest. Every amenity is thoughtfully provided for at Kapalua, including a wide variety of lodging, dining and shopping to suit any style, and an award-winning spa that makes use of indigenous products and individualized treatments to soothe mind and body.

Best of all, this 22,000-acre former pineapple plantation is a year-round, world-class golf destination all on its own. Kapalua’s two Tour-proven courses—the Plantation Course and the Bay Course—make excellent use of the island’s diverse topography, tropical setting and consistently beautiful weather to provide an unparalleled golf experience. Add in the world renowned Kapalua Golf Academy, and there’s simply no better setting for golf on the planet.

Kapalua’s two courses—one nestled into the mountains and the other stretched along the bay—offer completely unique experiences, vastly different challenges and wonderful layouts. And if you play different tee boxes from one round to the next, you’ll never see the same shot twice.

The weather is as consistently predictable as the great golf at Kapalua, with highs that typically remain in the mid-80s and lows that rarely dip below 65 degrees. No matter what time of year you play Kapalua, count on clear skies and a brief shower at some point during the day. Locals call these brief bursts “liquid sunshine” because the sun continues to shine through the sporadic rain clouds, which come and go within minutes and refresh the landscape.

The Plantation Course

Meandering through the West Maui Mountains, the Plantation Course at Kapalua perpetually ranks among the world’s best. It hosts the season-opening PGA Tour event every year— the Hyundai Tournament of Champions—where only winners from the previous year’s PGA Tour events are afforded the opportunity to play the par-73, 7,411-yard course that was co-designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore in 1991.

The layout boasts wide fairways and large greens that readily accommodate shots influenced by the steady 15- to 30-miles-per-hour trade winds, especially at the course’s higher elevations. The holes are contoured and sloped to gently (and sometimes dramatically) move errant shots back toward the fairway, and golfers generally find that the north-to-south direction of these prevailing winds helps their game. The occasional Kona breezes from the south, on the other hand, can turn some of the Plantation’s longer holes into outright marathons.

Speaking of long, the 18th hole—the Plantation’s longest— stretches a massive 663 yards from its tips but is all downhill. Take in the staggering view from the elevated tee box, which may be the single-best vantage point on the entire island, and then send your drive toward the horizon. Golfers frequently find their drives landing in the spacious fairway and then bouncing and rolling well beyond their normal tee-shot distance.  Overall, guests find the course very playable with opportunities to score well. Tour pros typically do well here as well, as the course is among the Tour’s most forgiving. 

At last count, there were 97 bunkers throughout the course. While strategically placed and penal, many of them are avoidable because of the vast fairways. The recently renovated greens feature new Bermuda grass that can be mowed to a tighter height and allow for a truer roll. Greens here play fast and have plenty of undulation. Playing the course more than once, as well as making use of local knowledge on the greens, is the surest way to shoot low. After the round, bets are often settled at the Plantation House Restaurant in the grand clubhouse, which is consistently ranked as one of Maui’s top dining experiences. It’s a soothing blend of Hawaiian hospitality, great food, casual atmosphere and incredible views. Time your round to end later in the day, and you’ll witness breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific with views of neighboring islands Molokai and Lanai in the distance.

The Bay Course

The Bay Course stretches 6,600 yards along the rugged shoreline with sweeping ocean views and a player-friendly layout that affords golfers the opportunity to score well. This par-72, Arnold Palmer-Francis Duane designed course opened in 1975, and is the epitome of a Hawaiian resort-style course with its rolling terrain, an abundance of water hazards, 68 bunkers and consistent winds that blow right down to the shore. Holes are routed through towering palms and flowering hibiscus, and some along the front nine border picturesque homes owned by celebrities. 

The scenic par-3 fifth is Maui’s only hole that plays directly over the ocean, and in this case requires golfers to carry their tee shots over the gorgeous Oneloa Bay. While the front nine snakes around the heart of the resort and the on-property RitzCarlton, Kapalua, the back nine meanders through elevation changes, hills and barrancas, with postcard-perfect views of the island’s natural splendor. Most of the backside is sheltered from the trade winds—that is, until the closing trio. The 16th hole features a carry over a pond onto a split fairway, and is regarded as one of Hawaii’s best par 4s. No. 17 is a par 3 that’s protected by two large bunkers on the front side, and the par-5 18th hole can play longer or shorter depending on the prevailing winds. 

The Bay is a championcaliber course that plays host to the PGA Tour’s Kapalua International tournament, and is also the former host site of an LPGA event. But with its stunning ocean views, predictable winds and friendly terrain, it remains a perennial favorite among golfers of all skill levels.

Train with the Pros at the Kapalua Golf Academy

As great as the golf is at Kapalua, the resort’s world-renowned instruction program may be even better. Set near the resort’s entrance, this state-ofthe-art teaching facility features a 2,500-squarefoot learning center, 85,000-square-foot grass teeing area with range and targets, greenside and fairway bunkers, practice putting greens, a three-hole walking course, 18- hole putting course and much more. 

No wonder GOLF Magazine ranks Kapalua Golf Academy among its “Top 25 Golf Schools” in America. The indoor/outdoor hitting bay is replete with an advanced digital video analysis system, and the experienced staff is made up of PGA Professionals who communicate well and can assist with expert instruction and club fitting. Individual or group lessons can be customized to suit your needs, and the various clinics range from a half-day up to a full week. Your game will improve after a visit to the Kapalua Golf Academy.