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THE BIG ISLAND: “The Golf Capital of Hawaii”


Hawaii Island (aka The Big Island) is one of the most fascinatingly surreal places on Earth. At twice the size of the other islands combined, and with only 120,000 residents, the Big Island also offers big time excitement whether golf or any number of other activities is your passion.

Natural Wonders

At its southeast shore, the impressive Kilauea Volcano continues to append an eerie display of additional coastline. At the island’s center, two majestic volcanic mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, dominate the landscape. Both summits are over 13,680 feet above sea level. Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano, is more than 32,000 feet above the ocean floor, making it taller than Mt. Everest! Mauna Kea is the largest island-based mountain in the world. And throughout the Big Island, there are scores of interesting and unusual things to see and do, not the least of which is the sensational Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

On an island where Heaven and Earth appear to have survived an epic battle with the forces of nature, master craftsmen of golf design like Robert Trent Jones Sr. & Jr., Perry Dye, Dick Nugent, William Francis Bell, Robin Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, and teams like Arnold Palmer & Ed Seay and Tom Weiskopf & Jay Morrish, have been inspired to new and greater heights of accomplishment.

“The Golf Capital of Hawaii” is how the Big Island is often described. And a look at our HawaiiGolfDeals GOLFHAWAIICARD program certainly bolsters the claim. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better golf deals anywhere on the planet. HawaiiGolfDeals delivers outstanding layouts on the Big Island, from world-class resorts to Hawaii’s three best independent courses, all of which suit vacationing golfers to a tee.

Resorts Abound

For golfers, the Kohala Coast, north of Kailua–Kona and Keohole International Airport (“KOA”), is the absolute best lodging location and should be taken advantage of for the best golf experience. The still burgeoning string of resorts is situated from about 6 to23 miles north of KOA. Four dynamic resorts appear on your left as you drive north—Hualalai, Waikoloa, Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea. Among those four unique resorts are 117 holes of golf, seven oceanfront hotels, about 15 condo/villa communities, a few dozen eateries, as well as shopping—all in idyllic lava-rich settings. Waikoloa Resort Golf Course boasts the island’s only 27-hole layout.

Beaches proliferate at all the hotels and resorts, but none better than Hapuna Beach State Park situated about 3.5 miles past Mauna Lani Resort and just before Mauna Kea. Waikoloa’s two shopping enclaves have cornered the market, so to speak, although The Shops at Mauna Lani and Waikoloa Village Plaza certainly offer some nice diversity.

A Couple of Non-Resort Gems High Atop the Kohala Coast

Two of the best independent golf courses in the state are all within minutes of the Waikoloa Beach Resort. Waikoloa Village Golf Club sits about six miles above the resort in the burgeoning burb of the same name. Its Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout is one of the best places to start your Big Island golf-around. On the high road well above the Kohala Coast is the Perry Dye-designed Makani Golf Club (originally known as Big Island Country Club). It’s a true not-to-be-missed winner with 18 incredibly unique holes of golf, including an island green at 17 reminiscent of Perry’s dad Pete’s design at Sawgrass. The finishing hole is Hawaii’s absolute best, with shot options galore.


The Kona Golf Scene

Also parked on the high road above the Kona–Kohala coast about five miles north of Kona is Makalei Golf Club, with its charming display of game birds and stiff test of golf. As one descends into Kailua–Kona from the high road and heads about seven miles to the Keauhou Bay area, there sits Kona Country Club and what was once known as the Ocean Course from the hand of William Francis Bell, who like Trent Jones Jr, was the son of a famous father—Billy Bell, a mid-20th Century course designer. The course features 5-6 ocean holes, wide-open fairways and generally fine course conditions fashioned much like a resort layout.

Closing Notes

With the closure of the Waimea Country Club in 2012, the shuttering of Kona Country Club’s Mountain Course in 2013, and the collapse of Sea Mountain Golf Course even earlier in the decade, there was a loss of 54 holes of independent, daily fee Big Island golf that, unfortunately, will likely never be replaced.

Nonetheless, a Hawaii golf vacation is neither complete, nor fulfilled, without a visit to the Big Island. That being said, the totality of the Big Island golf experience is best comprehended by playing as many of our HawaiiGolfDeals GolfHawaiiCard courses as possible. So, consider a visit of 10 nights or more and prepare to be stunned by the sights, sounds and golf.

Hilo & Volcano Village

On the other side of the island, often referred to as the wet side (which all these islands seem to have), sits the 2nd largest city in the state—Hilo. There, you’ll find two golf layouts: Naniloa Country Club, a 9-hole par-35 layout that takes you back to the mid-20th Century, and Hilo Municipal Golf Course, with its par-71, 6,325-yard 18-hole track. About 35 minutes above Hilo (Hawaii’s second largest city), is Volcano Village and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Adjacent to the National Park is Volcano Golf & Country Club, an uninspiring 18 holes in a unique microclimate. Visiting Volcano Village and the National Park is really not a recommended day trip unless you get an early start and have two drivers. If you want to try to experience the lava flow, it must be done at night and would require an overnight stay. As far as golf, play it on the other side of the island.

It’s a Wrap

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of taking my ailing mother to The Big Island. As we drove through the stark lava flows from KOA along the Kohala Coast, I could see mom starring somewhat aghast at the landscape. Suddenly she blurted out, “We are staying HERE for 10 nights?” Ten days later, as our plane was barely off the ground at Hilo Airport, she exclaimed: “When are we coming back!”


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About Hawaii Golf Deals

Since 1994, tens of thousands of golf traveler’s have enjoyed HawaiiGolfDeals’ unique golf programs and discounts for singles, twosomes, foursomes & groups. Our HGD Travel Service is the one and only source of comprehensive info and real value-driven packages that can include air, vehicle and/or lodging (+ golf) for the perfect Hawaii golf vacation; Our exclusive GOLFHAWAIICARDyour ticket to unbeatable year-round savings & unlimited golf — delivers the ultimate Hawaii golf experience on The Big Island & Oahu; And our Insider’s Guide to Maui Golf & Insider’s Guide to Kauai Golf offer valuable money-saving advice. With HawaiiGolfDeals, it's always... More Golf • Less Green!

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