Golfing on the Big Island
Concierge.com's insider take:
With more than a dozen world-class courses, the Big Island is Hawaii's premier golf destination, known for tricky shoreline holes (the classic shot over water and lava field onto the green), challenging winds, and rolling hills. Greens fees for the Kohala courses are akin to highway robbery, although guests pay less when they play where they're staying. Playing is much more affordable on the more modest Waimea, Volcano, and Hilo courses. Due to the blazing sun, it's best to tee off in the morning, but golfers who can stand the heat can take advantage of discounted greens fees after 3 pm.
Damage sustained during a 2007 earthquake closed the Kohala Coast's Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and its 1964 Robert Trent Jones, Sr., golf course (the standard of excellence in these parts), but there are still many more to choose from. In Kailua-Kona, the Jack Nicklausdesigned course at the Hualalai Golf Club is relatively protected from the wind and is one of the most player-friendly courses on the island (open only to Four Seasons guests). The ocean- and lava fieldviews from the popular, well-maintained Mauna Lani Francis H. I'i Brown South Course in Waimea may distract you from your game. The Waikoloa Kings Course is tough, with many lava obstacles, but also stunning 360 degree views. Close to Kohala, the Waimea Country Club is affordable, and generally cooler temperatures mean you can play all day; as long as mist, fog, and rain don't cut your outing short. At 40,000 feet above sea level, the Volcano Golf & Country Club can be chilly and sometimes wet; unlike at most other courses, afternoon rounds are favored over morning play and there's very little wind. Locals are the usual foursomes at the small, nine-hole Hamakua Country Clubit's casual, great for beginners, and since Hilo is one of the rainiest places in the state, the course is always lush.