Golf for amateurs and professionals alike has been quite different in 2020, and it looks to be much of the same for at least the first half of 2021.

Many courses closed or cut back hours of play, many spaced out tee times, players learned to deal with no rakes, not removing flagpoles, and single carts.

As many states placed restrictions on courses and play, golfers looked for the best and safest way to continue their pursuit of hitting the little white ball around an available course.

With a safer health environment in Maui compared to most of the mainland, and the Hawaiian Islands opening back up to visitors last October, consider a trip to Maui.

Especially if you can work remote, Maui is a great place to work and play.

Getting to Maui is a little tricky right now.

Travelers must get a clean COVID test within 72 hours of your flight from the mainland. It must be from an authorized testing facility that has a contract with the State of Hawaii.  For details on that requirement, see https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/. However, that extra effort for travel is worth it!

Gold No. 18

Once on Maui, some of the best destination golf in Hawaii is yours to explore, with one of the best destinations being the Wailea Golf Club. Three beautiful, championship courses await, leaving the golfer with plenty of options and it is hard to go wrong.

Wailea initially closed in March after the pandemic started. They did sit idle, forming a plan to reopen with regard to the requirements imposed by the County of Maui and the State of Hawaii.

Sanitizing carts, removing rakes from the sand traps, requiring flags to always remain in, and changing the practice putting green to just bumper flag holes were just some of the changes made.

They also moved to 15-minute tee time intervals which is now down to 10.  Prior to the pandemic, there was enough play to support 8 and 9-minute tee intervals all day long!

After reopening in May, Wailea was like most all other golf clubs in Hawaii, struggling to get by. From May through October 15th (when tourists were able to return to the islands more easily), greater than 90% of the Wailea golf rounds were from locals, with the locals allowing the golf club to survive.

Of the three wonderful courses to choose from, my personal favorite is the Gold Course – the “best” of the three golf courses. The original Blue Course and the Emerald Course are also excellent and challenging.

The Blue Course was the original track opened in 1972, and the Emerald and Gold Courses were added in in 1994 – both designed and built by Robert Trent Jones II.

The Gold Course, however, was the former course of the Champions Skins Game and the LPGA Skins Game.  It hosted some legendary players including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, and Lee Trevino.

Gold No. 5

The Gold Course is unique in that there are no homes or other buildings along the fairways – just an open vista on every hole to the ocean down below.

True to RTJ II course design, there a lot of bunkers – 93 to be exact. With the greens so well protected, a precise iron game is a must to score well.

There is only one lake along the course so most of the trouble is related to sidehill lies, fairway and greenside bunkers, a prevailing crosswind, and large greens with lots of elevation changes. From the tips, the course plays 7,078 yards with a slope of 138.

I recently played the Gold Course with 23 other mostly local players in a regular “mini-game” and the Wailea Golf Club could not have been more accommodating. The staff went out of their way to welcome golfers, continually showing their appreciation for the business.

In January there is the added bonus vista of whales breaching and playing in the ocean, easily visible from the course.

With great weather, beautiful vistas, and a fun challenging place to play, there is no better way to ride out COVID and get some exercise and fun at the same time. Most of the airlines are currently promoting travel to Maui with exceptional airfares, so take advantage and get out to Wailea.

Maui no ka ‘oi = Maui is the best!

For more information, please visit www. waileagolf.com

By Greg Fish