With a total of 54 golf holes at the Wailea Golf Club – every one of them sporting an ocean view – there is more golf at the famed Wailea Resort than any other golf destination in Hawaii. And it all starts with the Wailea Resort itself. Five luxury hotels, eight upscale condominium properties, five exceptional spas plus an equal number of white sand beaches, well over 150,000 square feet of shopping, and beautiful weather sheltered by the iconic 10,023 foot Haleakala Volcano (which reduces the wind far more than Kapalua).
Opened in 1972, the Wailea Blue course, designed by Arthur Jack Snyder, is a roomy layout with generous fairways and large, fast greens. It also happens to be the first golf course ever built in South Maui. The course’s 74 bunkers and four ponds need to be respected to prevent inflated scores, but luckily, the course’s beautiful layout does anything but lull golfers to sleep.
In 1994, the Wailea Gold and Wailea Emerald courses were built by Robert Trent Jones II. The Gold and Emerald start from their own large spacious clubhouse and each has some unique characteristics. Wailea Gold is the former course of the Champions Skins Game and the LPGA Skins Game. It has hosted some of the most legendary players including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, Lee Trevino, and more.
With no homes or structures lining its fairways, the Wailea Gold offers a “pure golf” experience with every hole having broad vistas of the ocean. At 7,078 yards from the tips, it presents a substantial challenge to any player and has four tee boxes for each hole to accommodate all visitors. With 93 bunkers, it also provides many well protected holes that demand precise shots. A Gold tee slope of 138 indicates how demanding it can be.
No. 7 is the most difficult of the Wailea Gold holes. From the tips it measures 590 yards and is a double dogleg, sloping uphill with a prevailing crosswind and strategically located bunkers protecting an undulating green. Par is a great score for this beast. If you survive the hole, your reward is a beautiful view from the No. 8 tee looking straight out to Molokini in the ocean channel.
The Wailea Emerald course is the more “resort” friendly track designed by Jones. It has 10 fewer bunkers on the track, and the bunkers are not as strategically placed to cause havoc on your score. The fairways in general are also a bit wider, and the course is shorter at 6,825 yards from the tips. The popular blue tees lead you over 6,407 yards of lush green turf with a slope of 130.
One unique feature on the course is the shared green for holes 10 and 17. While you see double greens more often in Scotland, they are rare in Hawaii. The course also has many fewer forced caries which is a plus for many of the women players. While the course is beautiful, it is still not a cakewalk. The par-5, 531-yard No. 18 on the Emerald is my favorite not only because of the views, but because it is perched at the highest elevation with a downhill tee shot to a well-bunkered green. Laying up gives you a great opportunity for birdie and going for it in two needs to be precise because of the bunkers. Great views, fun layout, and challenging for all levels of golfers.
When you finish your round at either the Gold or Emerald, the Gannon’s restaurant at the clubhouse has great outdoor seating with stunning views where you can relax and enjoy excellent food and a Mai Tai to close your round.
Whether you vacation in the Kapalua area or stay in the luxury resorts in Wailea, make sure you bring your clubs! Golf on Maui should not be missed and certainly deserves the Hawaiian statement of Maui Golf No Ka ‘Oi.
By Greg Fish