Everyone who knows me knows I am in love with Maui. The “Valley Isle” combines the best of modern conveniences with the serenity and beauty of a tropical beach paradise.
And as far as the weather is concerned…let’s just say that the most boring job in the world must be being the weatherman on Maui – every day is the same – perfect!
I just got back from 3 weeks in Nirvana and played golf 20 times. It was pure heaven. There are a lot of great courses on Maui, but my heart belongs to Ka’anapali.
As a golfgal, I love the fact that Ka’anapali’s two courses are very wahine-friendly, offering multiple sets of tees, all of which are “designed-in”. i.e.. The forward tees are not “afterthoughts” which patronize higher handicappers – you know the ones where you couldn’t get into trouble if you tried? Ka’anapali is challenging and entertaining from every tee.
The Kai Course is a family-friendly trek for all skill levels with 4 sets of tees from the Lava tees at 6,388 yards to the Hibiscus at only 4,522 yards. And one can’t forget the Keiki tees for the youngsters. I love the fact that I can play two sets of tees on the Kai and feel like I’m playing two completely different courses.
The Royal Course, which was the home of the Champions Skins Game from 2008 to 2011, is the longer and harder of the two, offering 4 tee options from 5,016 yards to 6,700 yards. You might assume that at just over 5,000 yards the forward tees would be a walk in the park, but you’d be dead wrong.
The elevation changes can distort your depth perception and club selection is a real challenge. It was not unusual for me to take two extra clubs on par 3s and many approach shots to elevated greens.
The trade winds can play havoc with your ball; the sloping fairways make for “interesting” lies and putting…well, you’d swear your ball was breaking uphill sometimes.
Those 5K yards feel more like 6. But for golf masochists like me, it couldn’t be more fun!
Both courses have some very memorable holes…
Number 7 on the Kai forces a long carry over a deep gulley for all but the most forward tees.
When the wind is blowing (which is 90% of the time) your smack at the ball can turn into a slap in your face. But the nice thing is you can play it from the bottom of the gorge, which we did many a round. Standing at the bottom I recalled the famous words of a Canadian TV kids show icon, The Friendly Giant, who used to start each episode by telling the viewers to, “Look up…Look waaaay up, and I’ll call Rusty”.
It would take me at least 2 more shots to get up to the green from down under because inevitably I would find myself in the very strategically placed and deep bunker that lined the right side of the green. It can be a brutal hole, but the golf gods of Ka’anapali ‘makes it all better’ by giving you one of the most beautiful views off the 8th tee which you can enjoy while licking your 7th-hole wounds.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for you to forget the past as you face a challenging par 5, 8th hole, ranked the hardest hole on the course. I was delighted to par it one day – felt like a birdie.
But after two strenuous tests of golf, you are given a reprieve with a much shorter and easier 9th hole, with a stunning view of the Sheraton Hotel and sparkling ocean.
As for the Royal, there are too many memorable images to share in one post, so let me just show you my favorite 3 closing holes in golf.
Hole 16 is a downhill par 4 which makes you think after a tough first 15 holes that, yes, you really can play this game. But first you have to hit the fairway.
Bunkers left and right are well trampled on this hole for good reason. You need to start your ball left because the fairway slopes to the right toward the ocean. But too far left and you’re in the sand.
However, if you don’t aim far enough left you can end up hitting the fairway (nice!) but find your ball trapped right after it rolls endlessly down the slope (not nice!). Robert Trent Jones was a devilish designer!
17 is a short par 3 and the easiest hole on the course. But you have to carry water all the way to a tiny green. You might be tempted to go long to be safe, but that back bunker is tough to get out of without putting the water right back in play.
The finale 18 is a treacherous par 4 – plays long and deadly. Arnold Palmer called it one of the best and most challenging finishing holes he has ever played.
You have a big decision to make on your tee shot – stay right and risk the water or aim left and almost guarantee yourself a very difficult lie in the huge fairway bunker. There really isn’t much room to work with. And depending where they put the pin, you could easily find yourself crossing water again on your approach. Wicked, but wonderful closing hole!
Before you tee off 18th, you’ll see a rock that identifies the hole. Stop and read what it says, “Hawaiians never say goodbye because goodbye is forever. We at Ka’anapali Golf say, “A Hui Hou” or “Until we meet again.”
It was a magical 3 weeks for us – a working vacation I never wanted to end. Our next golf marathon on Maui can’t come soon enough. And all I can say to all the shots I left out there, “A Hui Hou” Ka’anapali!