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Golf the Islands

We’ll begin our mini-tour in Kauai, the Garden Isle. A host of the of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, Kauai’s courses meld into the rainforests, canyons, and cliffs of the island’s natural landscape. Huge ferns, waterfalls, orchids, and rich, dense green grass are the background on which the game is played. There are six 18-hole championship courses, two 27-holes, and one 9-hole course on this pristine island, plenty enough choices to make Kauai a vacation-long destination all on its own.

Next south on the tour is Oahu. This second biggest of the islands also holds diverse terrain. Though well populated, it offers a wealth of conveniences. There are more golf courses on Oahu than any other island, with over forty public and private courses and resorts. You could find yourself in rainforest, desert, or at the edge of a cliff looking out across the great Pacific ocean. Some courses are distinctively island-style, while others make one mindful of golf in the United Kingdom. When you’re not golfing, there’s always so much to do, from relaxing strolls to skydiving, that you may be tempted to make Oahu itself the only island in your itinerary, but don’t. Be sure to taste Maui, Kauai or the Big Island as well. Until you’ve visited them all, you really haven’t seen all of Hawaii.

Protected from further development, Molokai has one simple, understated golf destination. The Ironwood Hills Golf Course has no carts, no tee times, and no clubhouse. Just you, the course and a chance play the game in paradise. The courses at the neighboring Lanai, close enough that Molokai can be seen from the cliffs and shores, enjoys at least 6 championship courses, three of them inland. Jack Nicklaus’ masterful The Challenge at Manele course is found on the cliffs overlooking Hulopoe Bay. Meandering over lava, ravines and kiawe, as well as trees and other natural obstacles, this is one of his most famous and picturesque designs. Meanwhile, The Experience at Koele by Greg Norman and Ted Robinson is not to be missed. Designed so that every hole has a staggering view, this 18-hole championship course is unique in the world; reason enough to visit the Islands all by itself.

Maui forms the third leg of the triangle between Molokai and Lanai. The secret has been out about Maui for a couple decades now, but it remains an awesome delightful wonderland. Sporting seven coastal championship courses and a total of at least 15, there may be no place more breathtaking and surreal than Maui for golfing. The backdrops are each postcard-perfect, richly green turf meeting nearby deep blue ocean horizons, the oranges and yellows of the sun and clear skies over the Pacific casting a glow on it all. Paradise is found on Maui, and life is never lived as fully as when playing on such awe-inspiring courses.

Finally we come to Hawaii, the Big Island. The youngest of the chain, her calm volcanic flow continues to expand the shores from time to time. There are over 20 courses now (and more being developed all the time, it seems,) most of them on the western Dry side of the island, near the airport and Kailua-Kona. One can still enjoy the game on the Wet side at places like the Naniloa Country Club in Hilo and the Hilo Municipal, for example. Or set out on the King’s Golf Trail. Once again, this one island could easily make up an entire golf vacation destination.