PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club



Best in State

The best golf courses in Hawaii

The truth is, there are no bad golf courses in Hawaii. If you have the opportunity to tee it up in the Aloha State, life is good. So when it comes to our ranking of the Best Golf Courses in Hawaii, it's just a matter of separating the best from the other good ones. That's what our latest list below does—taking thousands of evaluations from our 1,900 course-ranking panelists to determine our latest ranking, which we've been publishing since 1977.

We urge you to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography, drone footage and reviews from our course panelists. Plus, you can now leave your own ratings on the courses you’ve played … to make your case why your favorite should be ranked higher. 

1. (1) Nanea Golf Club
Private
1. (1) Nanea Golf Club
Kailua Kona, HI
4.7
62 Panelists
In the early 1960s, Robert Trent Jones built the first course on Hawaii’s Big Island for a very wealthy owner (Laurance Rockefeller), grinding up the site’s volcanic rock to use as “sand” on which to grow grass. 40 years later and just 22 miles away, architect David McLay Kidd also built a course on volcanic rock for very wealthy owners (Charles Schwab and George Roberts), but rather than transform the lava topography, he routed his holes among the black outcroppings and through the site’s meadows of native grasses. Located on a high, exposed plateau beneath Mt. Hualalai, the holes ramble and roll into topsy-turvy greens, each with a sterling view of the Pacific Ocean three and half miles in the distance.
View Course
2. (2) Manele Golf Course
Public
2. (2) Manele Golf Course
Lanai, HI

Manele, previously called The Challenge at Manele, unseated Kapalua’s Plantation course as the highest-ranked public course in Hawaii several years ago. Now the course, located on the southern coast of Lanai, has the votes to make it eligible for the 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest ranking as well, buoyed by an Aesthetics score that regularly ranks among the top 30 in the U.S. The Nicklaus design is worthy of high praise. It has three ocean-cove holes, including the par-3 12th and dogleg-right par-4 17th. You might argue Manele has been perpetually underranked, starting with its finish on Golf Digest’s ranking of Best New Resort Courses in 1994, well behind World Woods’ Pine Barrens course (now known as Cabot Barrens at Cabot Citrus Farms). It’s hard to argue it’s under ranked now.

View Course
3. (3) Kapalua: Plantation
Public
3. (3) Kapalua: Plantation
Lahaina, HI

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:
 

Most golf fans are familiar with Kapalua Golf Club’s Plantation Course, home of the PGA Tour's opening event each year. Located on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui, the Plantation was built from open, windswept pineapple fields on the pronounced slope of a volcano and is irrigated by sprinklers pressured solely by gravity.

As the first design collaboration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, it unveiled their joint admiration for old-style courses. The blind drive on the fourth, the cut-the-corner drives on the fifth and sixth are all based on tee shots found at National Golf Links. So, too, are its punchbowl green and strings of diagonal bunkers.

It's also a massive course, built on a huge scale, Coore says, to accommodate the wind and the slope and the fact that it gets mostly resort play.

So it's a big course. But what sets it apart in my mind are the little things. When I played the course years ago with Coore, it took only one hole for me to appreciate one of its subtleties. We were on the tee of the par-3 second, an OK hole but nothing riveting, nothing like the canyon-carry par-3 eighth or the ocean-backdropped par-3 11th. The second sits on a rare flat portion of the property. The green sits at a diagonal, angling left to right, and there's a string of bunkers staggering up the right side of the green. The first bunker appears to be directly in front of the green but is actually 40 yards short of it. When pointed out to me, I called it Gingerbread. Bill disagreed.
 

Explore our complete review here—including bonus photography and ratings from our expert panelists.

View Course
4. (4) Kukio Golf Club
Private
4. (4) Kukio Golf Club
Kailua Kona, HI
4.3
35 Panelists
Kukio Makai Regulation in Kailua-Kona is one of the best courses in Hawaii. Discover our experts reviews and where Kukio Makai Regulation ranks in our rankings
View Course
5. (5) Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Golf Course
The immediate thrill at Mauna Kea is its iconic par-3 third, a daunting tee shot over an ocean cove that’s a great substitute for those unable to gain an invitation to tackle the 16th at Cypress Point. The remaining holes at Mauna Kea are thrilling, too, with constant views of the ocean, awkward lies on sloping fairways and roughs of crunchy lava rock. A decade ago, Rees Jones updated his father’s original work by relocating and redesigning all the bunkers. They now add to Mauna Kea’s beauty.
View Course
6. (6) The Club At Hokulia
Private
6. (6) The Club At Hokulia
Kealakekua, HI
4.3
48 Panelists
The Club At Hokulia in Kealakekua is one of the best courses in Hawaii. Discover our experts reviews and where The Club At Hokulia ranks in our rankings
View Course
7. (7) Kohanaiki Golf & Ocean Club
Private
7. (7) Kohanaiki Golf & Ocean Club
Kailua Kona, HI
4.2
49 Panelists
Though architecturally it might rank behind its neighbors on the Big Island, Nanea and Kuki’o, the experience at Kohanaiki is up there with any other in Hawaii. Built on a 450-acre site with opulent homes selling for as much as $30 million and as little as $3 million, this Rees Jones design features a thrilling stretch along the ocean from Nos. 12 to 16. Fairways are firm and fast and typically offer playable routes off the tee for a range of players, though challenging, fast greens with significant slopes offer a strategic test for the better player. Kohanaiki scores highly in the Fun category, and though comfort stations are not a part of our course rankings, having one of them after each nine—plus an on-site brewery, a wine-tasting room plus personal wine lockers for members and a whiskey room—makes this a top-notch experience for guests and members.
View Course
8. (9) Makai Golf Club
Public
8. (9) Makai Golf Club
Princeville, HI
The first solo design of Robert Trent Jones Jr., Princeville Makai is situated on bluffs overlooking Kauai's Hanalei Bay and pipeline surf. Two of its three nines (the Lake and Ocean 9s) were re-grassed and re-bunkered in 2009 by Jones and partner Bruce Charlton, who also re-established the width of several holes. The untouched Woods 9, now considered the resort's walking course, provides a graphic reminder of how golf has changed in five decades.
View Course
9. (8) The Club at Kukui'ula
Private
9. (8) The Club at Kukui'ula
Koloa, HI
4.1
27 Panelists
Situated on the southern coast of Kauai, The Club at Kukui’ula is a Tom Weiskopf design built on a former sugar cane plantation. Though the Pacific Ocean doesn’t come into play, it is visible from nearly every hole. The fairways are generally wide, but massive white-sand bunkers line many holes.
View Course
10. (10) Hualalai Resort
Private
10. (10) Hualalai Resort
Kailua Kona, HI
3.9
80 Panelists
Open to club members and guests of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, the Hualalai course is one of two layouts at the resort, along with the private Ke’olu course. A past member of our 100 Greatest Public ranking, the Hualalai course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and annually hosts the first event of the season on the PGA Tour Champions. The par-72 plays along the shore and over rugged, charcoal-black lavascape, which along with the ocean vistas enhance the course’s aesthetics.
View Course
11. (11) Poipu Bay Golf Course
4.1
80 Panelists
Situated on the south shore of Kauai, Poipu Bay is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994 to 2006. Formerly a member of our 100 Greatest Public ranking, the course plays over 210 oceanfront acres and features wide fairways and large greens, making this a playable layout. There are numerous historical sites on the course, including several ancient Hawaiian heiau—places of worship—and centuries-old handmade stone walls.
View Course
12. (13) Wailea Golf Club: Gold
4.1
111 Panelists
Our highest-ranked course of the three at the Wailea Golf Club, the Gold course is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design on Maui’s southwest coast. The layout has plenty of elevation changes and ocean views, especially on the front nine, which several of our course-ranking panelists have noted is the better of the two sides. The most demanding course of the three at Wailea from tee to green, the Gold has well-placed fairway bunkers and a few forced carries over deep ravines. Though with five sets of tees, there’s a playable option for every handicap. In the early 2000s, the course hosted the Champions Skins Game, an exhibition with some of the best players from the over-50 circuit.
View Course
13. (NR) Ocean Course at Hokuala
3.8
71 Panelists
The Ocean Course at Hokuala is highlighted by the oceanfront holes on the back nine, which offer tremendous views of the Pacific and nearby mountains. Nos. 14-16 on this Jack Nicklaus design present some dramatic—and challenging—shots along the ocean. The short par-4 16th can be reachable for longer hitters, but the narrow opening to the small green is closely guarded by the Pacific, creating a risk-reward opportunity. A word of advice from Nicklaus, who told Hokuala, “The smart play is usually to hit a hybrid or 3-iron, leaving you a little wedge down to the green.”
View Course
14. (15) The King Kamehameha Golf Club
3.9
67 Panelists
Ted Robinson Sr.'s son received a call from Japanese businessman Makoto Kaneko to come revamp his father's design at King Kamehameha when Kaneko acquired the property in 2004. Though inland, the course features wonderful vistas of the ocean and the Haleakala volcano, particularly from the magnificient 74,000-square foot Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse, which sits 750 feet above elevation.
View Course
15. (NR) Wailea Golf Club: Emerald
3.9
65 Panelists
The Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Emerald course at Wailea Golf Club is more forgiving than the Gold—also designed by RTJ—but has the same dramatic elevation changes and scenic ocean vistas as its sibling. Starting with the par-4 opener, there are plenty of downhill tee shots that play to relatively generous landing areas with the Pacific in the background. The views, playability and quality conditioning making the Emerald course an enjoyable track on Maui’s southwest coast.
View Course
16. (NR) Mauna Lani Resort: North
3.7
52 Panelists
Situated on the Big Island’s northwest coast, Mauna Lani’s North course is one of two layouts at the resort. The North plays over a lava bed, with charcoal-black rocks framing many of the holes, giving the course a distinct feel that at times resembles a desert-style design. Though the course is predominantly routed through a housing community, there are a few scenic views of the nearby Pacific Ocean. The par-3 17th sits in a natural lava amphitheater and is one of the more unique holes on property, with towering piles of rocks surrounding the green.
View Course
17. (NR) Kapalua: Bay
Public
17. (NR) Kapalua: Bay
Lahaina, HI
3.6
78 Panelists
Often overshadowed by its sibling Plantation course (annual host of the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions), Kapalua’s Bay course holds its own, having hosted PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events, as well as the 1998 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. The Arnold Palmer design treats golfers to stunning views, including at the signature par-3 17th, which plays directly over the ocean.
View Course
18. (NR) Turtle Bay Resort: Palmer Course
3.8
50 Panelists
Though Turtle Bay Resort hugs the northern coastline of Oahu, the Pacific Ocean is only visible from the 17th hole on the Palmer course. The former 100 Greatest Public course has two distinct nines, with a forgiving front nine and a tighter, more demanding back side. Unlike many dramatically undulated Hawaiian layouts, the Palmer course is quite flat, with water in play on 14 holes. The Arnold Palmer design opened in 1992, but the property has quite an interesting history: It was used by the U.S. Army during World War II, with Nos. 15-18 serving as a landing strip and Nos. 5, 6 and 13 housing military personnel. The course hosted a PGA Tour Champions event in the mid 2000s, with Hale Irwin, Fred Funk and Jerry Pate all winning at Turtle Bay.
View Course
19. (NR) Hapuna Golf Course
Public
19. (NR) Hapuna Golf Course
Kamuela, HI
3.7
36 Panelists

Adjacent to Mauna Kea Golf Course, the Arnold Palmer-designed Hapuna Golf Course opened in 1992 and features dramatic elevation changes. As many holes play on an exposed hillside overlooking the Pacific, strong winds are often present and make the course play quite difficult. There is a blend of downhill and uphill holes, with the downhill holes offering fantastic ocean views.

View Course
20. (NR) Mauna Lani Resort: South
4.1
62 Panelists
Situated on the Big Island’s northwest coast, Mauna Lani’s South course is one of two layouts at the resort. Host of the Champions Skins Game—a former exhibition with top over-50 circuit players—in the 1990s, the South course plays among lava outcroppings with views of the Pacific. The course features two scenic par 3s, including the 15th, which plays over the Pacific to a green set hard against the ocean.
View Course

• • •

Explore Golf Digest's recently relaunched Places to Play community, where you can add star ratings and reviews for all the courses you play. We've collected tens of thousands of reviews from our course-ranking panelists to deliver a premium experience, which includes experts' opinions, bonus course photography and videos, plus much more. Check it out here!