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.
Kailua Kona, 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.
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.
Kailua Kona, HI
Kailua Kona, HI
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.
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