The Waikoloa Beach Resort was one of our favorite golf resort vacations. For those of us who cut our eye-teeth playing golf courses amongst the boreal forest of Canada or the cactus strewn golf courses in the Sonoran desert, a golf experience on the islands of Hawaii will come as an out-of-life experience.
Most golfers are familiar with the golf courses on the islands of Oahu and Maui, having watched the PGA and LPGA tours kicking off the season on these islands. Yet to me, the more sophisticated golf courses are on the Big Island of Hawaii. Actually, Hawaii’s Big Island is known as the “golfing capital of Hawaii”. If you follow the Kona trade winds northward, you would first run into the Kona Country Club (two courses) in Kailua-Kona. Hualalai Golf Club comes next; where the Champions tour (seniors) play their opening rounds. Proceeding along the Kohala coast, there is the famous Maua Lani and Waikoloa complexes. At the northern tip of the island, you will find nestled there the Mauna Kea Resort and the Hapuna Golf Club.
Our travels out of Kailua-Kona have taken us to all of the above courses except Mauna Lani and Hapuna. We were particularly enthralled with the complex at Waikoloa golf courses, the Beach and the King.
Waikoloa Beach Golf Course
From the airport, drive just eighteen miles north on Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Hwy 19) and exit left onto Waikoloa Beach Drive. This is the artery to the huge complex serving the shopping centers, various hotel/villa complexes and the two golf courses. The two golf courses are the Waikoloa Beach and the King. We did not play the King course, so our discussion will focus on the Beach course.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the course plays to a modest 6,566 yards from the Championship tees, 5,958 from the Resort, and 5,094 from the Forward tees. The course is obviously designed to cater to the tourists as opposed to host professional tour events. The entire front nine is inside the U-shaped Waikoloa Beach Drive that enters and exits Highway 19. Most of the back nine is outside this crescent road, or the beach side.
As you step onto the first tee, the first thing you will notice (actually as you stepped off the airplane) is the warm, flagrant scent wafting in the gentle trade winds. We found out that this particular flower scent is the Puakenikeni flower. This is a typical Hawaiian aroma that you will not experience on the North American continent.
Without getting into specific hole numbers, as I believe the numbering sequence has changed over the years, suffice it to say that a walk through the Waikoloa Beach golf course is a walk made in heaven. The aforementioned flower scent in the air, the lush green grass of the crushed lava soil, the swaying cocoanut trees, piles of black lava rocks along the route, the warm, gentle trade winds from Kailua-Kona, make this golf walk an unforgettable experience. Even in the inner part of the golf course, you will find water holes that must be carried, or holes that wends its way along a pond in one direction and then back down the other side of the same pond.
The crowning glory of the entire round, however, will be the beach front hole that parallels the Pacific Ocean. This is a mesmerizing walk along the black lava rocks that separate the fairway from the ocean. I would swear that you would want to stop your golfing right here and stay for the rest of the afternoon taking in the swaying cocoanut trees on the left, the black lava rock bordering the fairway and the swishing surf to your right. You would also swear that you can reach out and touch the ocean with your nine-iron, just by reaching out! There are other memorable holes as well; such as a forty-foot high lava rock bordering the right side of the fairway that extends and loops it way around to the back of the green. On certain holes, you can gaze and admire a petroglyph right in the middle of the fairway.
Accommodation and Shopping
For those who are spending an extended time at Waikoloa, you may want to find your accommodation right here at the Waikoloa Beach Resort complex. At the south end of the golf courses, the Kings’ Shops and the Queens’ Market Place hold court to the needs of the golfers after their rounds. Nearby accommodation includes the Waikoloa Beach Hotel and Resort, as well as Kona Beach Hotel, Kona Island Inn and several other hotels/villas nearby. The Queens’ Market Place as well as the Kings’ Shops offers stores such as Tommy Bahamas, Rolex and Blue Ginger. For dining, both of these places have restaurants as well as food courts. My favorite was the Sansei Seafood, Steak and sushi bar at the Queens’ Market Place. The golf course restaurants include Buzz’s Sand Trap (sashimi, calamari strips) and the Kings’ Grill, for those needing the traditional Hawaiian casual yet elegant dining.
While you were travelling north along the highway, you will have noticed the mountains of lava all along the route. It will remind you how these Hawaiian islands were built; and also remind you of the power and grandeur of Mother Nature. It should be a sobering reminder how insignificant mankind’s attempt to alter nature really is. Part of your current trip to Waikoloa should include a trip to the currently active Kilauea Volcano. You can walk to the place where the lava meets the ocean in a steaming and roiling protest to the sudden and cool reception. The solid lava on the shore is still too hot to walk on, believe me!
The Waikoloa Beach Resort was a wonderful vacation destination. Having taken in this violent and majestic, towering display of fire and smoke, and having walked and smelled the prevailing, fragrant scent of the Hawaiian air and to top it off with a resounding round(s) of golf, you will conclude that this was, indeed, golfing in paradise.
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