The Mauna Lani resort on the big island of Hawaii was developed by a partnership between the original landowner, Francis Hyde I’i Brown, and Noboru Goto, Chairman of Tokyu Corporation of Japan. The two men soon discovered that they shared a common love for the sport of golf and a passion for the environment that later lay the foundation of their vision for the resort. The Mauna Lani Resort (“Mountain Reaching Heaven)” rests on ancient land, known through the centuries as Kalahuipua’a. It was a place where Kings would come for recreation and elders would gather for worship. It was, and is, a special hallowed place with ancient royal fishponds preserved on the grounds.
The resort rest on approximately 3,200 acres with two world class hotels the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and the Fairmont Orchid Hotel; two 18-hole championship golf courses, one 9 hole golf course, a shopping center with luxury stores and restaurants, and numerous residential and condominium developments dotted throughout the resort.
North Course at Mauna Lani Resort
Mauna Lani’s North Course represents the quintessential Hawaii golf experience. Built on a lava bed, the North Course is characterized by rolling terrain punctuated by Kiawe forests. Number 17 is the North’s signature hole, a par 3 measuring 140 yards which requires a tee shot from an elevated tee to a green that is framed by an astounding natural lava amphitheater, a photo opportunity you don’t want to miss!
A 230-acre protected archaeological district lies on the northern boundary of the golf course. Another interesting feature would be that herds of feral goats also like to frequent the entire golf course, moving from hole to hole throughout the day.
There are as many as five different tee positions on most of the holes to give golfers a wide range of options in meeting the challenging conditions. With the groves of twisted kiawe trees along the fairway edges and a more pronounced topography the holes are quite contrasting to the South Course. Water hazards also come into play on many holes, not to mention several holes that neighbor the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
South Course at Mauna Lani Resort
The South course is carved through the lava fields that are so prevalent on the Kona side of Hawaii’s Big Island with a couple of trips to the coastline highlighted by the signature 15th hole. The fairways throughout the course are generous in width which is a welcome feature considering shots that leave the fairway will either be praying for a lucky kick out of the lava rock or will find its way into a neighboring residence. Distances between greens and tees in certain spots makes walking the course an impractical option however the terrain is subtle enough that walking wouldn’t be very strenuous. The course is much more playable for the average golfer than Mauna Kea while still providing some ocean eye candy that every golfer in Hawaii wants to enjoy. The course conditions are quite good though the heavy amount of play keeps the course from being elite in that category. The highlight of the course is the quality of one-shotters found throughout the property with two routed on the ocean and another playing over water towards the Pacific.
Signature Hole: 15th – 196 Yard Par 3 – This is simply one of the most beautiful par threes in the world. The beautiful blue ocean water with lava rock outcroppings in the foreground of the striking peninsula green with a lava rock support wall along with a scattering of palm trees is truly a spectacular sight. Golfers are given a sneak preview as they come down the 13th fairway but are then taken away from the hole and ocean all together when they play the 14th. The 15th hole is featured all over Mauna Lani’s marketing and when advertising golf in the state of Hawaii due to just how impressive it is. This hole alone is virtually worth the green fee.
Conclusion for South course : Mauna Lani has been among Kona’s finest public courses since its opening day and with good reason. The course is very playable, scenic, and convenient to the resort heavy northwestern coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Like Pebble Beach, several of the inland holes aren’t that impressive however the coastal holes are some of the finest in the islands. While Mauna Kea remains the king of public courses in Kona, Mauna Lani’s South course is certainly in the top 5 of that category.