Unlike the 1968 TV series, no criminals would be apprehended on this trip to Hawaii. The state would be the same, but our crew was looking to play 5.0 of the best public golf courses that the island of Kauai has to offer. Known as the garden island, Kauai has a much different vibe than the other Hawaiian islands. Friendly, chill, or laid back would be words that could describe the next 5 days. We would golf those 5.0 courses and enjoy every single one of them.
We kicked the journey of with a bang at the renowned Makai Course at Princeville. Rated as one of the country’s best public golf courses, the views and serenity of the golf course are some of the best that I have encountered. With 4 greens on the ocean, the course ebbs and flows nicely between seaside and inland holes.
The Makai course is so stunning that it even has an appeal to non-golfers as well. Every evening the staff leads a Sunset Cart Tour for those looking to explore the golf course. You will be treated to beverages, tales of Puff The Magic Dragon, and views for days. As one might expect, the sunset cart tour also features a stunning sunset.
Opening for play in 1971, the Makai Course at Princeville was Robert Trent Jones Jr’s’ first ever solo design and has since undergone an extensive renovation that was completed in 2010. The design successfully launched a storied career for Mr Trent Jones Jr.. I did some research and the odds of a first time architect being handed such an amazing oceanfront property for their first solo effort in 2019 is 5 billion to 1.
Our group had the pleasure of playing with the Sales Manager at Princeville Makai, Lindsay Waller. Lindsay is new to the game of golf and is on a personal mission to break 100. We figured that our visit was just the catalyst that she needed to reach her goal. We went live on Instagram to document the progress. Unfortunately, Lindsay’s A game would not show up and she shot a 108. Probably just the pressure of playing with an A list celebrity. If you are looking to book a group be sure to get in touch with Waller, she can tell you all about the 10 she made on hole #2 as she sets you up with first class accommodations.
The Resort at Princeville is also an amazing place to stay. Well, only if you like waking up and looking out your window to rainbow views. I seriously woke up, saw this, and took a picture as I stretched my arms to prepare for another busy day of golfing hard.
The next day our group headed just down the street to the local municipal golf course for course 2.0. Now, not many muni courses in the United States can pack the ocean front views quite like Wailua. The course starts out right along the ocean on holes #1 and #2 and returns to the sea for the finish on hole #17. Although the course is worth playing just for the 17th hole alone, you will find challenging green sites and a lot of fun inland golf holes.
Wailua also loads up heavily on the municipal charm and I loved every bit of it. An old shop dog greeted us as we checked in and we warmed up by hitting balls off of mats in range stalls. The Par Aide ball washers oozed with an extra dose of muni goodness and the 160 yard tree signs had me squealing with golf joy. But the sign in the window of the pro shop had me super excited… BUSTED!
Wailua golf course is easily one of the best value courses that I have seen in a while. If you are a non resident, you can play Wailua for only $48 and the residents play for just $15! On the .gov website for Wailua you can find the course’s mission statement. That mission statement… “To provide a great golf experience.” Mission achieved.
Hot restaurant tip: The Bistro in Kilauea. Our group was slated for a special seven course meal. Due to the deliciousness of the cuisine, we were unable to control ourselves and only made it through 4/7 courses.
That evening after golf and dinner we loaded up into the golf bus and headed out to the Kilauea Lighthouse to watch the sunset. As far as sunsets and lighthouses go, Hawaii really shows off. I like to imagine that the little island out there is a tee box and the lighthouse is the flagstick. Probably a pretty good carry on that par 3. You hang glide over to the green after your tee shot.
Course number 3.0 on the Hawaiian agenda was another Robert Trent Jones Jr design called Poipu Bay Golf Course. From 1994-2006, the course hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The event was a 36 hole stroke play tournament between the winners of the previous year’s 4 majors. Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods won the event 7 times. 1997 was the only year that Woods would fail to win the event after qualifying. Ernie Els beat him by 3 shots.
They had alternates join the competition when Woods won multiple majors in that year. My favorite swap was In 1990 when Mike Ditka replaced Curtis Strange due to an illness. Strange out… Ditka in!
“Man it looks like Jurassic Park out here!” That statement is not only common but it is also surprisingly accurate when visiting the Na Pali Coast. Several of the scenes from the 1993 blockbuster film were shot here. If there is one thing outside of golf that I would recommend to a golfer visiting Kauai, it would be the Na Pali Coast.
Our group took a catamaran tour with Holo-Holo Charters. They offer a sunset tour of the coastline with drinks and a Mexican fare dinner on your way back. We explored sea caves, secluded beaches, and the impressive cliffs. It’s clear why they refer to the Na Pali coast as the jewel of Hawaii and the 8th wonder of the world.
I figured by now the internet would have grown tired of my unnecessary male modeling poses. However, the people of the digital world can’t get enough of it. It’s a constant struggle to weave through the offers from folks like Vogue, Elle, and Time, politely reminding them that I have retired from the world of professional male modeling. “No, Better Homes & Gardens, I won’t do a special spread for your ‘Antique Roses of Fall’ issue.” This male has no interest in giving up his male model amateur status for a second time.
The Hawaii golf party rolled onto course 4.0 at Puakea Golf Course. An unassuming start eventually whips its way deep into the jungle and we were having a jungle golf party before we knew what was going on. We golfed our balls with joy amongst the large volcanic cliffs, gaping ravines, and lush tropical surroundings.
Designed by Robert Nelson, the course was originally just nine holes built on top of an old sugar plantation. In 2003, the remaining holes were added to provide the golfer with a full 18 hole experience.
Puakea is also another serious island bargain. Ranging from $59-$85 for the visiting golfer, it’s another one of those courses that anyone can, and should, play.
For the final and 5.0 round of golf we were scheduled to take on Hokuala’s Ocean Course. This Jack Nicklaus signature design is nestled right around Timber’s Kaua’i Resort. The good news is that we were scheduled to stay at Timbers for the remainder of our trip. Trust me, you want to stay at Timbers Kaua’i. Although technically it is a resort, it felt more like we were staying at one of our rich friend’s condos on the ocean. The only difference is that I don’t have any rich friends that live on the ocean in Hawaii.
With all of the amenities that you could ever want, the only real struggle was deciding if you were going to swim in the multi level waterfall pool or go for the infinity option. I couldn’t decide so I did both.
The Ocean Course itself was one of my favorites on the trip. They were probably all my favorites, but the Ocean Course boasts some of the most dramatic ocean views. The course starts slowly, but when you reach the 13th hole, it’s all systems go. Ocean carries and straight up fun golf shots await you at every corner.
The 16th hole was probably my favorite of the bunch. It’s only about 300 yards from the back tees and is potentially drivable. The problem with the driver is that it must be struck exactly perfect to fit through that little gap. This predicament is a wildly fun one to consider and even a layup still leaves you with an exciting approach into the course’s most unique green.
As with all of my Hawaiian adventures, I like to end the trip with a little male modeling. This time I recruited some of my model friends for a quick little session at the Timber’s infinity pool. These fellas were a little camera shy, but you can tell that there is a great deal of potential lurking below the surface of that water.
I, on the other hand, was not shy at all and hammed it up hard for the camera. I would rank the photos below as some of the finest water action shots in my portfolio. Tom was nervous behind the lens, but captured the final photos from Hawaii with perfection.
BONUS FUN FACT: The background in the logo from Adam Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Productions, is actually the 15th hole at Hokuala’s Ocean Course.