There isn’t a golfing location on the planet quite like Kauai, with its light ocean breezes, towering green mountains, and sweeping acres of rain-fed green. Unlike adjacent Oahu and even Maui, which are both known for their outstanding golf courses, Kauai caters to the laid-back masses who come to the peaceful island for a more restful holiday. Although there aren’t as many courses to pick from, the island compensates by offering a few high-quality sites with gorgeous mountain backdrops and limitless ocean views.
1. The Ocean Course at Hokuala
The Ocean Course at Hokuala is an official Flagship Golf Course of famous professional golfer Jack Nicklaus (the only one on the island), and it features a professional Teaching Center with PGA instructors and the newest golfing technology. The course has received numerous accolades, including World Golf Awards’ “North America’s Best Golf Course” and “Hawaii’s Best Golf Course,” as well as Golf Magazine’s “Best Golf Courses You Can Play in Hawaii.” This Lihue course used to be known as “Kauai Lagoons” until it fell into the hands of new management, for those who have spent time golfing on the island in the past and are familiar with the surroundings.
2. Princeville Makai Golf Club
Following a $6 million renovation by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 2010, this course rapidly became one of the most popular in the state. On Kauai’s north shore, the 7,200-yard Princeville Makai Golf Club overlooks the gorgeous and historic Hanalei Bay. The addition of lakes, woodlands, and ocean bluffs on the verdant north side of the island makes this course ideal for nature-loving golfers.
3. Poipu Bay Golf Course
This route runs alongside a stunning 150-foot sea cliff, right near the popular Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. The PGA Grand Slam of Golf was held at the Poipu Bay Golf Course from 1994 to 2006. (with Tiger Woods winning an impressive seven times). The course, which was also designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., is situated on some of the island’s windiest terrain, making certain spots more difficult; ideal for advanced players wishing to hone their skills.
4. Kiahuna Golf Club
The Kiahuna Golf Club is noted for incorporating Hawaiian archeology and culture with breathtaking vistas and is ideally located near the busy tourist district of Poipu. Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course’s architect, incorporated relics of a historic Hawaiian hamlet into his design. While enjoying a round in paradise, get a sense of the distinct Polynesian historical features as well as local Hawaiian animals like the Nene geese, Hawaii’s official bird.
5. Wailua Golf Course
Just looking at Wailua Golf, you’d never guess it was a municipal course. Throughout its lengthy existence, the lovely beachfront course with coconut groves has hosted three USGA National Amateur Public Links Championships. The course was initially created as a six-hole course in the 1920s, but it has subsequently been redesigned as an 18-hole course.
6. Kukuiʻula Golf Course
This tough, private coastal golf course, designed by Tom Weiskopf, spans 216 acres and features 18 holes. With a 14th hole that most players consider a highlight of the state’s golfing scene, Golf Digest has named it “One of the Best Courses in Hawaii.” Even better, during the winter months, the Poipu site is a frequent-seeing spot for spinner dolphins and humpback whales.
7. Puakea Golf Course
After development was halted due to storm damage, this Lihue course reopened in 1997 as a 10-hole course. Before reopening the course in 2003, AOL entrepreneur Steve Case engaged original architect Robin Nelson to finish the remaining 8 holes in 2000. Golfers enjoy this area because it has sweeping ocean vistas for the majority of the course and gorgeous rainforest views for the rest.
8. Kukuiolono Park & Golf Course
Kukuiolono Park, a nine-hole course on a mountainside in Kalaheo, is a truly true treasure. The site of an ancient Hawaiian heiau is now home to a Japanese garden, a meditation pavilion, a Eucalyptus forest, and a collection of lava rock artifacts, as well as a Japanese garden, a meditation pavilion, and a Eucalyptus forest. This course is a local favorite because of the mountain and coastal views, as well as the low green fees.