Welcome to the world of Big Island golf courses!
Big Island is the golfing capital of Hawaii, and for good reason. Boasting spectacular courses on every resort from Kohala Coast to Kona, there truly is something for everyone here. Miles of manicured lawns and state-of-the-art technology make this an unforgettable experience for any golfer.
My boyfriend and I are novice golfers at best, but that didn’t stop us from testing our luck on the Big Island’s resorts when we took a trip with some friends who play golf professionally. We had an amazing time trying out all the different courses from Kohala Coast to Kona, each one offering something unique in terms of layout and challenge.
After rounds of putting, driving, and enjoying the scenic views, I wanted to share what I learned. The goal here is to save you time and help you make a well-informed decision when planning your own Big Island golf outing. So, I’m sharing my findings on the top five courses on the island—each one offering something unique in terms of scenery, challenge levels, and amenities.
Get ready for an epic adventure filled with stunning views and lots (and lots) of swinging!
Mauna Lani Resort Golf Club
This resort golf club is in the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and comprises two golfing opportunities on the North Course and South Course, both having 18-holes. The courses are gorgeous, with putting greens and black lava rock surrounding them.
You’ll want to try the North Courses for their pristine tee boxes, lush carpet-like fairways, and speedy greens. In addition, the courses are on dry land, with no ocean exposure, so players of all levels can enjoy them.
The North Course’s signature hole is the 17th, a par 3 called the Amphitheater. This is a short hole with a series of tee box options that progressively elevate one after the other and lead to a large green in a lava bowl.
The South Course is more well-known since the Senior Skins Games were held here, and they have some terrific holes with ocean views. We got to play both courses on different occasions and enjoyed the experience.
Make sure to stop by Mauna Lani Resort Golf Club for a casual or competitive round since it’s one of the best Big Island golf courses.
- You’ll have to bring your own clubs to play or rent some from the reception.
- There’s a terrific restaurant called The Galley in the resort with views of the golf course.
- They have a pro shop on the ground with great items for your golf kit.
Mauna Kea Golf Course
Pro golfers will love the Mauna Kea Golf Course, considered Hawaii’s toughest course. As an 18-hole course, it has sharp elevation changes, hybrid grasses for the tees and fairways, and a vast expanse of the Pacific in between shots.
The signature par 3 third holes at Mauna Kea Golf Course measure 272 yards and cross over the ocean strip. Famous golfers have played their first shots at this course, and it’s one of the most photographed golf courses.
The course has undergone redesigns over the years, and the current one by Rees Jones has added 300 yards to the original structure, making it more challenging.
Players can choose easier tees to play at or try their hand at more difficult ones but bear in mind that the wind coming from the ocean can mess up your shots.
Our group enjoyed playing here, and even if you’re not a pro, it’s worth a visit as one of the best Big Island golf courses.
- There are GPS-tracked carts on the course.
- The Number 3 Restaurant nearby is great for drinks and a meal after your game.
- The pro shop personnel are friendly and assist you well.
Hapuna Golf Course
Also part of the Mauna Kea Resort, the Hapuna Golf Course is less famous than its counterpart but just as terrific for golfing. The course is nearly 700 ft. above sea level, surrounded by dramatic landscapes. Designed by Arnold Palmer, this 18-hole golf course is just as scenic as the Mauna Kea.
This course is famous among Big Island locals and tourists for its well-maintained tees and fast greens. In addition, we enjoyed the course’s unique landscape, where a somewhat short par 5 has a drastic rise in elevation, and par 4 has you driving from the top of a ridge.
An unusual aspect of the Hapuna Golf Course was the herd of wild goats and kids on the elevated hills, which you needed to chase off the tee before playing your shot. However, they weren’t too intrusive and added a nice natural touch to the area.
Players of all levels will enjoy a swing here, plus it’s cheaper than other famous courses and one of the best Big Island golf courses.
- The pro shop staff is friendly and assists novices in shots.
- The first 9 holes play uphill, and the back 9 play downhill.
- Due to its elevation, the course offers terrific views of the Pacific Ocean.
Waikoloa King’s Course
Another of the famous Kohala Coast resorts, the Waikoloa King’s golf course, offers a par-72 course designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. The 7100-yard layout of this course offers a terrific challenge for pros, and regular players as well.
The course is surrounded by lava rock, has clear views of the ocean, and some of the best-kept grounds you’ll see on a golf course. After being made the King’s Nine, it’s more enjoyable because there are three nine-hole golf courses that can be played by themselves or in multiple combinations.
We liked the challenge offered by this course, with easy, short holes immediately followed by difficult ones that test your skill. Our group played King’s Lake 18 and appreciated the course’s fast greens, narrow fairways, and numerous small ponds between shots.
This course was a perfect mix of rewarding and difficult tees and is rightfully considered one of the best Big Island golf courses.
- The course has a great facility where you can practice your swings for $15 an hour.
- After your game, have a meal at the nearby Chef Allen’s.
- The Bay Club sells discounted vouchers for golf if you’re a resort resident.
Hualalai Golf Course
The signature Nicklaus course at Hualalai takes golf course maintenance and presentation to a new level, with a par-72 design, lavascapes, and gorgeous ocean views. However, this course is only open to resort guests and public guests of the Four Seasons Hotel.
They have good golf carts to get around, but we recommend walking as the course winds through lava formations, with expansive fairways, and good-sized greens, generally well protected by sand traps.
Their signature hole is par 3 #17, nestled right along the coast with waves crashing into lava near the green. Another great hole is par 3 on the back 9, featuring a sand trap in the middle of the green.
The final hole brings you back to the clubhouse, where you’ll have a small gallery overlooking your approach shot into the green, from the Hualalai Grill above. A cold towel and cookies await you on return.
We loved the attention to detail, and first-class treatment at the Hualalai Golf Course, undoubtedly one of the best Big Island golf courses.
- Their golf shop has nice items for sale at reasonable prices.
- Scratch golfers will enjoy the championship tees, stretching at 7100 yards.
- This golf course hosts a PGA Tour Champions event each year.
Kona Country Club
Designed by William Bell in 1966, this course is situated along the Pacific Ocean with stunning mountain views. Kona Country Club offers an 18-hole course with breathtaking Kona coastline views and trails of ancient lava flow.
This course is an excellent spot for beginners and professionals to test their skills, and all the members of our group thoroughly enjoyed it. Their signature holes are #3 and #12, and hole #13 gives a dramatic splash from the blowhole in its path.
The course isn’t easy, as there are challenging long par 4s, rolling hills, and some balls landing directly in the ocean. But the views and incredible treatment from the staff make golfing here an enjoyable experience.
Kona Country Club is a terrific spot to test your golfing ability, as theirs is one of the best Big Island golf courses.
- During November through March, you can spot humpback whales here.
- Golfing here is cheaper than in other high-end resorts.
- Kona Country Club was nominated as one of the top 100 courses by Golf Digest.
Winding Up: The Best Big Island Golf Courses
Hawaii’s Big Island is every golfer’s dream destination for its premier golf courses in world-class resorts. These courses were designed by industry-famous names like Rees Jones, Palmer, Weiskopf, and Nicklaus, among others, so you can expect challenging tees.
Despite their fame, each course has tees centered on beginners, and the plays here really improve your skill.
Are you looking for Big Island’s best golf course? Head to the Mauna Kea Golf Course.
Want to play in a well-maintained course for lower prices? Visit the Hapuna Golf Course and Kona Country Club.
Need a challenge on every hole? Then, don’t miss the Waikoloa King’s Course.
The best Big Island golf courses are one of a kind!
Last Updated on February 12, 2023 by Brigitte