Light ocean breezes, towering green mountains, and sprawling acres of rain-fed green; there isn’t a golfing destination on earth quite like Kauai. Unlike nearby Oahu and even Maui, which are also world-renowned for excellent golf courses, Kauai tends to accommodate the type of laid-back crowds who have traveled to the quiet island for a more relaxing vacation. Although there aren’t as many courses to choose from, the island makes up for it with a few quality spots with backgrounds of lush mountains and endless ocean views to enjoy.
The Ocean Course at Hokuala
An official Signature Golf Course of renowned professional golfer Jack Nicklaus (the only one on the island, in fact), the Ocean Course at Hokuala comes with a professional Teaching Center that gives golfers access to PGA instructors and the latest golfing technology. The course itself has earned its fair share of awards, including “North America’s Best Golf Course” and “Hawaii's Best Golf Course” by the World Golf Awards as well as one of the “Best Golf Courses You Can Play in Hawaii” by Golf Magazine. For those who have spent time golfing on the island in the past and are familiar with the scene, this Lihue course used to be known as “Kauai Lagoons” before it fell into the hands of new management.
Princeville Makai Golf Club
After a 6 million dollar renovation by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 2010, this spot quickly turned into one of the most sought-after golf courses in the state. The 7,200-yard Princeville Makai Golf Club on Kauai’s north coast overlooks the beautiful and historic Hanalei Bay. Located on the lush, north side of the island, the added combination of lakes, woods, and ocean bluffs makes this course perfect for nature-loving golfers.
Poipu Bay Golf Course
Right next to the popular Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, this course is situated along a dramatic 150-foot sea cliff. The Poipu Bay Golf Course’s claim to fame is hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994-2006 (with Tiger Woods winning an impressive seven times). Also designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course is built on some of the windiest parts of the island, making several areas a bit more challenging; great for advanced golfers looking to perfect their craft.
Kiahuna Golf Club
Conveniently located near the busy resort area of Poipu, the Kiahuna Golf Club is known for its incorporation of Hawaiian archeology and culture with stunning vistas. The course’s architect, Robert Trent Jones Jr., included the remnants of an ancient Hawaiian village in his design. Get a feel for the unique Polynesian historical elements as well as native Hawaiian wildlife such as the Nene goose, the Hawaii state bird, while enjoying a round in paradise.
Wailua Golf Course
You would never know that Wailua Golf was a municipal course just by looking at it. The beautiful seaside course featuring groves of coconut trees has hosted three USGA National Amateur Public Links Championships over its long history. It was originally laid out in the 1920s as a six-hole course, but has since been redesigned as an 18-hole course.
Kukuiʻula Golf Course
Designed by Tom Weiskopf, this challenging, private oceanfront golf course stretches 216 acres with 18 holes. Golf Digest has called it “One of the Best Courses in Hawaii,” with a 14th hole that most golfers consider a highlight of the state’s golfing scene. Even better, the Poipu location is a regular sighting spot for spinner dolphins and Humpback Whales during the winter months.
Puakea Golf Course
This Lihue course originally opened in 1997 as a 10-hole course after damage from a hurricane halted construction. In 2000, AOL founder Steve Case hired the original architect Robin Nelson to complete the remaining 8 holes before reopening the course in 2003. Golfers love this location because it offers majestic, jungle views for a majority of the course and sweeping ocean views for the rest.
Kukuiolono Park & Golf Course
A true hidden gem, Kukuiolono Park is a nine-hole course on a hillside in Kalaheo. The location used to be the site of an ancient Hawaiian heiau, but currently holds a Japanese garden, a meditation pavilion, a Eucalyptus forest, and a collection of lava rock artifacts. The mountain and ocean views paired with inexpensive green fees makes this course a favorite among the locals.