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Jack Nicklaus' Challenge at Manele golf course in Hawaii: A challenge with a view

Bill BowmanBy Bill Bowman,
Challenge at Manele golf course - hole 9
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The Challenge at Manele, a Jack Nicklaus design, is brilliant from start to finish. (Courtesy of Joe West/joewestphoto.com)

LANAI CITY, Hawaii -- The 12th hole at The Challenge at Manele is as breathtaking a golf hole as there is anywhere. Sitting some 200 feet above the waves crashing into the cliffs below, this 202-yard, par 3 is a stunning and intimidating masterpiece.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The 7,039-yard, Jack Nicklaus-designed Challenge is brilliant from start to finish. And we do mean right from the start. You'll arrive by shuttle, and the staff is quick to greet players, grab their clubs and set them up for an adventure they won't soon forget.

"It's a very unique golf course in that you can see the ocean from just about everywhere," said Doug Stephenson, vice president of operations at Castle & Cooke Resort. "It's right on the water, and very few courses anywhere are you able to get these kinds of views."

The Challenge at Manele: The course

It's not just the views people rave about. The layout will test players with rising and falling fairways, elevated greens, doglegs and water hazards -- especially the Pacific Ocean.

Nicklaus gives players a great scoring chance right out of the gate with the 373-yard, par-4 first hole. It's a straightaway, with bunkers right off the tee as well as more bunkers guarding the right side of the green. Play left off the tee and with the approach shot and you will have an early birdie chance. Take advantage because after this hole, the challenges really begin.

How challenging? Try a 442-yard, dogleg left second hole with a bunker guarding the corner of the dogleg and ravines coming into play twice on the hole. Take an extra club hitting into this elevated green because coming up short is not an option. There is a false front on the green that will feed short shots back some 10-15 yards.

Another hole where players really have to focus on shots rather than the stunning view is the 462-yard, par-4 sixth. It's the toughest hole on the course and forces players to hit it left to avoid driving through the fairway, which slopes toward the ocean. The second shot will be into a green some 60 feet below the fairway. (Check out the ocean views before you move on as Maui and Kahoolawe will be visible. And on a clear day, you will even be able to see the Big Island of Hawaii.)

The 10th and 11th hole are both definite birdie chances with good tee shots and approaches, but the trouble is that it's about this time in the round that players start thinking about that famous 12th hole.


Make sure to keep focused, especially on the 11th, which is long at 589 yards but plays downhill to the ocean. After putting out, it's time look to your left and see what all the hoopla is all about.

That signature 12th hole.

Standing on a gorgeous tee box with the Pacific Ocean just to your left … and just in front of you, the 12th hole is 202 yards -- and it's all carry.

"Make sure to hit plenty of club to get it on the grass," Stephenson said. Short is not an option as it is 150-plus feet to the ocean below.

"It's just a very dramatic golf hole," Stephenson added. "You can see down the coastline and in the evening the sun sets right there … it's pretty special."

It's special enough that Bill Gates got married here in 1994 on the tee box.

The Challenge at Manele: The verdict

The whole golf course is memorable, but there's one more hole where the ocean can come into play (trust us, you don't want it to come into play). The par-4 17th is a severe dogleg right measuring 444 yards. It's one of the toughest yet most scenic holes on the course. On the tee box the ocean again lashes out at the cliffs far below. Tee shots must carry the cliffs as well as stay left of the volcanic rocks that line the right side of the fairway. Approach shots must deal with a mound and bunker that guard the front of the green. This hole is a great test of skill from tee to green.

The Challenge at Manele's straightaway 432-yard, par-4 18th is a tough finishing hole. A good drive will set players up with an approach shot to a green guarded front right, back right and left with bunkers. Par here -- and just about anywhere on this Nicklaus design -- is a great score.

"People come back year after year to play on Lanai," Stephenson said. "We give them great service and a great golf experience."

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Challenge at Manele golf course - hole 6Challenge at Manele golf course - hole 12

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • pictures & price

    Bill wrote on: Apr 22, 2016

    You must have more than 2 pictures of the course????
    Can you share them with me??