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Play it posh: Hawaii's top resorts make for elite golf vacation getaways

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
The Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa - Hawaii
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Located next to Poipu Bay Golf Course on Kauai, the Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa occupies 50 acres of oceanfront property. (Courtesy of Grand Hyatt)

Hawaii isn't just home to postcard scenery and a climate that's the envy of just about everywhere else in the world.

This island paradise is also home to a hearty collection of the highest-rated vacation resorts and hotels in the world, properties that make the most of these idyllic surroundings.

Travel+Leisure magazine recently released their 2009 list of the world's 500 best hotels. No stranger to offering the finest accommodations in a picture-perfect setting, Hawaii checks in with 23 hotels on the list. Only much larger California and Florida boast more properties among the world's top 500. (Click here for the T+L list.)

The list wasn't focused on the golf traveler, however. So we've dug a little deeper and identified Hawaii's best resorts within these 23 selections for the golf traveler.

Maui's top golf resorts

Among Maui's five best resorts to make the list is the oceanfront Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, a venue fitting enough for the PGA Tour to kick off its schedule each January and home to two championship courses, including the Kapalua Plantation Course, a Maui staple. A recent $180 million renovation to the resort ditched it's former European decor for a more fitting breezy, island vibe. Guest rooms were also upgraded and a brand new spa was opened to boot.

Down on the island's southeastern coast, two other resorts offer access to the 54-hole Wailea Golf Club, home to famous Gold Course, former host to the Champions Tour Skins Game.

The Four Seasons Wailea boasts some of Hawaii's largest standard guest rooms at over 600 square feet, though there's so much to do here you may not be in it all that much, with scuba diving, snorkeling and yoga classes (all free to resort guests).

Just around the corner, the Grand Wailea Resort boasts Hawaii's largest spa and a nine-pool water park and 2,000-foot long lazy river. Art buffs will enjoy the resort's expansive art collection, including seventeen French-designed bronze sculptures located throughout the 40-acre property.

Big Island's top golf resorts

The black, volcanic rocks of the Big Island make the Mauna Kea Golf Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. one of the most iconic golf courses in Hawaii, home to the famous oceanfront par-3 third hole.

Right next door is the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, an open-air resort that was built by Laurance Rockefeller in 1965. When it's too dark for golf, observe manta rays illuminated by the hotel spotlight in Kaunaoa Bay.

Mauna Lani Resort is a secluded resort stretching along three miles of shoreline along the Kohala Coast and boasts two championship golf courses. The North Course is set through black lava beds, while the South Course brings golfers out to the coast for the signature par-3 15th played over the ocean.

Kauai's top golf resorts

Kauai is home to three of the T+L list's properties, and each has a world class golf course on site.

Just footsteps from the strikingly beautiful oceanfront Poipu Bay Golf Course (home to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994-2006) is the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, an expansive resort with 600 rooms and one of Hawaii's most extravagant spas (including treatments in outdoor garden huts) along with numerous open-air dining and bar options.

On the other side of Kauai at Hanalei Bay, the Princeville Resort is currently overseeing a renovation and upgrade to the Starwood Hotel's St. Regis brand, the hotel's most luxurius class of hotel, so expect this already knock-out resort with two golf courses (including the sinister Prince Course set through thick, mountain jungle) to rate even higher in the near future.

The Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club is also receiving a facelift to it's Jack Nicklaus-designed Kiele Course at Kauai Lagoons, though 18 holes are currently open until the famous oceanfront back nine re-opens. If you're looking for more golf than what's presently available on site, Puakea Golf Club is just minutes away in Lihue.

Oahu's top golf resorts

Oahu boasts seven hotels on the T+L list, more than any other island of Hawaii. The only true golf resort on this island however is a new entry on the list, Turtle Bay Resort, the North Shore's only luxury resort set on nearly 900 acres and is home to two championship golf courses including the highly-ranked Arnold Palmer Course and a complementary George Fazio design.

Lanai's top golf resorts

The tiny, secluded "Pineapple Island" is home to two of Hawaii's most exotic and luxurious sister Four Seasons properties, both of which easily made this list. In fact, The Lodge at Koele was Hawaii's highest-rated resort with a stellar 91.88/100 (in fact, it's the 15th best in the world according to T+L). Or head over to the Four Seasons Manele Bay, an Asian-inspired property overlooking a protected marine reserve (guests here can head to the Lodge at Koele for activities, and vice-versa).

Both resorts boast their own stellar golf courses, too. Nicklaus' Challenge at Manele is the higher-ranked of the two over Greg Norman's Experience at Koele, but not my much. Both offer tranquil, hilly and scenic postcard Hawaiian golf.

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Lodge at Koele - HawaiiMauna Lani's South Course -  Big Island

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Another Oahu Resort

    Kris wrote on: Feb 4, 2009

    The article mentions the only true resort on Oahu is Turtle Bay. I would consider Ko Olina as a resort in that there is a resort hotel and on-property golf as well at that property (located Ewa).
    On another note...Mauna Lani is a personal favorite of mine on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island. Truly spectacular courses and great resort that has something for everyone!


  • Makena Golf Course

    Gail Tanaka wrote on: Feb 3, 2009

    The article missed the Valley Island's only true golf resort, in which the hotel and golf course are owned by the same entity. The Maui Prince Hotel and Makena Golf Course is a mere 5 minutes drive from all of the Wailea hotels and condos. Just past the Wailea Golf Club. Spectacular views like no other course on the island.


  • Maui Golf

    Patrick Davis wrote on: Feb 3, 2009

    Wailea is on the southWESTern coast of Maui, not the southeastern coast. Hana is on the southeastern coast...it's a rain forest...no golf there.