Despite its name, the ocean is the big draw at Kona C.C.'s Mountain Course | Hawaii Golf

At Kona Country Club's Mountain golf course on Hawaii's Big Island, the views never stop

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii -- There are two golf courses at Kona Country Club on the Big Island -- the Ocean Course and the Mountain Course. If you're like most people, you're probably thinking the Ocean Course is where all the cool ocean views are. You'd be wrong.

Kona's Mountain Course, as its name would imply, certainly has a mountain feel, but it also has a mountain viewpoint, meaning that the best seats in the house are often the highest. From just about every point on the Mountain Course, you can see the ocean below and the Sheraton Keauhou Bay, which offers golf packages to Kona. The views never get old, but you need to pay attention to the golf course if you expect to play well.

At just less than 6,500 yards from the championship tees, the Mountain Course -- which was designed by William Bell (front nine), Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright -- is certainly playable. But if you're not used to uneven lies, you need to adapt in a hurry. Even if you find the fairway off the tee, the chances are good that you'll have hanging lies (for right-handers) because you're on the side of a mountain. And when the first nine was first built in 1985, Bell didn't exactly level out the fairways.

The challenge for mainlanders, then, is how to compensate. Some are better at it than others, but often players either overcompensate and aim too far left or close the clubface too much and simply let the slope play them. And those uneven lies don't stop on the fairways (not to mention the roughs); they continue on the greens, which have plenty of undulation.

The nice part, though, is that the tee boxes are fairly level, the fairways generous and the length isn't excessive. The course features so many great views, but two of the par 3s are particularly impressive -- the fifth and the 14th. Both holes feature dramatic drops from tee to green, and the 14th, which plays over a lake, is the highest point on the course. The hole has a lake and a waterfall surrounded by red bougainvillea and black lava rock.

You could also argue that the short, par-4 seventh is the course's signature hole, even though the ocean isn't the primary visual. At 310 yards from the tips and 283 yards from the next set of tees, the hole is drivable for big hitters, but there's an imposing and picturesque pond in front of the green, bordered by the island's signature black rock.

The Mountain Course is also enriched in Hawaiian culture. This area was a favorite playground for Hawaiian royalties, and guests will also see plenty of wild goats moving throughout the back nine. Both the Mountain and Ocean Courses feature a nice short-game area, full range and above-average clubhouse dining.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
Commented on

Has the Mountain Course reopened? The last I heard it was closed. Article was dated 2012.

More from the author
6 Min Read
May 28, 2019
PORT ARANSAS, Texas — Golf is being redefined at Palmilla Beach Resort and Golf Community on the Texas coast.
9 Min Read
May 24, 2019
University programs, both large and small, continue to invest in their golf facilities
5 Min Read
May 21, 2019
New owner Escalante Golf has made considerable investment since 2017.
8 Min Read
May 20, 2019
Not all Texas country clubs have had the steadfast history of Fort Worth's Colonial. But while some of these sites have been lost, others are now public and affordable.
5 Min Read
May 3, 2019
Debate rages on whether a golf course property be based on current or highest use
7 Min Read
April 25, 2019
How four facilities got their stride back, and what struggling courses can learn from it
6 Min Read
August 9, 2022
GolfNow Compete, developed with input from Rory McIlroy, offers GPS yardages, hole maps, multiple games to play and a place to fire up your friendly, competitive juices.
5 Min Read
July 25, 2022
Dundonald's new luxury accommodations and clubhouse complement a Kyle Phillips-designed links that has hosted men's and women's Scottish Opens.
5 Min Read
August 1, 2022
Tips to enjoying special golf trips to Scotland, Ireland and Pinehurst highlight this month's Secrets column.
7 Min Read
August 10, 2022
Now 30-years mature, the statewide system of affordable golf courses offers adventure that doesn't have to break the budget.
Load More
Now Reading
At Kona Country Club's Mountain golf course on Hawaii's Big Island, the views never stop