King Kamehameha Golf Club on Maui: Hawaii's paradise found

WAILUKU, Maui, Hawaii -- Golfers are looking for perfection. Whether it's in the swing or the clubs, there is always room for improvement.

And it's that search that leads us to play King Kamehameha Golf Club.

If you've traveled to Maui, you can't miss the rose-colored clubhouse perched high atop the West Maui Mountains. A winding road rising up the mountain leads players to a golf layout that is filled with challenges -- and dramatic views. It's a private club, but players can enjoy all the amenities the club has to offer with its member-for-a-day program.

"It's a very unique course," said Rick Castillo, director of golf at King Kamehameha. "It's one that everyone can play. It's a great golf experience."

Grab your clubs -- and your camera -- and head to the first tee.

King Kamehameha Golf Club: The course

The Ted Robinson, Sr. design (revamped by his son Ted Robinson, Jr.) is filled with risk-reward holes. Players really need to think their way around this course and play to their strengths.

The 580-yard par-5 first welcomes players with a wide landing area off the tee (just avoid the bunker on the right and you'll be fine). But should you go for the green in two or lay up? The smart play is to lay up because of a well-bunkered green with severe left-to-right sloping. Follow that up with a wedge, but keep the approach shot below the hole for the best chance at birdie.

As players work their way around the course, they may notice there are two types of shots if the wind is blowing: into the wind or with the wind. That is strictly by design.

"This course was designed with the wind in mind," Castillo said. "In fact, the 10th hole (a downhill par 3 at 213 yards) is the only cross-wind hole on the course."

And they have saved one of the best -- and most challenging -- holes for last. As a finishing hole, the 18th is impressive. At 559 yards and playing downhill, it's definitely reachable in two, especially if the wind is helping out. Just make sure to keep the approach shot to the right as a huge pond (complete with a picturesque waterfall) adds a touch of trouble to the shot.

"This hole is a great chance to make a good score -- or a bad score," Castillo said with a devilish grin. "You've got to be precise with your drive and second shot. But while you're playing the hole, remember to look at the great view with the clubhouse in the background. It's very beautiful."

There are chances to score at King Kamehameha, but one thing is a must to keep that score low.

"You've got to avoid the fairway bunkers," said Castillo of the bunkers, many of which have steep faces. "They are very tough and it's a challenge to get to the green from them."

In the King Kamehameha G.C. clubhouse

From spa treatments to whirlpools to just relaxing, the men's and women's clubhouse facilities are worth the trip to the club by themselves. At 74,000 square feet, there's no shortage of space in Maui's only 18-hole member golf club.

It's not your typical clubhouse with cramped quarters. There's plenty of room to stretch out and relax. Even the pro shop features wide-open spaces.

And then there's the dining. Members and guests (including members for a day) can dine in the Wai Kahe Room or out on the suncourt overlooking the 18th hole. A menu with Eurasian flavors along with Japanese entrees (and, yes, you can have an old-fashioned burger if that's more to your taste) top a well rounded menu.

King Kamehameha Golf Club: The verdict

King Kamehameha G.C. provides a solid golf experience from start to finish. The luxurious clubhouse, the immaculate grounds and the brilliant layout all add up to a golf outing that is a wonderful experience.

"It's just a great place to play golf," Castillo said. "You won't be spending four-plus hours playing golf and you'll be on a course with tremendous conditions. Add in these wonderful views and you will definitely have a great time.

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.
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King Kamehameha Golf Club on Maui: Hawaii's paradise found