Maui's finest? King Kamehameha Golf Club delivers spectacular Hawaiian golf

WAILUKU, Hawaii -- King Kamehameha Golf Club, a must-play Maui golf gem, delivers on many fronts.

First is the superlative par-72, 7,060-yard, Ted Robinson Sr.-designed golf course (updated by Ted Robinson Jr. in 2005). It is a solid challenge with superb conditioning and zero homes. And even though it is the only private 18-hole golf course in Maui, you can play thanks to its "Guest for a Day" program.

Second are the panoramic views. "Golfers love the views of the south and north shores of Maui," said Frank Luchowski, head professional. "We are not oceanside, but we are elevated at 750 feet."

Third, King Kamehameha Golf Club is a history lesson in Hawaiian culture and an architectural wonderland with its massive, rose-colored, 74,000-square-foot Frank Lloyd Wright clubhouse.

You won't want to leave this spectacular experience.

King Kamehameha Golf Club: Hard to concentrate

The views and conditioning of the golf course make it hard to concentrate. I even got to witness a sugar cane field being burned 750 feet below me. (They burn the fields for defoliation before harvesting.) And then there's the zip line on the mountain side above you.

The first hole has a wide landing area for your first drive of the day, but you will need to steer clear of a deep fairway bunker hugging the right on this 580-yard par 5. The fairway narrows the closer you get to this elevated green.

The golfer soon realizes there's a common theme -- the course plays into the wind or against the wind, which was precisely by design.

"The 10th hole, a downhill par 3 of 213 yards, is the only cross-wind hole you will find on the course," General Manager Rick Castillo said. "No. 18 is my favorite hole. It's a 570-yard par 5. You are shooting downhill, down wind and can be in position to go for the green in two."

That second shot, however, kicks left quickly where a lake guards the final 160 yards of the hole. The views from behind the lake looking to the clubhouse are camera ready.

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

King Kamehameha's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse

In 1949, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright drew the original plans for the clubhouse as a concept for a 7,000-square-foot luxury home in Fort Worth, Texas. It was commissioned by Marilyn Monroe and husband Arthur Miller but was never built for the couple.

However, the plans were never used, and it wasn't until 1988 that the archived plans were enlarged and adapted to build the 74,000-square-foot clubhouse on the slopes of Waikapu. It was completed and opened for business in 1993. The former owners and operators closed the golf course and clubhouse in 1999, due to the downturn of the economy. The property was abandoned and neglected for nearly six years. However, during this time, the large rooms were still used for banquet functions.

Inside you will find treasures that tell stories of Hawaii's forefathers. The genealogy of 11 Maui chiefs are immortalized in a series of baby blankets (keiku kappa moe) with each chief having a distinctive pattern.

King Kamehameha Golf Club: The verdict

King Kamehameha Golf Club is one of the best experiences you will find in Hawaii.
Want to score low? Avoid the fairway bunkers.

"They are deep and have steep faces," Castillo said. "It's a challenge to reach the green from them."

A full grass practice range, short-game area and putting greens make up the warmup areas. Training aids are also available, such as alignment sticks and weighted clubs.

Both the men's and women's locker rooms are lavish with spa facilities, including therapeutic showers, whirlpools and saunas.

Dine in the Wai Kahe Room and suncourt set among the flowing waters of the finishing hole. Regional cuisine is featured by the executive chef who likes a personal Eurasian flair as well as traditional Japanese food.

King Kamehameha Golf Club is only a short drive from the airport and the Courtyard by Marriott where you can base your first or final nights in Maui.

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.
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This truly is a challenging, unique, and downright beautiful course. It is meticulously maintained. And the on course bathrooms ("Comfort Stations") are like ones found in a nice home. The Member (Guest?) for a Day is a great way to enjoy the course, and the price is comparable with the other resort courses on Maui. I've played all the Maui course, but for me, The King is the king of them all.

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Maui's finest? King Kamehameha Golf Club delivers spectacular Hawaiian golf