Stand-alone golf courses on Maui, Hawaii: Five top plays worth checking out

No doubt, Kapalua's Plantation Course (and the Bay Course, for that matter) should be on every golfer's bucket list when visiting Maui. The home of the PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions is one of the most scenic and fun courses you'll ever play. And the other resort golf courses on Maui, which would include the three at Wailea, as well as the two courses at Kaanapali, are great choices as well.

But if you're going to go to Maui to play golf, you'll be cheating yourself out of some other great golf experiences if you limit yourself to the resort courses. In fact, you could argue that a couple of the non-resort layouts are as good as any resort course in Hawaii and the others are all worthwhile plays, especially if you're looking for a budget course or two. Here, then, is a look at the non-resort options on Maui.

If you're planning a trip, work at least a couple of these into the itinerary. You'll be glad you did.

King Kamehameha Golf Club

While King Kamehameha Golf Club is billed as Maui's only 18-hole private course, go ahead and put it on your list. It's well worth the trouble and the $150-plus member-for-a-day fee.

Basically, the club is looking to sell memberships, so if you call ahead of time you can get a preview of the club and not only play the course but spend the day there. Designed by Ted Robinson and later refinished by Ted Robinson Jr. in 2005, the King Kamehameha is laid out along the side of the West Maui Mountains, but you also get panoramic views of the ocean as well. There are elevated tee shots and lots of slopes (very few even lies), small greens and outstanding course conditions on a super-interesting and challenging layout.

Then there's the clubhouse, restaurant and locker rooms, all designed to please the most discriminating member. Here, you'll truly feel like a member for a day; so arrive early, starting with the outstanding practice facilities, and stay late to relax and enjoy the setting.

Kahili Golf Course

For unforgettable panoramic coast-to-coast views, you can't beat the Nelson/Rodney Wright-designed Kahili Golf Course. Located 20 minutes from the Kahului Airport and 30 minutes from the Kaanapali and Wailea resort areas, this former private club built on the side of the West Maui Mountains just a few minutes from King Kamehameha offers some the best views on the island.

Visible are the entire north shore of the island as well as the north face of Mt. Haleakala all the way to the tip of Makena Beach to the southwest. The club also features a large clubhouse with full restaurant and banquet facilities.

Dunes at Maui Lani

The Dunes at Maui Lani is a links-style layout designed by Nelson that might evoke a feeling of Ireland if it weren't for the tropical climate. A little out of the way in Kahula, the Dunes is probably a course you shouldn't miss.

In stark contrast to Maui's resort courses, Nelson used the unspoiled dunes terrain to create a links look, complete with plenty of pot bunkers. Play it from the tips at 6,841 yards, and you're looking at a slope rating of 141, so there's plenty of challenge. In addition to the course, this central Maui facility also has a lighted range and Cafe O'Lei at The Dunes Restaurant.

Maui Nui Golf Club

If you're looking for a warm-up round or a course that won't break the bank, then Maui Nui Golf Club, located just minutes from Wailea, is the choice for you. As one GolfAdvisor reader wrote, "It's super nice for the price," which means great conditions, nice views and a bargain price, somewhere in the $40 range if you book online.

Formerly Maui Elleair Golf Club, the course was renamed in 2014 when developer Peter Savio bought it from the Japanese corporation Daio Paper Corp. Part of the immediate plan was to upgrade conditioning of the course, which apparently is already happening. Designed by Bill Newis, this semi-private course has four sets of tees and can play as long as 6,800 yards.

Pukalani Country Club

At 1,100 feet, it tends to be a little cooler at Pukalani Country Club, which sits on the lower slopes of the 10,000-foot Haleakala Volcano. Like King Kamehameha, Pukalani offers great views of the Pacific Ocean and panoramas of the island.

The course meanders through a neighborhood, but the Bob Bullock design features generous fairways so the houses never seem to come into play. The course also has an extra hole on the par-3 third, where golfers can choose which cup they want to play to. Best of all, this no-frills experience costs less than half or maybe even a third of the green fees at the resort courses, so it's a great value and a perfect venue to warm up on before tackling Kapalua or Wailea.

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.
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Stand-alone golf courses on Maui, Hawaii: Five top plays worth checking out