Mauna Kea golf course - hole 3
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Mauna Kea golf course - hole 3
Cliffs and waves stimulate the senses on the third hole at Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Hapuna Golf Course - 12th hole
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Hapuna Golf Course - 12th hole
The 12th hole at Hapuna Golf Course provides panoramic ocean views of Hawaii's Kohala Coast. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Kings' golf course - Waikoloa Beach Resort - 7th
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Kings' golf course - Waikoloa Beach Resort - 7th
The 184-yard seventh hole on the Kings' Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort can be tricky. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Mauna Lani Resort - North golf course - 17th
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Mauna Lani Resort - North golf course - 17th
The 17th hole on the Francis H. I'i Brown North Course at Mauna Lani Resort sits in a lava bowl. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Mauna Lani Resort - South golf course - 15th
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Mauna Lani Resort - South golf course - 15th
The 15th hole on the Francis H. I'i Brown South Course at Mauna Lani Resort flies over a coastal cove on Hawaii. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Kohanaiki golf course - 15th
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Kohanaiki golf course - 15th
It takes a carry over a lava hazard to reach the 15th green at Kohanaiki. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Hualalai Golf Club - 17th hole
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Hualalai Golf Club - 17th hole
The Nicklaus Course at Hualalai Golf Club hosts the Champions Tour. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Waikoloa Beach Resort - Beach golf course - 7th
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Waikoloa Beach Resort - Beach golf course - 7th
The Pacific Ocean backdrop encourages you to take your time on the seventh hole of the Beach Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort. Mike Bailey/GolfAdvisor
Big Island C.C. golf course - 17th
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Big Island C.C. golf course - 17th
An island green on a Dye-designed golf course? Go figure. Here's no. 17 at Big Island Country Club. Courtesy of Big Island C.C.
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Hawaii: The Big Island is brimming with ocean golf

KOHALA COAST, Hawaii -- There are moments on the golf courses of Hawaii that overshadow the game. When a whale surfaces offshore or a crashing wave splashes up some spray, it's hard to concentrate on just golf.

The island of Hawaii (called "the Big Island" by many tourists) provides an ocean backdrop as good as any in the world. It all started with the island's first course, Mauna Kea, built in 1964 by Robert Trent Jones Sr.

Hapuna G.C., a sister course to Mauna Kea, sits in the hillsides with panoramic views of the Pacific. The Waikoloa Beach Resort development delivers two more affordable options on flatter ground, the Kings' Course and Beach Course. Only the Beach skirts the coast.

Both the Francis H. I'i Brown South Course and North Course at Mauna Lani Resort explore the shore. Two great par 3s on the water highlight rounds on the more playable South Course. The much tougher North Course heads toward the water on three holes, notably the demanding ninth hole.

The Jack Nicklaus Course at Hualalai Golf Club annually hosts the Champions Tour, serving as a great TV commercial for what the island has to offer.

The Big Island also boasts a private club scene more extravagant than the other islands. The new exclusive Kohanaiki Club opened its oceanfront Rees Jones course in 2013 and allows some access to locals who have a Hawaii driver's license.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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Mauna Kea, a top-100 golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1964, remains the king of golf on Hawaii's Big Island. Across the street, Hapuna Golf Course, an Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay design built in the 1990s, should no longer be considered just a secondary, more-affordable sister course, however. Hapuna has star power, too. A commitment to better conditioning and the cutting back of rough and long grasses continues to help Hapuna rise in the eyes of golfers.
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As the largest of the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island has the most climate zones. But there's one climate, in particular, that seems made for golf -- the Kohala Coast. The Kohala Coast is where the resorts are, which means it's also where the best golf courses are. But which ones are the best? Mike Bailey offers up a list of five must-play, public-access golf courses on the Big Island.
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Jason Scott Deegan rates three luxurious golf-and-beach resorts along the Kona-Kohala Coast of the Big Island: the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
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Hawaii: The Big Island is brimming with ocean golf