Mauna Kea Golf Course on the Big Island: Hawaii's iconic course turns 50 in 2014

KOHALA COAST, Hawaii -- The third hole at Mauna Kea Golf Course trumps all but a handful of the world's best par 3s.

The view of the Pacific Ocean from the tee is a feast for the eyes. Most golfers don't even notice the six bunkers ringing the massive, slanting green. They're too busy staring at the Kauna'oa Bay, listening to the waves crashing against the rocky cliffs, smelling the salty sea air and judging the tropical breeze. The 272-yard shot from the tips remains daunting but doable.

Mauna Kea, the thrilling oceanfront challenge designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1964, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in December 2014 as the undisputed king of resort golf on the Big Island. A refreshment effort by Rees Jones in 2008 bolstered the cosmetic appearance and upgraded conditioning on the 7,370-yard course.

Mauna Kea G.C. relentlessly attacks with a slew of elevated greens with wild breaks that move like the ocean waves and treacherously deep bunkers that drown golfers in sand. Its punishing demands might break your will but never your spirit. It's too beautiful a round to pout about a bad score. Golf Digest rates Mauna Kea no. 31 in "America's 100 Greatest Public Courses" for 2013-14.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations 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 @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Mauna Kea Golf Course on the Big Island: Hawaii's iconic course turns 50 in 2014