The Club at Hokuli'a in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii: A home run by Jack Nicklaus

KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii -- Ever since its opening in 2002, The Club at Hokuli'a has been one of the premier golf courses in Hawaii.

No matter what was happening to the sputtering 1,550-acre golf real estate development just minutes from touristy Kona town -- including lawsuits and a bankruptcy filing -- the Jack Nicklaus course remained an inspiring and beautiful place to play.

Hokuli'a, ranked as the third-best Hawaii golf course by Golf Digest, showcases Nicklaus at his creative best. All of the best attributes of course design -- elevated tee shots overlooking the Pacific Ocean, steep uphill climbs, drivable par 4s, stone walls reminiscent of links golf in Scotland, picturesque par 3s and more -- are in play.

Ponds add difficulty to the second through fourth holes. A giant mound of lava rock intrudes on the ferocious fifth hole, a 580-yard par 5 that's the course's no. 1 handicap. The stone fences appear on two uphill par 4s, the seventh and 10th holes.

Nicklaus dared to be controversial on The Club at Hokuli'a's par-5 ninth hole, creating a green with maybe the steepest slope in golf. Holes overlooking the ocean highlight the stretch run of the back nine. A sacred stone path -- one of many sites of cultural significance throughout the area -- dissects the fairway of the par 5 16th hole. The potential is there for Hokuli'a to eventually become one of the best golf communities in the world.

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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The Club at Hokuli'a in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii: A home run by Jack Nicklaus