MAUI, Hawaii—As a golfer I’m only too familiar with arbitrary dress restrictions, but the sign on the window is a new one, even to me. “No clothes,” it reads, “No service.”
Then again, we’re not on a golf course but strolling down a street in one of the little towns on Maui’s surfer-friendly windward shore. It’s the kind of fringe benefit (the side trip, not the dress code) that helps compensate for the island’s generally expensive green fees.
Maui is just big enough that where you stay will help determine the courses you play. Most of the grand resort affairs are clustered around either Ka’anapali in West Maui or Wailea in South Maui, and the two areas are well over an hour apart. Around the latter there’s a choice of three Wailea courses as well as Makena, which is the most scenic (and that’s saying something) but also the most challenging. Meanwhile, the universally strong Wailea courses—Gold, Emerald and Old Blue—are owned by the GolfBC Group, and Mulligans pub at Old Blue may well be the most Canadian of gathering spots on the most Canadian of un-Canadian islands, a place where it is never necessary to plead with the bartender to turn one of the TVs to hockey. Indeed, during most afternoon happy hours, dozens of Canucks staying at nearby resorts gather to cheer against each other’s teams.
Over in West Maui, there are another four courses, two each at Ka’anapali and Kapalua. As at Wailea green fees are in the $200 range, except on Kapalua’s Plantation course, where they run closer to $300. It pains my Scottish sensibilities to say this, but just lay down your card and play the site of the PGA Tour’s annual season opener. The Coore-Crenshaw design revels in its wind-whipped site, offering up an experience that is in fact just like Scotland—well, except for the palm trees, carts and mountainside setting.
Golf Magazine and Golf Digest rank Kapalua, respectively, the 18th and 19th best public course in the U.S., and even those estimations seem a slight.
There are two other golf must-dos on Maui. One is to check out some of the less-heralded tracks such as Dunes at Maui Lani, which has a links feel and lies conveniently between the two main tourist concentrations. Rack rate is around $125, but this course and others like it can usually be played for less using the various websites and coupon cards that cater to deal-seekers.
In fact, it’s not impossible to play the mandatory Plantation course and still keep your average green-fee expenditure below three figures. By doing that you’ll be able to justify a day trip to Lana’i, the company town of an island just to Maui’s west. Its two courses, the Experience at Koele and the Challenge at Manele, are every inch the scenic wonders advertised.
Equally significant, the ferry ride, together with the island’s stark beauty, transform the mere Maui vacation into something of a South Seas adventure, even if, here as elsewhere, clothes are sadly required.
For more information on Maui, visit the Maui section of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s website at gohawaii.com/maui.
Jim Sutherland is a member of the Meridian Writers’ Group.