Originally Laurence Rockefeller commissioned Robert Trent Jones Senior to build The Big Island's first golf course alongside his new five star hotel on the coastal black lava 30 minutes north of Kona airport.
RTJ Snr's brief was to build a course tough enough to test the professionals, but picturesque enough to bring the tourists...
He succeeded and the course opened in 1965, but the layout was too demanding for all but the best, and his son RTJ Jnr was brought in to soften the course. Keeping it all in the family Rees Jones undertook a significant renovation in 2007/8- adding bunkers, new grasses, and lengthening the course. When the course opened the big three of professional golf- Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player were there to commemorate the occasion.
Mauna Kea is certainly a challenging course in a beautiful setting- it's a tournament course, and a resort course all in one!
With a beautiful beach and hotel adjoining the course it is a great place to stay and golf.
The purists should note that there is significant elevation change throughout the property, so it is primarily a cart course.
Most greens are raised or on ledges above the golfer requiring control of distance and flight- in my opinion this will make it difficult to play for longer handicappers and those that do not hit a high ball flight. In fact a good deal of the golfing public are going to struggle!
It is also relatively monotonous playing the same sort of approach over, although it suited me well enough and did provide some thrilling approach shots with all clubs
The start is pleasant, but unremarkable- Hole 1 is a short par 4 with a sharp dogleg right- and reminiscent of Hoylake the driving range is OOB on the inside of the dogleg
Hole 2 is a right to left dogleg and the downhill tee shot sets you up for a short iron to a raised green protected by bunkers along the front
But turn the corner and evrything changes!
Hole 3 is the standout hole- one of the most spectacular in all of golf
The very back tee is a ridiculous 272 yards, all ocean carry par 3, but even the regular mens tees can go back to a 210 yards shot over the briney.
The white caps come rolling in sending spray many metres in the air as you wind up to let loose. With a gusty sea breeze in play it is an exhilarating shot and one you won't forget
Any par here is well remembered.
The green is huge but runs at an angle from right to left. Playing from the very back tee to the very back left of the green would be nearly 300 yards!!!
After hole 3 Mauna Kea drops from the paranormal back to reality with a succession of solid well maintained golf holes with raised greens and bunkers up front. The ninth is a par 4 that heads back to the clubhouse from a very elevated tee and I thought the view and the shot down the valley was delightful.
In the back nine hole 11 grabbed our attention. It is a par 3 with the ocean as the back drop. It measures 250 yards from the back markers, but plays significantly downhill. It is a very pretty hole and because of the drop away your ball will stay in the air seemingly longer. But it is still not an easy target to hit and any par is well earned. It may be overlooked with all the fuss about the third hole, but the eleventh is another special hole
Mauna Kea is a good course, in a beautiful part of the world, with a nice beach and hotel next door, and pretty decent weather as well
Hole 3 is an all world hole- one you will never forget playing- and hole 11 is pretty special as well…
Any golfing holiday to The Big Island should include a visit to Mauna Kea
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