Makai Golf Club is located along Kauai’s north shore in the Princeville area. Makai is a Hawaiian word roughly meaning “toward the ocean”, which turns out to be a very appropriate name for this golf course.
Makai was the second course on our Kauai golf adventure with local golf blogging buddy, Wayne Halm. With Wayne’s in-depth knowledge of the golf on Kauai, we are following his suggested golf “schedule”, and so far he’s nailed it. He started us off on December 1st at the fun and convenient Kiahuna Golf Club (just minutes away from our south shore condo at the Koloa Landing Resort), and followed that up with a heavy hitter on December 3rd at Makai. This time it wasn’t about convenience. Makai was about an hour away, but quickly proved to be well worth the drive.
Upon arrival at the Makai bag drop there was no mistaking that it’s a high end establishment. We were welcomed with a warm aloha spirit and immediately felt relaxed there.
After a warm up on their large grass tee driving range, we were ready to tackle the challenging layout which can be stretched as far as 7200 yards.
The course starts inland and eases you into things with a nice little par 4 — nothing too difficult, but not so easy that you’ll start to take the course lightly.
Beth and Wayne were looking pretty happy and relaxed on the 1st tee:
You are then thrown right into a beautiful par 5 which features a downhill approach shot littered with deep intimidating bunkers and distracting views of Bali Hai.
While I was impressed with the 2nd hole, the 3rd hole kept the momentum and excitement building. Once I gathered myself and guessed what club I should hit on this drop par-3, I confidently landed it on the green…and spun it back into the water, which actually led to a pretty good bogey.
After heading back inland with a fun, short, uphill par 4 and a reachable par 5, you’re catapulted back towards the ocean, where things get real.
Part of the challenge of writing a review of Makai is that it’s so photogenic it’s hard to narrow down my photo collection to a reasonable amount for a post.
Once you reach the par 3 7th hole, you truly feel like you’re on the edge of the world. Beth and I have stood on some amazing spots on golf courses, and this is right up there with the best.
Yes, the pin was tucked back-right. I had every intention of going at the flag until a split second before impact when my brain didn’t allow it.
As we made our way off the 9th green in a hot and sweaty state, an angel named Gary appeared, offering us skewers of chilled pineapple. I think Beth and Wayne had digested theirs before I could even take this picture:
The back 9 is called “The Lakes 9”, probably because there are some lakes to contend with.
What Wayne didn’t mention in his post on Makai is how well he played on the front 9. He made more pars than bogeys and was poised for an amazing round. Unfortunately he also realized how well he had played on the front, which I think made the lakes appear a bit larger and the hole a bit smaller.
There aren’t just lakes on the back 9. You also make your way back out to the ocean.
The ocean becomes a water hazard yet again, most notably on the driveable par-4 14th hole, which turns out to be a ridiculously fun hole. I couldn’t not go for it (especially according to Beth and Wayne). In Wayne’s post on Makai, he posted a video of this tee shot and my eagle putt. Do you think it went in?
Although you start to head back inland after the 14th hole, the fun doesn’t end. Ocean holes are tough to beat, but the “other” holes at Makai don’t lack beauty, challenge, or fun.
The last couple of holes bring the lakes back into play, such as the approach shot on the par-4 17th hole.
As we stepped on the tee of the risk-reward par-5 18th hole, with a lake to clear off the tee and a lake down the left, it became clear there was a big decision to be made – how much of the lake to challenge?
After hitting my drive a little closer to the lake down the left than Wayne had suggested, I was rewarded with a short iron into this par 5, which I knocked to 3 feet and somehow drained for eagle.
Although it’s usually easier to rave about a course when you finish with an eagle, I assure you I’d be raving about Makai even if I hadn’t made that eagle.
It’s a stunningly beautiful layout and a clever Robert Trent Jones Jr. design which is right in front of you. It is obvious where the trouble is which makes it visually intimidating, but it always felt like you knew what your options were on each hole and had a fair chance to get the ball in play.
The green fees don’t come cheap, but not many courses worthy of a bucket-list do. It’s definitely worth experiencing.
You can check out the Makai Golf Club website for more information on this stellar track.
(Published from my iPhone)