Makai Golf Club – “toward the ocean” 

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:

Wayne and Beth making their final preparations
makai golf club 1st hole
The opening tee shot

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.

makai golf club 2nd hole
The approach shot into the well-guarded 2nd green

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. 

Getting set on the par-3 3rd hole (Photo by: Wayne Halm)

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.

A look at the par-4 6th green

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.

Wayne and Josh…we’re smiling because we haven’t noticed the back right pin yet (photo by Beth Strukoff)

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.

A “safe” shot to the back left of the green (Photo by Beth Strukoff)

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.

The par-4 10th hole (which also got one of my balls)

There aren’t just lakes on the back 9. You also make your way back out to the ocean.

makai golf club 13th hole
Beth on the long par-3 13th hole

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?

Getting ready to drive the green

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.


Looking back on the 15th green

The last couple of holes bring the lakes back into play, such as the approach shot on the par-4 17th hole.

makai golf club 17th hole
The approach to the 17th green

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.


A look at the par 5 18th green from the fairway

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.

Happy golfing!


(Published from my iPhone)

9 thoughts on “Makai Golf Club – “toward the ocean” 

  1. Aloha Josh!

    Mahalo for sharing this wonderful “Toward the Ocean” story with all of your followers! It genuinely made my team and I smile and appreciate our hard work and passion for what we do at the Princeville Makai Golf Club. The only thing wrong with this whole thing is that you have not placed the photo of you teeing off on our 7th hole for your new Hero/Cover shot rather than your current fuzzy photo of hole 7 at Pebble… Just Kidding… But REALLY! We look forward to having you back again soon! Next time you make it out to the North Shore of Kauai please be sure to reach out ahead of time so we can meet!

    Doug Sutter.
    General Manager
    Princeville Makai Golf Club

    1. Aloha Doug,

      It was truly my pleasure to share our excellent experience with everyone. I’m thrilled to hear it brought a smile to you and your staff, they took very good care of me and Wayne Halm did a great job of showing us around. Next time we’re there I’ll definitely give you a heads up so we can meet, and I will consider switching my header photo, hahaha


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