Mauna Lani Resort’s two championship golf courses, Mauna Lani North and South, offer a challenging experience to novice and professional golf enthusiasts alike. Mauna Lani has received Golf Magazine’s Gold Medal Award every year since 1988 and was host to the Senior Skins Golf Game for 11 years. The courses are masterpieces of design, each strikingly different, yet equally challenging. Each course is a world apart geographically, and in playing experience. To experience Golf at Mauna Lani Resort call 808-885-6655. Mauna Lani Resort South Course, renown as the former home to the annual Senior Skins Game from 1990 – 2000, snakes through the stark, rugged a’a lava of the prehistoric Kaniku lava flow.
The challenging South Course offers the golfer a panorama of mountain and ocean views. The South Course is also home to No. 15, one of the most photographed over-the-water golf course holes in the world. Mauna Lani’s North Course represents the quintessential golf experience on the Big Island of Hawaii. Built on a lava bed, the North is characterized by rolling terrain punctuated by Kiawe (mesquite) forests. Number 17, a par three tucked into a natural lava amphitheater, is one of Mauna Lani Resort’s signature holes and a favorite “I was here” photo spot. A 230-acre protected archaeological district lies on the northern boundary of the golf course. Herds of feral goats frequent the entire golf course, moving from hole to hole throughout the day. The North Course has fast become one of the most popular tournament venues on the Island.
Mauna Lani Resort’s championship South Course was the home to the Senior Skins Game from 1990 – 2000, one of the world’s most exciting televised golf matches. A “skin,” as most golfers know, is the pot given for the low score on each of the 18 holes in a round. In the Senior Skins Game, the format is basically the same, with the exception that each hole is carried over if two low balls tie on the preceding hole. The Mauna Lani Resort hosted such golf legends as Raymond Floyd, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriquez, Gary Player, Hale Irwin, and Jim Colbert. Francis H I’i Brown–territorial representative, extraordinary golfer, adventurer and sports fisherman–began acquiring the property in the early 1930s. Kalahuipua’a, as the area is known, has always been considered sacred land by the Hawaiian people.
Kamehameha I, the great Hawaiian king who united the islands, was said to have had a small fishing village and canoe landing adjacent to these prized ponds. When he had completed his acquisition of the land in 1936, Brown took special care to ensure that Kalahuipua’a would remain a uniquely “Hawaiian” place forever. During the years of his stewardship, he restored the ponds, built rudimentary roads and retaining walls and planted many of the of palms that today make Mauna Lani Resort such a lush oasis. And although he sold the property to Mauna Lani Resort, Inc. in 1972, his heir, Kenny Brown, remains chairman of Mauna Lani Resort and descendant guardian to this day. Francis Brown was a renowned and gifted athlete. He loved boating and fishing, but his skill as a golfer was legendary.
He often participated in Bing Crosby’s Pebble Beach Clambake–he owned a luxurious home in Pebble Beach–and held the Hawaii golf course record at the Old Course at St. Andrews for many years with a 62 in a practice round prior to the 1924 British Amateur. At one point he concurrently was the amateur champion of Hawaii, Japan and California. But despite his uncle’s golfing prowess, Kenny Brown remembers him as a humble man. “He was the only man to drive the 12th green at Waialae (432 yards) and to carry over the 18th green at Pebble Beach (548 yards) in two shots,” the younger Brown recalls. “But in response to my awe he told me, ‘Remember, nephew, in those days they didn’t water so heavily, so the fairways were hard as rock. And the ball was smaller, too.’ His modesty never diminished my sense of wonder.” The two courses — the Francis H. I’i Brown North and South Golf Courses were constructed on vast fields of dark black lava. The original 18 hole course was opened in 1981, with Homer Flint and Raymond Cain as the lead architects. It was a visually spectacular golf course that featured one par-3 hole crossing a wide Pacific inlet, another par-3 playing into a coliseum of lava, and many holes whose primary challenge was to hit the bright green fairways and greens, avoiding the lava formations in the landing areas and on both sides of the fairways. The golf course received rave Fight reviews from the moment it opened.