OAHU, HAWAII — The Koolau mountains tower in your sightline. Palm trees line the green. The white of your golf ball pops against the deep blue sky. Even a bad game of golf on Oahu is still pretty darn good.
With more golf courses than any other island, golfers of every skill level from around the world head to Oahu. Choose from 40 public and private courses, ranging from casual municipal links to elegant resort courses. Spectacular scenery awaits you no matter which course you choose. If you prefer to watch the pros play, Oahu hosts the PGA TOUR’s Sony Open at the Waialae Country Club every January.
You may also want to make a few adjustments to your game in the islands. Most notably, Hawaii’s trade winds can exaggerate mistakes in your swing on a windy day. Luckily, most Oahu courses have wide, forgiving fairways. Bermuda greens can also be harder to read than traditional bentgrass greens. All these factors help make for some fun and challenging rounds on the golfer’s heaven of Oahu.
No other island in Hawaii has as much golf and as many ways to challenge your handicap. The golf experience on Oahu means teeing off in the middle of a lush tropical rainforest, trying to ignore the sound of the North Shore’s pounding surf as you putt, testing yourself against what is considered “The World’s Most Challenging Golf Course,” or navigating the fairways of the oldest course west of the Mississippi.
It will surprise many people to learn that golf first came to Oahu within 10 years of the founding of the first golf club in the United States. There are records of missionaries playing golf at a makeshift course in the mid-1890s. Oahu’s first golf course, now known as the Moanalua Country Club, was built in 1898 by Samuel Mills Damon.
Little did Samuel Damon realize that he would begin a golf course boom on the island. Today, Oahu boasts more golf courses than any other island (over 30!) in Hawaii. Oahu offers every type of golf facility and all levels of play with the right degrees of difficulty, guaranteed to keep novices and experts on their toes.
If that isn’t enough, Oahu’s golf courses feature spectacular scenery – a pleasant diversion on the fairways. Golfers will often pause mid-round to take in the majestic Pali cliffs, dramatic shorelines and sweeping panoramic views of Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor.
The Royal Kunia Country Club, located in Waipahu, has been described as the best course on Oahu. The course was originally completed in 1994 but only opened to the public in April 2003. Situated only 35 minutes from Waikiki, the course offers a great golfing experience for the beginner to low handicapper.
The par 5 ninth hole is the signature hole of the course measuring 621 yards from the back tees. From the tees, one gets a gorgeous panoramic view of the entire south shore of Oahu.
One of Oahu’s premier courses, Makaha Resort Golf Club, set in peaceful Makaha Valley, is just 40 minutes from the airport and continues to have the reputation as one of the toughest, but fairest tests in the islands of a golfer’s prowess. This 18-hole championship course designed by William P. Bell, measures 7,077 yards with a rating of 74.3 and has been ranked one of Hawaii’s top 10 courses by the readers of Golfweek. The course is considered to be one of the most naturally beautiful courses in Hawaii, with sheer volcanic cliffs towering 1,500 feet above the lush greens where golfers share the course with birds and peacocks.
On Oahu’s scenic North Shore, The Turtle Bay Resort Golf Club is home to two of the island’s top courses including an 18-hole championship course created by Arnold Palmer and master architect Ed Seay.
The Palmer Course was built around an existing 100-acre wetland preserve and habitat of several endangered Hawaiian birds. With championship tees measuring 7,199 yards and a rating of 75, The Palmer Course was named one of the top 10 public-access courses by Golf Magazine.
With views of both Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head, Waikele Golf Club tests the skills of players with beautiful water features and strategically placed bunkers. Designed by Ted Robinson, the course was created to afford challenges and enjoyment to players of all skill levels. This 18-hole championship course measures 6,663 yards and has a rating of 71.7. The club also features a full-service driving range and a practice putting green.
Located on the sunny western shore of Oahu, Ko Olina Golf Club is a challenging 18-hole championship course. This Ted Robinson-designed course is brimming with exceptional water features on many holes and has no parallel fairways. The 12th hole is the most memorable as golfers must drive their carts under a waterfall to get to it. Ko Olina’s championship tees measure 6,867 yards and hold a rating of 72.9.
The club played host to the LPGA Ladies Hawaiian Open from 1990 to 1995, and the 1992 Ko Olina Senior Invitational. Oahu also has five municipal courses, many of which are real bargains.
The Ala Wai Municipal Golf Course has been named the busiest golf course in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. The 9-hole Kahuku Golf Course features some dramatic beachside holes just steps from the Pacific Ocean.
Golfers at the lush Pali Municipal Golf Course will face some of the most challenging and scenic downhill holes on the island.
Oahu is also host to one of Hawaii’s premier golf events, the Sony Open. This popular tournament attracts spectators from all over the world and professional golfers such as Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Zach Johnson, Ernie Els, Davis Love III, John Daly, Fred Couples, and Tom Lehman to the prestigious Waialae Country Club. With all these advantages, it’s no wonder that golfers come from all over the world to play on Oahu’s courses.