KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii -- Ever since its opening in 2002, The Club at Hokuli'a has been one of the premier golf courses in Hawaii.
No matter what was happening to the sputtering 1,550-acre golf real estate development just minutes from touristy Kona town -- including lawsuits and a bankruptcy filing -- the Jack Nicklaus course remained an inspiring and beautiful place to play.
Hokuli'a, ranked as the third-best Hawaii golf course by Golf Digest, showcases Nicklaus at his creative best. All of the best attributes of course design -- elevated tee shots overlooking the Pacific Ocean, steep uphill climbs, drivable par 4s, stone walls reminiscent of links golf in Scotland, picturesque par 3s and more -- are in play.
Ponds add difficulty to the second through fourth holes. A giant mound of lava rock intrudes on the ferocious fifth hole, a 580-yard par 5 that's the course's no. 1 handicap. The stone fences appear on two uphill par 4s, the seventh and 10th holes.
Nicklaus dared to be controversial on The Club at Hokuli'a's par-5 ninth hole, creating a green with maybe the steepest slope in golf. Holes overlooking the ocean highlight the stretch run of the back nine. A sacred stone path -- one of many sites of cultural significance throughout the area -- dissects the fairway of the par 5 16th hole. The potential is there for Hokuli'a to eventually become one of the best golf communities in the world.