Maui golf: One writer's top five courses on this Hawaiian island paradise

LAHAINA, Maui, Hawaii -- One of the toughest tasks is to pick a "Top 5" or "Top 10" list of anything. But when you're talking about golf courses -- and you're talking about Maui -- it makes the task that much tougher.

After all, you've got tremendous course layouts, perfect weather and stunning views at every course on the island.

But, when you add in the little things, courses slowly move up into the "Top 5" list.

With that in mind, here are one writer's "Top 5" Maui golf courses.

Comment: The Dunes at Maui Lani is a mixture of resort-style golf and links-style golf -- impressive in its own right. And with a couple of great risk/reward holes, it's one that will challenge players to think their way around the course. The par-5 fourth is the epitome of a roller-coaster hole. The third shot (or second for big hitters) is into an elevated green. One tip: Don't be short or you'll roll some 40 yards back down the hill.
Favorite hole: The 10th is a long par 4 (474 yards), but it's straight downhill from tee to green. The fairway slopes right to left and features a blind tee shot. Keep it right and you'll find a slot that will carry your ball down to the 150-yard marker. It's one of those golf holes that you've got to play a couple of times to appreciate the design and challenge.

Comment: Okay, stop scratching your head because it's not Ka'anapali's Royal Course. This one makes the list for three simple reasons: It's fun, it's playable and it's scenic. At just less than 6,400 yards from the tips, it's one of those courses that will let everyone enjoy the round without thinking they need to overpower it. Add in tree-lined fairways, a course that winds upcountry and then back down, spectacular views of the ocean and a drivable par 4 and you've got a course that will keep you coming back for more.
Favorite hole: The 18th is a par 4 that reaches just 348 yards. It's anything but a pushover, though. A solid layup off the tee (avoiding a bunker right and water left) will leave players a short iron into a green that is guarded short by a pond as well as left and right by bunkers. It's a great finishing hole with birdie potential.

Comment: Located on the southern end of Maui, the weather here is a big factor as the wind usually blows less and there's also less rain. Wailea Gold stretches out to 7,078 yards from the tips. With a plethora of ocean views, you've got a dynamic layout. And with the Emerald Course and Old Blue Course also on site, you've quite the golf trifecta.
Favorite hole: The sixth is a drivable par 4 (287 yards from the tips), but eight bunkers around the green make a layup shot the smart way to go. A wedge into this rolling green will let players go hunting for the flag and a birdie chance.

Comment: Maui's 18-hole private course, King Kamehameha Golf Club has everything a private course should have -- an impressive design, wonderful ambiance (check out the great locker room facilities), attentive personnel and a course that challenges but doesn't beat up players. There's no housing to be seen, just a lush course.
Favorite hole: The 18th is a par 5 with some length (559 yards), but it is all downhill. Going for it in two requires a smooth swing and nerves as a pond left of the green (fed by a waterfall behind the green) and a bunker to the right provides protection. It's a stunning view as players in the fairway hit an approach shot to the large green below.

Comment: Face it, we all want to take on a course the PGA Tour pros play -- and the Plantation Course at Kapalua is a dandy. It's not only long (7,411 yards), but it's also got elevation changes on just about every hole -- even the par 3s. Add in a couple of blind tee shots and carries over deep ravines, and you have the ultimate Maui golf challenge. And don't even get us started on the amazing views.
Favorite hole: The par-5 18th gets all the accolades as a dramatic finishing hole and is one amazing test at more than 650 yards, but the eighth hole is daunting and beautiful. The tee shot on this 203-yard par 3 comes from an elevated tee over a deep and wide ravine. And then there's the undulating, narrow green that will test even the best putters in your group.

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.
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How difficult is the Royal Kaanapali vs Dunes or King Kamehameah

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Kamehameha is tougher because it's elevated and on a slope where there's some wind. ROyal Ka'anapali is a little long but more of a RTJ "hard par - easy bogey" mentality. Check the scorecard slope/ratings from the tee you plan to play from.

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I am a Maui resident and have played every course on the island. For the money the best bang for your buck is Kahili. Amazing views of the island and a well kept track. Currently it is in much better shape than #5 Maui Lani and comparable in price. The only drawback is there is no beverage cart.

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I played Ka'anapali Kai in December of 2016. I was very disappointed. Will not go back. I am now scheduling my triip for this December. Will play Plantation Course at Kapalua, Wailea Gold and Wailea Emerald.

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Give Kahili a shot. Great course and a 1/4 of the cost of the courses on your list.

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Should have specified... Maui

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We're visiting Hawaii in late April.  Looking for fun but challenging courses with good pace of play. (My husband is a 5, I'm a 12 handicap) Suggestions?? (Price matters, but b/c its vacation we are open to anything)

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