Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course may just be the best "not so obvious" choice on Maui. (Courtesy of Wailea G.C.) The Dunes at Maui Lani is a sandy, links-inspired play with a fantastic variety of holes. (John Byrne/Dunes at Maui Lani) King Kamehameha Golf Club has no shortage of risk-reward situations, especially on the five holes with water in play. (Courtesy of King Kahehameha G.C.) Kahili Golf Club is a local gem that offers golfers on Maui a great round for less than $100. (Courtesy of Kahili G.C.) An aerial view of Ka'anapali Golf Resort's Kai Course. (Courtesy of Kaanapali Golf Resort)

Hawaii dilemma: Reader asks for best 'not-so-obvious' golf courses on Maui

When I got the tweet from @peterm1102 (Peter Mann of Sydney, Australia) asking about "not-so-obvious" choices for golf on Maui besides the famed Plantation Course at Kapalua, my immediate answer was the Gold Course at Wailea.

But that was probably too obvious since the course, ranked second on Maui by Golfweek for 2013, gained notoriety hosting Champions Tour and LPGA Tour skins games. There are roughly 17 golf courses on Maui and Lana'i, its sister island. If I could take a mulligan on my response, the "not so obvious" first choice would be to find a way to Lana'i to play arguably two of the best of the Hawaiian islands, the Challenge at Manele Bay and the Experience at Koele (currently closed for 2014). Island hopping just for golf probably isn't feasible for most tourists, right?

The best "not so obvious" choice would be golf on the Emerald Course at Wailea. The flowers planted throughout the routing keep it prettier than the Gold, and it's slightly easier, too.

In keeping with the playable theme, another often-overlooked value is the Ka'anapali Kai Course, host of the Golf Channel's Big Break series in 2008. The Ka'anapali Royal Course, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that hosted the 1964 World Cup and a Senior Tour event for a decade, is tougher, longer and pricier. The Kai, redesigned with new greens and tees by Robin Nelson in 2005, bumps into the Ka'anapali Sugar Cane Train trestle behind the fourth green. Despite its lack of length, the 6,388-yard par 70 is no pushover. Its narrow spots provide a sporty challenge.

I haven't played the Dunes at Maui Lani, but Brandon Tucker calls it "a locally adored, value-friendly course that offers affordable tee time rates for vacationers and locals alike. The Robin Nelson design is a sandy, links-inspired play with a fantastic variety of holes and ever-present, close-up views of the West Maui Mountains." Also, located just below King Kamehameha Golf Club on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains is Kahili Golf Club, another local gem that offers tourists great golf for less than $100.

I haven't played the rest of the "not so obvious" choices -- local island munis and other off-the-beaten path tracks -- but they're on my to-do list ... like every other course in the islands. I wouldn't mind staying awhile.

Jun 24, 2014

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.