Manele Golf Course - 12th hole
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Manele Golf Course - 12th hole
The cliffs of the par-3 12th hole are the signature moment at Manele Golf Course on Lana'i. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
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Manele Golf Course - hole 13
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Manele Golf Course - hole 13
The 345-yard 13th hole at Manele Golf Course is a great risk-reward par 4 along the cliffs of Lana'i. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 16
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Manele Golf Course - hole 16
The 16th hole on Manele Golf Course tumbles downhill to the ocean. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - clubhouse
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Manele Golf Course - clubhouse
The Manele Golf Course clubhouse overlooks the ocean. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 11
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Manele Golf Course - hole 11
The par-5 11th hole on Manele Golf Course has a downhill fairway that kicks shots left onto the green. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 2
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Manele Golf Course - hole 2
The uphill approach to the second green is one of the toughest shots on Manele Golf Course, an amenity of the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 3
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Manele Golf Course - hole 3
A large front bunker guards the third hole on Manele Golf Course. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 4
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Manele Golf Course - hole 4
After a blind second shot, the par-5 fourth hole of Manele Golf Course finishes at this interesting green. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 5
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Manele Golf Course - hole 5
The fifth hole on Manele Golf Course requires a drive to the edge of an elevated fairway, setting up this difficult approach. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 6
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Manele Golf Course - hole 6
The sixth hole is one of three interesting par 5s on the front nine of Manele Golf Course. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Manele Golf Course - hole 9
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Manele Golf Course - hole 9
If the wind is right, the 556-yard ninth hole on Manele Golf Course is reachable, especially if you're playing the proper tees. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor

Hawaii's best? The cliffs and scenery at Manele Golf Course make for a strong case on Lana'i

LANA'I, Hawaii -- Manele Golf Course is the rare gem where you can see the ocean from every hole. The Jack Nicklaus design, perched high on the cliffs overlooking the Hulopoe Bay and the Pacific Ocean, ranks right up there with the game's most stunning venues.

When the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i reopened after multi-million-dollar renovation in February, the newly rebranded course -- formerly called the "Challenge at Manele" -- became one of the most exclusive and expensive golf experiences in the world. Day trippers who take the ferry over from Maui no longer have access. Golfers must stay at the lavish five diamond resort to play. Those who can afford such luxuries get paradise virtually to themselves.

The only reason Manele isn't ranked the no. 1 course in Hawaii is its relative anonymity. It hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event like the Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui, and it's not on TV every year. Manele rivals the strengths of Kapalua -- scenery, strategy, memorable holes, playability -- while delivering a more laid-back vibe. Tee time? What tee time? Most guests don't need one. Just show up and play.

The front nine follows a fun inland routing of three par 5s and three par 3s. The fifth hole serves up the day's cruelest test. Golfers must execute a semi-blind drive 240 yards up the left side to set up a demanding downhill approach at the edge of a major drop-off in the fairway.

Signature holes hug the cliffs of a back nine that Director of Golf Scott Ashworth called the "Ocean nine." The par-5 11th and par-4 16th holes roar downhill with nothing but sea blue as a backdrop. The 202-yard 12th might be the most thrilling do-or-die shot in Hawaii. Even downwind, the carry over the cliffs to the green feels daunting. The 444-yard par 4 at no. 17 doglegs right along the cliffs in the opposite direction, usually playing into the wind. Any misses right plunge to a rocky doom below. If you sink one, consider it an offering to the Hawaiian gods for allowing you to play at such a magical place.

Every round should finish at VIEWS, the clubhouse restaurant that cooks killer burgers, Baja fish tacos and a spicy Hulopo'e Bay Prawn B.L.T. The food is just as delicious as the setting.

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.
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Hawaii's best? The cliffs and scenery at Manele Golf Course make for a strong case on Lana'i
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