Makalei Golf Club - hole 1
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Makalei Golf Club - hole 1
The new first hole at Makalei Golf Club (previously played as the eighth hole before the routing was changed within the last year) now eases players into the round. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Images
Makalei Golf Club - 8th hole
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Makalei Golf Club - 8th hole
The eighth hole at Makalei Golf Club drops off an elevated tee. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei Golf Club - hole 2
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Makalei Golf Club - hole 2
The second hole at Makalei Golf Club climbs uphill as a 364-yard par 4. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei Golf Club - hole 3
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Makalei Golf Club - hole 3
The 610-yard third hole at Makalei Golf Club sweeps downhill between the trees that make the course so unique to the Kona Coast. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei Golf Club - hole 7
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Makalei Golf Club - hole 7
A pond protects the seventh green at Makalei Golf Club on the Big Island. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei Golf Club - hole 10
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Makalei Golf Club - hole 10
A man putts on the 10th green at Makalei Golf Club, while a female golfer cleans up the bunker. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei G.C. - hole 11
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Makalei G.C. - hole 11
These golfers putting on the 11th green have made it safely past the "beer" tree guarding the fairway at Makalei G.C. Club tradition says that if you hit the tree, you owe everybody a round. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei Golf Club - hole 17
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Makalei Golf Club - hole 17
The 341-yard 17th hole at Makalei Golf Club might look short on the scorecard, but it plays uphill. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei Golf Club - hole 18
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Makalei Golf Club - hole 18
Trees and length make the 447-yard par-4 18th one of the tougher holes at Makalei Golf Club in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Makalei Golf Club - clubhouse
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Makalei Golf Club - clubhouse
New ownership has made the clubhouse at Makalei Golf Club more comfortable for golfers. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor

Makalei Golf Club: A gem hidden in the hills above Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii -- The one constant complaint at Makalei Golf Club was its first hole. Starting the round on a 311-yard par 4 that climbs dramatically uphill didn't exactly ease players into the round.

A routing adjustment in September has rectified the issue -- and a handful of others -- at this unique club hidden in the hills and forests high above the dry Kohala Coast. If you're looking for a change of pace from high-priced ocean golf courses among the lava rock, Makalei is the place.

The 7,091-yard course designed by Dick Nugent in 1992 isn't as well groomed as the celebrated Mauna Kea Golf Course and Mauna Lani's North Course and South Course . Its more affordable green fees, cool temperatures and roller-coaster terrain through a magical mix of trees, flora and fauna remain the main attractions.

Gorgeous vistas, especially from the driving range and the par-3 eighth hole (the old 15th), and flocks of peacocks roaming the lush landscape add beauty to Makalei, which is located roughly a half-hour's drive from the major coastal golf resorts. More than 950 feet in elevation change occurs from the current clubhouse to the third tee, the club's highest point.

The old first tee was steps from the clubhouse, making it incredibly inconvenient for players to drive winding paths 500 feet up the mountain to reach the driving range. The new routing starts at the old eighth hole, a solid par 4 near the range and putting green. There aren't many flat lies on Makalei -- hence the high 144 slope from the tips -- but that's the fun of playing here, creating shots that will impress your foursome. New owners continue to invest in improvements, making Makalei a club worth considering on any golf trip to the island.

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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Makalei Golf Club: A gem hidden in the hills above Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii
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