- 72-100 Kaupulehu Dr, Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, USA
- 1 808 325 8000
There are some superb resort courses on the island of Hawaii including Mauna Kea and Hapuna, where you can play next to the Pacific Ocean in tropical conditions. Four Seasons Hualalai is another wonderful resort that offers exceptional luxury accommodation and top-shelf golf.
Hualalai is a links-style course designed by Jack “The Golden Bear” Nicklaus and opened in 1996 next to the luxury Four Seasons resort. The unusual feature here: its groomed fairways have been laid between lava flows that have cooled down to a jagged black rock. You don’t want to go looking for your ball in there as your shoes will barely survive. The contrast between the green fairways and walls of black lava that stand like walls on either side of the fairway is stunning. There are unsighted shots over these ancient lava flows. On the seventh, the lava makes a narrow canyon in the middle of the fairway – one of the most unusual hazards I’ve seen on a golf course.
Hualalai hosts the PGA Champions Tour each January and it has the facilities to match that occasion. Even so, the course is designed to be forgiving for casual golfers.
The 18th has a stunning outlook of Waiakauhi Beach. You’d never know that the resort was damaged by the tsunami of March 2011, after an earthquake off the coast of Japan sent a massive tidal wave across the Pacific. It ploughed into the waterfront suites and lifted a deck onto the middle of the fairway.
The challenges: Apart from some unsighted shots over the lava flows, there are some long, well-placed fairway bunkers to contend with. However, the fairways generally offer wide landing areas off the tee.
When to play: Year-round.
Yardage: 7117 yards; 6507 meters
Best hole: I’ll go with the picturesque par-three 17th, which has the ocean crashing into the lava on the left and a giant bunker in front of the green. I played a pitching wedge off the lava (note, not good for clubs).
The pro says: “The 17th tee – my favorite part of my office. This little hole is spectacular … Jack [Nicholas] has taken this black lava, the white sand, the blue ocean and sky, and the green grass and contrasted it in a very dramatic way. It is a nice little par three as long as you keep in mind the wind … Aim to the left side of the green or even the left rocks.” Brendan Moynahan, Director of Golf Operations. *
The resort experience:
Four Seasons Hualalai offers your classic beach-side vacation. There are many areas to chill out or get wet. There are seven swimming areas in total – including the adults-only Palm Grove pool with swim-up bar, and the King’s Pond, a 1.8-million-gallon (6.8-million liter) salt-water aquarium carved out of lava and stocked full of marine life. Here you can snorkel with some 4000 tropical fish from more than 98 species, including a spotted eagle ray.
Unwind at the 2600-square-meter (28,000-square-foot) Hualalai Spa, which has a stream running through the tropical garden as well as saunas, steam rooms, soaking tubs and cold plunges. Body treatments include massages such as a hau’oli wawae, which takes care of the foot, neck and scalp treatment and coffee mocha scrub (coffee-infused salt).
Beach weddings take place in the tropical space here, and honeymoons for that matter, too. And with children 12 and under playing golf for free when accompanied by a paying guest, they are keeping families in mind, too.
Dine and wine: There are three ocean-side restaurants and two lounges. There’s al fresco dining at Beach Tree during the day, or get stuck into the fresh sushi at ‘Ulu Lounge or taste a Mahi Mahi at Hualalai Grille. At night, enjoy a drink next to the firepit at the ‘Ulu restaurant. You can even organize a private luau at the Hoku Amphitheater with that special someone. Hula and fire dancers put on a show while you feast on a five-course meal.
The accommodation: Hualalai has 51 suites and villas and 125 guest rooms, each with lava-rock garden showers. This is luxurious accommodation with a truly Hawaiian touch. You can choose something as big as a three-bedroom Makaloa Villa, which is more like a private beach home and has its own pool and whirlpool. The Oceanfront Room can comfortably fit two adults and a child and gives you a superb view of the Pacific Ocean.
Other activities: There are plenty of ocean adventures to enjoy, such as a ribcraft snorkeling tour, whale-watching, stand-up paddle boarding or paddling a four-man outrigger canoe. There are scores of activities here for all the family to enjoy, too, from basketball and tennis to Hawaiian crafts and sand sculpting. Or learn how to make a flower lei – the aroma is delightful.
* Source: www.fourseasons.com/hualalai