Named after the greatest king in the history of the Hawaiian Islands, the course at King Kamehameha Golf Club is set in the foothills of the West Maui Mountains. Managed by Troon Privé, it’s an early 1990’s Ted Robinson production that was subsequently renovated by his son Ted Jnr in 2005.
Rick Castillo at the club very kindly supplied us with the following:
The 427-yard 14th is our most challenging hole, where par feels like birdie! This par four normally plays directly into the wind and doglegs left off the tee. Two fairway bunkers capture most errant tee shots that drift to the right but stray further in that direction and you’ll lose your ball in the bougainvillea hedge between this hole and the 13th. A tee shot left of the fairway will get hung up in the rough among the eucalyptus trees, with the ball well below your feet, leaving a second shot that only the brave will elect to play for the green.
With a good tee shot to the middle of the fairway you’ll still have at least 190 yards into the wind to get to a green that is guarded by a pond in the front and water hazard/bougainvillea just left of the putting surface. Many players will under club or not hit a solid shot to carry the trouble so select 1-club stronger than you think and swing smoothly…long is better than short!
Our signature hole is the 559-yard 18th, a beautiful par five that plays downhill from your tee shot, anywhere from 200 to 250 yards out, and usually with the wind, giving you an excellent opportunity to finish with a good score. Big hitters can reach the green in two, but everyone needs to guard against pulling their shots into the pond on the left. From the fairway, the ball may be a little above your feet and with the fairway sloping towards the water you’ll want to aim for the right-side bunker.
There’s isn’t a more picturesque view of our famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse than from your second shot on the 18th fairway so get your camera out! In this composition, you’ll see the beautiful 18th hole, the 74,000 square foot clubhouse with a cascading waterfall behind the green, the West Maui Mountain on the right, and Mt. Haleakala and Ma’alaea Bay in the background – simply a majestic way to finish a round of golf and a wonderful lasting impression of what has hopefully been an enjoyable playing experience.
The King Kamehameha GC is a private members club known world wide for its amazing clubhouse- a Frank Lloyd Wright design reputed to be originally designed for Marilyn Monroe. The look is quite distinctive.
But functionally the clubhouse has some serious benefits to offer the members- the members locker rooms have every conceivable convenience available, and the clubhouse proudly tells the history of the native Hawaiians. The native art is also a feature. It is worth a visit just to see the clubhouse!
While the peach/pink coloured clubhouse does dominate the landscape, the golf course is also memorable. It is routed mainly across the slopes (and therefore either with or into the wind). The main exception is the long downhill par 3 tenth hole which is subject to the strong cross winds, and a challenge in itself.
Robinson has done a fine job here and produced a quality course. As a general statement the tee shots are relatively straight forward (although he has used some spectacular ocean views as backgrounds very well), but on the approach to the greens he has worked overtime to create some interest.
This has been done with a combination of bold bunkering, water hazards abutting greens, rocky creeks and waterfalls, and even a couple of fountains.
Whilst some of this artistry looked a little artificial to the purist in me, I do think he succeeded in keeping my attention, as I was keen to see what was around every (dogleg) corner. To top it all off, the course is beautifully maintained and is a joy to play
Holes worth noting:
Hole 6- it starts quietly enough- it is a short dogleg par 4 with a wide fairway and no real impediments for over 200 metres.
However the second shot to the green is a different matter as you will need to negotiate a pond, some rocks, and a rocky creek and waterfall to hit the elevated green. It looks great!
Hole 10 is a longer par 3 straight downhill with a significant drop in elevation. Choosing the right club is difficult given the drop, and when you get it airborn the cross winds will knock the ball off line. It is a fine hole...
Hole 11 is a good par 5, with a lovely raised green complex providing all the interest. It also has nice bunkering and a water hazard to challenge you. Although it should only be a short shot in, this approach is a shot everyone will want to play...
Another highlight was the par 4 fourteenth hole where again the green, pond, waterfall, rocky creek, bunker combination was a real winner.
Hole 17 is a mid length par 3 with a heavily contoured green, and glorious views of Kahului, and the coast, but it is the spine diagonally down the green and the pin position that will determine whether you will be cursing the architect as you walk to the final tee.
Hole 18 is a nice par 5 with a finish that summarises the round for you.
There is a little more bunkering off the tee to make sure you are still concentrating, and a lake to stay out of with your second shot. Keep in mind everything slopes right to left and runs to the water…
Your final approach to the last green should be memorable. Lake to the left, nice bunkering, nicely contoured green, lava rock walls, waterfalls, and the famous pinky coloured clubhouse as a backdrop. Pretty much your everyday finish to a round? Not!
Maui has 9 different microclimates and whereas it can be warm and calm and dry at Kihei, or Wailea- it is cooler windier and subject to more rain on the slopes at the King K club. It is a fun place to play and a good test of golf. And then there is that clubhouse! It is an experience not to be missed!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.