It was a bold decision to build a five-star hotel at Mauna Kea on the black desolate lava fields of Hawaii’s Big Island. Some thought Laurance Rockefeller was crazy when he commissioned Robert Trent Jones Senior to build the island’s first course, which would stretch the top pros to the absolute limit and create a visually stunning course for visitors, ensuring they would return to the Big Island time and time again.
The original RTJ Senior design proved too challenging for the average golfer, so his son Robert was called in to soften the layout. Nevertheless Mauna Kea remained a tough proposition and the par three 3rd with its green set above volcanic rock some 200 yards away is a classic example. One of the most photographed golf holes in the world where the pounding blue Pacific Ocean combines with black lava rock, blue sky and lush green turf to create a most vivid image. Don’t forget your camera and also don’t forget your all-weather gear as 33 of the world’s 35 climates are reputed to exist on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Mauna Kea golf course closed for most of 2007 and 2008 for renovation by Rees Jones, the “US Open Doctor” and son of the course’s original architect. The makeover included the addition of new bunkers, tee to green reseeding with new hybrid grasses and, naturally, the course was lengthened. From the tips, Mauna Kea now measures 7,370 yards – 200 extra yards have been added – but with multiple tee boxes the course remains playable for all levels of golfer.