The original golf course at the Mauna Lani Resort was an 18-hole layout called The Classic, designed by Homer Flint and Raymond Cain, and it was first unveiled to the golfing public at the start of the 1980s.
A decade later, Robin Nelson was called in to split the course in two then add another nine holes to the initial nines, forming the 6,913-yard North and 6,938-yard South layouts, both of which play to a par of 72.
The South is probably the better known of the two courses, thanks to it hosting the televised Senior Skins Game between 1990 and 2000, an event that Raymond Floyd managed to win five years running from 1994.
The North requires a little more shot-making skills as it winds around the private properties on the resort, playing through stands of kiawe trees and black lava formations, where feral goats help to crop the native grasses alongside the fairways.
The four par threes are memorable here but the 132-yard 17th is a cut above the others, played from a series of elevated tees into an amphitheatre-like green at the base of a lava bowl, making this hole a photo opportunity not to be missed.
The North Course does not have the luxury of the spectacular ocean holes that the South Course has. It plays longer and tighter than the South and is usually the preference of the better golfer.
The course is built in a lava bed older than 16th century Kaniku flow on the south course, and is a classic Hawaiian lava based course. Because the terrain is older it has developed more vegetation and some fairways move through forests of palm and kiawe trees. In fact some of the kiawe trees are fairly centrally located in the middle of the fairways, adding a different type of hazard.
While the course also features a number of water hazards, it is the ever present black lava that dominates- no more so than the 'signature' hole- the magnificent par 3 seventeenth hole. It is a mid length par 3 set in it's own ampitheatre of lava- it is just a majestic setting for a golf hole , and absolutely unique in the world of golf.
Another notable hole is the dog leg par 5 fifteenth hole with a tee elevated in the jungle. A long straight tee shot is required to open up the shot to the green. And the approach is a demanding one- with water and encroaching jungle factors in your decision to go for the green or lay up. It's a good hole.
The North does have one advantage on it's southern sister- because it is more inland- it has less exposure to the trade winds- which can be a nice thing! The North Course at Mauna Lani is quality Hawaiian lava based golf, and for visitors to The Big Island it is a game of golf that should not be missed.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Great track and a fun course in general. That can be said for both the North and South. If I recall correctly there are some houses that run adjacent to the course on a few of the wholes. But their low profile doesn't take away much from the course. Greens and Fairways are well maintained. Excellent Staff. Would I come back here again? Yep, It's almost heaven, unless you're playing in the summer then bring a towel it gets hot.