Set out at the start of the rugged Na Pali coast to the north of Kauai, the Makai course at the Princeville Resort was one of Robert Trent Jones Jnr’s earliest designs, first opening for play in 1971. It’s a 27-hole layout, with the easier 9-hole Woods course complementing the 18-hole track. The highly regarded Prince course completes the golfing element at the 45-hole resort and the same architect designed this layout in 1991, with golfers accessing the course via a separate clubhouse, two miles to the east.
Noteworthy par three holes on the front nine at Makai include the 181-yard downhill 3rd, which plays to a water-threatened green, and the 213-yard 7th, where the tee shot must carry a frightening clifftop gully on its way to a distant green. On the inward half, the course routing returns briefly to the Pacific Ocean at the short par four 14th hole before fairways head inland and the round concludes with a meaty left doglegged par five.
Almost forty years after Makai debuted, Trent Jones Jnr returned to carry out an extensive $6 million renovation of the layout and this saw the introduction of Seashore Paspalum grass on all tee boxes, fairways and greens, which has added to the playability and durability of the course. Many of the green complexes and surrounds were also re-shaped, along with a number of the bunkers, and all of these changes have heightened the strategic element of playing here.
Robert Trent Jones Jnr is one of my favourite architects. His output of quality courses around the world is steadily mounting. In Australia he made a real impact with Coolum, Meadow Springs, Joondalup , Cape Schanck and The National’s Old Course – my favourite course in the land.
RTJ2 obviously made a similar impact on Kauai having now designed four of the nine courses on the island.
Princeville is a large high end master planned community and resort on the north shore of Kauai overlooking Hanalei Bay.
Princeville Makai course was one of Jones's earlier designs, first coming into play in 1971. The course has 18 holes but also has a 9-hole ‘executive layout’ attached known as The Woods.
The Makai course is full of variation and mixes pleasant parkland holes with dramatic clifftop golf. The routing takes golfers to the sea and back a number of times during the round ensuring that the drama ebbs and flows. A number of the parkland holes play around or over lakes, and no two holes are alike.
Princeville Makai is worth travelling to play, and a real Hawaiian golfing experience.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Given that the Prince course, despite the rumored re-opening, is still closed Makai is essentially the only game in town in Princeville for the near future. The 9 hole Woods course, from what can be seen and discussions with the pro shop, is pretty rough around the edges to put it mildly. Regardless, Makai is a scenic, fun, and often challenging layout, particularly when the wind blows. The 1st hole is non-descript although is similar to many as bunkers pinch the fairways in the driving zone. That being said the fairways here are generous if not often huge so the course can be had if you're playing well. Hole #2 offers the first of two views of Hanalei Bay and the mountains behind and is a bunker lined par 5. #3 is a straight downhill par 3 that plays much shorter than the yardage and is fronted by a pond in the front and OB back and has an even better view than #2. Temporarily turning away from the water #4 is the toughest hole in the course with a tight driving area and dramatic uphill approach shot. #5 is a par five that despite playing into the wind is a birdie opportunity. Crossing the road leads to #6 that plays downhill on the 2nd shot to the Pacific ocean. Par 3 #7 forces a carry over a ravine with a great coastline view. The finishing par 4's on the front are generally unremarkable. The back 9 plays longer and often into the wind with #10 being a long par 4 with the approach shot needing to clear a fronting pond. The next par 5 is wide open and can lead to birdie despite the length and wind. #12 is a long par 4 that played into the wind all week and par was a good score. #13 is a lengthy par three with trouble on the left and par is a good score here. #14 is a downwind potentially drivable par 4 over a ravine with the Pacific on the right. #15 is a potential birdie hole if you thread or clear the bunkers, although too far right leaves a potential steep downhill approach out of thick rough. 16 is a long par 3. #17 is a long par 4 with an approach to a green fronted by a lake with bunkers behind. The finishing hole is a risk/reward par 5 where the drive can play safe or attempt to cut off distance over the lake and avoiding a centrally placed bunker. The second shot is either a lay-up to a strip on the right or going further back short of the lake on the left. Going for the green in 2 requires a long strike to clear the lake fronting the green.
Overall this is a fun course with some excellent views (see pictures), a great staff, and some challenging holes. Despite all the recent rains the course conditioning was excellent overall. Perfect course for vacation rounds in this magnificent setting.