There are not many places that can beat the charm of the Hawaiian Islands when it comes to choosing the perfect destination for a relaxing vacation. That's why it's no surprise that so many people seek out The Valley Isle as their perfect golfing holiday. With glorious weather all year, breathtaking scenery at every turn, and a community like no other, it's a no-brainer. The beauty of Maui golfing is the perfect way to discover a wonderfully unique golfing experience.
We invited our Island Sotheby’s International Realty agents to walk us through the world of Maui golfing. Find out all there is to know below!
What are some of the best things about golfing on Maui?
Ben Willis R(S): Maui is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I love to introduce the island to people visiting Maui for the first time. Then, once they play golf, it becomes true love. Another nice thing about Maui is you can play golf year-round.
Ryan MacLaughlin PB: What's impressive about golfing on Maui is the weather, setting, and views. Some of the best real estate on the island are on a golf course. You can be surfing one minute and golfing the next. The beach can be 100 yards away from the golf course.
Rob Shelton R(B): I enjoy sharing with people that Maui has various golf experiences, including public, semi-private, private, and resort courses. The resort courses are available to all players and feature some of the top golf courses in America.
Candi Matthews R(B): My favorite part of Maui golf, besides the amazing ocean views of course, is the island lifestyle of golf. I drive my golf cart to my home course at Kaanapali and I’m instantly greeted by the happiest smiles in the business who make everyone feel like ohana. It’s a family here, even when paired up with strangers, the relationships built on a Maui golf course are incredibly rewarding, everyone is so happy to be here. My favorite comment when someone asks if they should lay up or go for it is, “You didn’t come to Maui to lay up… you go for it!”
How has living on Maui helped perpetuate your passion for golf?
Ben Willis R(S): Along with being the best place on earth, the golf isn't bad either! On many days playing, I will look out over the course, see Molokai and Lanai, and think how lucky I am to live here.
Ryan MacLaughlin PB: It's helped because it's an all-year-round constant for my friends and myself. The visitors are always coming to golf, as Hawaii is a destination, so you always have someone to play with.
Scott Carroll R(S): When I moved to Maui over 22 years ago, I gravitated towards golf and worked for Maui Land and Pine Company at Kapalua. I had numerous opportunities to grow into different positions and grow professionally and personally. Playing golf on Maui is a 12 month/365-day opportunity here (something I was not used to growing up in Spokane, WA, where it snowed in the winter). I've met many great people playing golf on Maui, and it has been the catalyst to casting a large net and developing positive relationships with an array of friends.
Rob Shelton R(B): You don't have to shovel sunshine, so being outdoors with fresh air in a beautiful golf setting on a year-round basis is just a great place to be.
Candi Matthews R(B): Well, I’m a very lucky lady since I have a home on lucky #13 on the Kai at Ka’anapali course, so not only do I get to play very often, I actually pop out with friends at Happy Hour for the last 6 holes when they make the turn at my house. Covid actually had the course closed for 8 months so that inspired me to really work on my game & the strategy of each stroke, I was obsessed with breaking 90 consistently & cleaning up those blow up holes. The work payed off & all I’m missing now is a hole in 1!
What is something people might not know about golf on Maui?
Ryan MacLaughlin PB: We have a PGA event on Maui, and actually, it's the event where the best of the best are invited. A pro has to win a PGA event to get an invite to the Kapalua event. That's crazy to think about. The best golfers in the world are playing on our tiny little island.
Candi Matthews R(B): Golfing on Maui is literally golfing on a volcano, so paying attention to wind (check those palm trees!), slope, lie, the burn mark on the cup so you know which way the grain is pulling & rolling, time of day also plays a big part because our weather changes rapidly. Taking the elevation into consideration is a must for our guests, Maui golf courses are pretty close to sea level, most guests are coming from higher elevations which definitely affects the distance and club choice.
What do you think new Maui golfers should know before hitting the course?
Scott Carroll R(S): It always helps to have the home field/court advantage in sports, and golf is no different. Maui golf is extremely rewarding, challenging, and exciting; however, it can be tough for those that have not had the experience of playing on the island. The wind, the "grain" (the direction the grass grows), and the general understanding of the local courses are key components to playing golf here and enjoying your time on the links. Most of the courses here are designed with the trade winds in mind, and therefore you may notice extremely long holes and very short holes that contradict themselves and play very short and or long (respectively). Understanding this and therefore choosing the correct clubs for the situation at hand is imperative to playing well.
What are some of the best memories of Maui golf you have?
Ben Willis R(S): Probably my favorite memory is the week of my son's wedding. Many family and friends came from the mainland, and one day was devoted to golf at Kapalua. I was proud to show off the resort and Maui as well.
Ryan MacLaughlin PB: The best memories I have on the golf course are with my dad. He taught me the game, and more importantly, the etiquette and rules that go along with it. It's all about respect. The kids nowadays are even more tuned into that aspect, and it's incredible to watch. I think golf is one of the best sports for that aspect alone.
Scott Carroll R(S): I have many great memories playing golf on Maui, but my most memorable was filling in as a "marker" during the 2011 Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. One of the PGA Tour players (Geoff Ogilvy)hurt his hand snorkeling at Kapalua Bay the day before the event, and the PGA Tour needed a one-day fill-in to join Jim Furyk as a playing partner. I was asked to play and nervously accepted. Nevertheless, it was a round of golf I'll never forget and the fantastic support that the Maui community gave me that day.
Rob Shelton R(B): I certainly have a lot of memories, but a few do stand out like participating in the 100 holes of golf to benefit the ARC of Maui. I did it at least five times on various Maui courses. What a long day of golf, but for a good cause. Another would be, In 1987, a friend and I started The Kapalua Clambake Pro-Am Invitational, which has benefitted Special Olympics Maui, Lahainaluna High School Golf teams, and Lahaina Junior Golf. That tournament just celebrated its 34th year and has been a great source of pride over the years.
Candi Matthews R(B): I have had a lot of dates on the golf course, I’ve also met a lot of amazing women golfers and there’s no better way to get to know someone than spending 4 hours of sport that operates with the highest respect, integrity, sportsmanship, trust & honesty, rules & regulations. I love this game & everything it represents! The values in this sport align with the values I’m proud to live by, you can definitely tell a lot about someone on a golf course.
What is the golfing community like in Maui?
Ben Willis R(S): Many different groups are playing on Maui. There are visitors from international destinations, mainland groups on vacation, full and part-time residents, and Maui Junior golf.
Ryan MacLaughlin PB: The golfing community on Maui is so incredible! It doesn't matter who you are; it's a game that everyone at every age can play. The community is so open to new players and visitors. That's just because we are in paradise and so used to the visitor industry. I always get excited when I get paired up with a random person at the golf course. I can't wait to hear where they are from and what their story is.
Scott Carroll R(S): The golfing community on Maui is like family. The locals are one big ohana, and although each golf course has its "regulars," Maui golf, in general, is an eclectic mix of locals, part-time residents, and bucket list vacationers. The common theme is the love of golf and appreciation for the beauty we are surrounded by.
Rob Shelton R(B): It's incredible. We meet people from all walks of life, and their stories are exciting and engaging. The camaraderie is great, and we love participating in local charity events aside from our normal foursomes. Our community is generous with donations to the various fundraising events, and the formats are usually entertaining.
Shaun Pederson R(S): The golfing community here is unique in its own way. Most of the courses here are open to the public so you can find yourself playing with just friends or going out and pairing up with someone that is visiting. If you like competition, there are two different games that you can play on Maui based on your ability. There is “Da Game” for the better player and “The Mini Game” for the higher handicaps. Both connect people with similar interest for the game and have a weekly schedule so you aren’t playing the same course every time. Rohn Stark coordinates Da Game, a daily event at a rotating list of Maui courses. Rates are usually Kamaaina (approx $50). Email email@example.com or me for more information!
Candi Matthews R(S): It’s the most special Maui ohana I have besides my Sotheby’s ohana! From the bag drop boys, to the starters & pro shop, the staging area & 1st tee box all the way to the 19th hole it’s a solid sense of community & operates like a private club. We all have the same goals on the course and Maui being such a small island, we all know each other & we are all out to watch us play our best game. We want to be there for those big shots, we want to witness those winning moments & the support is contagious. When we get to take our visiting family & friends out they are always surprised at the extra aloha that they experience because they’re now a “local” for a day!