Maui Nui Golf Club -- A Hawaii golf experience that won't break your wallet

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Charles Rendall

KIHEI, MAUI, HI – I don’t know about you, but one of the things I dread most about traveling to a touristy destination like Hawaii is the prospect of paying supersized prices for products and activities that just don’t justify the expenditure.

$25 for a pizza? $15 for a burger? $10 for a beer? Those are just some of the mind-numbing numbers waiting for you in America’s premier island paradise situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

If you haven’t been to Hawaii before be prepared for some sticker shock of your own once you reach the islands. In our case the roundtrip airfare alone to get to Maui (from Los Angeles) was near $1000 per person. And when you go to a grocery store there expect to lay out just short of double what you’d pay in the states for the same tub of butter or box of crackers.




Enjoy the view from the first tee at Maui Nui. The wide open landing area is inviting for your initial tee shot of the day.

That’s why it was incredibly refreshing to discover a golf course on Maui that prides itself on providing value without sacrificing the Hawaii golf experience. Maui Nui Golf Club in Kihei (about a 20 minute drive from the airport, just north of the resort area of Wailea) is one of those rare occasions when you’re surprised (in a good way) by how much something costs in Hawaii.

Having played at all of the major open-to-the-public venues on Maui on past trips I was expecting to have a hard time finding something a little more reasonable this time around. I was wrong. Simply put, Maui Nui offered every bit of the Hawaii golf feel that you’d want without sacrificing so much of your daily budget that you’re forced to eat Doritos for dinner to make up for it.




From behind the green of the par four 11th hole you get a sense of some of the terrain undulations at Maui Nui.

Maui Nui’s Director of Golf, Lief Smith, provides a little background on the club. “2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of our club. During those three decades the course has had three owners. Originally it was Silversword Golf Club; then it was purchased by Japanese ownership that changed the name to Elleair Maui Golf Club.

“In 2014, a local hotelier, Peter Savio, bought the golf course and we together changed the name to a more Hawaiian ‘Maui Nui Golf Club,’ which means greater Maui – which in turn includes all of Maui County in our logo on the honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) shell. You can see Lanai, Molokini, Kahoolawe and much of the island of Maui from our course.”




There is a blind tee shot from the back boxes on the par four 5th hole. Pick your spot and trust your swing to put it in the fairway.

It’s true; the views are beautiful from the golf links at Maui Nui. The holes are situated above the ocean and well back from the water but there’s little doubt at any point on the property that you’re still in Hawaii. Maui Nui doesn’t have the lava outcroppings of Wailea or the breaching whales in Kapalua bay that you’ll sometimes get at the Plantation Course, but the overall experience is much the same.

And of course the price-tag is much friendlier. How’s that for a little “Aloha spirit?”




Near the green of the par four 16th hole at Maui Nui. The second shot is uphill so you will get a good sense of the bluer than blue Hawaiian sky.

The feel of the club is also more local in nature. The staff is friendly and helpful and what the course lacks in frills it makes up for in unhurried enjoyable golf. Compared to other aforementioned golf facilities there are also relatively few residential properties bordering the holes. It’s a very quiet peaceful journey through the beautiful paradise of Hawaii.

That’s about what you would expect from Maui. The club’s website tells the story of the island. “The Legend has been told, that millions of years ago, the Polynesian Demi-God Maui was belittled by his family as he was not a great fisherman. Maui prayed and received a magical hook to fish the ocean. Maui's brothers teased him and did not want to let him fish, but at last they allowed him to charter the ocean with them.




Not many tee shots at Maui Nui would be considered intimidating but with trouble bordering both sides of the par four 6th hole, it requires steady nerve to put it down the middle.

“On their fated journey after days of failure to catch nothing but sharks, Maui prayed to the heavens and cast his magical hook into the depths of the ocean and hooked the earth. Maui instructed his brothers to paddle and never look back. After days of fighting the ocean, the line snapped and Maui had pulled the earth to the surface of the water to form the island chain that is now known as Hawaii.”

Hawaii has many, many such legends, which is part of its uniqueness and charm.




The par three 14th hole is rated the easiest at Maui Nui. If you end up in that front bunker, you might not agree.

The Maui Nui golf course itself was designed by Canadian Bill Newis. Newis is a civil engineer by trade more famous for laying out courses in western Canada, but he’s certainly got at least one piece of the island of Maui to call his own.

Newis is known for his attention to detail and care for the environment which is certainly in evidence at Maui Nui. There is a surprising amount of strategy that’s required to play the club well and the angles of some of the holes (especially on the front nine) were quite demanding for us first time players.




The 520-yard, uphill par five 8th hole is reachable in two but only if you are positioned on the correct side of the fairway off the tee.

Lief Smith describes the challenge. “The golf course can change dramatically between our white and blue tee boxes.  The white tee boxes (6,000 yards) takes out a lot of the blind tee shots that if you go one tee box back to blue and at 6400 yards can become difficult.

“Our championship tee box is just over 6800 yards and it takes very accurate tee shots to several of the longer par 4’s and 5’s that have narrow fairways and slope to lower elevation tree covered areas.”




The Maui Nui scorecard suggests visiting the Championship tee box on the par four 15th hole for the best photo opportunity on the course. We agree.

Smith is right, a good many of the holes – again, mostly on the front nine – have blind or semi-blind tee shots. The cart’s GPS description helped point us in the right direction but Maui Nui is a course that needs to be played a few times in order to understand all the shot values.

There was surprisingly little wind on the day we played, though Smith says the course’s location contributes to its calmness on the island. “We are located on the south side of the island and we are protected from rain and high winds by Haleakala Volcano, Kahoolawe, the West Maui Mountains and Lanai thus giving us the best weather year round with average rainfall of less than 10 inches per year.”




Looking back from behind the holes at Maui Nui helps explain the best way to play them. Here, the green of the par four 5th hole.

You wouldn’t necessarily think it would be that way since Haleakala is almost always shrouded in clouds. But in Hawaii the peaks gets gobs of rain and the valleys don’t always follow suit. Why do you think there are so many rainbows in the state?

The playing conditions at Maui Nui were also excellent, which according to Smith, contributes to its playability. “Our fairways are manicured and our rough is always in great shape and not too thick.  This allows even the high handicapper the chance to get out of trouble and possibly make the green in regulation.”




Coming home on the par five 18th hole. Plenty of room, let it fly!

The tightness of some of the holes makes you wish you were in that rough instead of reaching in the bag for another ball. If you’re off the playing surface at Maui Nui it’s likely gone. But you’re in Hawaii, so who cares!

One last note before describing some of the highlight holes – you can walk at Maui Nui. Smith says there are only a few golf facilities that allow walking and they’re proud to be one of them. “We host fitfeb and encourage afternoon walking for overall health and exercise.  We also have unlimited monthly walking passes.”




The clubhouse at Maui Nui adds to its friendly atmosphere.

It should be noted while most of the course isn’t extremely hilly that temperatures in Hawaii will be warm to hot year-round so walking a golf course will be a strenuous test of fitness. This certainly isn’t a warning – if you have time, walking a course like Maui Nui would be an exhilarating experience.

Hole highlights include the par four sixth hole, one of those narrow links on the outward nine. 407-yards from the back tees, you must contend with water down the right side and a natural area to the left. It’s probably the most intimidating tee shot on the course, though the previous hole’s blind shot is a close second.

On the back nine Smith highlighted holes fifteen and eighteen for their panoramic views of the west Maui mountains, Molokini, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

There isn’t a tremendous amount of water on the course but what there is comes into play. Newis may not have studied golf architecture in college but he sure made good use of the land’s natural slope and contour to create a course of interest and surprising variety. Every hole is memorable and challenging in its own way.

Naturally Smith is proud of what they’ve got going there. “Maui Nui has been voted by GolfAdvisor as the island’s best overall value. Our rates are consistently between $54-$109 depending on the time of day you play and if you play multiple rounds of golf.

“If you are on island for an extended period of time we have the #1 player program around that nets your rates down to as low as $24!!!  We also carry the top of the line Taylor Made M2 rental clubs and have an enormous practice area and driving range that is open until 9pm.”

All in all, Maui Nui is one of the better golf experiences on the island of Maui. If you’re looking for a place on the island that offers a pretty darn interesting golf layout and a friendly pricing structure, it should definitely be a centerpiece on your itinerary.


Details:

Maui Nui Golf Club
470 Lipoa Parkway
Kihei, Maui, HI 96753

Phone: (808) 874-0777

Website: http://www.mauinuigolfclub.com/

Director of Golf: Lief Smith
Course Designer: Bill Newis

Tees/Yardage/Rating/Slope

Gold                6665    72.7/129
Blue                 6236    70.8/124
White              5851    68.6/121          73.0/122 (W)
Red                 5321    63.8/110          67.0/112 (W)

Rates/Specials:

Consult the website for current pricing and special programs.



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E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor:
jrendall@golftheunitedstates.com