Mahalo Kapalua Plantation cover

Mahalo Kapalua Plantation


Golf, Maui, Hawaii, Kapalua, Bay Course, Plantation Course
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is located at the northwestern corner of the island of Maui, elevated above the Pacific Ocean, with panoramic views from most of the holes. During season, you are close enough to see the whales migrating past the course.
The question, of course, is this an Absolutely Must Play?

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Mahalo Kapalua Plantation

Island Bound

I made my third trek to Kapalua last month, not knowing what to expect in April.

Past trips had always been in February. As far as I could tell the weather was no different. We were, however, plagued with unusually strong trade winds, which historically have ruined my rounds. For whatever reason, this year, I controlled the ball better shooting my two low rounds ever on the Coore/Crenshaw design.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua is located at the northwestern corner of the island of Maui, elevated above the Pacific Ocean, with panoramic views from most of the holes. During season, you are close enough to see the whales migrating past the course.

The Plantation Course

All you need to know about the facility can be seen here. I should note that the pictures do not adequately portray the extreme elevation changes on the course. Nevertheless, you get the idea.

The Course

The course starts strong with a stout par 4, requiring a precise approach shot to a very sloping green.

After a short par 3, the course begins winding up the mountain, with several challenging holes; especially if the winds are blowing. Number 5 is a great risk reward par 5, followed by the crazy, downhill number six, where driving the green is possible if you get the right bounce hitting it over the trap on the left side.

Since it is completely blind, you will have no idea if you made the green until you clear the hill. Number 8 is a great par 3. The back side builds to a terrific finish.

Big Finish

Number 15 is a tough par 5, and 16 is a short, but photogenic par 4 with two fairways.

Hint: Play the left fairway, even if you cannot see it from the tee box. Number 17 is the signature par 4. From the regular tees it is a 467 yard hole, but, due to the steep terrain, a 300 yard drive is not impossible, leaving a reasonable, albeit challenging approach.

Number 18 is a great par 5, reachable in two shots, however, the right to left slope must be taken into account.

Error Free

Kapalua Golf Course, Ritz Carlton Maui, image by Soham Banerjee, (CC BY 2.0)

Error Free

The Plantation Course is a par 73, which can be conquered if you can handle the large undulating greens and keep your tee shots in play.

Jordan Spieth took the course to its knees this year with a 30 under par total, beating a very strong field. The problem is avoiding the huge blow up that awaits you with an errant shot, or a four putt green.


Like the best of the Coore/Crenshaw designs, The Plantation Course requires a complete game.

Holes range from very short to very long. The greens are intimidating and consideration must be given to the sloping terrain in picking a target. There are a number of blind shots, which means you should try and take advantage of the discounted replay rate. Course knowledge is important.

The cost of a standard round is $299. You can get discounted twilight rates; however, this is likely to include stronger winds. Many of the guests do not drag clubs with them to Hawaii, and they have excellent rentals.

However, given the cost, I would rather pay to have them shipped; especially if playing multiple rounds and/or trying some of the other Maui venues.

Kapalua Bay Golf Course

Speaking of other local courses, Kapalua also offers the highly enjoyable Bay Course. This one has some great holes as well, although does not fully measure up to its big brother. Other Hawaiian golf can be seen in my recommended Hawaii vacation blog.

Must Play

Absolutely Must Play?

Yes, the site is host to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. There is not another venue I have played that offers the same dramatic ocean views. Another added benefit is that you can match the pros with 300+ yard drives on 17 merely by starting the tee shot down the hill.

Lastly, taking the non-golfing partner to Hawaii should garner enough brownie points that you might be able get in a couple of extra rounds on Maui.

My Rating: 9, I do not love trade winds; especially over 20 mph, however, it is a small price to pay for this incomparable golf course.

Weekly Observation

Just watched Jason Day open with a 63 at TPC Sawgrass (see last blog), confirming he is the best in the world right now. His putting puts him above Rory, Jordan, Ricky et al.

Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit regularly for more (im)practical information.