Have you ever entered a pro shop and found the vibe to be so wrought with arrogance that you were put off? I have heard many a player, and myself have experienced this too, where you go to a place to have fun and the gatekeepers are totally horses asses. Maui has a couple of places where you’ll find that nonsense, but Kaanapali isn’t one of them.
The grandest, and oldest, of the so-called master-planned resort communities in Hawaii is Kaanapali. They could more righteously put off an air of snobbery, like some of their nearby rivals, but they don’t. Is this because their golf product isn’t as ‘good’? No. If there is one thing I’ve learned about writing about golf in a tourism sort of way, it is that every course has its die hard fans, and that my say may count a little, but ultimately, it is your opinion that counts.
Don’t let anyone pontificate about what is the best or worst golf course. Not here, not anywhere. Sure, it helps to have a perspective, but until you see it, play it, and experience it, no one is going to be able to replace your own rating.
That said, I will contradict myself and tell you, without any trepidation, that Kaanapali Golf Courses are where I’d say to the unsuspecting visitor: “Play here, and you won’t regret it.”
Yes: the Plantation Course has the Tour every year; yes: Makena is (like King Kamehameha and Kahili) devoid of the urban crawl and most importantly, devoid of hurling winds and bad weather: yes, Wailea has three golfing gems all known for their character, charm, and in the case of the Old Blue, tradition; and yes: the Dunes is arguably the most challenging venue we’ve got. But add it all up: aloha, vibe, conditions, product, views, proximity, reputation, history? Kaanapali wins hands down.
I am so not a fan of outsourcing or foreign ownership, yet in Hawaii, that’s just the way it is. Kapalua, Kahili, King Kamehameha, and Elleair are foreign-owned. Kapalua (this April) and Kaanapali have outsourced management companies. Does it make a difference in terms of what you can expect? In some ways, yes.
I used to have a protective view of things: ‘how can on off-island company manage our courses better than we?’ I’d ask.
Well, if you look at how Kaanapali was run before it was taken over by its current management, Bill Casper Golf, most wold say it was a shambles. One of my best friend, Dave Gleason, ran the ship there for ages and, I hate to say this, oversaw its decline.
When the well-known resort course was in its biggest trouble, it took an outside perspective to turn the ship right. That’s where Billy Casper Golf came in. Now, in all fairness, everyone leading up to the hiring of Casper knew the course need a major cash infusion, but it took an outside firm, using local talent, to make that a reality.
We have a lot of great golf resorts in Hawaii, but only one led, and continues to lead, the way. Kaanapali: where the world comes to play.
That’s no idle metaphor.