Abundant Makena: Where Nature Takes its Course

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In Hawaiian, the word ‘Makena’ means place of abundance, and Makena Beach & Golf Resort is truly that; a convergence of golf, hotel, tennis, dining, activities and more all under one ohana. The result is an incomparable resort experience that puts the visitor in the midst of a panorama of natural beauty, while at the same time, rolls out the red carpet at every turn.

Flora abounds at Makena.

Makena Beach & Golf Resort is all about delivering on the promise of its own name, which literally means ‘place of abundance’ in Hawaiian. And abundance is the resort’s central theme.

Makena is abundant in sunshine—it is located on the southernmost end of Maui, in the lee of Mt. Haleakala, which acts as a 10,000-foot windbreak and weather buffer.

Makena is abundant in its unspoiled natural surroundings, with 1,800 acres offering a total refuge from humanity—all almost entirely undeveloped—where peace and quiet are the norm, not the exception.

Makena is abundant in its approach: with an ownership that has taken on the entire property—from the hotel, restaurants, golf, tennis, pools, gym, and spas, to everything else under the Makena sun. While many resorts are contracting, Makena is investing millions in transforming the resort into a modern-day Maui enclave whose feature attribute is what Maui is all about: nature.

From behind the green on No. 14, a stellar par 5 that drops 250-feet from tee-to-green.

Makena is abundant in aloha. Couples, women, children, families, and all others are received with welcome arms. In fact, the name ‘Makena’ is a popular naming choice for newborns—here, on the mainland and even in places as far away as New Zealand. As many kanes (boys) as wahinies (girls) share this Hawaiian name, Makena’s Pro Shop logowear has added meaning to many and is worth the trip if only for a peek at the resort and a gift for a loved one back home, if you have someone bearing this name. How many Hawaiian golf resorts have that too as a distinction?

Many of Makena’s employees have worked there for decades. The resort goes to great lengths to recruit and retain the cream of the crop, and is building on a strong foundation of top people all the time.

Rather than importing mainlanders to show islanders how to do things, Makena’s ownership knows the scoop and has filled key positions with the best isle talent, and often from within. The end result is a more holistic and interconnected culture of people who get it; they understand what hospitality is and what Makena is all about. The vibe reeks of good karma.

A long-time Maui resident: Donna has been serving Makena’s guests for years.

For us golfers, the big story is that Makena is investing in the course, on all levels. You can see the ocean now, from tees, greens, and even the fairway landing areas. Lava, long hidden by kiawe, seems to rear its head again. All those ancient Hawaiian rock ways we hear about: they’re all running along the holes at Makena. Crusty and jagged as ever, but discernable even today.

Makena all began when a Japanese railroad magnate stopped at nothing to make Makena a resort to rival all others.  Nothing but the best, and when it came to golf, it was Robert Trent Jones, II he hired to design Makena’s two golf courses. The resort’s integration with the hilly seaside flanks of the 10,028-foot dormant volcano has been described as a masterful execution of Maui feng shui.
The 6,914-yard par 72 Makena Golf Course follows a unique Z-shaped routing straight up the mountain. It is a classic nine-out, nine-in design, that begins just above the resort’s Maluaka Beach. From there, it follows the terrain before ascending to its mountain apex on the fourteenth hole, where one can see four islands floating in the watery distance—one for every shot you’ll hope to take on the 620-yard par 5 14th that drops 200 feet in elevation from tee to green.
Four staggered tees adapt the course for all levels of players in this scenic, lush, and natural setting. Women and senior golfers couldn’t ask for a fairer test, with Makena’s Red tees slope-rated by the USGA at the exact median for Maui: six courses are easier, and six are harder. Rolling fairways follow the lay of the land, and “slope back toward the center, giving even less-skilled players a fair chance.”

Does it get any better than this? The player’s view, from approximately 225 yards away, on the downhill par 5 14th at Makena Golf Course.

Authentic and ancient Hawaiian rock walls are preserved, endemic plants are protected, and many hole centerlines point to distant landmarks out at sea, such as Molokini islet.
From the tee, Makena’s lush fairways are inviting corridors with generous landing areas. Lies sit up well on their 328 bermudagrass—cut to exactly half an inch—and Makena’s two-inch roughs help to further define the shape of the holes.  Beyond that, it’s all lava—no homes, no condos, no strip malls—just you and the golf hole, as it was meant to be—isolated, peaceful, and quiet.
“Through careful planning and attention to some technical engineering principles we were able to present many of the holes separately and apart from all others. This creates a very special feeling for the golfer—almost like this tiny little part of the world was created just for you,” Jones notes.
His strategically placed bunkers, doglegs, split fairways, natural ravines, water, bedstreams, lava outcroppings, and massive elevation changes make Makena visually stunning, and exciting to play. It is target golf from tee to green, and oh, how you’ll love those greens!
The putting at Makena is fun, yet challenging. Keeping the ball below the holes is a good idea here because the slope from back to front can be deceiving at first, and you always want to be below the hole. Grain follows the setting sun, which is always toward the ocean.
The first 14 holes climb to elevations as high as 800 feet above sea level. You are literally traversing your way up a mountain, and it is one of the best anywhere. “This is mountain golf at its best,” Mark Rolfing says, adding, “with the best views on this side of the island.”

Views abound high up on the par 4 11th.

Virtually every golfer agrees that the atmosphere here is magical. It makes one feel at peace with nature, with the honeycreepers and other indigenous birds chirping away as one commanding and incredible panoramic view after another of the shore unfolds.
The golf holes at Makena route around ancient Hawaiian rock walls. You’ll see them from tee-to-green and they are unmistakable because they don’t look like they were thrown up five years ago. These are the real McCoy, and they go back to an era when the likes of Captain Cook roamed this land.
But the real story here is the total golf experience that Makena is offering. From bag-drop to the minute you pull out of the lot, Makena’s got it down. They stay out of their own way, while at the same time they’re there. ‘Want a cold drink or a snack?’ No problem. They’ve got ’em waiting for you on the 10th tee, just like Kukio or Nanea. It’s like the golfing gods reached down from the Heavens and gave someone a serious wake-up call…but actually it wasn’t the gods at all—it was veteran golf operator Timothy Murphy. Murphy, a 16-year Aloha Section PGA golf professional, was among the several regionally savvy executives brought on-board, as mentioned earlier, by the resort’s owners.
Says Murphy, “We feel strongly about the Hawaiian term pono—doing things right.  We strive to deliver the round in paradise everyone dreams of—and will continue to do so at this special place.”

Makena’s famed sunset glow pours over the practice tee and new course restaurant, Cafe on the Green.

Makena isn’t bashful about its mission to become Hawaii’s leading destination resort. “We feel this location is unlike any other on earth,” Timothy Murphy explains. “We feel strongly about wanting to do it justice—we will care for it—protecting the natural, historical, and cultural legacy of our land.”
When you play golf at Makena, it is full of quiet solitude, and plenty of scenery along the way.

Tee shots and approaches seem to land and roll where you want them too. It’s as if you could putt your way around this Pacific playground, as even the holes that look scary offer lots of options for making the game a leisure-filled experience, rather than hard work!
The 177-yard 7th is a stunning par 3, showing off not only the ocean but the West Maui mountains too.  It has a big, wide green for you to play to, and while you are thinking about your shot, the island of Lanai also looms in the distance—it’s spectacular!
Another beautiful golf hole is the incredible 185-yard, par 3 12th. It looks like a moonscape draped in emerald green, and there is a strip of fairway that runs along the entire left side to ensure you will never lose sight of your golf ball!

One of Makena’s signature holes: the par 3 12th.

Between the 12th and the final par 3 on the Makena Golf Course is the 620-yard, par 5 14th. With a dramatic descent downward, it is one of many Makena signature holes. From tee-to-green, your ball will descend 200 feet! A half-swing and it is going to go a mile!
Spiced with lots of jungle, flowering plants, trees and lava rock fields, it is a spellbinding visual experience and a great birdie opportunity, reachable with two perfectly struck shots.

The last par 3 on the Makena Golf Course is the 15th hole, which also plays downhill, and makes the beginning of the end that much mre special. Panoramic views of the ocean and Molokini behind the green raise your odds of seeing a whale or two breaching in the distance. Inspiring to say the least.
“I don’t mean to sound biased,” Murphy says with a wry smile, “but what we do every day at Makena—the combination of spectacular setting, quality product, and guest relations delivered with genuine aloha—makes for a truly unforgettable experience for all to enjoy.” •

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