Golfing The Slopes of Haleakala

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The Makena North Course is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design situated within one of Maui’s most tranquil settings. It’s truly old Hawai‘i at its very best.

The Makena North Course “is one of the best mountain course layouts in Hawai‘i,” golf analyst Mark Rolfing, PGA, explains. “Robert Trent Jones, Jr. has taken the slopes of Haleakala and blended them into a wonderful design of golf holes. This course has the best views on this side of the island and at the same time offers a great test of golf.”

The 6,914-yard, par 72 North Course was carved out of lava in 1993 and is a rugged, natural test of golf that winds up, down, and around the verdant slopes of Haleakala.

The first 14 holes climb to elevations as high as 800 feet above sea level. The Makena North Course makes the golfer feel at peace with nature and commands incredible panoramic views of the south shore.

Holes on the North Course route around and through ancient Hawai‘ian rock walls, massive gullies and gulches, streambeds, and lava flows. It is a rugged, true test of golf, where placement of tee shots makes all the difference.

The North Course’s U.S.G.A. slope rating is 139 (from the back or Championship tees). Its narrow fairways, terrain, and undulating, slippery greens keep even the best players on their toes. “I really like the 6th hole on the North Course because it offers you two options off of the tee,” Kirk Nelson, PGA, Makena’s acting director of golf, explains. If you go for the left side of the gulch, you open up the hole for the best shot at getting it close. If you play it safe on the right side of the gulch, you’ll find the approach shot is much more difficult.”

Looking back from the 6th tee, there’s a clear view of the nearby islands of Kaho‘olawe and Molokini.

The 177-yard 7th is a stunning par 3. “This hole once again shows off not only the ocean, but the West Maui mountains too,” Scott points out. “It has a large lava ravine that crosses the fairway just in front of the green, and while you are thinking about your shot, the island of Lanai also looms in the distance—it’s spectacular!”

The 185-yard, par 3 12th features Molokini as its backdrop and has a large lava ravine that runs from tee to green all the way along the right side. Bunkers along the left side of the green leave you just one safe shot: the middle!

Between No. 12 and the final par 3 on the North is the 620-yard, par 5 14th. Here begins a descent downward in dramatic fashion. Regarded as the North Course’s signature hole, though many holes qualify, it is a monster that features a 200-foot drop from tee-to-green. Spiced with lots of jungle, flowering plants, trees and lava rock fields to gobble errant shots, it is a great birdie opportunity, reachable only with two perfectly struck shots.

The last par 3 on the North Course is the No. 15 hole, measuring 217 yards. While it plays downhill, two bunkers guard the left and right sides of the green, and the panoramic view of the ocean and Molokini behind the green are sure to distract you.

I’d have to say we have the most tranquil, naturally stunning golf course of any I can think of here in the islands,” Kirk adds. “If someone wants to really get away from it all, and play some golf that is as challenging as it is fair, then the North Course is a good bet,Kirk said. We agree.

Did You Know?

Makena features two Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed courses.

He owns South Maui. Robert Trent Jones, Jr. has made his mark around the world, in Hawai‘i, and especially on Maui. No other course architect has as many courses that bear his name as does Mr. Jones. He describes Makena as one of the most “beautiful and natural settings” for a golf course that you will find anywhere. While scenic, Makena’s North Course is among Maui’s most challenging, too. The South Course is closed for renovations.

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