Hawaiiʻs Golden Shore

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Wailea, Maui, Is Where It’s Happening, Hun.

Written By George Fuller

In the lee of the great dormant volcano Haleakala, today’s visitors find Wailea to be the perfect combination of sun, beach, golf and luxury accommodations.

But back in 1962, not much was happening on Maui. It was a peaceful island in the middle of the Hawaiian archipelago, happily going about its business of growing sugarcane. Hawaii had become a state only three years before, and jet service was just beginning to shape the future by cutting travel time to the islands in half.

In those days, Honolulu was “where it was happening, hun” as the liner notes from a Don Ho album of the time proclaimed of the state’s largest city. Only a few adventurous souls ventured away from Waikiki to visit the neighbor islands.

Maui, though, had seen the future. The state’s first planned resort area, Kaanapali, was ready to sprout from the ground on her western shore, and its developer, AmFac, felt that championship golf was integral to the project’s success. So they hired the day’s most esteemed architect, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., to build a course that would put the Valley Isle on the map, Kaanapali North.

Jones’s son and namesake, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., then in his early 20’s, was busy learning his father’s trade on those early Hawaiian jobs. “I was an errand boy, really,” the younger Jones recalls.

But at the same time as he was fetching blueprints and slogging water for the crew, he also developed an enduring love and keen knowledge of the often-fragile and always-beautiful Hawaiian land, and nowadays four Maui courses bear the Jones Jr. imprint, including Wailea Gold and Emerald, and two in nearby Makena.

Wailea Gold is flat out one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf in Hawaii. As players make their way through the rolling hills above the beach, playing across lava ruts and past ancient Hawaiian rock walls, wide views of the Pacific are seen from every hole. Jones calls the Gold a “television course,” and viewers may have seen the design stand up to the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, as the Wendy’s Champions Tour Skins Game has been contested on her fairways for the past several years.

Meanwhile, the Emerald Course is both accommodating and lovely. Higher handicap golfers will thoroughly enjoy playing here, as the fairways are forgiving and the views remarkable.

When not golfing, Wailea’s guests are snorkeling, kayaking with giant sea turtles, horseback riding on the slopes of Haleakala or exploring the shoreline and green upcountry in a rented jeep.

“Wailea is the complete resort,” says Barry Helle, regional director of marketing for Wailea Golf. “Once you arrive at Wailea, everything you’d want for a perfect vacation is here, from accommodations to restaurants and spas, kids programs and the beach. We have top-of-the-line retail at the Shops at Wailea (Tommy Bahama, Tiffany & Company, Gucci, Louis Vuitton) and of course three championship golf courses that are always enjoying clear blue skies and gentle tradewinds. And the best part of all is that we’re on the island of Maui!”

These days in Hawaii, Wailea is where it’s happening, hun.

Show and Tell

What’s in a Number?

In golf, numbers are virtually everything: handicap, score, slope rating, and yardages to name a few. Here are a few other numbers you can find on Wailea Golf Club’s scorecard:

66: At last count, the number of accolades received by the Wailea Golf Club…and still growing. Among the latest honors are a top 100 ranking in GOLFWEEK’s poll of the best resort courses of 2007, and a rating of “Extraordinary” given to the Gold and Emerald Courses by the 2007-2008 Zagat Guidebook in its “America’s Top Golf Courses” category.

55: Number of hole-in-ones scored on the Gold and Emerald in 2006.

11: Average number of inches of rain that typically falls in a year in Wailea; known for its great golfing weather.

4.5 & 4.0: Golf Digest’s ratings of the Wailea Gold, Emerald and Old Blue courses.

18,610: Number of hats and visors sold at the award-winning Wailea Gold & Emerald Pro Shop in 2006 alone.

$340,000: The single largest paycheck won by Jack Nicklaus in his career, on the Wailea Gold Course, during the 2005 Wendy’s Champions Skins Game.

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