Wailea Golf Club: Championing the Champions

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Like anyone atop the leaderboard, you’ve got to have your A-game about you if you want to remain on top. Since 1972, the Wailea Golf Club has hovered at that ethereal level, vying for the title of No. 1, and while its competitors wish for just a momentary flinch, there’s plenty o’ game left in this legendary, ever-adaptive and responsive 54-hole golf resort. Wailea Golf Club remains stalwart in its refusal to cede its status as Hawaii golf’s leader, and it owes much of the credit to what many consider to be the most idyllic location for golf on earth.

Golf Digest’s golf course architecture editor, Ron Whitten, attempts to explain Wailea’s setting: “The state’s most idyllic setting could be Maui’s ‘golf coast’, the southwestern slope of Mount Haleakala,” he exclaims. “Yet palms, plumeria, and kiawe trees flourish. The scenery is downright decadent….” He adds: “Sheltered from the elements, this area receives just 10 inches of rain a year, so sunshine is king.”

The 10,028-foot-tall Mt. Haleakala is Wailea’s protector. The mountain blocks the north shore weather and shelters Wailea golfers from wind, rain, and the other elements.  Wailea golfers enjoy endless sunny days, very little wind, and vistas replete with breaching whales and brilliant sunsets—no wonder the champions like it here. In fact, the non-stop panorama of wall-to-wall ocean views and the creviced and coned Haleakala mountainside are so breathtaking the Tour officials have actually put competitors ‘on the clock’ for mid-event sightseeing!

The Wailea Golf Club enjoys a commanding and dominant position as the standard-bearer for resort golf here in the Hawaiian islands. The Club’s two premiere championship golf courses feature holes of every imaginable shape and form, all beaming off and emanating from the resort’s famed Gold and Emerald Clubhouse.

The epitome of golf in paradise, Wailea’s Gold and Emerald Courses exude an air of quiet sophistication and confidence—and with every drive, approach shot, pitch, and putt one is reminded of how special a time golf here truly is—with endless seascapes and brilliant sunsets unlike any others anywhere touching the senses. It’s intoxicating, and to experience it is to yearn for more. Once imbibed, the desire to play and be at Wailea becomes irresistible. Where other golf resorts strive to keep up, Wailea nonchalantly goes beyond merely keeping pace: she sets it.

Wailea has forever joined in the tradition of hosting its share of professional events. But the club caters to more than the likes of Jack, Arnie, Tom, and Hale: it is also the venue of choice for champions of other skill levels, genders, ages, and sizes: from the LPGA and Champions Tours, to junior boys and girls—no one champions the champions quite like Wailea!

As 2012 ended, the Michelle Wie HSJGA Tournament of Champions concluded its annual sojourn to Wailea, their venue of choice, where tomorrow’s stars graced the resort during this prestigious event.
Wailea’s penchant for catering to the stars has been its credo since day one, and regardless of whether one is a head of state, or a snowbird from the West Coast, in Wailea’s eyes: you are a champion. Maybe that’s why golfers migrate in droves to this, Hawaii’s most desirable and beautiful golfing escape—where exclusivity and quality go hand-in-hand.

“Breathtaking and immaculate” writes Bdelatorre, a tripadvisor.com Senior Contributor, as he describes his recent golf experience at the Wailea Golf Club: “…the most immaculately manicured courses I’ve ever played, and the views are incredible from every hole. The course is well worth the money for serious golfers. Attendants greet you with ice-cold hand towels as you complete your round on hot days. Make sure to make time for a Mai Tai on the deck after your round to finish taking in the magnificent view of Haleakala that you get from most holes on the course also. This was one of the most memorable rounds of golf in my life!”

They always say the best venues are the ones you never forget, and that’s just what course architect Robert Trent Jones II had in mind when he created Wailea’s two premiere courses: the Gold and the Emerald: “True jewels that lend sparkle to this world class, award-winning 1,500-acre resort,” Jones proclaims.

The Gold Course is the resort’s “24-carat option”, he says. It “blends classic design with rugged natural topography, including 200-ft elevation changes, low lava rock walls, tall native grasses, 93 bunkers, and strategically placed doglegs add to the challenge.”

The press agrees. Condè Nast Traveler lauded the 7,078-yard former site of the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game as “one of the world’s best-designed golf courses.”

Jack Nicklaus describes it from a competitor’s perspective: “The Gold Course is a good test of golf and a good venue for this type of format. It’s not an exceptionally long course, and it’s set up well for senior golf. That’s the whole idea of matching the golf course or venue to the format. This golf course is a fair test for all of us.”

Travel + Leisure Golf, in “Maui’s Next Shot,” an article about Wailea’s Gold Course, said: “the Gold most closely hews to one’s preconceptions of what Hawaiian golf will be,” adding that “The Pacific views are showstopping, the course maintenance is top-notch, the hedges are groomed to bonsai perfection, and the ancient lava rock walls, called papohaku, are a delightful flourish. Your cart flushes birds at every turn, sending chubby francolins and slender egrets scurrying.”

The Wailea Gold Course features four to six staggered tees, allowing for even the novice to play, at times, like a champion. But it’s the extra length and those 93 sand bunkers that seem to creep into even the most stoic golfer’s self-confidence, and perhaps that is why the competitions favor this course.

Not to be outshone by her 24-carat sister, the second of the two crown jewels at Wailea is the Emerald, and she is equally as flawless: “…stretching to 6,825 yards, (the Emerald) has many facets, including a sensuousness created by a lush tropical landscape full of plumeria, wiliwili, birds of paradise, firecracker plants, and other island flora,” Jones enthuses.

Wailea visitor hunted466 from Roseville, CA agrees with Jones. In his tripadvisor.com review of Wailea’s Emerald Course, he wrote: “I have played every course on Maui and this is my favorite. Out of the 3 Wailea courses don’t miss this one. It really plays well and is in excellent condition. The pro-shop is extensive and has a HUGE variety of just about everything that you could imagine. The views are as good or better than any course on Maui. If you’re having a hard time deciding where to play during your trip don’t hesitate. Forget Kapalua and come here. You won’t be disappointed!”

Condè Nast Traveler talks about the Emerald in more elegant, yet similarly flattering words: “…from its shared tenth and seventeenth green to the postage-stamp thirteenth that evokes the eighth at Pebble Beach to the brilliant flowers that add to the course’s palette of blue and green. (The flora and fauna here are the prettiest of any course on the island.) With funneling fairways and directional bunkers, this is a course where you should match or beat your handicap but with just enough hazard to feel good about doing it.”

Golf for Women ranked the Emerald as one of the most women-friendly resort courses, and Jones agrees: “The [Emerald] course is flexible and forgiving, with four to six tee boxes on every hole and few forced carries”, although he is quick to add that the Emerald also has plenty of bite:

“The sixth green falls sharply into grass bunkers, leaving a tricky approach. Number eleven, the longest hole on the course, plays directly into the wind.”

There’s little doubt that Robert Trent Jones II left little in the bag when he designed the Wailea Emerald course. Its dramatic first hole is stunning, with captivating views of Molokini and Kahoolawe in the distance, and its welcoming green seems to have unusual gravitational forces as golf balls are drawn to it at the bottom of a massive lava- and kiawe-framed fairway.

Clad in Wailea’s unique velvety green we call turfgrass, the Emerald’s mix of long and short par 4s, downhill and uphill par 3s, and reachable par 5s makes it fun golf for all. Like the Gold, the Emerald also features stunning bunker complexes and uses elevation change and wind to affect varying skill levels differently. The double green shared on the Emerald by Nos. 10 and 17 is another favorite.

The Emerald is just as capable a venue for top competitive events. Michelle Wie, and former LPGA veteran and Hawaii State Junior Golf Association president, Mary Bea Porter-King, have repeatedly chosen the Emerald as their venue for the Tournament of Champions. That explains why no one ever tries to typecast the dynastic Wailea Golf Club!

Both courses start and finish downhill, leaving memorable first and last impressions as one heads home to the welcoming embrace of the Gold and Emerald Clubhouse, where refreshment and revitalization await you.
Perched high and above the Gold and Emerald Clubhouse is Hawaii’s only David Leadbetter Golf Academy at Wailea, where golfers have access to not only the very best instructors, but  the use of this outstanding range, practice green and bunkers, and enormous multi-tiered putting green.

Once the clubs have been stored away, browse for a few well-deserved rewards—you’ve earned them—in Hawaii’s best-stocked and most upscale pro shop. Then retreat to Gannon’s Restaurant, where haute open-air dining and verandas galore showcase views that captivate over icy cocktails.

The Wailea Gold and Emerald Courses have championed champions from all quarters, and their focus is strictly all about you. At Wailea, you’re always a champion. Tee it up on the Wailea Gold and Emerald courses today!

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