Next month, When the PGA Tour begins, as usual, on Maui, we’ll be forced again to question the fairness of life. Highly paid professional golfers, already blessed with an overabundance of talent, will start their year on a Hawaiian island with fantasy weather, playing one of the world’s top courses: Plantation at the Kapalua Resort.
This particular event is only for the players who won a PGA Tour event last year. It’s called the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, after all. But here’s a little secret: The rest of us can play here, and enjoy the fabulous weather, as well.
Among the clichés golf fans love repeating is that their passion offers something almost no other spectator sport does: the opportunity to compete on the same hallowed ground as the pros. Quite a few golf courses host the world’s best one week out of the year and the world’s duffers the other 51.
Plantation, situated at Maui’s northwest tip, is one of the finest golfing locations on the planet. But before you take on the advanced course there, you might want to warm up at one of Maui’s gentler but no less scenic options.
Start farther down Maui’s western coast at Wailea, which offers three layouts and has hosted pros as well, but has a lot less wind whipping across the fairways. On your way back north, Kaanapali, Maui’s original resort, features two layouts: The Royal Course catches even seasoned pros off guard, while the other course, Kai, is more suited to those who find golf to be a nice add-on to Maui’s other considerable pleasures—like a post-game daiquiri. —James Frank
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ROOM WITH A VIEW: Behind the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua—and in view of the oceanside rooms—is an ancient Hawaiian burial ground as well as a stone labyrinth that some islanders say was once a vortex for spirits heading to the afterlife. The hotel is rich with Hawaiiana curated by Clifford Nae’ole, one of Maui’s best guides to this fascinating culture.
HOT DISH: After 18 holes at Kaanapali, climb the stairs to Roy’s, the Asian-fusion restaurant located above the clubhouse. The kimchi burger beats a post-round hot dog any day.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND JUST OUTSIDE:Water, and lots of it. Don’t just get in it, get on it, in an outrigger canoe—built in the tradition of the vessels that reached the Hawaiian islands hundreds of years ago—from Maui Sailing Canoe. A good captain, such as MSC’s Sage Spalding, whose family came to Hawaii in 1847, will spin terrific tales while speeding you across the waves.
SIGNATURE DRINK: The Plantation House, the restaurant overlooking Kapalua’s Plantation golf course, makes Honolua Lemonade with the islands’ own Ocean vodka. Beer lovers should visit the Maui Brewing Co. for locally brewed specialties like Coconut Porter, Mana Wheat and Bikini Blonde.