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For many visitors to Hawaii, golf courses are as pretty a sight as the state’s famed beaches. Now, a broader range of players with varying skill levels — including junior golfers — can try their hand at Hawaii’s courses, while paying rates that are much less expensive than what they might encounter at a similar resort course.
On Hawaii’s Big Island, Mauna Lani Resort recently introduced a nine-hole golf course created for keiki (children).
“In its design and length, the Keiki Course was initially designed for players ages 5 to 12,” said Ross Birch, Mauna Lani Resort’s director of golf sales and retail. “It was established to provide a viable place to learn and play the game for our young visitors. We believe that there is an increasing number of players in this age bracket who need a course that fits their game.”
The Keiki Course’s shorter lengths, ranging from 40 yards up to 140 yards, better accommodate these players. The challenging par 33 holes were designed similarly to those at the Mauna Lani Resort’s two championship greens: the 18-hole Francis H. Ii Brown North and South Courses.
“This is the only course of its kind in the state of Hawaii,” said Mauna Lani golf director Dennis Rose. “Mauna Lani wants to play a role in encouraging children to learn and love the great game of golf.”
Mauna Lani prefers that adults play alongside the keiki players, as on its regulation courses. However, Birch said, “we believe juniors should not be turned away if they want to play the course on their own.”
So, for unaccompanied junior golfers 14 years and older, Mauna Lani’s golf professionals spend time making sure that they have a knowledge of the game and understand general etiquette and safety rules.
Launched as an amenity for Mauna Lani guests and homeowners, the Keiki Course will eventually be available for clients from outside the resort as well as for junior events, Birch said.
“The consensus from our players is that the golf course is fun, challenging and a great way to bring multigenerational travelers together in activity,” he said. “We have received a very positive response from both juniors and adults of all ages, and we are finding that this is the best family golf experience on the Big Island.”
Maui Course Reaches Out
Meanwhile, in Kihei, the Elleair Maui Golf Club is also enticing more golf players of varying skills.
According to its promotional material: “Elleair can be a challenge for all levels of play, and the course is manicured just like Maui’s best resorts, all for a more affordable price.”
Open to the public, the 18-hole, par 71 course has been privately owned and operated for seven years by Japanese conglomerate Daio Paper Corporation, which also owns the Maui Beach Hotel located in central Maui and two championship golf courses in Japan. During Hawaii’s peak visitor season, half of the course players are visitors.
According to Hiroyoshi Tateishi, vice president of the golf club, Elleair is one of the most popular and easiest courses to play on Maui. At the same time, Tateishi said, “I am confident the course is comparable to the island’s resort courses.”
Its wide fairways feature fewer sand traps and gentler slopes than most Maui courses, broadening its appeal.
Elleair’s convenient southwest Maui location appeals to visitors staying in Lahaina and Kapalua resorts as well as in Wailea and Makena. It also offers striking views of the West Maui Mountains, Haleakala Volcano and the ocean.
By attracting junior players and less experienced adult players, these golf courses are enabling more clients to savor the joys of golfing in Hawaii, while also avoiding the traditionally high prices associated with the sport.
CONTACTKeiki Course at Mauna Lani Resort 808-885-6655 www.maunalani.com
Open 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Rates: Players 18 years and younger, $25 (nine holes); accompanying adults, $35. Keiki rental clubs and a restricted three-club set of mid-length and short irons for adults, $10.
Golfers under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. The course is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Travel agent commissions are available on Mauna Lani Resort’s room bookings. Mauna Lani’s Ohana (family) package starts at $315 per room, per night.
Elleair Maui Golf Club 808-874-0777 www.elleairmauigolfclub.com
Open 7 a.m.-5 p.m daily. Lighted driving range stays open until 9 p.m.
Rates: $120 per person; twilight (after 12 noon), $95 per person; rider fee, $20; club rental, $40. Guests of the Maui Beach Hotel get a $15 discount.
Travel agent commissions are negotiable with a contract.