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When it comes to gorgeous golf holes, Hawaii is a natural.
The destination's dramatic environment of beaches, ocean, lava, volcanoes, sunshine and rainbows have inspired architects to create captivating courses, each with its own standout moment.
The following five Hawaii golf holes know just how to bring beauty to the fore.
Kapalua Bay Course, 17th Hole, MauiAs the most famous hole of the Arnold Palmer-designed Bay Course, the 17th serves up 180 degrees of distractions.
Players gaze out to two popular beaches — Honolua Bay and D.T. Fleming — and they can spot Molokai across the channel. Jagged cliffs and a stone labyrinth are visible from the tee. Turtles and dolphins frolic in the water, and winter provides additional diversions as whales breach and spout.
After enjoying the sights, golfers must concentrate more than usual at the 17th hole, which is Maui’s only hole that plays over the ocean. Thankfully, it normally plays downwind, as the trades give the ball a little extra help clearing Oneloa Bay.
Manele Golf Course, 12th Hole, LanaiHere’s another hole that spans the ocean, presenting golfers with a thrilling do-or-die dare.
As the surf surges 150 feet below the tee, clients are treated to a stunning vision of sky and sea. The tee box is so beautiful that Bill and Melinda Gates chose it for their wedding site in 1994.
In fact, the entire course — a Jack Nicklaus design — promises ocean views, including whale sightings in the winter. Built on lava outcroppings, the fairways roll over exotic, unspoiled natural terrain. Afterward, guests can recap the experience during lunch or drinks at the course’s Views restaurant, looking out at Sweetheart Rock and Hulopoe Beach.
Mauna Lani South Course, 15th Hole, Hawaii IslandPicture the greenest of fairways that have been carved out of a rugged, ultra-black lava flow, flanked by a deep-blue sea.
That’s the dreamy setting for Mauna Lani’s 36-hole course, which has earned numerous awards over the years for its design. It’s so appealing that golf legends such as Palmer, Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player have happily answered its call.
Its creme-de-la-creme 15th hole snuggles up to an idyllic bay frequented by turtles, manta rays and other aquatic critters. Players using the championship tee boxes must hit over the water to reach the green, which is ringed by palms and lava rocks.
Princeville Makai, 7th Hole, KauaiThe 7th hole of Princeville Makai challenges players to hit the ball over a cove, as the ocean crashes several hundred feet below. That’s a tall order considering the attention-getting vistas of Kauai’s celebrated north shore, from the mountains to the sea.
Like the full course, the 7th honors its natural backdrop with a bunkering design that mimics the north shore’s wave patterns. It’s also one of the few nesting grounds of Laysan albatross and shearwaters, and endangered nene (Hawaiian geese) call it home as well.
Nongolfers can see the 7th firsthand during Princeville Makai’s daily sunset golf cart tour or sunrise yoga classes, held there twice weekly.
Turtle Bay Arnold Palmer Course, 17th Hole, OahuBefore golfers take their first swing from the 17th, they’ll want to take a deep breath, then grip it and rip it. Why? Because the approach shot plays uphill over nine bunkers to reach the slightly elevated landing area.
But the 17th is as dazzling as it is daunting. At the hole itself, players stand on the northernmost point of the island of Oahu, with the ocean just 100 feet away and Turtle Bay Resort hovering in the distance.
With such jaw-dropping panoramas spread out before them, guests love the 17th no matter what their score. Perhaps that’s why its Hawaiian nickname is Kala — To Forgive.