Recently under new ownership and management, the Makani Golf Club offers golfers a lovely and yet challenging course to play on the Big Island that will have you using just about every club in your bag (if not every single one). And yet it rarely sees the crowds some of the glitzier courses and country clubs on the island see. Thus, making it a good choice when you want to relax and enjoy a quality round of golf away from the touristy areas.
You will find the Makani Golf Club located around the number 20 mile marker on Highway 190, the larger road connecting the towns of Waimea and Kona. While not far from the coast as the bird flies, the Makani Golf Club is located on quite the ridgeline. This sprawling 150-acre golf club sits perched at an average of 2,300 feet above sea level. That’s quite the height, offering fantastic vistas and something of a different climate than the communities it overlooks. In fact, its name, Makani, is a bit of an ode to this as the word is Hawaiian for wind, and certainly, you will feel a nice constant breeze and cooler overall temperatures as you play this course.
The Makani Golf Club first opened its doors in 1997 under the name Big Island Country Club (it came under new ownership in 2018), and it is a testament to its good design that it has only gone through the minimalist of course and hole evolutions in the time since. Most changes were undertaken in the two years after ownership changed hands and were focused on enhancing the original design and comfort aspects, such as installing new cart paths and swapping the fairways to kikuyu grass.
The Par 72 course at the Makani Golf Club was designed by the esteemed golf course architect Perry Dye. Dye commonly built-in water features and loved working with areas with rolling hills. This Makani Golf Club features all of these aspects with nine of the eighteen holes boasting water attributes. The big signature hole here is the 17th hole which is a par three that features an island green. Dye modeled this breathtaking, but also stress-inducing, hole after another frustrating yet beautiful hole: The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.
For many golfers, it is enough for a course to be professionally-designed and pretty, but that isn’t all the Makani Golf Club has to offer. This Makani Golf Club boasts great bargain rates in the morning, making it one of the more affordable courses on the island. These rates include cart, range balls, and bottled water. Again, the course is designed so that you are going to use just about every club in your bag, offering a unique challenge.
The one big drawback to the Makani Golf Club is that it does not have a full-size clubhouse that is complete with a bar and restaurant. This makes it so that you will want to plan a separate location for dining before or after your game. But to see the positive here, the lack of an onsite bar and restaurant might be why you rarely encounter a crowd.
Finally, remember, you are going to want to bring a jacket or similar cooler-weather clothes when playing here. The lower temps at the higher altitude combined with frequent breezes can come as somewhat of a shock for those traveling from a beach resort.
If you are going for a morning game, consider a stop at Island Lava Java in Waikoloa Village. You’ll find this little coffeehouse and bakery within the Waikoloa Highlands Center and conveniently, for most, right on the way to the Makani Golf Club.