Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

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The Mauna Kea Golf Course at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was the first golf course to be built on an ancient lava flow.

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Mauna Kea Golf Course at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Kohala Coast, Hawaii, has led the way in golf course beauty and design in Hawaii since its debut in 1964. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels of America in 2016. The Mauna Kea Golf Course was the first resort golf course on the island of Hawaii and the first course to be built on an ancient lava flow. Designed by famous golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and updated in 2008 by son Rees Jones, the course’s 99 well-placed bunkers and undulating greens present a challenge for the most seasoned golfers and a memorable day of play for leisurely golfers.

The resort’s golf course was part of Laurance S. Rockefeller’s strategy to turn Kauna‘oa Bay into one of America’s best holiday destinations. Hiring Robert Trent Jones Sr. to oversee its construction, Rockefeller hoped that both his new resort hotel and the golf course would attract countless guests from across the nation. Jones Sr. shared his employer’s enthusiasm, too. In fact, one story alleges that Robert Trent Jones Sr., told philanthropist Laurance S. Rockefeller: “allow me to build a golf course here, it will be the most beautiful hole in the world.” To that end, Jones developed a new technique to turn the rocky lava flow into stunning fairways and verdant greens. They engineered soil from the lava with crushed limestone and coral and drilled deep to naturally irrigate the course.

After three years of continuous construction, both Rockefeller and Jones Sr. debuted the beautiful new golf course in 1964. To celebrate its grand opening, Rockefeller held a special televised tournament on the course later that December. The tournament specifically hosted golf’s “Big Three” of the dayArnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player. The climax of the competition came when the trio teed-off on hole #3. The hole was incredibly difficult for even the three men, as two-thirds of the fairway was covered completely by water. Despite their collective talent, only Palmer succeeded in reaching the green.

Since that premier, the course has welcomed celebrities, professionals, and those golfers who recognize it as the “bucket list,” must-play course it is. The previously unplayable lava field has further been transformed into a lush golf course with extraordinary Pacific Ocean views, dramatic seaside cliffs, and perfect TifEagle bermudagrass. Its signature par 3 over-the-ocean hole #3 is among the most daunting, photographed and awarded par 3 holes in the world. It is a stunning, over-the-ocean tee shot of 272 yards from the championship box to the green. World-class practice facilities, thoughtful amenities, and services secure Mauna Kea Golf Course’s rightful place among America’s most historical places to play golf.


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