As home of the legendary Ironman Triathlon, big wave surfing over ultra-shallow reefs, and mountain bike runs down volcanoes, Kona, Hawaii is a paradise for the masochistic.
After a day spent in the waves or on the trails around Kona a few cuts and bruises are commonplace, which makes squeezing in 18 holes of golf between surf sessions or rides a nice respite. It doesn't hurt that the Kohala coast, just north of Kona, has some of the best golf courses in the world.
The Mauna Kea resort's course is the best and most well known. It's also the oldest. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and built in 1963 the course wraps around one of the world's most idyllic beaches. The Mauna Kea resort, built by Laurance Rockefeller, was the most exclusive in the world when it opened in 1965. If you're looking for a forgiving, ego-boosting round, it's probably best to head to the Four Season's beautiful, but eminently merciful Jack Nicklaus designed Hualalai course.
Mauna Kea, on the other hand, is characteristically brutal but easily ranks in the "must play" list for any serious golfer. Extremely long (7,370 yards from the Black Championship tees and a rating/slope of 76.6), with heaps of elevation gain and over 120 white sand bunkers surrounding raised greens.
The course's signature third hole is a masterpiece. Horseshoeing around the cobalt blue Pacific Ocean rimmed by lava rock and deep bunkers along with a stiff onshore breeze, the gratification of sticking one close to the pin here is immense and pars feel like birdies.
After your round, grab lunch in the clubhouse to exchange war stories with other players all bound together by Mauna Kea's challenge. A stiff blended beachside cocktail and swim in the rare gentle waves and sandy water of the resort's world famous Kauna'oa Beach is a nice recovery option as well.
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