I started golfing a few years back, starting at the playful par-3 Executive Course at Hawaii Kai. I’ve since moved on to Oahu’s big courses and have been delighted, challenged and ultimately frustrated by all of the courses I’ve played. I think I’m up to about a dozen courses played on the island (and two on the Big Island). But there is one course that has become a sort of “home course” for me. It’s the Moanalua Country Club, a semi-private course on the outskirts of Honolulu proper, located in a quiet residential neighborhood. I’m not a member. Yet. I’ve been told that it is the oldest country club west of the Mississippi River and the first course established in Hawaii.
Moanalua is a scant five to ten minute drive from Downtown. It’s a nine-hole course, so the back nine is easy to settle into after playing it as the front nine. The green fees are practically a steal considering the course’s proximity to town. Twilight rounds start at 12:30 P.M. and run about thirty dollars. Moanalua is a country club, so it isn’t unusual to have seasoned retirees in front or behind of your group. The staff is friendly and cheerful and non-member walk-ons are always welcome.
The clubhouse features daily lunch specials, mostly of the local fare ilk, dishes like Korean kalbi beef shortribs and oxtail soup. The kind ladies who run the clubhouse are more than happy to put any refreshments you purchase, beer, iced tea or soft drinks, into a makeshift cooler of a plastic bag filled with ice for easy access in the basket of your golf cart. Moanalua Country Club aims to please members and the general public alike.
The course itself is well maintained and offers challenging holes that feature trouble for errant tee shots, but the course is by no means punitive. Holes four and five (and fourteen and fifteen) are uphill par fives that favor long hitters, but as with any course, those who can find the fairway off of the tee will do just fine at Moanalua. It’s possible for duffers to lose a ball on every tee shot. My favorite hole is the par three eighth (and seventeenth). It’s an elevated tee at about 150 yards, with out of bounds running the length of the right side. Hitting the spare green from eighty feet up with a five iron is one of the highlights of my otherwise tragic golfing history. It can get desert hot at Moanalua, so it’s a good idea to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. And if your game resembles mine, don’t forget an extra sleeve or two of golf balls.