For many vacationers the world over, getting in a round of golf is a pivotal part of the experience of getting away. Golf packages in Hawaii are hugely popular, certainly, but it is possible to sneak in a round without paying baggage fees for your golf bag or breaking the bank on visitor rate green fees (they can be intimidatingly steep at some courses). The Executive Par 3 at the Hawaii Kai Golf Course is possibly the best way to get your swing on while in Hawaii without planning an actual golf vacation. You can get in a round, with a cart and club rental, for under $50.
The course itself is worth the 20-minute drive from Waikiki, and its location on Oahu’s southeastern tip ensures that you’ll likely be cooled by prevailing trade winds during your round. More than a simple pitch-and-put setup, the Executive Par 3 offers challenging holes, the longest being nearly 200 yards. Many of the holes feature trouble, and the danger of losing your shot to the brittle halekoa (ha-lay-KO-ah) bushes of the surrounding mountainsides is present on half of them. Many of the holes feature sanded bunkers and diabolically swift greens.
Holes 4 and 12 play uphill and blind to the green. Holes 5 and 13 play downhill, with panoramic ocean views from the tee. For locals, especially on slow days, this is where beers are cracked, the view is enjoyed, and “I snuck away from work/wife/kids” selfies are taken.
The emphasis on decorum at the Executive Par 3 is nearly nonexistent. Sure, the normal rules of golf etiquette apply as they do everywhere. This means, basically, if there are people waiting behind you, don’t dawdle. Otherwise, collared shirts are not required and wearing flip-fops is perfectly acceptable. Actually, it’s not unusual for regulars to abandon their shirts and shoes altogether once out on the course. And be prepared for vocal outbursts around the course, be they celebratory or outraged. There are often groups of youth golfers on the course in the afternoon, however, so be aware of when to watch your mouth (golf is a four-letter word, after all).
The folks in the pro shop are friendly and laid back, as one might expect from those with a sweet gig at a golf course in Hawaii. The clubhouse, or 19th hole, offers a menu of local favorites, with indoor and outdoor seating options. My personal favorite is the bento box (two pieces of chicken, two musubi rice-balls, a slab of Spam and daikon).
One of the attractions of the Executive Par 3 at Hawaii Kai is its proximity to nearby Sandy Beach and Makapuu Beach Park. Both are popular among residents and visitors alike, with City lifeguards, bathrooms, and freshwater showers. The Makapuu Light House hiking trail is less than one mile away.
The full 18-hole Hawaii Kai Championship Course is the big brother to the Par 3, and certainly worthy of a go for golf enthusiasts. But if you’re looking for an easy way to get in a round in Hawaii without the hassle of lugging your golf bag an ocean away, the Executive Par 3 at the Hawaii Kai Golf Course is a sure thing.