I recently found myself lost in the weeds, figuratively speaking, while writing a feature story for a local print magazine. I got bogged down in the granular details of the subject and had let the bigger picture blur in the distance. To remedy that, I booked a tee time at Royal Kunia Country Club, where I would, of course, find myself in the actual weeds.
I needed to get outdoors and put my mind to something else. Royal Kunia has never let me down (my game however, usually does). It is also a favorite among visiting duffers looking for an affordable Hawaii golf experience. I’ve played there with friends and family from abroad many times.
Royal Kunia Country Club for the people
Royal Kunia Country Club may contain the words “country club”, but it’s open to the public and the clubhouse is a double-wide trailer with a tiny kitchen, a TV with the Golf Channel on, and some tables with outdoor chairs. It has none of the stodginess one might expect at an elite country club. There are no locker rooms. You can wear a hat in the clubhouse. The food and beverage options are limited, but perfectly acceptable for bites and drinks after your round. It’s a commendable and local food menu.
The course, however, is worthy of any country club cliché. Royal Kunia is perched in the Central Oahu Hills above Kipapa Gulch. It offers stunning views of both the Ko’olau and Wai’anae mountain ranges, a unique perspective of Downtown Honolulu, and the unmistakable silhouette of Diamond Head in the distance (about 23 miles on the road).
Both the front and back nine start and finish with challenging par-5 holes. It’s usually windy. The 1st Hole is uphill, with red sand bunkers waiting at the end of every shot. Royal Kunia is another Hawaii golf course where it’s possible to lose a ball in the water, woods, or weeds on practically any shot that isn’t a putt (if your game is as woeful as mine, anyway). But the fairways are generous, and the greens are huge.
Snacks at the turn
The 10th Hole is a snaking, blind, and downhill par-5. The approach to the green offers photo-worthy views of the Ewa Plain and Ko’olau range. On clear days (most are), you can make out the colors and contours of Diamond Head in the distance. The 18th is also a blind tee shot par-5 with a seemingly magnetic water hazard in play as you approach the green, which features a rushing waterfall that can be calming or unnerving depending on your state of mind.
The non-resident green fees at Royal Kunia Country Club make it a viable budget option for Oahu visitors. The weekday/weekend rates are the same. Getting an early start will cost you $150, but the afternoon rate is just $100 and the Twilight rate dips to $80. You’ll need to contact the course about club rentals. It’s a busy track up there, and Royal Kunia does a lot of visitor business. My group waited for the group ahead for much of the way during our recent round.
It wasn’t so bad, though, as the on-course snack bar at the turn is well-stocked with on-the-go lunch options (me: ham and cheese, wife: Spam musubi) and liquid refreshment (me: bourbon and cola, wife: microbrew lager). Perfect. The snack bar was shuttered because of the pandemic the last time we played Royal Kunia Country Club.
I went from the figurative weeds to the literal ones in a matter of hours at Royal Kunia Country Club, and it helped. I made par on the final hole. The article that sent me headed to the hills got written. Five stars, without question.