While strictly for members only, HILuxury gets a sneak-peek into the new—and vastly improved—Makena Golf and Beach Club.
In the past 20 years, Discovery Land and founder Michael S. Meldman have built some of the finest luxury, residential private golf club communities in the country. Two of his most remarkable creations are right here in Hawai`i—Kuki`o Golf and Beach Club on the Big Island, which opened in 2000 and more recently, Maui’s Makena Golf and Beach Club.
Makena’s now-private golf course reopened to rave reviews after multi-million dollar renovation work, and so I was thrilled when I was invited to play the new course, along with two buddies from O`ahu.
Our hosts for the day were Makena’s Director of Golf Jerry King, an outstanding PGA professional and Top 100 Golf Magazine teacher and their talented and personable VP of Operations, Rick Tramontin, who’s been with Discovery Land for 13 years, since moving to Hawai`i to open Kuki`o.
Jerry and Rico (as Tramontin prefers to be called), both set the fun tone for the day when they greeted us wearing their standard “work” uniform—golf shirt, shorts and, for Rico, barefoot! Rico literally “walks the talk” that Makena is about enjoying the journey and having fun. When asked if there was anything particular he wanted us to experience about the property, he simply replies, “Just feel at home and imagine you’re a member. Soak it all in and have a great day.” Th e entire staff reflects the same aloha spirit, and it doesn’t take long to understand why Discovery Land club’s hospitality is legendary.
All of Discovery Land clubs are unique and distinct from each other, embracing the architectural styles inspired by their particular geographic location and are built in harmony with their natural environment. Makena’s architecture and sense of place reflects the essence of Hawai`i environs and our unique balance between indoor and outdoor island living. Their charming clubhouse is the epitome of casual, tropical elegance.
Discovery Land clubs also share much in common—all feature world-class amenities, great attention to detail, high levels of service and club programs that are purposefully designed to create a culture that is focused on fun and family.
Makena, originally designed by Robert Trent Jones, sits on the perpetually sunny, leeward side of Haleakala, the dormant volcano whose name appropriately means “House of the Sun” in Hawaiian. The views from literally every hole on the course of both Haleakala and the Pacific are spectacular, thanks to Mother Nature and renovation architect Dennis Wise’s strategic removal of hundreds of kiawe trees and tall bushes around the property to allow golfers unobstructed views.
Wise, a long-time associate of architect Tom Fazio, had been brought in to bring the course conditions up to Discovery’s high standards. Wise oversaw the replanting of the entire course, introducing a newly developed hybrid grass called Platinum Paspalum. Outside of Augusta National, home of the Masters, I’ve never seen more immaculate and truer playing surfaces from tee to green. The new Platinum hybrid has no grain whatsoever, so the course effectively plays like a seaside links course where the golfer can confidently play a variety of chips, pitches and bump-and-run shots from around the green without fear of an unexpected bounce.
The impeccable course conditions actually start at their practice range, which is where we headed to warm up after a pre-round bracer of bloody beers and amazing breakfast wraps. I’m sure many members never even leave the range—perfect turf, brand new Titleist range balls to hit and a couple of PGA professionals on hand to help you find your swing! There’s also great music playing to get some rhythm going for the day. Golf carts are equipped with Bluetooth technology and wireless music systems so that members, if they choose, can take the music and same great stress-free vibe out onto the course.
Architect Wise’s only routing change was to the 3rd hole where he straightened out an awkward, blind dogleg hole into a fun, drive-able par 4. Rico showed off his “A” game by effortlessly knocking his drive onto the green for an easy two-putt birdie!
The course has many marvelous holes, but my favorite would be the dramatic par-three 12th hole, which from the championship tee, requires a 215-yard carry over a deep valley to what appears to be an “infinity” green. The hole plays downwind and there’s plenty of fairway on the left side for the shorter hitter. The hole is beautifully framed by the Pacific Ocean, Molokini and Kaho`olawe and dramatic West Maui mountains in the distance.
If there’s ever a time to not keep your head down on the golf course, this is it!
Another highlight is their halfway house, which they correctly call, The Comfort Station. Rico quickly jumped out of his golf cart and donned his chef cap to take over the barbecue while others helped mix up some fabulous drinks with their signature Casamigos tequila. Grilled teriyaki chicken breasts with pineapple, Kobe beef cheeseburgers, Eisenberg hot dogs and smoked baby back ribs started off our feast, and then we got into the serious stuff with fresh crab and shrimp cocktails and spicy ‘ahi poke made from fish that had been caught offshore that morning. Make sure to save room for their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies served at the finish of the round.
Jerry and Rico also showed us the site of their future clubhouse, which will be located at the very top of the golf course following what is currently their 13th hole. The views, as you might imagine, are spectacular and will provide the course with yet another outstanding amenity for their members and guests.
The golf course, clubhouse, landscaping, food and beverage and vistas are unforgettable but like with most places, it’s the people who really make the experience special. Besides the professional and gracious management and staff, the friendly members that we met that day all share the same thing in common—a love affair with golf, Hawai`i, family and fun—not necessarily in that order. Makena Golf and Beach Club is certainly a memorable experience and if you’re invited to play or fortunate enough to build your dream home and join The Club, I can promise, you’re going to have fun…
All photos courtesy Makena Golf and Beach Club