Compared to other courses on Maui, I would classify these two as “Resort” courses with the Gold being the more difficult of the two. They are impeccably maintained in all aspects..possible a little too manicured..could that be! The greens are in excellent shape with good roll, some tough putt reads but no surprises ala’ Kapalua. The day we played the flagstick on the Emerald course was short on the green. The backspin on my ball made it frequently roll off the green. I changed ball and hit it deeper..it seemed to help after these several bogie-lessons learned.
The Gold course has a great perponderance of bunkers (93 as the starter told me) which can demand accurate shots or better yet, playing a good tactical golf game. In other words, you may need to hit a hybrid/ 5 wood from the tee instead of a driver. The objective is to get the obstacles out of play even with a mistake. The Gold course is longer in distance from all of its tee boxes than the Emerald with the later having very low USGA slope ratings of 128 from the tips, 124 from the blue and 119 from the whites…and add about 10 more slope points for the Gold course. This is a significant difference but both are most enjoyable given their layouts.
I thought that Emerald’s hole 10 and 17 that share a huge green were not only cleaver in layout, but also demanded a thoughtful second shot to avoid the water. The flags were snug to the green’s water edge side so instintively you play it safe ending up with a long very tough 2 putt which easily can turn into 3.
The views are good on both courses with the Emerald having the most famous hole 1 and 18 and with the Gold famous 8th hole all having views towards Molokini. We played in the morning given our schedule so we always paid top dollar. The wind is not a factor (like Kapalua) during the day. A slight breeze does lift in the afternoon. I discovered this since I played the neighboring course (Makena) in the afternoon. Both courses have an excellent pace of play from 3:30 to 4 hours.
If you are a fan of RTJ design , you will be in heaven…but hit them straight.
Background- As part of our three week golf vacation, I played 7 different courses totaling 12 rounds. On the Big Island, they were Hapuna, Makalei and Mauna Kea. On Maui, they were Kapalua, Makena, Wailea Emerald & Gold. My handicap index is 3.7 and played from the “tips” with the exception of Kapalua since they were not available. All have been reviewed on this web site.
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