Bill Satterfield

Bill Satterfield's Take on Hokuli'a Golf Club

Big Island, Hawaii | Hokuli'a Golf Club

Architect: Jack Nicklaus
Year: 2002

81-6636 Pu'u Ohau Place, Kealakekua, Hawaii 96750
(808) 324-1500

electric carts provided
driving range available

What to Expect:  Located on the central coastline of the Big Island’s leeward side, Hokuli’a is a Jack Nickluas design that boasts ocean views throughout the round and is built on terrain that slopes from 400 feet elevation down to nearly sea level. The unique sheltered location allows Hokuli’a to enjoy gentle breezes and sunny skies devoid of the strong winds that commonly punish golfers further north up the coast. The opening tee features a dramatic downhill shot that provides significant hang time which will allow you to soak in the ocean views to the left while your ball descends to the fairway below. The front nine is the more demanding of the two sides while the back nine is the more scenic and memorable. In classic Nicklaus fashion, the course is generous off the tee but will put your iron game to the test with demanding approach shots. In addition, a few water hazards are found on the course along with a handful of bunkers on each hole. It should be noted that players are asked to wear appropriate golf attire which includes collared shirts and excludes cargo shorts. Cell phones should also have their ringer turned off and only used for messages and emergencies.

Signature Hole:  15th – 487 Yard Par 4 – This downhill par four is just flat out beautiful. With a commanding view of the Pacific Ocean, your eyes are treated to a colleague of colors ranging from black lava and white bunkers to green grass and sparkling blue waters. Palm trees are found along the fairway of this dogleg left as well as behind the green. If you can hit a draw you are going to have a blast watching how far down the fairway your ball will tumble which will set up a much shorter approach then you may have expected seeing the yardage on the scorecard. This dramatic of an elevation change is reminiscent of the finishing two holes at Kapalua Plantation which represent two of the most enjoyable holes on the islands.


Individual Hole Analysis

Best Par 3:  8th – 222 Yards – Located on a bluff with another view of the ocean, this lengthy par three has the appearance of a dogleg left from the tips as tee boxes cascades downhill to the right. Players hit over a waste area that contains lava rock and bushes to a green that is pinched by bunkers in the front and features a sloped tongue that will reject balls barely reaching the start of the putting surface. Like so many holes, the views and strategy from the tips of this hole is significantly more compelling than the forward tees.


Best Par 4:  17th – 408 Yards – This is your last chance to play parallel to the ocean before climbing back up towards the clubhouse on the finishing hole. The tee shot is straight forward but the approach shot will be quite challenging as the green is heavily bunkered and the wide putting surface slopes steadily toward the ocean. The ideal approach is coming in from the high side which will avoid the bunkers and let players utilize the slope to work the ball in towards the hole.


Best Par 5:  9th – 525 Yards – This hole is all about the green. At 525 yards it is well reachable in two for many players, but the choice in doing so will be strongly based on how confident you feel with your distance control. The back third of the green is severely sloped and will suck approach shots well away from the hole if distance control is anything less than spot on. Two-putting from the lower tier will be extremely fortunate as I can’t imagine anyone practices the putts they will face here. If the pin is ever put on the rear tier I can only imagine how intimidating the lag putt down the slope would be. If you end up carding a double bogey with a four-putt, you can at least soak in the ocean view off to the right of the hole.


Birdie Time:  12th – 361 Yard Par 4 – With the ocean acting as the backdrop, players that draw on that inspiring view to summon up some extra power in their swing could be rewarded with a great birdie opportunity. A big tail wind and firm conditions could lead to an eagle putt but more realistically players will hit their tee shot and have less than 100 yards into the green. Anytime a wedge is in your hand you should be looking to get up and down and this case is no different. Without a lot of birdie opportunities left, take advantage of this one.


Bogey Beware:  2nd – 482 Yard Par 4 – This hole is a bear to deal with right off the bat. Tee shots to the left will likely result in a lost ball and balls leaking right will probably end up in a bunker. Even a great drive will leave a mid to long iron in most players hands as they face the most intimidating approach shot of the day; a lengthy shot to a green that is flanked in the front and right by water while bunkers sit on the left. Will little time to warm up beforehand, you better hope that your ‘A’ game showed up to walk away with anything less than a bogey.


Final Cut:  Hokuli’a is a great course that Nicklaus fans will instantly appreciate. However, golfers that aren’t Nicklaus fans, citing that his courses are too difficult, won’t convert to the Golden Bear’s style on account of Hokuli’a. The collection of one-shotters is visually impressive as is the variety. The excellent conditioning, significant elevation changes, and ocean views throughout the course make Hokuli’a one of the most unique and impressive layouts in the Hawaiian islands.   Grade A-