The Hualalai Resort and Ke’olu Golf: This Might Be Heaven on Earth
When you think of the perfect place to retire or have a second home, what are the most important elements to look for?
Tons of activities?
Ease and accessibility?
Whatever it is you’re looking for, I can’t imagine many more perfect places in the world than Hualalai.
Well, unless you’re looking for snow-covered mountains, if that’s the case, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Recently, I had the chance to spend 4 days with my family at the Four Seasons Hualalai, and the entire experience lived up to every (high) expectation we had for it.
But I also got a chance to take a peek into the other side of Hualalai, that most Four Seasons guests may not even know exists:
The members-only club, Hualalai Resort.
Today, I’m going to share with you a little bit about what makes The Hualalai Resort so special, intriguing, and let’s be honest, expensive.
I’ll give insights into the golf courses and help you figure out if The Hualalai Resort may be a good fit for you and your family.
What is The Hualalai Resort?
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Four Seasons Hualalai. It’s one of the most highly-regarded Four Seasons resorts in the world and one of the very best resorts in Hawaii.
But along with the world-class resort, there’s also a club component.
The Hualalai Resort is the private, members-only side Hualalai.
In order to be a member at Hualalai you have to own property within the Hualalai gates, and when you join, you get access to not just the amenities of the Hualalai Resort, but a whole slew of additional benefits only for Club members.
It’s this resort component that separates the experience from that of the nearby Kohanaiki Club.
So what are the benefits of being a Hualalai Club member? Let’s find out.
Ke’olu Golf Club: The Private Course at Hualalai
There are two golf courses at Hualalai.
Hualalai Golf Course, is by far the most well-known of the two.
This is simply due to the fact that it’s the one that’s both available to resort guests, and because it gets national TV coverage each January when it hosts the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.
Here’s my full Hualalai Golf review. And if you’re into video, check this out:
But tucked up away from the resort is Ke’Olu. It’s the private members-only course, which also has its own clubhouse as well.
Ke’olu was designed by Tom Weiskopf and it opened in 2002.
It provides a wonderful one-two-punch for members who golf.
Despite the fact Hualalai host the Champions Tour tournament, most will agree that it’s Ke’olu that provides a more demanding test of championship golf.
While I was there I had a chance to play the front 9 of Ke’olu, as the back 9 was in the final stages of transitioning from Bermuda to Paspalum grass.
It’s scheduled to re-open in November 2023.
The Ke’olu Front Nine
The course opens with a downhill, dogleg right par 4.
It’s the ultimate introduction to the course. A wide fairway and spectacular ocean view lull you into thinking you might be in for an easy round.
But once you get to the green, you realize, things may not be what they seem.
While Hualalai has some of the more visually dramatic green complexes with greens that spill into sand and lava rock, Ke’olu’s greens present more of a challenge.
You see this on the opening hole. A miss right will leave you with a very tricky up and down for par.
The par 3rd is visually dramatic with lava on all 4 corners of the hole. But it’s not just beautiful.
The bunkers fronting the green and the rocks make gauging the depth of the green challenging. So trust your yardage and commit to your shot.
Your inclination might be to think that Ke’olu is inferior to Hualalai in terms of views because of its position higher up on the property.
While yes, Hualalai is the more dramatic course, it never gets old hitting your drives directly into an ocean backdrop as you do on 4 out of the first 5 holes at Ke’olu.
The 4th is a par 4 with both an undulating fairway and undulating green, putting a premium on hitting accurate shots.
The par 5, 528-yard 5th hole is a chance to get on the green in two. But with a pond down the right-hand side, be careful not to slice.
On 6, you’re introduced to the front 9’s Golf Hale. As is common at many of the high-end clubs in Hawaii, you’ll find it stocked with copious snacks and alcohol that are all included in your annual dues.
While it may not have the comfort station views of say, Quivira, it’s always a welcome addition to a course like this.
The 6th also happens to be one of my favorite holes on the course. Depending on your tee selection it may be drivable. There’s a very clear aggressive line down the left, or you can layup and make your birdie with finesse rather than power.
Despite the short length, be sure to avoid the bunkers, as making a par out of one of the deep fairway traps would be…impressive.
The 8th is one of the toughest holes on the course. It plays parallel to #2 on Hualalai straight uphill with a lava field to the left of the fairway.
The lava juts out on the approach making it tricky to judge your distance and a left pin position is extra dangerous. Be sure to check the pin sheet for help knowing which side of the fairway to favor on your drive.
An uphill par 4 finishes out the front 9 with the green tucked below the clubhouse.
The Ke’olu Back 9
I took a cart tour of the back 9, and it appears as though reseeding is coming along very nicely.
As you’d expect, both Ke’olu and Hualalai are in phenomenal condition, and it’s a real treat getting to play the courses.
The stand-out hole on the back 9 from my tour was the drivable par 4, 16th.
You can hit any club in the bag and have no less than 3 different lines you can take to get home – each with its own risks and rewards.
I look forward to getting back to properly experience the rest of the course on my next visit.
Golf Benefits for Hualalai Resort Members
As a member of the Hualalai Resort, you get full unlimited access to both golf courses.
At the Ke’olu clubhouse, you’ll find a members-only driving range, as well as a stunning members-only pool.
That said, having access to the Trackman Range at Hualalai is also a pretty killer benefit to be able to use for all of your practice.
Along with the Ke’Olu clubhouse, members have access to the Golf Hale at Hualalai which has two Trackman garage bays that hit directly out onto the driving range, as well as the only Top Golf Swing Suite in Hawai’i.
Other Benefits of Being a Hualalai Club Member
Sure, there’s something to be said about building a nice cabin out in the woods and having nothing but nature around you.
But at least for me personally, I’d go crazy.
One of the most appealing parts about Hualalai to me is the sheer amount of benefits you get and the energy that surrounds the club and resort.
When you’re a member at Hualalai you get full access to all of the amenities of the Four Seasons resort. Just a few:
- Hualalai Tennis Club
- Hualalai Sports Club
- Hualalai Spa
- All pools at Hualalai
- Members’ pricing at all Hualalai Restaurants
I cover a lot of these resort amenities in my Hualalai video recap.
You also get access to the members-only Canoe Club.
This is the hub of activity for much of the membership, as there are two pools, a restaurant, and plenty of space to hang out and socialize – all while overlooking Uluweuweu Bay.
Along with this, there’s the “Resident’s Beach House” which is the closest dining option at the resort to the water. Unlike the Canoe Club, this is also open to resort guests. Although while we were dining there, it definitely felt like members far outweighed guests – which was a nice change to the other resort restaurants.
The Energy of Hualalai
Along with all of the benefits you get, what I think is going to draw a lot of people to Hualalai is the energy.
With some destination clubs, if you’re there in the off-season it can feel really quiet.
For the right person, this is wonderful. You often can feel like you have the club to yourself, you’ll get extra attention from staff, and you truly feel like you’re at your own private home away from home.
While there are certain times of year that are busier than others at Hualalai, the fact it’s one of the most sought-after resorts in the world means that there’s a consistent energy that’s there year-round.
You can head to any of the restaurants or pools whenever you want and be surrounded by excitement and activity.
If you play tennis or pickleball, there will always be a revolving door of guests and visitors excited to join you for a match.
The downside here is that the community can feel less like a true private club since there’s the resort component that goes along with it.
But if you’re someone who feeds off of variety and activity, then won’t find many places in the world than Hualalai.
Final Thoughts on The Hualalai Resort
After spending 4 days at Hualalai it’s impossible not to see the appeal. It’s impossible not to want to return year after year, and now I understand why so many people do.
The vast majority of club members and homeowners at Hualalai started out as resort guests.
So if Hualalai seems like the kind of place you’re looking for when it comes to a second home or retirement destination, planning a visit and enjoying the resort is the first step.
The golf, the food, the pools, the spa – it’s all world-class.
Of course amenities of this caliber in a location as stunning as the Kona coastline don’t come cheap. You can expect to pay well into six figures for the initiation fee, and sizable monthly dues for such unparalleled access. Despite the cost though there’s currently a waitlist for prospective buyers. Most homes that become available sell within hours, and don’t even hit Hawai’i MLS.
If that doesn’t speak to the reputation and offerings of the Hualalai lifestyle, I’m not sure what else does.
All that to say, if the Hualalai is within your budget and you’re looking for a community that promotes an active lifestyle in a beautiful setting, then you won’t find many better spots in the world than Hualalai.