If the Kohala Coast, on Hawaii's Big Island, is not the best collection of seaside public golf courses in the U.S., what is?The other Hawaiian islands?Isolated great venues, no more. The Monterey Peninsula?Four (terrific, yes) public courses. The Gulf Coast?I grew up there and recommend the fried shrimp instead. The southeastern states?Let's not compare the Atlantic Coast to the permanent sunshine, sparkling Pacific waters and enormous volcanoes of the Big Island.
Moreover, the Kohala Coast is arguably the most bizarre golfing environment on earth. You land at the airport on reddish black lava flows, turn left at the highway and drive north mile after mile across more of these flows. It is also one of the windiest golfing environments on earth. (On the Beach course at Waikoloa, they use crushed coral for sand, as anything finer would be blown out.) Still, the weather is your friend here, because when the trade winds slack off the volcanic smog, or vog, settles in, and you might as well be in L.A.
Starting with 13,796-foot-high Mauna Kea, the Big Island has enormous scale, so it dominates the tourists, rather than the other way around. The Kohala resorts are scattered along some twenty miles of coastline, all well downslope from the highway. That, along with the absence of much commercial development in the area, assures that there is absolutely, blessedly no sense of a resort strip here.