If you have ever watched the Sony Open, you will understand why I have always wanted to play 18 holes in Hawaii. The condition of the courses and the views make it a special place to play golf. In this post, we are doing a Royal Kunia Country Club Review.
I will share my experience on the course and give you tips on how best to play each hole.
Background On My Round At RKCC
After our cruise ship docked at Pier 2 near downtown Honolulu my mate and I set off on a mission to find a tee time. Everywhere we called turned us down until we got onto GolfNow and stumbled across Royal Kunia Country Club.
We booked a tee time for 14:30 and grabbed an Uber for a 19-mile ride to the Country Club. Upon arrival, we were met with laughter when we tried to pay for 18 holes. The Pro Shop manager said we would be lucky to make it through 12 before sunset.
He was dealing with a South African and a Nederlander. If you challenge us, we will accept. I have read reviews that golfers endured unfriendly staff at RKCC, but we had a lot of fun with them.
Royal Kunia Country Club Overview:
Distance: 6499 yards (5943 meters)
Course Type: Championship (Whatever that means these days.)
Course Designer: Robin Nelson
Fairway Grass: Bermuda Grass
Green Grass: Bermuda
Other Services: Golf cart hire and golf clubs hire
Club Hire: Yes
Price Per Round: $100 (includes cart rental)
Royal Kunia Country Club Layout and Features:
Royal Kunia is a gorgeous golf course with epic views of key landmarks on the island of Oahu. You can see Pearl Harbor, the center of Honolulu, and the world-famous Diamond Head.
The course is a Par 72, 6499-yard layout, loaded with water hazards and fairway bunkers. When I played Royal Kunia, my handicap was a 12, and I ended the round +8.
Let me teach you how not to make the mistakes I made so that you can be an Astute Golfer on this track.
The Front Nine At Royal Kunia
After being told we would not get through more than 12 holes, my mate and I wasted no time teeing up. Fortunately, the first hole is forgiving and gives you a chance to settle in before navigating the narrow water-rich 2nd.
The Par 5 1st is a 501-yard par 5, with little trouble off the tee. Aim between the fairway bunker and palm trees at the 249-yard mark. That will leave you 246 yards to the middle of the green.
Any second shots that go left bring the clubhouse and the road into play, and therefore, put you out of bounds. There are two bunkers short of the green to the left and one to the right.
Those of you not confident with a driver can whack a 3-wood, 3-iron, and wedge. That will still put you in contention for a birdie. Bigger hitters smashing a driver off the tee might fancy a crack at reaching in two.
Walking off the first green with anything worse than a five will leave you pretty bleak about the prospects for this round.
Royal Kunia wastes no time in challenging you, as the 2nd hole is the most difficult on the course. The stroke 1, par 4 is 346 yards off the blue tees with trouble on every side. On the left, five fairway bunkers await you. While to the right, a water hazard features throughout the hole.
Aim 4 yard right of the third fairway sandtrap 236 yards away. That will leave you with 151 yards into the green. For the average golfer, that is only a 7 or 8-iron. It is worth mentioning that out of bounds looms left of the bunkers, as I found out.
Your approach shot requires you to navigate trees, water, and bunkers surrounding the green. Don’t be a hero on this hole. Your line is the edge of the tree at the back left. If you hit too much club, you risk landing in the sand behind the green.
If you ended close to the pin, go on and make that birdie. However, if you have a challenging birdie putt, lag it up to the hole and take your par. For most of us, that’s 4 points on a Stableford day
More water awaits you on the 3rd. However, it is not as in your face as on the previous hole. Trees line the rough on the left, but an astute golfer should have no problems on this hole.
Aim down the middle, and try to get your ball between the two fairway bunkers at around 250-yards. From there, you will have a smooth 147 yards into the green.
Aim half a yard right of the two bunkers in front of the dancefloor, and you should have yourself a G.I.R.
If you have been itching to use your drive, now is the chance. The 4th offers a pretty open layout for your tee shot. There is a fairway bunker on the left at 256-yards, and three on the right starting at the 269-yard marker.
Aim down the middle, between those fairway litter boxes. A 265-yard drive will leave you with 149 yards into a ground surrounded by sand. The left side of the green is lined with a wave-shaped bunker, while three other sand hazards stand at the back.
I suggest aiming at the right edge of the bunker on the left, and you should put yourself in a position to walk away with another par or better.
After some challenging opening holes, we get to the stroke 13, par 3, 5th. Bunkers guard the greens on either side, but a 181-yard shot into the middle of the putting surface will stand you in good stead for another par.
You don’t want to be right on this hole. Trees feature prominently in the right hand rough, while a fairway bunker comes into play on the left at 256 yards. There are also trees on the left, but they feature more infrequently.
I suggest aiming half a yard to the right of the fairway bunker and try to get it into the vicinity of 250-yards. That will leave you a cool 145 yards into a largely unprotected green. There are trees at the back right, so don’t over club it.
Water again comes into play off the tee, so whatever you do, don’t go right. There are five fairway bunkers on the left side of the fairway. However, they should only come into play for the longer hitters.
Aim for the middle right part of the fairway to open up the green for your approach. If you are too far left, bunkers will come into play for the duration of your approach shot. Tee shots that reach 255 yards will leave you an easy 9-iron or pitching wedge into the green.
Besides sand traps up the left fairway, the putting surface is protected by a small litter box. There is a tree at the back right. But other than that, the green allows for a stress-free ride in.
The 8th is rated the second easiest hole at Royal Kunia Country Club. The 177-yard par 3 has little trouble besides the three bunkers guarding the green. There is a large trap on the left, and pot bunkers sit at the front and back right.
The water from the 2nd hole runs down the right of this par 3. However, it should not come into play given how far right it is. If you manage to put it in the water on that hole, I would love to meet you and buy you a beer.
To close out the front nine, we meet our second par 5 of the round. The 582 yards, stroke 3, par 5, challenges your accuracy from tee to green. Trees line the right rough, and fairway bunkers sit on both sides.
Ideally, you will hit a driver, then a 3-wood and wedge in, for a G.I.R. However, if your driver is not on target, keep it in the bag. The 18th fairway is narrow and requires precision.
In a perfect world, you would want to hit your tee shot 250 + yards between the two fairway bunkers. For your 2nd shot, aim half a yard right of the fairway bunker that is 110-yards out. That will eliminate water from your third shot’s line.
If you hit a 3-wood off the tee, you can still get on in three. Select a 3-wood for your second shot as well. Use the same line I gave above to take the water out of play on your third shot. If your distances are similar to mine, you should have an 8-iron into the green.
Back 9 At Royal Kunia Country Club
I can’t tell you much about the halfway house because we skipped it to beat the sunset and prove the pro shop manager wrong. The back nine offers a variety of short and long par 4’s and 5’s, giving you multiple scoring opportunities.
The 10th is a 555-yard par 5 that requires three good shots to put yourself in contention for a birdie or a par. Two solid 3-wood strikes should leave you with a 7 or 8-iron in for your third.
Honestly, you can pull out the big guy on this hole because there are not that many hazards, bar the fairway sandtrap at 239 yards. Trees do line the left rough, but you would need to hit a magical duck hook to bring them into play off the tee.
If you go right, there are trees in the rough at 290 yards, which would only be an issue for bigger hitters. As an astute golfer, you should aim left of the fairway bunker off the tee.
For your second shot, take out a 3-wood or a 5-wood and aim two yards left of the bunker on the right side of the fairway. That leaves you with a wedge or 9-iron onto the green for a well earned G.I.R. There is one bunker right of the putting surface. Otherwise, it is waiting for you to attack it.
To score on the par 4 11th, you need to keep it simple and straight. Aim for the right center of the fairway. A mini forest greets you on the left. While further down on the same side, two bunkers sit in the fairway at the 270-yard mark.
An average hitter could crush a 3-wood off the tee and have an easy 7-iron to the dancefloor. If you hit it straight, neither bunker should come into play. However, a bunker sits left and short, while a second covers the middle-right of the green.
The short par 4, 12th hole offers little trouble if you play it astutely. It is 287-yards off the blue tees, which means you don’t need to pull out the big gun on this hole. A solid 3 or 4-iron strike off the tee will leave you a sand wedge to the green.
There are two bunkers in the left rough at the 183-yard mark. However, with an iron off the tee, you shouldn’t end anywhere near those. Aim for the right side of the fairway. That will take the bunkers around the green out of play for your next shot.
Two bunkers are positioned short of the green on the left, while a pot bunker lurks on the right.
Next up is a mid-range par 3, measuring 180 yards. Bunkers surround this green leaving no room for error. As a result, I played it safe here and gripped down on a 6-iron, swung easy, and landed it in the middle of the dancefloor. I lagged my birdie putt and tapped in for par.
The 14th is another short par 4 that requires accuracy. To the left, you are faced with Oscar Bravo. And down the right, a stream runs for the duration of the hole.
Once again, I recommend using a long iron off the tee. A strong 3 or 4-iron strike will only leave you with about 100 yards for your second. If you play it smart, you have a real chance to score a birdie.
Aim down the center of the fairway, bang it up, and grab your wedge for the approach. There are three bunkers to the short left side of the green and trees at the back right. Swing easy, get that ball airborne and land it softly.
After a few short scoreable opportunities, we head to the second most difficult hole on the course. To pull off a score on the 355-yard par 4 15th, you need to keep with the basics.
Once more, I recommend taking a long iron off the tee and striking it up the fairway. Aim to the right on the long sandbox located on the left side of the fairway. A 200-yard tee shot will only leave you with an easy 6, or full 7-iron.
Bunkers guard this green from all angles. So my advice is to aim for the right edge of the front sandtrap.
The fairway on this hole is pretty open, besides the long bunker running down the left fairway and two small sand traps on the right, at 249-yards. There is also a row of trees, starting on the right at the 233-yard mark, but they shouldn’t bother you.
You can smash a driver here, but I would recommend a 3-wood off the tee. That will leave the average hitter a 6-iron for their second. When it comes to your approach, do not go right, and do not go long. A litter box wraps around the right side of the green, and a water hazard protects the bunker.
What a cheeky hole this is. It is rated the easiest hole on the course but still provides a challenge. It is only 133-yards but is protected by water to the right, bunkers to the left, and shrubs at the back. Swing easy, get some loft, and stick it close for a birdie opportunity.
The final hole. Usually, when you start preparing yourself for a tasty icy beverage in the 19th hole. However, everything was closing up when we were on the green and we needed to make alternative plans for our waterhole activities. Which included downtown Honolulu, phenomenal Piña colada’s, and a hotel owned by a controversial man with crazy hair.
Anyway, in three hours and thirty minutes, we had made it to the 18th hole before sunset.
A road runs down the left of the hole, while some trees feature along the right-hand side.
Truth be told. I thumped a driver off the tee as we were rushing to get the cart back before the 6 pm closing time. My drive went over 300 yards, leaving me a 6-iron into the green for my second. I two-putted and claimed my birdie.
I would suggest hitting a 3-wood and keeping it down the left side of the fairway, taking water out of play for your second shot. Pull out a 5-iron and strike it to the right of the fairway bunkers. That will leave you with an easy wedge and a chance to make a one-putt birdie.
Conclusion of Royal Kunia Country Club
So, there you have it, you now know how to navigate Royal Kunia Country Club like an Astute Golfer. I am interested to know how you go the next time you play this course. Leave a message in the comments with your final score.
And when you are in the Pro Shop, gently remind the manager to not challenge a South African and Nederlander to a speed golf contest. Jokes aside, this is a phenomenal course and well worth the trip out of Honolulu to play. If you would like to book a tee time at Royal Kunia, you can do so here.