Jack Nicklaus redesigning Koele golf course at acclaimed Four Seasons Resort Lanai

The Island of Lanai is undergoing a noticeable golden touch these days. Jack Nicklaus, whose design brilliance brought to life the award-winning Challenge at Manele just over 20 years ago, is back at Four Seasons Resorts Lanai to redesign the resort’s second course, Koele.

Four Seasons Resorts Lanai is located just a few miles west of Maui, yet reflects a simpler pace of life and the spirit of old Hawaii. The island of Lanai features two Four Seasons resorts—Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele—and guests can enjoy two exceptionally distinct experiences on one island. One is a quintessential beach resort and the other a charming upcountry lodge, and both offer very different days on the fairways and greens.

While currently closed, this winter season will see the reopening of the Koele course following a redesign by Nicklaus.

Koele is located in the cooler uplands of Lanai offering stunning views of mountains and lush greens, with the ocean—and possibly Maui and Molokai—in the distance. The overarching vision for the new design is to deliver a great golf experience that takes advantage of the vistas, and highlights the unique characteristics found in this highland terrain.

The Golden Bear and his Nicklaus Design team made a visit in early March to Lanai to work on both courses.

“Our goal is to make Koele a strong golf course, but a playable golf course,” Nicklaus said. “We are going to take advantage of the vistas, remove some of the non-indigenous trees, as they requested, and create good solid golf. Our hope is to give the resort a golf experience that people are going to want to come and play—one that is complementary to the altitude and the beauty of the top of Lanai.”

Course enhancements will include new water features, redesigning a number of bunkers and fairways for improved visibility and playability, including the addition of bailout areas on certain holes or reworking the layout to provide different approaches. The Golden Bear frequently talks of his love for short par-4s, and Hole No. 14 will become a potential drivable par 4. Improved turf conditions and irrigation are also planned, with wall-to-wall re-grassing—perhaps to paspalum, which aids in water conservation efforts by using effluent or reclaimed water.

The driving range will also see some enhancements, with plans to lengthen and modernize the practice area.

The Manele Bay golf course, which is perched high above the crashing surf of Hulopoe Bay, was designed by Nicklaus and then built on lava outcroppings. The course features three holes on cliffs, with the Pacific Ocean serving as the ultimate water hazard. The five-tee concept offers resorts guests plenty of options, yet challenges even the best golfers, with tee shots over natural gorges and ravines requiring precision off the tee.

This dramatic, unspoiled natural terrain is a stunning backdrop, and every hole offers majestic ocean views, overlooking Maui and Kahoolawe. During the winter, one may even catch spectacular sightings of whales, right from the fairways.

If you miss the whales on the course, a table at the new clubhouse restaurant, VIEWS, might yield a sighting. The new cliff-side restaurant showcases views of Puu Pehe or Sweetheart Rock and the magnificent Hulopoe Bay beach. Long infinity edge tables made from Monkey Pod wood slabs found on the Big Island are perfect for watching Spinner dolphins, or during winter months, humpback whales, while enjoying lunch or bite after a round.