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Maui: King Kamehameha Golf Club, Part 1

Some months prior to my trip to Maui, a friend asked me if I had ever heard of the King Kamehameha Club? I thought she was referring to the fictional club run by Magnum's friend, Rick, on Magnum, P.I. No, she was referring to a golf club on Maui whose clubhouse was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I was not aware of it and it went on my list of places to visit on Maui.

The name of the club was chosen to honor Kamehameha the Great who united the Hawai`ian Islands into one kingdom under his rule. You may recall from my narrative on the Big Island that Kamehameha became the ruling chief of the island of Hawai`i then conquered or peacefully assimilated each of the other islands. He is still revered by native Hawai`ians and non-Hawai`ian kama`ainas (long-term residents) alike.

In 1988, the original owners visited Taliesan West (Wright's winter home and studio in Scottsdale, Arizona) seeking plans for a golf club house for the island of Maui. They reviewed several of Wright's plans but none were fitting for the site.

The architects at Taliesan then suggested a 1949 Wright design that was originally for a home for Robert and Ann Windfohr of Fort Worth, Texas. The home was never built.

The same plan was later modified in 1952 for Raul Bailleres, a cabinet member of the Mexican government. It was intended for a rocky cliff at Acapulco Bay. Before the residence could be built, Mr. Bailleres' young son was killed in an automobile accident and the father lost the desire to complete the home.

The plans were revised again, this time in 1957 for Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller — for a country location near Roxbury, Connecticut. Because of the cost and later, the split between Monroe and Miller, the home was again never built and the plans were put back on the shelf.

Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959.


This was the plan that architects at Taliesan then suggested for the golf club on Maui. The design had to be modified and enlarged but the architects were very careful to maintain the integrity of the Wright's original design. As a result, two thirds of the building are below grade.

The clubhouse was built at a site on the foothills of the West Maui Mountains and named the Waikapu Valley Country Club. It opened its doors in 1993.

A second stage of the project was to be 30 Wright-designed homes but due to a drought on Maui (water is always at a premium in the islands), the homes were never built.

Weathered copper fascia supports the multiple domes of the clubhouse. It seems to unify the view of the West Maui Mountains on one side and the fairways on the other.

Unfortunately, the golf course closed in 1999 although the clubhouse was still available for special events. In 2004, the property was purchased by MMK Maui, L.P. and refurbished then reopened in 2006 under its new name.

The King Kamehameha Golf Club is the only private 18-hole golf course on Maui — although you may become a member for a day for some $170. That sounds expensive to me but is competitively priced when you compare it to the Kapalua Plantation Course which charges up to $278. The day I visited, I saw very few golfers — and I wonder if this iteration of the golf course will survive financially.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com