When Laurance Rockefeller decided to build the world’s finest resort along the Kohala coastline of the then undeveloped Mauna Kea (Hawaiian for White Mountain), he knew he needed a golf course worthy of his vision. He turned to Robert Trent Jones Sr., the preeminent designer of the day and the architect of more than 400 courses around the world.
As they overlooked the panoramic view of Kauna’oa Bay, Jones’ response was a promise that has become a golfing legend. “Mr. Rockefeller, if you allow me to build a golf course here, this’ll be the most beautiful hole in the world.” That hole, No. 3, was the promise kept.
Only fitting then, that to christen the course, Jones brought together the game’s Big Three — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player — for a Skins game broadcast nationwide on NBC. When the trio reached No. 3’s tee box it was set back 250 yards from the green — with 170 of those yards over the crashing azure waters of an inlet. Only Arnold Palmer reached the green. No. 3 was instantly iconic.
In 2008 Jones’ son, Rees, a celebrated architect in his own right, honed the jewel that left the routing untouched but moved and deepened the bunkers, added length and introduced new, state-of-the-art grasses. Today, more than 50 years after its 1964 opening, these 18, especially the legendary No. 3, are as unforgettable as when the Big Three stepped onto the tee.