For golf lovers and relaxation seekers, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is a dream that just got dreamier
Hale means “house” in Hawaiian, but it implies more than a roof over your head. The word (pronounced hah-lay) carries a deeper sense of island welcome, with the promise of warm greetings and generous offerings of food and drink. What it doesn’t guarantee is help with your swing.
For that, there is only one hale, at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, on the Big Island’s Kona-Kohala coast. You may recognize the property from its annual star turn as the host of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, which kick-starts the Champions Tour calendar. On TV, the setting makes a tropical postcard — all emerald greens and fairways against an ocean backdrop fringed by swaying palms and coal-black lava fields. The sight is even more spectacular in person.
Volcanoes are still forming the Big Island, the youngest major island in the Hawaiian chain. Hualalai is fresh-faced, too, having recently completed a $100 million resort-wide renovation. That kind of money buys a lot of upgrades. As part of the redo, every guest room was enhanced. New villas were built, as was a culinary school. A swimmable aquarium, known as King’s Pond, was outfitted with an elevated infinity pool. The Jack Nicklaus–designed tournament course was fine-tuned as well, its sight lines sharpened and its grounds re-turfed with drought- and salt-tolerant grass that rolls sweetly and retains its verdant color throughout the year.
Just prior to its revamp, Hualalai also cut the ribbon on — you guessed it — a golf hale, a home base for the game, done up Hawaiian-style.
Adjacent to the driving range, this hale is no hovel. It’s an expansive space (3,000 square feet, if you’re keeping score) designed for hardcore practice or kick-back leisure, and pretty much everything in between. Among its state-of-the-art features is a Topgolf Swing Suite, a lounge-like hangout with a simulator as its centerpiece for games, skill tests and other high-tech fun. Like many buildings in Hawaii, the facility is indoor-outdoor. Three sun-kissed hitting bays, equipped with TrackMan monitors, open to the range, so you can beat balls in warm trade winds while keeping tabs on all your data — ball speed, spin rates, launch angle and so on. Or you can relax, cocktail in hand. This is Hawaii. Nothing says you have to grind.
The golf hale began as a simpler idea. When blueprints were first drawn up, in 2016, they called for a traditional instruction center, with a single hitting bay. But ambitions kept growing, as did the budget.
“We realized we wanted to make it much more than just a golf academy,” says Brendan Moynahan, the resort’s long-time director of golf. “Eight million dollars later…”
The result is a mix of the serious and the social. Hualalai’s lead golf instructor, Brady Riggs, a GOLF Top 100 Teacher, offers group and individual sessions for players of all levels, ranging from ohana, or family, lessons to intensive full-day retreats that include clubfitting, fitness assessments, full-swing video analysis, SAM Putt Lab tests and mental-game coaching. You get the picture: It’s Tour-pro treatment.
Riggs knows plenty of those folks, too, and he often invites them to drop by. Michelle Wie and Brandel Chamblee rank among the big names who have shown up at the hale for clinics and relaxed discussions that are open to resort guests at no extra cost. Two Thursdays a month, the hale hosts what it calls a “social,” a festive three-hour gathering with the pizza oven cranking and the grill ablaze and a 500-yard short course set up on the driving range. Resort guests come and go as they please — to grab a bite to eat or smack some shots or sit back with a drink and enjoy the sunset.
Everyone seems right at home.