IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Pukalani Country Club in Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii.
THE LAYOUT: For local and visiting golfers on the island of Maui, Pukalani is a refreshing and delightful alternative to the mega-resort courses at Kapalua, Wailea, Kaanapali and Makena.
Designed by Bob Baldock and opened in 1979, Pukalani is perched at the 1,100-foot level on the rolling terrain of Mt. Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world, in what the natives call Upcountry.
The course stretches to 6,962 yards from the championship tees over 160 acres on the slopes of the dormant volcano known as the "House of the Sun," and plays to a par of 72, with a USGA rating of 72.8 and a slope of 128.
GENERAL MANAGER: Ron Huffman.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Pukalani, which means "Hole in the Sky" or "Entrance to Heaven" in Hawaiian, is located about an hour's drive below the Haleakala Crater and 21.6 miles from Kahului Airport on Highway 37.
The picturesque course offers incredible panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the rest of the Valley Isle, which actually is two islands joined by the lava flows from its towering volcanoes.
The fairways are lined by Norfolk pines and the trade winds come up almost every afternoon, so try to play before 11 a.m. unless you enjoy playing in a breeze.
The altitude and wind make it about five degrees cooler and less humid at Pukalani than in the coastal areas of Maui.
Hit the fairway off the tee and the ball sits up almost as if on a tee on the kikuyu grass, like Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, but that makes it dicey playing out of the rough and around the greens.
Perhaps the most unusual hole at Pukalani is No. 3, a par 3 that plays 148 yards from an elevated tee across a ravine to one green, and 98 yards from the forward tee down to another green in a picturesque bowl.
In fact, all of the par 3s are remarkable, particularly No. 16, which plays 254 yards down the hill.
A creek runs down one side of the property, coming into play on four holes, and the course has one lake, shared by the 10th and 18th holes.
The finishing hole, which plays 401 yards uphill over the lake on the approach shot toward the clubhouse and a green guarded by bunkers on three sides, is rated No. 2 on the card.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: In West Maui, the renowned Kapalua Resort hosts the PGA Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions every year on the Plantation Course, and also offers the Bay course.
Five minutes down the Honoapiilani Highway is the Kaanapali Resort and its North and South courses, which were part of the Senior PGA Tour's Kaanapali Classic for several years and also hosted the Wendy's Champions Skins Game.
Across Maui on the lower slopes of Mt. Haleakala are three magnificent resort courses at the Wailea Resort, where the Senior Skins Game was played for several years, and two more at Makena Golf Resort.
In between are several outstanding public layouts, including Kahili Golf Course in Wailuku, Elleair Maui Golf Course in Kihei, and the Dunes at Maui Lani, a links-style course in Kahului.
WHERE TO STAY: The exclusive Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is where most of the pros stay with their wives during the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Other fine accommodations can be found at the Kapalua Ridge Villas, the Napili Bay Resort, Kaanapali Beach Club, the Kapalua Villas, the Sands of Kahana, the Aston at Papakea Resort and the Aston Paki Maui.
In Kaanapali are the venerable Royal Lahaina Resort, the Sheraton Maui, the Hyatt Regency Maui, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel and the Wailea Beach Marriott -- not to mention countless condominiums.
In South Maui, you can choose from the Makena Beach and Golf Resort, Grand Wailea Resort, the Four Seasons Resort, the Outrigger Palms at Wailea, the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui and Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort.
ON THE WEB: www.pukalanigolf.com
THE LAST RESORT: Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C.
THE LAYOUT: There are eight championship courses at Pinehurst, one of the finest golf resorts in the world, four designed by architectural giant Donald Ross.
The others were designed by George and Tom Fazio, Rees Jones and Dan and Ellis Maples.
Pinehurst No. 2, of course, is Ross' masterpiece: It has been recognized since its opening in 1907 as one of the most challenging layouts in the world. It plays to 7,252 yards from the tips, with a par of 72, and has a 75.9 USGA rating with a slope of 138.
No. 2 has been the site of more big-time championships than any other course in the United States and was the host the 2005 U.S. Open, in which Michael Campbell of New Zealand held off Tiger Woods to win by two strokes.
The United States Golf Association will stage the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on consecutive weeks in June 2014, the first time a course will host national championships on consecutive weeks.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Chad Campbell (not the one who plays on the PGA Tour).
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: The beauty of the No. 2 course belies the difficulty, with the subtlety of Ross' design coming into view only after the golfer lands in the strategically placed bunker or has his ball trickle off one of the crowned greens.
However, the course is playable for even the weekend golfer because the fairways are wide and forgiving.
Make your birdie or par on the easier third and fourth holes, because the diabolical fifth, a 483-yard par-4, and sixth, a 225-yard par-3, await with as punishing a one-two punch as golf can provide.
No. 14, at 471 yards to a green with trouble everywhere, is considered to be among the best two-shot holes in America.
Many a duffer has stood on the 18th green and tried to see if he could sink the same 15-foot putt the late Payne Stewart drained to beat Phil Mickelson and win the 1999 U.S. Open.
A statue of Stewart in his fist-pumping pose after sinking the putt overlooks the green.
Ben Hogan won for the first time as a pro on No. 2, beating Sam Snead by three strokes in the 1940 North and South Championship.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: If you don't get enough golf at Pinehurst, there is plenty nearby in the Sandhills of North Carolina to keep even the golf-aholic busy all day, seven days a week.
Ross also designed gems at Pine Needles Lodge and Mid Pines Inn, both in neighboring Southern Pines.
Others in the neighborhood are the Mid South Club, designed by Arnold Palmer, in Pinehurst; Legacy Golf Links in Aberdeen, designed by Jack Nicklaus II and host of the 2000 Women's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship; National Golf Club in Pinehurst, designed by Jack Nicklaus; and Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford, an innovative course designed by Mike Strantz.
Others worth a look are the Talamore Golf Resort, Little River Golf Resort and Pinewild Golf Club.
WHERE TO STAY: The Carolina Hotel is a National Historical Landmark in the center of Pinehurst that has been offering exquisite service to go with Southern charm since 1901.
Four presidents have stayed at the Holly Inn, which opened its doors in 1895. The Manor has been one of Arnold Palmer's favorite vacation hangouts since he visited with his father as a boy.
Other quality accommodations may be found at Pine Needles Lodge in Southern Pines, Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club in Southern Pines and the Old Buggy Inn in Carthage.
ON THE WEB: www.pinehurst.com