Wine and souvenir tumblers sweeten the Sunset Cart Tour experience. // © 2017 Mami Horie/Wailea Golf Club
Feature image (above): Sunset Cart Tour guests savor late-afternoon views from the Wailea Blue. // © 2017 Mami Horie/Wailea Golf Club
Barry Helle has always known that the views from Maui’s Wailea Blue Course at Wailea Golf Club are special.
“Occasionally, guests have asked if they could just drive a cart around the course without actually playing golf,” said Helle, who serves as the general manager for the course. “From a safety and operational perspective, it’s difficult to allow non-golfers to roam the course when it’s full of players. But the pre-sunset time — when most golfers have finished their round — is perfect.”
So, Helle and his team launched the Sunset Cart Tour at the beginning of this year. One hour and 15 minutes before sunset, clients can venture out in their own personal golf cart to discover the beauties of the southwest Maui course, famed for its great conditions and ocean and island vistas. Helle advises guests to set aside up to two hours for the experience. Rates for a shared cart are $99 with wine and $60 without wine. A single cart begins at a rate of $80 with wine and $30 without wine. A tour escort is an additional $100.
Recently, I tested out the tour with an old friend, who helped me hit the open range sans golf clubs. I found it to be a fun, fresh alternative for Maui visitors who have already seen the sunset from a boat or the beach. Here are my favorite takeaways from the trip.
Each cart comes with a map of the Wailea Blue, so self-guided tour-goers can’t get lost. The map recommends five stops — starting with the fourth hole, perched at the course’s highest elevation. The final stop, at hole 17, is timed so that clients get magnificent views of the sun melting into the ocean or behind a neighboring island, depending on the month.
On the sunset tour, visitors don’t score birdies on the course — they see them. The calls of mynahs, doves and francolins create a tropical soundtrack. Bougainvilleas, plumerias and birds of paradise add a riot of color to the manicured fairways. During winter, humpback whales put on a splashy show, easily spotted from the comfort of the cart.
By sunset, the golfers have gone home, making this tour an optimal venue for one-on-one time. Looking for an ultra-private place to discuss business plans? Seeking a special opportunity to pop the question? The Sunset Cart Tour is a novel solution. It’s also an ideal way for golfers to share the course’s splendor with their non-golfing partners.
The sunset tour is a natural for selfie-lovers, who can pose in the dramatic late-afternoon light. Their backdrop includes the slopes of Haleakala volcano on one side of the course. In the other direction is a panorama of islands: Lanai, Molokini and Kahoolawe. Upscale homes line the green, giving clients a taste of how the other half lives.
When booking the tour, visitors have the option of enhancing the experience with a bottle of wine — either chardonnay or pinot noir — along with a portable logo tumbler as a souvenir for each person. From hole to hole across acres of fairways, guests toast the sunset and each other, making this a distinctive way to enjoy the pre-dinner cocktail hour.
Tour reservations can be made by calling 808-879-2530.