The reason Maui is called the Valley Isle is because what is known as the Kahului isthmus separates Maui’s two prominent volcano mountain ranges: west Maui and Haleakala. This isthmus is a once-sandy strip of land that is now largely populated by homes and sugar cane plantations. It is also where The Dunes was once submerged beneath the sea, until the water later receded as the two mountain ranges, and this isthmus that connects them, rose as a result of the lava oozing out of the hotspot below.
Most links courses in Ireland and Scotland are built on old dunes too, and their sites were created in a similar way, only they have been around for far longer. Hawaii is a little different because, geologically, it is newer than Great Britain. It is also much warmer, and more tropical. Nonetheless, there are similar characteristics, and while the sandy terrain of the Kahului isthmus has indeed changed since settlers have cultivated much of the land, interestingly: they never got around to disrupting the site where The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course lies. It is one of the few spots in Hawaii where true dunes actually exist today.
Minimal earth-moving occurred when The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course was designed and built in 1999; a departure from the modern-day American course architecture that has ruled for much of the last century.
San Francisco-based golf course designer Robin Nelson is said to have been giddy when he saw the dunes terrain upon which the course was to be built. ‘I was like a child jumping from gift-to-gift on Christmas,’ Nelson recalled. ‘This was a once-in-a-lifetime site.