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Hawaii: 72 holes in 72 hours

By Mike McAllister
SI.com

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Mauna Kea Golf Course on the Big Island offers spectacular ocean vistas as well as mountain views.

HAWAII COURSES

Kapalua: Yardage/par: 7,263/73. Greens fees: $250. 877-527-2582. http://www.kapaluamaui.com

Turtle Bay: Yardage/par: 7,199/72. Greens fees: $165. 808-293-8574. http://www.turtlebayresort.com

Ko Olina: Yardage/par: 6,867/72. Greens fees: $80-$150. 808-676-5600. http://www.koolinagolf.com

Mauna Kea: Yardage/par: 7,124/72. Greens fees: $195 (includes cart). 808-882-5400. http://www.maunakeabeachhotel.com

Alternative courses: Princeville's Prince, Poipu Bay, Wailea, Luana Hills, Royal Kunia, Kauai Lagoons.

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(CNN) -- The concept of 72 holes in 72 hours is simple: Cram four rounds of golf at four different U.S. courses into a three-day weekend.

As such, we've had to ignore one of golf's most alluring -- but time-consuming -- destinations: the islands of Hawaii.

But, at the end of the 72-in-72 series, it's only right that we stretch our travel time in order to pay homage to our 50th state.

If you live on the West Coast, particularly in Southern California, flying to Hawaii is takes about as long as flying to New York. Plus, in traveling west, you're gaining time on the clock, meaning you could land in Honolulu on Friday morning and still adhere to our 72-in-72 rule.

Of course, you'll give back those hours when you return. But let's face it -- once you get to the islands, you're not going to be in any hurry to go back to the mainland.

Hawaii offers near-perfect weather all year round. You can expect the courses to be in great shape. The greens fees will be steep for visitors (locals get a nice break), but no more than any of the other top courses we've mentioned in this space. And you'll be rewarded with true island golf -- and because of the proximity of the islands, it's easy to take one of the frequent inter-island puddle jumpers for a round on a neighboring high-end course. In fact, our 72-in-72 covers three islands.

After flying into Honolulu International Airport on the island of Oahu on Friday morning, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend.

Friday afternoon

Kapalua (Plantation), Maui: It may be that after a lengthy airplane ride, the last thing you want to do is jump on another plane. But make an exception for the Plantation course, home of the PGA Tour's season-opening Mercedes Championship and rated among the top courses in Hawaii. Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, this championship-quality course offers spectacular views and a lengthy challenge. Two older sister courses -- the Bay and the Village, both from the Arnold Palmer design firm -- are also at your disposal. After your round, grab a flight back to Oahu. Unfortunately, local legend Don Ho's show currently isn't playing on Friday nights.

Saturday morning

Turtle Bay (Palmer), Oahu: On Friday, you played a PGA Tour course. Now play one that hosts Champions and LPGA tour events. The Arnold Palmer course is rated slightly higher than its sister course designed by George Fazio. The Palmer course has a Scottish-links feel on the front side near the water; the back nine involves more inland play, providing a jungle setting with a bird sanctuary at the 100-acre Punaho'olapa Marsh preserve.

Saturday afternoon

Ko Olina, Oahu: Another course that has professional golf ties is Ko Olina, which in 2006 will host an LPGA event. Ko Olina means "The Place of Joy" -- and that's exactly what you'll think as you open the round with a birdie opportunity on the par-5 opening hole. But don't get too comfortable -- No. 2 is the hardest hole on the course. Be sure to enjoy the view of the marina from the tee box at the seventh hole, and don't get too distracted by the waterfall on 18.

Sunday morning

Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Time for another short flight, this time to the Big Island. Robert Trent Jones Sr. built this legendary course on lava in the mid-1960s and it has held up well against some stiff competition along the Kohala Coast (Golf Digest ranks it the second-best public access course in the state). Besides the ocean vistas, you can also check out the snow-capped Mauna Kea mountains. The third hole, with the ocean surging into the rocky shoreline, will take your breath away (as well as an errant drive).

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