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On Course for a Great Golf Vacation
by Andrea Guthmann
During the COVID-19 days of social distancing, golf courses were a safe place to get exercise and be social. The National Golf Foundation says there were 500,000 more golfers in 2020 than there were in 2019. That’s the largest increase the game has seen in 17 years. With golf on the upswing, there’s a growing interest in golf vacations, a perfect way for weekend golfers to take their game to new heights. We’ve teed up a few of North America’s very best golf destinations.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Thirty-two miles of pristine, white powder-soft sand beaches offer a sublime backdrop to the five golf courses in the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, a six-hour drive from Lake Charles.
Consider playing at the Arnold Palmer-designed Craft Farms. If you’re a nature lover, play a round at Peninsula Golf Club, with its wooden golf cart paths leading to piers overlooking Mobile Bay. Roaming blue herons and egrets make you feel like you’re at a nature preserve. Coastal Alabama Golf can help you plan your golf trip, scoring discounts and the best tee times. Instead of hotels, 85% of visitors stay at a vacation rental. Harris Vacation Rentals has a wide selection of lodging, from beachfront condos to houses that fit the whole family and your pets.
For dinner, head to Perch at the modern, eco-friendly Lodge at Gulf State Park for instagram-worthy sunsets overlooking the water. Another date night winner, Fisher’s Upstairs,serves seafood fresh from the Gulf of Mexico..
Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin
Summer is serene at Whistling Straights, often called the “Pebble Beach of the Midwest”. Home to 2021’s Ryder Cup and three PGA championships, golfers will feel transported to Ireland’s rugged coastline as this course winds its way along the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. Caddies are required and make navigating the course a lot easier. Whistling Straits’ two Pete Dye-designed 18-hole courses are owned by Wisconsin’s luxurious Kohler Resort, located ten miles away. A post-round visit to the luxurious Kohler Waters Spa is a must. Specializing in hydrotherapy, this is your chance to experience all the legendary bath and shower amenities Kohler is known for.
Does your idea of a perfect vacation involve escaping to a tropical paradise? Carved into the foothills of the western coastline of Montego Bay, Jamaica, Half Moon Resort’s 18-hole course sits on the site of a former sugar cane estate. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., America’s preeminent golf course architect, it’s a course that’s both challenging and tranquil, with stately palms lined up along the greens. Colorful bougainvillea frame the driveway leading up to the stately white clubhouse with its massive columns and elegant interiors. There’s a respect for tradition here. Every golfer gets a caddy who brings along a great knowledge of the course. Half Moon has hosted a number of prestigious tournaments including the Jamaica Open Golf Championship and Dunhill Cup Final of the Americas. After enjoying your time on this legendary course, stop by the 19th Hole for a round of drinks. Besides golf, Half Moon Resort offers two miles of beautiful beaches, three restaurants and a world-class spa. But you don’t have to be a guest at the resort to enjoy a day of golf here.
Ponte Vedra & St. Augustine, Florida
The Sunshine State boasts more than a thousand golf courses, more than any other place in the U.S. But the epicenter for Florida’s game is just south of Jacksonville in the towns of Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine, home to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Nearby TPC Sawgrass should be on every golf lover’s bucket list. Home to The Players Championship in March, considered golf’s unofficial fifth major, its clubhouse and course are open to the public. Try your hand at the course’s iconic island green, or just have a round of drinks or a meal at the club’s restaurant. $18 for a burger is a bargain to be able to spend the afternoon drinking in the views of the course from the restaurant’s elegant outdoor patio. Follow up your meal with a free tour of the building or the course. Volunteer storytellers guide you through the club’s history.
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is the resort of choice with two golf courses, plus a complimentary putting green and driving range for guests. This luxurious, family-friendly, beachfront resort boasts a world class spa and tennis program. Guests can stay in oceanfront lodging or the historic inn overlooking the golf course. Larger golfing groups might opt for the Island House overlooking the course’s iconic 9th island hole. Kids will love the zero-depth pool and water slide