No one here would ever blame you for opting for that second 18, but if you’re looking to add a little adrenaline to your next golf trip, check out these exotic locales and the thrills they can serve up.
Golf course operators in Las Vegas regularly concede and admit that gambling is and always will be the main draw to the area. But that doesn’t mean you can’t combine the two during your stay. A few of the casinos have golf courses nearby; however, they come with a price. The new Wynn Golf Club and Bali Hai are both on the Las Vegas Strip, and both have relatively high green fees.
“We Built This City On Rock And Ross.” Donald Ross’s imprint on golf-course design has been everlasting. Ross’s love affair with Pinehurst began with his work on the famed No. 2 course at the Pinehurst Resort—a course most experts agree is not only the finest of Ross’s designs, but also among the best ever designed in America.
There’s much more to this quaint island than just the world’s best fudge. Since no cars are allowed on the island, you must arrive by ferry or via the 8,614-foot Mackinac Bridge—North America’s longest suspension bridge that physically connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. You can get around the island only by foot, horse carriage or bicycle. Then there’s the charming, 385-room Grand Hotel with the world's longest front porch. The 120-year-old, elegant hotel was the site of the 1979 movie, Somewhere in Time. Be sure to catch the island’s state park, honored by National Geographic as one of America’s 10 finest.
Turn the corner between the 14th green and 15th tee, and you’ll understand why you maxed out your Visa to play here. Off to your left is the world’s largest water hazard, the Pacific Ocean. Don’t get distracted by the kite surfers hanging hundreds of feet underneath you. It’s all part of the show.
The Civil War marks the darkest, most trying period in all of American history. It all began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter. The Union army surrendered the fort less than two days later. Journey by boat into Charleston Harbor and experience the isolation and vulnerability that those soldiers felt when hostilities erupted. A bonus of the trip is a wonderful view of Charleston from the water.
The common misperception is that all 100+ courses along the Grand Strand are right on top of each other. Not the case. (It’s not named the Grand Strand for nothing.) From the southern chunk of North Carolina to Georgetown County 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach, the Grand Strand (or as numerologists call it, Hwy. 17) stretches over 60 miles with golf courses that range from the sublime high-end daily fees to cheap munis. It seems there’s literally every type (and price range) available for all kinds of budgets and skill levels.
We know what you’re thinking. And while we’re somewhat guilty of taking pleasure in riding the Peter Pan and Dumbo rides, the Walt Disney World mecca is also home to some outstanding golf. There are 99 holes there, with top-rated golf courses that include the Magnolia and Palm, two courses that regularly play host to the PGA Tour every year. Say what you will about the theme parks, Walt Disney World has some awesome golf courses to boot.
Like Myrtle Beach and the Phoenix/Scottsdale areas, Palm Springs and its surrounding desert communities boast more than 100 golf courses. That list continues to grow. Last year, Escena, a new Nicklaus design, opened its doors for play. This year, Indian Wells debuts its first of two redesigns. The pros also head out to the desert for a handful of events, including the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Kraft Nabisco Championship, Samsung World Golf Championship and the annual LG Skins Game.
From the windswept dunes of Lahinch, Ballybunion, Portmarnock, Doonbeg and Waterville to the spectacular cliffs of Old Head and the rolling parkland of a former earl’s estate at Adare Manor, Ireland supplies golf that can’t be found anywhere else. In fact, if you ask most golfers who’ve vacationed in Scotland and Ireland which place they prefer, you’ll get a conflicted answer.
It’s not hard to see why the people at Cuscowilla Golf Resort really love golf. Just look at the place. For starters, the grounds unfold about 70 miles from Atlanta in Eatonton, Ga., at the banks of the spectacular 20,000-acre Lake Oconee. The centerpiece—err, masterpiece—golf course is a tremendous work of art, a collaboration by arguably one of the hottest design duos in the world (Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore).
Most golfers are slowly becoming aware of what is now one of America’s finest golfing venues: The Great Lakes, particularly Michigan and Wisconsin. In recent years, some of the most celebrated new courses in America opened in this region. The varied topography–everything from sand dunes to abandoned stone quarries—combined with perfect soils and abundant water have made the area an ideal place for building exciting golf courses.
For golf lovers there's no better place on earth than Myrtle Beach—or more appropriately, the Carolinas' "Grand Strand". The 60+ mile stretch between southeastern North Carolina and Georgetown, South Carolina, with the Sun-Fun City of Myrtle Beach at the center, offers 100+ golf courses designed for every kind of golfer.
If there's one thing you should know about golf in the magnificent desert West, heed the following statement: In the desert West, you don't play golf, you experience it.
With Las Vegas having more than 50, Palm Springs with 100-plus and the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Mesa area totaling somewhere near 200 golf courses, it’s no wonder millions of golfers each year flock to these three desert golf boomtowns. It’s culture shock for many once they get there, as golfers from all over the world marvel at the union between harsh desert topography and the soft, caressing ribbons of fairway and greens that make up each golf oasis.
Hidden gems and must-plays for the ultimate golf pilgrimage
Golf in Ireland, obviously, has existed for quite some time, and it continues to flourish in a pure state. Walking is the preferred mode of transportation; scores are more often measured by Stapleford scoring and matches than stoke play. Par is relative to the wind and weather conditions of the day, not the number on the card. Here, traditions are revered and respected. Unfortunately, most visiting golfers don’t spend enough time in one place to get to know the area’s history let alone its unique flavor.
Only 12 miles long and five miles wide, Hilton Head is a maritime jewel off the southernmost coast of South Carolina, about 40 miles northwest of Savannah, Ga. Remarkably, golf wasn't introduced to this thickly forested barrier island until 1956 when the first course, the Ocean Course, opened. The course is in Sea Pines Resort, a 5,500-acre residential and recreational development pioneered by Charles Fraser, son of a timber magnate, who's heralded as modern Hilton Head's founding father.
Double-bogeys mean nothing when you're in paradise
The lure of the Caribbean islands is strong. Prospects of warm weather and a needed respite from the perils of modern living make the region a fine escape. Pair that with a geography exceedingly tropical and seemingly remote, despite the fact that the islands can be reached via a twin prop from most Eastern cities, and you have a bona fide vacation winner. Now, throw in golf far better than most people have ever imagined, and you have the incentive to start packing immediately, especially if your itinerary includes Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
Golf’s newest darling—as far as course developments are concerned—is the state of New Mexico. As Indian gaming continues to explode in popularity, so, too, has the new cluster of golf courses built on or near several Indian reservations throughout the aptly dubbed “Enchanted State.”
Earlier this summer, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced the 2007 Tour schedule. It was a moment many golf fans were anticipating, as the details of the long-awaited FedEx Cup, a NASCAR-like season-long point race, were revealed.
Myrtle Beach is one of those places that exists in pure dichotomy, where it seems you can be in two completely different places at the same time. On one hand, you have a jillion high-end golf courses to pick and choose from, most of which rival the best golf courses along the eastern seaboard. Several present not only a dazzling setting and an exciting challenge, but also a warm sense of southern hospitality, charm, class and sophistication. On the other hand, Myrtle Beach can be just as enticing off course, that is, if wearing a bib and chowing down on crabmeat or throwing back a pitcher of beer (or two) with your buddies is high on your list of things to do.
The home of golf in the United States is a hotly debated topic, but Charleston can actually lay claim to the nation’s first golf course and golf club—Harleston Green and the South Carolina Golf Club, both of which were established in 1786. And while Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head may be the main golfing destinations in the Palmetto State, Charleston also possesses its own rich golfing culture.
Nestled in the Sandhills of central North Carolina lies a roughly triangular area encompassing the villages of Southern Pines, Aberdeen and the quaint little walking village of Pinehurst (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also created New York's Central Park) and Pinehurst Resort. The center of Pinehurst-area golf is, and always has been, the Resort’s world-renowned #2 course. Today the area is home to 43 excellent courses and counting. It’s known as the "Home of American Golf."
Coastal Georgia and South Carolina supply great golf with a Southern charm. Florida supplies great golf with everything else.
Perhaps no other region in the country has such a varied and stunning definition as the great Southeast. Depending on who you are and where you’re from, the states of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina probably have a different meaning to you. Take a 13-year-old kid from Wisconsin, for example, and Florida to him is all about thrill rides, waterslides and Jet Skis. To a middle-aged boating enthusiast from New York, the region is paradise for power boating, deep-sea fishing and sailing.