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.
In 1898, Samuel Mills Damon, a wealthy Hawaiian banker, built Hawaii’s first official 18-hole golf course. Even though it was on his estate, Damon didn’t charge any greens fees. A nice gesture, but the free rounds didn’t last long. Three years into its operation, Damon’s son made the course semiprivate and, because of the warm, tropical climate, lopped off nine of its holes. Playing 18, it seems, was just too hot to handle.
From the Monterey Peninsula to San Diego, discover golf in the Golden State
Within the nation’s most populated state lies some of the best golf resorts in the United States. The terrain varies greatly from one tip of this long region to the other, as does the weather—from craggy, seaside links to rolling, inland meadows; from 80 degrees and sunny to dense fog and biting wind. But one thing is certain wherever you choose to visit: It doesn’t get much better than the Pacific Coast when it comes to top-quality golf resorts.
Golf in Hawaii is a study in variance. At the same time, the island game is littered with awe-inspiring topography—replete with the expected natural beauty—and not-so-subtle dangers from tee to green. Perhaps that’s what makes playing golf on Hawaiian courses so intriguing: You don’t mind the occasional double bogey when you’re in paradise.
Follow the course - Rich trails of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi
The Gulf Coast region of Alabama, Louisiana and the state we learned to spell phonetically—M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I—may not be the first place you’d think of for a golfing trip, but the more you learn about what it has to offer, the more you realize what a viable choice it is. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama, the Audubon Golf Trail in Louisiana and the Golf Coast Golf Trail in Mississippi are wonderful golfing venues that feature courses designed by some of the greatest architects and players in the game.
The mountain West, which incorporates the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to the Sierra Nevadas of California, Utah and upward to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is quite possibly the most diverse outdoor playground in the United States. Literally every kind of recreation is found here, ranging from winter skiing and white-water rafting to horseback riding, hiking, fishing and, of course, golf.
The mountain West—a rugged region that stretches from the Colorado Rockies to the Sierra Nevada of Northern California, Utah and into Idaho—is unquestionably the most diverse terrain in the country. You can do it all here when it comes to outdoor recreation: ski, hike, swim, water sports, fishing—you name it. Within the last decade, golf has surged in popularity, as many destinations have melded into hybrid resorts that serve as ski havens in the winter and golf hot spots in the summer.
From Cabo to Cancun, golf south of the border is hard to beat
Golf in Mexico isn’t as storied as it is in Scotland or Ireland. It isn’t as sexy as it is in Hawaii or as dreamy as its Caribbean counterpart. But this much is true: South of the border, the game and all of its resort trappings attract more American and Canadian golfers than any other international golf destination. In 2003, nearly three-quarter-million determined duffers made their way to first tees, from Los Cabos to Cancun.
Like the mists that blow in off the Irish Sea, a sense of mystery tends to shroud golf in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the country itself possesses an aura of the unknown, particularly with Americans. It’s not as if the courses here are completely unknown, it’s just that they tend to be overshadowed by their more famous neighbors in Scotland, The Republic of Ireland and England. However, Northern Ireland has not only a rich golf history of its own, but also a collection of links layouts that stand up to any of its more heralded British Isles’ mates. Two, in particular, are capable of challenging for the title of best links course in the world: Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.