Say "island golf" to someone and they'll probably picture Hawaii or some other tropical destination. But the word "island" doesn't always equal swaying palms and surfers hanging ten a sand wedge away from the fairway. After all, golf was invented on an island where weather is anything but balmy.
Regardless of the weather conditions, island golf does conjure up images of seaside golf courses. From the dramatic dunescapes of Irish links courses to the wave-crashing Paspallum-seeded courses of the Dominican Republic, many of golf's greatest (and most photogenic layouts) incorporate Mother Nature's largest water hazards into their routing.
With summer just a month away, it's time to seriously consider which island to spend your golf vacation on.
Ireland The Skinny: Ireland has fantastic golf courses, many of which are located along its coast. If you're planning a short trip, divide the country into sections; travelers in for a long stay might consider circling the island (including Northern Ireland and its fine layouts). Standouts: Lahinch, Old Head, Ballybunion (Old), Portmarnock and The European in Ireland. Royal County Down and Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland are phenomenal. Island Time: The best time to visit is from late spring to mid fall. The weather is unpredictable, so pack accordingly. Deals: Log on to openfairways.com to purchase a Golf Passport to Ireland. Also try golfadventureguides.com for money-saving tips.
Dominican Republic The Skinny: The Dominican Republic is one of the most popular golf getaways for people on the East Coast and continues to grow its reputation with new premium offerings. Standouts: Jack Nicklaus' new masterpiece, Punta Espada, redefines seaside golf, while Pete Dye's Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore Courses are two of the island's most challenging layouts. Island Time: Nestled in the tropics (and sharing an island with Haiti), the DR, as it's nicknamed, has warm weather and minor temperature changes throughout the year. Expect rainy days from May to November and the possible hurricane in the autumn months. Winter is the ideal time to visit, especially when coming from a cold climate. Deals: Visit casadecampo.com.do for rates and specials.
Puerto Rico The Skinny: There are fewer than two-dozen golf courses on the island and many of them were designed by top-notch architects, including Gary Player, Greg Norman, Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Many boast ocean views and are susceptible to its breezes. A number of new courses are expected to open over the next few years, including the recently announced Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico. Standouts: The Hyatt's Hacienda del Mar has four championship golf courses, each designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Island Time: Like its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico is in the tropics and is susceptible to hurricanes in late summer and early fall. Its wet season is the summer months. Deals: Golf packages are available at hyatthaciendadelmar.hyatt.com and external travel websites like golfpactravel.com.The South Course at Mauna Lani Resort cuts through lava flows and offers both ocean and mountain views. The striking 15th hole (above) is one of the most photographed in all of golf.
Hawaii The Skinny: Hawaii's islands have more than 90 golf courses and many of them feature ocean views, lava outcroppings, jungle ravines & the world's largest water hazard, the Pacific Ocean. Standouts: Kohala Coast: Mauna Lani Resort's Francis H. I'i Brown North Course and South Course are both championship-quality tracks that offer enjoyable playing experiences and plenty of great ocean and mountain views. Waikaloa Beach Resort's distinctive Beach and Kings' courses can be a load of fun as well, particularly the Kings', a Tom Weiskopf and Jay Moorish links-style design. Also check out the well-known Mauna Kea Golf Course, which is currently being renovated by Rees Jones. Kaua'i: Princeville's Prince Course is arguably the most challenging in all of Hawaii, while Poipu Bay Golf Course offers a final four that you'll never forget. Island Time: There really isn't any bad time to visit Hawaii, as temperatures remain perfect throughout the year. Average highs range from 80 to 88, while lows average about 65. Deals: visit kauaidiscovery.com
Daufuskie Island The Skinny: Located between Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head Island, Daufuskie Island is an intimate, historical oasis that claims a mere 429 full-time residents. There are three golf courses on the island, but only two are open to the public. Standouts: Daufuskie Island Resort is home to two 18-hole championship golf courses: Jack Nicklaus' Melrose Course (named one of S.C.'s Top 25 tracks) and the Tom Weiskopf/Jay Moorish-designed Bloody Point. Island Time: Summer months are hot and humid (but benefit from off-shore breezes). Autumn months are susceptible to hurricanes. Late fall and into late spring are the best time to visit. Deals: A number of specials and packages are available. Check out daufuskieislandresort.com for vacation and golf packages.
Islands Less Traveled Australia We admit, it's a pretty big island (so big, in fact, that it's a continent). If you're visiting, make sure you check out Tom Doak's Barnbougle Dunes, one of the world's best public courses. www.barnbougledunes.com.au Newfoundland The River Course at Humber Valley Resort opened in 2006 and was designed by Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The course boasts spectacular views of Deer Lake and Humber River. www.humbervalley.com New Zealand Another Doak standout, Cape Kidnappers Golf Club is located in Hawke's Bay about 10 hours south of David Harman's excellent Kauri Cliffs Golf Club and Lodge. www.capekidnappers.com & www.kauricliffs.com.