Don’t worry Augusta isn’t the Southeast’s only exclusive layout. If you crave manicured fairways and first-class facilities (that are open to the public), then tee it up on one of these top-notch Southeast resorts. After all they’re just a short drive from Augusta National and a heck of a lot easier to get on.
The Golf: Reynolds boasts five pristine courses (four of which are open to the public) designed by some of the game’s most talented architects (Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp to be exact). Many holes border Lake Oconee, including nine on Nicklaus’ Great Waters course. Fazio’s “National” layout features 27 holes routed through thick forests.
Accommodations: Guests can stay at either the Ritz-Carlton Lodge (voted one of the “World’s Best Places to Stay”) or at one of the Plantation’s fully appointed cottages.
Golf School: Reynolds Plantation is one of only seven facilities to host a TaylorMade Performance Lab. Students are exposed to the latest in swing analysis technology and clubfitting. In addition, the Reynolds Golf Academy, headed by Charlie King, sports a 6,550-square-foot facility.
Diversions: The award-winning 26,000-square-foot spa at the Ritz Carlton offers more than a dozen massage treatments, including the “Up-to-Par Sports Therapy,” designed to treat injuries.
Distance to Augusta National Golf Club: 79 Miles
The Golf: There are three championship golf courses on the premises, including the Retreat, designed by Sea Island resident Davis Love III. The Seaside Course underwent a renovation by Tom Fazio in 1999 and Open Doctor Rees Jones operated on the Plantation back in ’98. Traditionalists will love the nod to Merion, as wicker baskets sit atop its pins.
Accommodations: Sea Island boasts three options, including the 80 year-old Cloister (rated one of the Best Hotels in the World), Lodge (with 40 guest rooms and suites) and Cottage rentals (one-third of Sea Island’s 500 homes are available to rent).
Golf School: Sea Island’s nine-person instruction staff, headed by Davis Love III’s coach Jack Lumpkin, offers clinics, schools and individual instruction.
Diversions: Take a ballroom dance lesson with dance instructor Audrey Wood, ride horses at the 13-acre Sea Island Stables or enroll in an etiquette class taught by Jennifer Daniel, graduate of the Washington School of Protocol.
Distance to Augusta National Golf Club: 211 Miles
Sea Pines/Hilton Head
The Golf: Anyone who watches golf on television is familiar with Hilton Head’s Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus Harbor Town Course and the iconic striped lighthouse behind the 18th green. The 1969 toughie has hosted the Verizon Heritage Classic since it first opened. What viewers don’t see are the resort’s two other courses: the Ocean Course (the first ever layout in Hilton Head) redesigned by Mark McCumber in 1995 and Heron Point by Pete Dye, formerly Sea Marsh.
Accommodations: Guests can choose between three accommodation options, including the 60-room Inn at Harbor Town, one- to four- bedroom private villas and rental homes ranging from one to seven bedrooms.
Golf School: Golf Academy of Hilton Head Island at Sea Pines. For more information visit golfacademy.net.
Diversions: It’d be hard not to take advantage of the Stan Smith-run Sea Pines Racquet Club, one of the nation’s best tennis facilities. It features 23 clay courts.
Distance to Augusta National Golf Club: 185 Miles
The Golf: Kiawah boasts five golf courses, including Pete Dye’s Ocean Course, home of the 2012 PGA Championship. Recently instituting a “walking only” policy before noon, The Ocean features panoramic views of the Atlantic on every hole—and challenging conditions on nearly every shot. Kiawah’s other four championship layouts were designed by a quartet of standout architects, including Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus.
Accommodations: Options abound as guests can stay at either the Five Diamond seaside Sanctuary Hotel (reminiscent of a 19th century mansion), one- to four-bedroom villas and three- to eight-bedroom homes.
Golf School: The Tommy Cuthbert Golf Learning Center is located at the Turtle Point course and offers an indoor/outdoor teaching experience.
Diversions: Kiawah features the “Second Best Tennis Resort in the U.S.” as ranked by Tennis Magazine.
Distance to Augusta National Golf Club: 201 Miles
The Golf: The largest golf resort in the U.S. features eight championship golf courses, including Donald Ross’ No. 2 (host of the 2005 and 2014 U.S. Opens).
Accommodations: Guests can stay at the Carolina (220 rooms), Holly Inn (82 Four-Star rooms), The Manor (45 rooms) or at one of Pinehurst’s villas and condos.
Golf School: The recently opened Pinehurst Golf Academy features a high-tech putting studio, clubfitting facilities and dedicated short game area.
Diversions: The Spa at Pinehurst offers a menu filled with many relaxing treatments, including a combination hot stone/Swedish massage that helps relieve muscle tension.
Distance to Augusta National Golf Club: 239 Miles
The Golf: Two Donald Ross-designed courses, including Pine Needles, site of the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open.
Accommodations: Two accommodation options await guests, including The Lodge at Pine Needles & the Georgian-style Mid Pines Inn.
Golf School: LPGA founding member Peggy Kirk Bell started “Golfari” a Safari of Golf that’s geared toward golfers “who want to improve their games and have fun.” Students receive 15 hours of instruction and on-course sessions in this four-night package.
Diversions: The Pinehurst/Southern Pines/Aberdeen area has 15 spas, a number of freshwater lakes and an equestrian center, among many other recreational activities.
Distance to Augusta National Golf Club: 237 Miles