There’s more to the Southeast than just college football. That’s right, before the overlapping SEC and ACC regions perennially produced America’s national champion seemingly every year, they were home to many of the best golf destinations in the U.S. As we round winter’s corner into the peak spring season, here’s a short-list of golf resorts across four states to consider visiting as the dogwoods and azaleas begin to bloom.
Innisbrook Golf Resort – Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course is a favorite among PGA TOUR pros, and it’s also one of the most challenging tracks on the pro circuit. This highly amenitized resort west of Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico houses four courses along with a variety of rooms, suites and vacation rentals that have been upgraded recently to offer a comfy extended stay for golf groups of all sizes.
PGA National Resort and Spa – Palm Beach County is a hotbed of golf, and it doesn’t get any hotter than PGA National Resort and Spa, home of the PGA TOUR’s Honda Classic. Five courses, including the Jack Nicklaus designed Champ, await golfers willing to test their mettle against this tournament-tested venue. The resort recently opened “The Staple,” an innovative short course designed by Andy Staple.
PGA Golf Club – The flagship public property of the PGA of America, PGA Golf Club is a 54-hole golf panacea with a world-class practice range, short game area and short course. Catch a bite to eat in the Taplow Pub and stay a few nights in the adjacent Perfect Drive Villas or neighboring Hilton Garden Inn. PGA Golf Club is a pure golf experience for those who prefer 36 holes a day, a beer and a bed.
Streamsong Resort – One of Florida’s newest golf resorts (10 years young this year) got even newer with the opening of its Gil Hanse-designed Black Course in 2018. Streamsong’s Red and Blue courses have also quickly moved atop the national rankings, and the Streamsong Lodge is the perfect place to kick back and relax, post round. And at the 2022 PGA Show, resort officials revealed that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have been commissioned to a non-traditional fourth course with holes ranging from 70 to 300 yards.
Paradise Coast – The quaint city of Naples and tropical atoll Marco Island in Southwest Florida – dubbed the “Paradise Coast” – are home to more golf courses per capita than just about anywhere in the world. Resorts like Tiburon Golf Club, The JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort and The Lely Resort Golf and Country Club offer a multi-course experience, and there are plenty of standalone options as well. For those who fall in love with the area, The Club at Olde Cypress beckons with a “life on vacation” lifestyle and the area’s only P.B. Dye design.
Reynolds Lake Oconee – Reynolds Lake Oconee is to Georgia as Pinehurst Resort is to North Carolina: a seemingly endless supply of golf in the form of six highly-ranked layouts designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Bob Cupp and Jim Engh. Nicklaus’ Great Waters headlines the collection, as it was recently renovated and restored to its original glory. Lodging ranges from cozy cottages to the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, Lake Oconee.
Sea Island Resort – While Georgia is known as the home of The Masters, the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort is a PGA TOUR player and fan favorite. So much so, several pros make their home at this golf haven on Atlantic. The Seaside Course is a Tom Fazio redesign perched right on the ocean, the Plantation Course was recently renovated by natives Davis and Mark Love, who also recast the Retreat Course in 2001. Diehard golfers gravitate to The Lodge with its ocean view and “walk-to” access to the Seaside and Plantation courses. Dinner in the Oak Room is a must, with its rich mahogany veneer and formidable wine, beer and spirts menu, as is a post-round libation in the famed Men's Locker Room.
Grandover Resort – Golfers need only veer off I-85 in Greensboro to access this 36-hole collection designed by Gary Panks. A full-service onsite hotel offers all the accouterments, from casual and fine dining to a spa and fitness center. Grandover’s combo of convenience and quality is hard to beat, and for an extended golf swing, the North Carolina Sandhills is only an hour's drive south.
Pinehurst Resort – Nine 18-hole courses, including the famed No. 2 U.S., make Pinehurst Resort the largest golf resort in the U.S. and a must-visit for any serious golfer. In addition to its lineup of regulation tracks, Pinehurst is home to a nine-hole short course designed by Gil Hanse, The Cradle, and Thistle Dhu, a 75,000 square-foot putting course. Golfers can choose from three hotels, including the recently renovated Manor Inn, just a short walk to the new Pinehurst Brewing Co. And renovations are underway at The Carolina Hotel, Pinehurst’s historic crown jewel.
Rumbling Bald – Spring in Western North Carolina means mountain golf and Rumbling Bald along scenic Lake Lure obliges with two 18-hole tracks, Apple Valley and Bald Mountain, designed by W.B. Lewis and Dan Maples. Apple Valley is this golf retreat’s premier offering, playing to 6,800 yards and featuring new Champion Bermuda greens. Spacious vacation rentals are available for stay-and-plays, and the lake offers endless off-course activities. For golfers who visit and don't want to leave, nearby Champion Hills in Hendersonville offers a Tom Fazio-designed mountain masterpiece and a variety of membership types to suit any lifestyle. The course is ranked 51st in Golfweek's "Top 200 Residential Courses in the U.S." and is considered one of Fazio's seminal Western N.C. designs.
Cherokee Valley Course and Club – Upstate South Carolina’s premier golf destination, Cherokee Valley is home to a P.B. Dye mountain-style layout, on-site cottages and a brand-new casual dining restaurant, Core 450, that has garnered rave reviews from Greenville area foodies. Get your game ready at one of South Carolina’s most expansive practice facilities, which is also home to neighboring North Greenville University.
Fripp Island Golf and Beach Resort – “Fripp” as South Carolinians refer to it, flies just under the radar of the national golf cognoscenti, just how Palmetto State golfers like it. Home to two courses, Ocean Point and Ocean Creek, Fripp Island Golf and Beach Resort is situated on the most seaward of South Carolina’s Sea Islands 18 miles east of historic Beaufort, where novelist Pat Conroy spent his summers. The resort offers seasonal golf packages that include golf rounds, practice balls and lodging in a Fripp Island vacation rental.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort – For golfers who want to play where the pros play this year, Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course is hosting the 2020 PGA Championship in May. If Pete Dye’s diabolic oceanside layout it too tough to tackle, four other 18-hole courses adorn this majestic barrier island near Charleston. Catch a good night’s rest at the Sanctuary at Kiawah, a AAA Five Diamond hotel.
Myrtle Beach – While it’s not a resort, per se, the Grand Strand one of the world’s most iconic golf destinations. Accommodation options are limitless, and lineup cards can be filled with vaunted venues like Tidewater Golf Club, Grande Dunes Resort Course, King’s North at Myrtle Beach National, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club.
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort – Hilton Head is known as “Golf Island,” and the three brawny layouts at Palmetto Dunes are a big reason for that moniker. The Robert Trent Jones features one of the island’s only oceanfront holes, and the George Fazio and Arthur Hills courses round out the bill. Golf groups love the popular “Birdies and Beer Getaway” and the resort’s comfy vacation rentals.
Sea Pines Resort – Settled along Hilton Head Island’s south end, The Sea Pines Resort is home of the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage tournament and famed Harbour Town Golf Links. Two other championship caliber tracks reside inside the gates, Heron Point by Pete Dye and Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III. The Inn and Club at Harbor Town is just a pitching wedge from the clubhouse and the famed Yacht Basin is a short jaunt away.