Memorial Day, the first three-day weekend of the summer season, pays tribute to those who have given the last full measure of themselves in service to America. It’s a time to pause in remembrance, to honor, to reflect. But for golfers, it’s also a great opportunity to turn these three warm spring days into a golf vacation to remember.
So, let’s head to four corners of the continental United States to take a look a quick quartet of worthwhile Memorial Day golf destinations.
FLORIDA: ROSEN SHINGLE CREEK
Golfers heading to Orlando with the family to take in the area’s many amusement parks are forgiven for carving out 18 sun-splashed holes. In fact, they should be encouraged to get out and experience one of the state’s most golf-rich regions. Located just minutes from Orlando International Airport, International Drive, Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World, Rosen Shingle Creek is a popular convention and meeting resort during the week and the perfect home base for weekend revelers, with lovely luxury accommodations, several restaurants, a huge pool and all the right amenities — including a stellar Arnold Palmer Design Group golf course that underwent an overhaul last year to make room for a new hotel wing. In In re-routing a chunk of the front nine and tuning up the back for more drama and challenge, Orlando-based lead designer Thad Layton said he and his colleagues decided to “flip the script” and turn what was a fairly standard resort layout into something truly special by adding new driving lanes, squeezing approach angles, adding mounds and strategic bunkering and altering greens to give them more pin placements. The home stretch is particularly solid, from the drivable par-4 14th to the short-but-touchy par-3 15th to the reachable par-5 16th with a big knob that turns one green into two. Figure in the Brad Brewer Golf Academy for lessons, and Shingle Creek is one of the most complete golf offerings around. That’s saying something.
VERMONT: STRATTON MOUNTAIN
This popular Green Mountain resort opened one of its three nines on May 18, with the rest of the lovely, tree-lined holes — designed by legendary New England architect Geoffrey Cornish 50 years ago — soon to follow. The Mountain, Forest and Lake nines all have their own personalities, yet work together as a relaxing and scenic whole. All fairways and bunkers were restored to Cornish’s original plans in 2014. The layout rotates daily, offering play variety as well as the option to play 27 consecutive holes. Explore the links with friends with one of many Stratton golf events – including tournaments, golf scramble and golf exhibition — and add in learning session at the 22-acre Stratton Golf School. The resort’s Break 100 includes golf for one day and stay one night at a variety of resort-central lodging options starting at $99. Looking to make a summer habit of the place? Seize a Stratton golf membership in various configurations, from unlimited access to golf and fitness center combo. Lodging options range from hotel rooms with complimentary continental breakfast, to a 5- bedroom penthouse, all just steps from all the Stratton summer action.
WASHINGTON: SALISH CLIFFS
Tucked into a stretch of hilly coniferous forest along Highway 101 about a half hour north of Olympia and a little more than an hour from Seattle, this Squaxin tribe-owned property brings several heady Pacific Northwest vibes to bear. We’ll call it “rugged luxury.” The Little Creek Resort hotel, casino and restaurants comprise a top-notch getaway on their own, but Gene Bates’ stunning layout steals the show with a rousing routing along ridges, down into a river valley and through green corridors punctuated with bright white bunkers and blue, blue water features. The opening hole is one of the region’s best, a healthy down-then-up par-5 with an elevated tee that asks for a big power draw around a madrone tree to find an open look to the green. Several holes on the back nine are simply unforgettable, grouped into perfectly rhythmic stretches and multi-dimensional in their challenge and emotional pull. You’ll probably get the requisite mix of sunny and damp weather in this neck of the woods, but the course is playable and thrilling no matter the conditions. Make sure to chat with Head Pro Dave Kass if you can, and don’t miss breakfast or lunch in the handsome and airy clubhouse grill.
CALIFORNIA: THE JOURNEY AT PECHANGA
Though it’s located in a heavily populated, fast-growing region of Southern California — the Temecula Valley, whose eponymous band of Luseño Indians are completing a second hotel tower and huge new spa and fitness facility — Pechanga maintains a high-quality yet history-steeped world of its own. Arthur Hills’ design group found a way to build a truly spectacular golf course around the tribe’s sacred ancestral landmarks, pushing several holes up onto rocky slopes to conjure thrill-ride tee shots (check out the several-hundred-foot drop on No. 6, for instance), concentration-testing approaches across riverbeds and arroyos and green complexes that range from big to mega-big. It asks for your A-game, true, but the views, conditioning and excellent service from check-in to post-round meal (again served in clubhouse that’s an architectural wonder in its own right) more than offset any off-mark shots. The resort is just close enough to the coast that you’ll enjoy some cool marine layer on many summer mornings, but semi-desert warmth in the afternoon. Stay a night or two, dive into a steak or sushi at one of the hotel’s eateries, perhaps take in a show, and you’ll leave pondering your next visit.