Go Play A Round
The Worlds Best Golf Resorts and Greens
“Nothing contributes more to the popularity of golf than its almost endless variety. No two courses are the same, even though they may be similar in character; no two shots are alike, even though the same distance has to be accomplished.” – John L. Low, 19th century British golf authority
Mr. Low was right, of course, which is why American golfers spend in excess of $26 billion a year traveling to an “endless variety” of courses.
“Golf is the peculiar game of a peculiar people. It is the pastime of the Scots,” Low also noted.
While this is no longer true – today the sport enjoys worldwide popularity – deep in the heart of every enthusiast lies a desire to play The Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, the place where golf originated 600 years ago.
In fact, there are many courses in St. Andrews open for public play. The Old Course is unrivaled for its history and prestige and is synonymous with The British Open Championship. Public players enter a daily lottery for a tee time and, depending on the day, have approximately a 50/50 chance of success.
The Castle Course, overlooking the ancient town of St. Andrews, is set on a rugged cliff and combines breathtaking views with a memorable golfing challenge. The “New” Course was set out in 1895. The Jubilee Course, considered to be the toughest, is laid out on a narrow strip between the New Course and the sea. The Eden, with a slightly lower yardage, challenges golfers with severe bunkering and undulating greens. Strathtyrum and Balgove are suitable for more relaxed rounds or beginners and families. standrews.org.uk
The St. Andrews Links make up the largest public golf complex in Europe, but the world’s largest is Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China, 30 minutes north of Hong Kong. Here, 12 resort and championship courses were designed by Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh, David Leadbetter, and others. The complex also features four clubhouses, three spas, a five-star hotel, three golf academies, 51 tennis courts, and Asia’s most exclusive residential community. missionhillschina.com
Today there are more 300 courses and 5 million golfers in China, with the golfing population growing at a rate of up to 50 percent annually.
In fact, there are more golfers in China than the total population of New Zealand, but the two countries share an enthusiasm for the sport. Only Scotland has more courses per capita than New Zealand.
One of the best-known Kiwi courses is Wairakei International near Lake Taupo, where steam from underground geothermal activity sometimes wafts from vents on the fairways. The par-5 14th hole at Wairakei is one of the longest and most challenging in New Zealand. At 594 yards, this hole would be a serious test if it had a straight, open fairway with a large, friendly green, but instead it has an oversized pine tree in the middle that forces players to go right or left with their second shot. Once that is maneuvered, the third shot is to an elevated, kidney-shaped green protected in front by sand traps. Reaching this green in two is next to impossible, and for many who take on “The Rogue,” as this hole is called, reaching it in three is an accomplishment. wairakeigolfcourse.co.nz
Wairakei is the finest non-coastal course in the country, while Kauri Cliffs in the Bay of Islands region is renowned for its sea views. In fact, six holes are played along a clifftop that plunges into the sea, and a total of 15 holes overlook the ocean. The inland holes wind through marsh, forest, and farmland. kauricliffs.com
Kauri Cliffs is on Golf Digest’s list of “100 Best Courses In the World,” as is Monte Rei Golf Club, located in the Algarve region of Portugal. In total, the Algarve is home to more than 30 golf courses – some with luxury clubhouses, manicured greens, and flawless fairways – and all are open to visitors. Golf is played year-round in the region’s mild climate.
The beautiful courses at Monte Rei, designed by Jack Nicklaus, include everything a player would expect. Laid out in rolling hills, each hole offers an attractive panorama and a combination of challenging factors. monte-rei.com
Scotland is the birthplace of golf and it’s no surprise that former British colonies have the most courses per capita, but now the popularity of the sport has spread well beyond the English-speaking world.
I’m sure that today’s “endless variety”of courses would please one Mr. John L. Low. Elizabeth Hansen
Other golf destinations to consider include:
Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina – The new beachfront luxury resort features the 18-hole Old Quarry golf course designed by Pete Dye, as well as 350 rooms and suites, a holistic spa, multiple pools, and a private beach. curacao.hyatt.com
Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa, Litchfield Park, Arizona – The Wigwam is the only resort in the Southwest with 54 holes of championship golf, including two courses designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The historic resort features 331 guest casitas, including 72 suites crafted from traditional territorial adobe architecture surrounded by lush landscaped walkways, fragrant citrus tree-lined enclaves, and The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. wigwamresort.com
Bay Harbor Golf Club, Bay Harbor, Michigan – Located on the bluffs of Lake Michigan near the vacation towns of Petoskey and Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor offers three pleasant 9-hole resort courses. bayharborgolf.com
Treetops Resort, Gaylord, Michigan – Here, five distinctly different courses – 81 holes in all – offer some of the Midwest’s best golf. Golf Magazine says Treetops’ Rick Smith Golf Academy is one of the “Top 25 Golf Schools in America.” treetops.com
Makena Golf Course at Makena Beach & Golf Resort – This resort encompasses 1,800 acres on Maui’s southwestern coast. The course is renowned for its ancient Hawaiian rock walls, natural gullies and stream beds, which were incorporated into the original design. Golfers play along the Pacific Ocean, providing stunning ocean views from nearly every hole, as well as vistas of Mt. Haleakala and neighboring islands. It is a rugged, natural test of golf – winding up, down, over and around the verdant foothills of Maui’s 10,000-foot dormant volcanic crater. makenagolf.com
Sea Island Golf Club, off the coast of Georgia – The Lodge at Sea Island has been a Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond property since opening in 2001. It is the centerpiece of two exquisitely designed and immaculately maintained resort golf courses Seaside (par 70) and Plantation (par 72). seaisland.com
Towa Golf Course at the Buffalo Thunder Resort, Santa Fe, New Mexico – Towa’s views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains make it one of the most scenic public golf settings in the Southwest. Set in Georgia O’Keeffe country, the Towa Golf Club is characterized by turquoise skies, red-rock cliffs, and snow-peaked mountains. buffalothunderresort.com/amenities/index/towa-golf
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California — Ranked number one on Golf Digest’s list of “America’s Greatest Public Courses,” Pebble Beach Golf Links hosted the U. S. Open in June and is scheduled to do it again in 2019. The Pebble Beach Resort also includes three other courses: Spanish Bay, Del Monte, and Spyglass Hill. Savvy golfers use “Duke’s Membership,” which provides considerable discounts on green fees in exchange for a nominal annual fee. pebblebeach.com
Countries with the most golf courses per capita: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Wales, United States, Sweden, and England.
U.S. states with most courses (not per capita): Florida, California, New York, Michigan, and Texas.
The 2012 U.S. Open will be held at the Lake Course at The Olympic Club, San Francisco.