When spring has sprung, it’s time to hit the links. Here are some places that you can play where the pros play, try out a new form of golf, and tee off on the best courses in the South and beyond.
Lowcountry cottages and coastal golf. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort became a bit more accessible last year when The Cottages on Charleston Harbor in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, announced its new Coastal Carolina Golf Package. It includes one round of play at the Ocean Course at Kiawah and another at the public Patriots Point Links adjacent to the harborfront cottages. Both courses provide ample water views, along with strong ocean breezes. The Ocean Course at Kiawah hosted the PGA Championship in 2012 and is on tap to do it again in 2021. The Cottages on Charleston Harbor offers upscale Lowcountry-style cottages that can sleep up to six people and have large screened-in porches overlooking the harbor across from downtown Charleston, accessible via water taxi. A 12-pack of local craft beer and daily breakfast is included. (The Cottages on Charleston Harbor, 16 Patriots Point Road, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Coastal Carolina Golf Package $719 and up. 843-849-2300, www.thecottagesoncharlestonharbor.com)
Kick your way around the links. A new kind of golf is being played at Brazell’s Creek Golf Course in Gordonia-Altamaha State Park in Reidsville. FootGolf combines elements of soccer and golf but is more closely related to the latter sport. The rules are much the same as regular golf except players kick soccer balls into large cups on the green. The course at Brazell’s Creek has its own special greens and tees. The new sport already has its own league — the American FootGolf League (AFGL) — and the park will host the AFGL 202o U.S. National Championship Nov. 5-8. Traditional golf is still played at Brazell’s Creek on a newly laid-out, 71-par course designed by Denis Griffiths. (Brazell’s Creek Golf Course, 355 Golf Course Road, Reidsville. Golf $10 per round; cottages $140 and up. 912-557-7745, gastateparks.org/BrazellsCreek)
Golfing in the jungle. On the Yucatan Peninsula between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, the Riviera Maya Golf Club boasts a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course carved out of a jungle quarry. The course features natural lakes, cenotes, mangroves and limestone formations that create a rare golfing experience in a jungle landscape. Last year, Riviera Maya topped Golf Digest’s list of Best Golf Resorts in Mexico and Central America. The club is owned by Bahia Principe, which also operates four nearby luxury resorts and recently began a partnership with the PGA of America to support golf development and promote golf tourism experiences in Latin America. (Riviera Maya Golf Club, Ave. del Sol Km. 250, Akumal, Q.R., Mexico. Golf $96 and up, rooms $111 and up. +52 984 875 5048, www.rivieramaya-golfclub.com)
Golf oasis in the clouds. The Highland Course at Primland resort on a 3,000-foot plateau in mountainous southwest Virginia stands out for its scenic setting and unique layout. Many balls have been lost to the Dan River Gorge below. The course is difficult but has splendid long-range mountain views due to its location. Tees times are spaced far enough apart to allow players to take in the mountain vistas and search for lost balls. In 2019 the course landed at No. 31 on Golfweek’s list of Top 100 Courses to Play. The 12,000-acre resort has earned many similar best-of awards for its luxurious accommodations that include a lodge, fairway cottages and treehouses, as well as a bevy of other outdoor recreation opportunities. There’s even an observatory for star gazing housed inside what looks like a grain silo. (Primland, 2000 Busted Rock Road, Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Golf $135 and up, lodge rooms and fairway cottages $430 and up. 866-960-7746, www.primland.com)
Major renovations at classic coastal resort. Last spring Georgia’s Sea Island Resort introduced its Golf Performance Center. The 17,000-square-foot facility at the Sea Island Golf Club uses a holistic, comprehensive approach that caters to players of all skill levels to help them enhance their game. Highlights include cutting-edge technology in the instruction bays, a putting studio and a golf club workshop. The center is part of a $30 million enhancement at the resort that also saw major course renovations, the addition of golf-in-and-out cottages and a new pub with a six-lane bowling alley. The resort features three inns, three golf courses and has been awarded the Forbes Five-Star designation for 12 consecutive years. (Sea Island Resort, 100 Cloister Drive, Sea Island. Instruction $70 and up, golf $155 and up, rooms $199 and up. 855-572-4975, www.seaisland.com)
Courses designed by golf greats. In January, Reunion Resort and Golf Club in Kissimmee, Florida, began offering personalized club fitting in partnership with Honma Golf, a premium golf club manufacturer. Called the Honma Experience, the custom fitting takes place in a secluded, open-range environment utilizing launch monitors and other high-tech equipment to match the golfer with the right clubs that will help optimize distance, accuracy and performance. Afterward, tee off on one of the resort’s three 18-hole championship courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. It’s the only location in the world where the three golfing legends each designed a course. Multiple upscale accommodation options are available ranging from spacious villas to vacation homes of three-to-13 bedrooms. (Reunion Resort, 7593 Gathering Drive, Kissimmee, Florida. Honma Golf Experience $150 and up, stay-and-play golf packages $310 and up. 833-258-0472, www.reunionresort.com)
Scottish-style links in Music City. Music fans and golf enthusiasts can enjoy the best of both worlds at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Gaylord Springs Golf Links, a Scottish links-style course on the banks of the Cumberland River. This scenic riverside gem of a course is affordable and amenable to all skill levels. You don’t need to be a guest at the resort to play, but if you are, just show your room key card to get a free bucket of balls on the driving range. The Golf Getaway Package includes one 18-hole round, club rentals and transportation to and from the links. In the evening, take in a show at one of Music City’s many renowned music venues, including the Grand Ole Opry House adjacent to the resort, the Ryman Auditorium downtown and the Bluebird Cafe in suburban Green Hills. (Gaylord Springs Golf Links, 18 Springhouse Lane, Nashville. Golf $71 and up, Golf Getaway Package $239 and up. 615-458-1730, www.gaylordsprings.com)
Where the pros play. It may surprise some golf fans to learn that the iconic Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the annual Farmer’s Insurance Open and host to the 2021 U.S. Open, is a municipal course. Owned and operated by the City of San Diego, the site contains two courses — North and South. Anyone can play these seaside links perched on towering cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. The South course is where Tiger Woods won the legendary 2008 U.S. Open in a nail-biting, sudden-death playoff now a part of golf lore. Non-residents can get a tee time by registering through the booking portal at the city’s website. The privately owned Lodge at Torrey Pines overlooks the courses and offers a Play Where the Pros Play Package that includes one round on either course with a three-night minimum stay. (Torrey Pines Golf Course, 11480 Torrey Pines Road, San Diego. Golf $72 and up for non-residents, Lodge at Torrey Pines golf package $495 and up. 877-581-7171, www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/golf/torreypines)
Strategy and scenery on the bluffs. Last December, Golf Digest named the new South Course at Arcadia Bluffs on the shoreline of Lake Michigan one of the best public courses in the nation. It’s a rare course with a design that hearkens to a bygone era of golf. The layout is simple and easily walkable, but the play is challenging with its use of angles, elevation and bunkering on a treeless course. The focus is on strategy, not scenery. If it’s scenery you want, play the Bluffs Course one-mile north. Located on a windswept bluff with panoramic views of the lake and the rolling terrain, it’s reminiscent of Scottish seaside courses. Both are daily-fee public courses with no memberships or combo packages available. Stay in one of two small lodges or the four-bedroom cottages adjacent to the Bluffs Course. (Arcadia Bluffs, 14710 Northwood Hwy., Arcadia, Michigan. Golf $85 and up, accommodations $175 and up. 800-494-8666, arcadiabluffs.com)
An urban gem of a course reborn. After a major course renovation, historic Highland Park Golf Course in Birmingham, Alabama, has re-opened in time for spring play. The state’s oldest golf course, Highland Park opened in 1903 as the Country Club of Birmingham and became a public course in 1927. In 1916, golf legend and Atlanta native Bobby Jones won one of his first tournaments here at the age of 14. Along with its history and affordable rates, the course is also notable for a scenic urban setting on the slopes of Red Mountain overlooking downtown Birmingham. Many holes have significant elevation gains and drops, and some of the new greens and tee boxes offer sweeping skyline views. No accommodations are available at the course, but Birmingham’s best hotels are minutes away. (Highland Golf Course, 3300 Highland Ave. South, Birmingham, Alabama. Golf $48 and up. 205-322-1902, highlandparkgolf.com)
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