Golfweek magazine has rated Fallen Oak near Biloxi the best course in Mississippi. Guests at Beau Rivage Resort and Casino have exclusive access to the course. Contributed by Visit Mississippi

Spring is the season for hitting the links

Whether it’s watching the greatest pro golfers compete, playing the best courses yourself, letting a local expert guide you to the home of the sport or getting playful with some golf alternatives, there’s no shortage of ways to satisfy the itch to hit the links this spring. Here are some options around the Southeast and beyond.

Birmingham, Ala.

Aside from the Masters Tournament in Augusta April 11-14, the next closest PGA tournament to Atlanta that isn’t in Atlanta is the Regions Tradition May 8-12 in suburban Birmingham. It’s a popular tournament because it only allows PGA players older than 50 to compete, many of whom are household names to golf fans. The celebrity pro-am before the tournament is heavy on big names in college football such as Alabama head coach Nick Saban, UGA’s Kirby Smart, and multi-sport legend Bo Jackson. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Birmingham native, will also play the charity event that benefits Children’s of Alabama hospital. May 8-12. $25 daily tickets, $100 full tournament. Greystone Golf and Country Club, 4100 Greystone Drive, Birmingham, Ala. 877-332-7804, www.regionstradition.com.

Charleston, S.C.

The U.S. Women’s Open hands out the most coveted trophy in women’s professional golf. This year, the tournament takes place at the Country Club of Charleston. Anticipation for the event is so high locally that the 1,700 volunteer positions filled up last fall, and 100,000 spectators are expected to attend. The Open will be the first major golf championship ever held in Charleston and the city is expecting visitors from around the globe. Many visitors will also be in town at the same time for Spoleto Festival USA (May 24-June 9), a major performing arts festival with shows, concerts, plays and many other cultural events taking place all over the city. May 30-June 2. $25 and up for daily tickets, $125 up for full tournament packages. 1 Country Club Drive, Charleston, S.C. 800-698-0661, www.uswomensopen.com.

Lake Oconee

For big spenders who want to attend the Masters Tournament in stylish luxury, the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee offers a five-day Masters package. Priced at $100,000 for four people, the package includes tickets and transportation to the tournament, a large cottage on the lake with a private chef, rounds of golf at Reynolds’ acclaimed courses, a new set of personally fitted TaylorMade golf clubs and too many other perks to list here. If that’s too rich for your tastes, check out resort’s newest course-within-a-course concept, the Quick Six. Carved out of The Preserve course at Reynolds, it only takes an hour to play and costs $40 for mid-afternoon tee times, a bargain for a resort where the greens fees are typically in the $200 range. The Jack Nicklaus-designed Great Waters course is currently closed for renovations (overseen by Nicklaus himself) and slated to re-open in September. Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. $419 and up for stay-and-play packages. 1 Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro. 706-467-0600, www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/georgia/reynolds.

Hole number 10 at TPC Myrtle Beach, the only course along South Carolina’s Grand Strand to be awarded five stars by Golf Digest. Contributed by Founders Group International
Photo: For the AJC

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The Grand Strand boasts more than 100 golf courses. Choosing which ones to play can be a daunting task. One option is choosing a resort that offers access to the top courses as well as concierge golf services. Last year, the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront partnered with the golf course management company Founders Group International to offer its guests privileges at Founders’ 22 courses. This includes TPC Myrtle Beach, the only Grand Strand course awarded five stars by Golf Digest. A golf concierge can help you pick courses and schedule tee times. The resort is minutes away from the Myrtle Beach International Airport, and all rooms and suites have oceanfront balconies. Work on your putting game at the 18-hole miniature golf course on site. DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront. $393 and up for stay-and-play packages. 3200 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, S.C. 843-315-7100, www.doubletree3.hilton.com.

The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa on Mobile Bay is a historic hotel that recently fully re-opened after a massive three-year renovation. It’s home to two courses on Alabama’s acclaimed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Contributed by Art Meripol
Photo: For the AJC

Point Clear, Ala.

Point Clear is home to the Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, a historic resort that opened in 1847 and became part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection last August. Listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the Historic Hotels of America, the Grand exudes Southern elegance and maintains longtime traditions such as the daily military procession and cannon firing over the bay, an homage to the hotel’s unique history during times of war. Guests have access to Lakewood Golf and Country Club, home to two courses on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. After a three-year renovation project, the hotel and the Dogwood Course at Lakewood have re-opened. The Azalea Course is currently undergoing renovation and slated to re-open in November. Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa. $239 and up for rooms. $65 and up for greens fees. 1 Grand Blvd., Point Clear, Ala. 251-928-9201, www.grand1847.com.

Biloxi, Miss.

Guests at Beau Rivage Resort and Casino have exclusive access to the links at Fallen Oak, designed by Tom Fazio. Last year, Golfweek magazine rated Fallen Oak the best course to play in Mississippi. The lush coastal forest setting makes it one of the more scenic courses in the South, its fairways lined with centuries-old oak trees, pecan and magnolia groves, and cut through by winding creeks. It is home to the Rapiscan Systems Classic, an annual PGA Tour Champions event March 29-31 that is free to attend, a rare thing in the pro golf world. Tickets are provided  compliments of Coca-Cola, and can be acquired through the tournament website at www.rapiscansystemsclassic.com.

Beau Rivage Resort and Casino. $69 and up for rooms, $200 and up for greens fees. 875 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, Miss. 877-805-4657, www.beaurivage.com.

A favorite golf destination for Atlanta residents, Sandestin is home to four championship courses — Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club and the Links Golf Club — designed by such notable architects as Robert Trent Jones Jr., Rees Jones and Tom Jackson. The courses flank Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and all but Baytowne are ranked among the “Top 75 in Florida” by Golf Digest. In 2017, Sandestin added a fleet of high-tech golf cars with GPS technology that can give exact yardage for each shot and show 3D flyovers of the holes. Numerous lodging options are available in Sandestin, including at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa, a 600-room beachfront resort with a world-class spa and the Panhandle’s only AAA Four-Diamond steakhouse, Seagar’s. Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa. $270 and up for rooms, $69 and up for greens fees. 4000 S. Sandestin Blvd., Miramar Beach, Florida. 850-267-9500, www.hiltonsandestinbeach.com.

Georgia-based Tom’s Golf Tours offers trips to the historic courses of Ireland and Scotland, including the Old Course at St. Andrews seen here from the 18th tee. Contributed by Tom Chillemi
Photo: For the AJC

Tom’s Golf Tours

Playing the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, the oldest golf course in the world and widely known as “the home of golf,” is a bucket list item for many golfers. Planning a trip and getting a tee time can be expensive and challenging, especially for overseas travelers. Georgia-based Tom’s Golf Tours makes the task much easier. The company is run by Tom Chillemi, a Class A member of the PGA who has competed and won on the Old Course and is an expert on golfing in Ireland and Scotland. Tours include luxury coach service for all ground transportation, guaranteed tee times on the Old Course (and others), a full Scottish breakfast every day and four-star accommodations. $5,500 per person for seven-day tour and guaranteed tee times on the Old Course. 333 Rebel Circle #323, Sky Valley. 706-982-2357, www.tomsgolftours.com.

Topgolf locations are springing up around the South. A recent survey by the National Golf Foundation found that many people who started playing golf in the last three years began after first playing Topgolf. Contributed by Topgolf
Photo: For the AJC

Topgolf

Like a bowling alley for golfers, Topgolf locations are springing up everywhere. According to the company, 51 percent of its guests are non-golfers, but a recent survey by the National Golf Foundation found that 24 percent of those who started playing golf in the last three years began after first playing Topgolf. It’s a fun introduction to the sport in an arcade-like atmosphere with players aiming at circular targets on the range. Each location has its own chef-driven food menu featuring local specialties and craft beer. There are two locations in the metro area: 1600 Ellsworth Industrial Blvd., Atlanta, and 10900 Westside Parkway, Alpharetta. But why not combine Topgolf with a weekend getaway? There are locations in Birmingham, Ala.; Huntsville, Ala.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; Greenville, S.C.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C. $25 per hour and up plus $5 membership fee. 866-867-4653, www.topgolf.com.

Putt-Putt

If Topgolf is the new high-tech way to play the game, Putt-Putt has been the old-school standby since the 1950s. This isn’t putting through windmills or pirate ships. It’s a skill-based game on courses built to exact standards. There’s even a pro league. The 2019 National Championship of the Professional Putters Association takes place Sept. 16-20 at the Putt-Putt Fun Center in Kingsport, Tenn. (346 W. Stone Drive, 423-247-3531, www.proputters.org) with a $25,000 purse. Amateurs can compete at weekly tournaments in various locations. One notable outpost is on Amelia Island in Florida where Putt-Putt of Fernandina Beach stands as the oldest continually operating franchise, in business since 1959 and the only location in the Southeast that’s located on the beach. Putt-Putt Fun Center. $5 and up. 6 North Fletcher Ave., Fernandina Beach, Fla. 904-261-4443, www.puttputt.com/amelia-island.

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