|Photo by Tord Sollie via Flickr|
Adam Ruck, The Daily Telegraph, February 20, 2015
Winter, spring, summer or fall, you can perfect your golf throughout the year in America on a world-class course. Adam Ruck picks the best locations and tour operators.
From Maine to New Mexico, golf in the US is a game for all seasons. The winter climate is just right for it in Florida, Hawaii and the Arizona desert. In April, all eyes are on Georgia for The Masters at Augusta and holiday golf among the moss-draped “live oaks” on the Carolina coast. Summertime is golf time in the Rocky Mountains and through the sand dunes of Oregon’s Pacific seaboard, cooled by a northerly breeze. Golf gives a sporting purpose to a nature-appreciation tour of New England in the autumn.
Knowing which courses to play is notoriously difficult: website descriptions make them all sound equally superlative. A specialist tour operator can advise on this and book tee times. Getting the travel arrangements right is vital. Where possible, prioritise non-stop flights from the UK and when comparing air fares remember to include the cost of carrying clubs: some airlines charge extra, others – including Virgin Atlantic – don’t.
1. Bandon Dunes, Oregon
In the three decades since he fell in love with links golf on holiday in Ireland, Chicagoan businessman Mike Keiser has transformed a remote patch of the South Oregon coast into a centre of excellence unmatched outside St Andrews.
Bandon’s four big courses all feature in the hit parades of America’s finest, and all cost the same to play – with a 50 per cent discount for a second round in the day and free golf after that as an incentive to play quickly.
The unfussy style of the resort – no spa, no valet parking – suits the location perfectly. The best gateways are Eugene and Medford, both three hours away. Eugene combines well with a couple of days of “auberge” luxury at Pronghorn resort, with golf among lava outcrops and the Cascade mountains for a backdrop.
Use Medford if tempted to put the clubs away and explore the Rogue Valley wineries, Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival and the Crater Lake national park.
Best time: summer
From £2,045 per person, including five nights/three rounds at Bandon Dunes, two nights/one round at Pronghorn, car hire and return flights to Eugene via Los Angeles (0845 678 2400; golfbreaks.com ).
2. Reunion Resort, Kissimmee, Florida
Go on, give the children the treat they’ve been begging for. Oh all right then, you can go to Disney World while the golfer in the family sharpens his or her game at Annika’s Academy. Sorenstam, that is, the greatest player of the ladies’ game in the modern era. Watch out, though: Annika works hard on fitness and nutrition, as well as golf’s more familiar mysteries. After the class, practise what she preaches on Reunion’s three championship courses, signature creations by Watson, Palmer and Nicklaus.
Reunion is a vast playground with masses of activities and a kids’ club, so you may not get rid of the juniors so easily. Golf costs are not included in the holiday price: book tee times and the clinic directly through reunionresort.com. A three-day “Player’s” programme at the Annika Academy (morning lesson, afternoon play) costs $1,900 (£1,239).
Best time: December to April
From £2,235 per adult, £1,169 per child for seven nights from March 28; based on a family of four sharing an apartment at Reunion Resort including scheduled flights from Gatwick to Orlando and car hire (0844 557 3859; virginholidays.co.uk ).
3. Phoenix, Arizona
Saguaro cactus, pink granite outcrops, coyote on the prowl and, with luck, rattlesnakes in hibernation. Phoenix, Arizona is America’s capital of desert golf, and The Phoenician is the unashamedly opulent resort at the heart of it, with a mother of pearl swimming pool, a spectacular art collection and 27 holes of well-kept golf at the foot of Camelback mountain.
For the full beauty of the desert and its rich wildlife, it’s essential to escape urban Phoenix/Scottsdale. Troon North and the Boulders are to the north of the city, each with two outstanding courses. Troon’s have recently been revamped. South is the more scenic of The Boulders’ courses, and requires fewer big hits over desert waste; strong players prefer the North course.
Best time: winter
From £2,449 per person, including British Airways fights to Phoenix, car hire, seven nights room-only at The Phoenician, golf at Phoenician (two rounds), Troon North and Boulders (020 7962 9494; supertravel.co.uk/golf-holidays ).
4. New England in the fall
Instead of just driving a car through the colourful wonder of New England in the autumn, drive a golf ball, and curse the red and gold carpet of fallen leaves when you can’t find it.
New England’s best courses are in the mountain resorts of Sugarloaf, Sunday River (both in Maine) and Stowe (Vermont). Mountain golf requires a buggy and the season ends abruptly with the onset of winter. Early October would be good timing, starting at Sugarloaf and working your way south, as the fall foliage phenomenon does.
Best time: September/October
From £1,615 per person for eight nights including Virgin Atlantic flights to Boston, car hire and accommodation (room only) in Boston, Sugarloaf, Bethel and Stowe, and golf at Stowe, Sunday River and Sugarloaf (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com ).
5. Pinehurst, North Carolina
The sandy woodlands of Pinehurst are a shrine to Donald Ross of Dornoch, who arrived as resort professional in 1900 and made four courses. Now there are nine, of which Ross’s No 2 is the masterpiece: host of many championships including last year’s US Open. Of the more recent additions, No 8 (by Tom Fazio) is a delight to play, via a mixture of marshland and forest, and may prove less frustrating.
Pinehurst could easily be combined with a coastal golf tour of the Carolinas, but this is one of American golf’s holiest of holy places and deserves more than a rushed pit stop. On-site accommodation ranges from condos to the decidedly grand Carolina hotel. The highly reputed Pinehurst Academy (pinehurst.com) offers various coaching programmes.
Best time: spring or autumn
From £3,195 per person for seven nights in May, including flights via Charlotte, golf club carriage, b&b in a shared double room, one round of golf per day (£129 supplement for No 2), car hire (020 8421 7019; elegantgolfresorts.com ).
6. Saddlebrook, Florida
If your requirements of Florida include good winter weather, challenging and well-kept golf and the chance to relax in a peaceful resort of high quality, Saddlebrook is a great choice, quickly reached from Tampa airport and well planned for easy walking between all the resort’s component parts – rooms, pools, restaurants, tennis and golf. Its two courses by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay are well worth playing more than once, in lush surroundings of palms and pines.
Soft sand beaches are a speciality of Florida’s Gulf coast – seek out Pass-a-Grille and Fort Desoto – and for extra golf variety there is plenty of choice in and around Tampa.
Best time: November to April
From £1,295 per person for seven nights in a suite, a four-day golf package including breakfast, car hire and British Airways flights to Tampa (01737 771 613; destinationgolf.co.uk ).
Maui may be the fashionable Hawaiian holiday island, but Oahu (Honolulu) has more varied appeal, including Pearl Harbor and its memorials. Well away from the crowded beaches of Waikiki, Turtle Bay is a peaceful resort on Oahu’s north shore. The resort has two underused golf courses – by George Fazio and Arnold Palmer – and sheltered coves ideal for learning to surf in safe warm water. It’s a beautiful drive down the east coast to Ko’Olau, a tough mountainside course that exploits the ocean views and tropical volcanic landscape and demands straight hitting or a full bag of balls. For a longer trip, consider twinning Oahu with Kapalua on Maui (also offered by Your Golf Travel). Its Plantation course, designed by Crenshaw and Coore, is Hawaii’s number one.
Best time: winter
From £2,149 per person for seven nights at Turtle Bay (room only), flights via LA and four rounds of golf (0800 043 6644; yourgolftravel.com ).
8. Pebble Beach, California
Created nearly a century ago by two unpaid amateur golfers who were tasked with designing a course that would boost property values, Pebble Beach may or may not be the world’s best, but is certainly the most beautiful. Holes 4 to 11 follow the scalloped rocky shore between Monterey and Carmel’s golden beach, and 18 returns to it for a heroic finish. In view of the $500 (£326) green fee, the extra cost of a caddie is worth paying for advice and entertaining anecdotes. The key thing is to be lucky with the weather: to play Pebble in a typical summer morning mist would be a shame.
The other courses on the estate – Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill – lack Pebble’s pageantry but the golf is almost as good. The Inn at Spanish Bay is excellent, but paying the supplement for a night in the Lodge at Pebble Beach, overlooking the 18th green, might be an idea.
Best time: September/October
From £1,550 per person for three nights at the Inn at Spanish Bay, Virgin flights to San Francisco, car hire; golf costs extra: £185-£335 per round, caddie £50 plus tip (01737 771613; destinationgolf.co.uk ).
9. The US Masters
If it’s April, it must be Augusta, when the azaleas are ablaze in Georgia and the unchanging rituals of the US Masters launch a long summer of sport. Telegraph Tours is an offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the final three days of the competition, with insights from Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, John Daly and the Telegraph’s golf correspondent James Corrigan. Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke will be giving a talk and hosting a Q&A session at an exclusive Masters party, while John Daly will host a private breakfast on Sunday morning before the start of the final round, sharing his opinion on what it takes to win one of golf’s most celebrated prizes. Meanwhile, James Corrigan will offer his expert insights, and there is VIP hospitality throughout at the Legends Club.
Time: April 9-13
From £6,500 per person for four nights, including flights from Heathrow to Atlanta, four nights’ four-star accommodation in Augusta, grounds entry Fri-Sun, 18 holes of golf at Augusta’s River Golf Club (0844 371 5154; telegraph.co.uk/golftour ).
10. South Carolina tour
With more than 100 courses at Myrtle Beach, two dozen more on Hilton Head Island, and much to offer away from golf, choice is the problem on a tour of South Carolina’s golf coast.
Murrel’s Inlet is a quiet outpost to the south of Myrtle Beach, close enough for access to the bright lights and ideally placed for golf on two former plantations: Caledonia and True Blue. Between sightseeing in Georgetown and Charleston, resume the struggle on Kiawah Island (half an hour from Charleston), where Pete Dye’s Ocean Course was the setting for the 1991 “War on the Shore” Ryder Cup. Take a caddie and listen to tee position advice and where not to go looking for your ball. (South Carolina is alligator country.)
From The Masters, the pro tour moves to Hilton Head’s trophy course Harbour Town for the Heritage Classic (April 13-19). The island’s signature stripy lighthouse overlooks the 18th, a tremendous finishing hole and one of the few places where golf emerges from bosky seclusion to meet the sea. Nearby Heron Point is almost as good.
Best time: spring and autumn
From £2,150 per person including flights to Charleston via Atlanta, three nights’ b&b at Murrel’s Inlet, two nights in Charleston, three nights at Sea Pines (Hilton Head), five rounds of golf including Ocean Course and Harbour Town, car hire (01273 419111; eaglegolftours.com ).
Firms specialising in US golf holidays
America As You Like It (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com )
American Golf Holiday (023 8046 5885; americangolfholiday.com )
Destination Golf (01737 771613; destinationgolf.co.uk )
Eagle golf tours (01273 419111; eaglegolftours.com )
Elegant golf resorts (020 8421 7019; elegantgolfresorts.com )
golfbreaks.com (08456 782400; golfbreaks.com )
Golf Par Excellence (01737 211818; golfparexcellence.com )
Kenwood Travel (020 7749 9220; kenwoodtravel.co.uk )
Supertravel (020 7962 9494; supertravel.co.uk )
Virgin Holidays (0844 557 3859; virginholidays.co.uk )
Your Golf Travel (0800 043 6644; yourgolftravel.com )
This article was written by Adam Ruck from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.