There’s no greater feeling in spectator sports than the unique human drama that a good round of golf can produce. From hole to hole, the long fairways, challenging bunkers and fast greens can stump even the best with a set of clubs.
But none of that should stop a dedicated player from wanting to take to the links in search of the perfect 18 holes. That’s why, in advance of this year’s Open Championship (July 14 to 17), we’ve rounded up nine of the country’s finest golf hotels and resorts — and highlighted not just what makes them a great round of golf, but what makes them superior destinations for folks who can’t differentiate a driver from a sand wedge.
The Lodge at Pebble Beach, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel, offers four American restaurants, serving food ranging from fresh California seafood to French classics, plus contemporary rooms with perks like private balconies, fireplaces or fairway views. We also adore the Four-Star Inn at Spanish Bay, with its evening bagpiper playing along the cliffs at sunset. But Pebble Beach isn’t near the top of many people’s must-see list because of musical instruments; most vacationers come for the five golf courses, which include famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, the challenging Spyglass Hill and The Links at Spanish Bay, a unique Scottish-style experience.
Half Moon Bay, California
Just 30 miles south of San Francisco, discover Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, an intimate escape perched high above the Pacific Ocean where players will currently find The Legends Golf package. The deal features unlimited play on the Old Course, Arnold Palmer’s classic American parkland-style layout, and the Ocean Course, a Scottish-links-inspired design from Arthur Hills. Enjoy overnight accommodations in a coastal view guestroom, unlimited same-day replays for one or two players, the use of a golf cart, warm-up range balls, a golf-themed amenity and more.
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Only 45 minutes from the charmed southern city of Charleston, South Carolina, sits one of the South’s most genteel golf resorts. Here, find 90 holes of championship golf designed by major names like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Gary Player. We love the Alice and Pete Dye-orchestrated Ocean Course, site of the 2021 PGA Championship. It boasts spectacular views of the Atlantic coastline from every hole. Stay at Five-Star The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which evokes an old Southern estate. After a long day on the fairway, relax in the Five-Star spa or reserve a table at Four-Star The Ocean Room.
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Dubbed “The Cradle of American Golf,” Pinehurst Resort features nine 18-hole courses. Come for the 31 miles of golf, the largest number of holes in the world at a single golf resort. (It’s no wonder then that, in an unprecedented move, the U.S. Open men’s and women’s tournaments played here on consecutive weekends in 2014.) But you’ll certainly want to stay for an unforgettable overnight experience at The Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst Resort. If you can somehow luck your way into a tee time on No. 2, one of the country’s most coveted courses, great, but even if you have to play No. 1 or 6, you’ll still be in for a treat.
Palm Beach, Florida
If you thought that PGA National Resort & Spa only rolled out the green carpet for golf fans during its annual hosting of February’s Honda Classic, you clearly haven’t seen the 90-hole property in June or July. Fresh off of a $125 million renovation that introduced chic room décor and saw the opening of the state-of-the-art Sports & Racquet Club, the place makes every person feel like a champion — no matter his handicap. And with a seasonal slate of promotions just teeing off — Summer Escape and Play offers a golf cart-full of goodies such as a room, daily breakfast, a round of golf, a replay round and more — we don’t see any end in sight.
There’s much to love about this island paradise, but we just can’t get enough of Four Seasons Resort Lana’i and its fresh, multi-million-dollar renovation. Just off the coast of Maui, this romantic retreat boasts the Jack Nicklaus-designed Manele Golf Course, which delivers dramatic ocean views from every hole (and frequent whale sightings from the fairways) as well as a challenging five-tee concept with first shots taking place over natural gorges and ravines. Go for a leisurely sunset nine-hole round or take in expert instruction with TrackMan swing analyzers before booking an unlimited golf package for two.
Located on the grounds of the Kohler campus in an English Tudor-style mansion, The American Club was once a dormitory for workers of the renowned bath and kitchen company. Now a Five-Star retreat, the property is as much a draw for golf fanatics as it is for well-heeled vacationers. Many of the former come for a chance to play the rugged Straits course at Whistling Straits, the host of the 2015 PGA Championship. Others just want an opportunity to participate in the Kohler Academy Golf School, where you can be a part of one-, two-, three- or four-day programs designed to cater to your individual game.
Sin City may feel like an odd choice to welcome one of the country’s top golf retreats, but it’s precisely the reason why so many love Four-Star Wynn Las Vegas’ course. It’s a challenging Tom Fazio-conceived layout that also happens to be the only course attached to a resort on the strip, letting you go from blackjack table to tee box without ever hopping into a car. Complimentary Callaway clubs and FootJoy shoes are available, in case you don’t have any room in your bag for your irons on that whirlwind weekend in Vegas.
Four-Star resort Trump National Doral Miami put more than $250 million into the property to complete a dramatic renovation of the 800-acre resort that opened in the 1960s. After you finish ogling the Swarovski crystal-speckled chandelier, open-air verandas and the fresh spa, check out the four golf courses, including signature The Blue Monster (don’t miss the Italian-inspired clubhouse, either). You will also want to take advantage of the onsite Jim McLean Golf School and get sized for new clubs with True Spec Golf’s expert fitters and more than 30,000 combinations of club heads and shafts.