The first time I heard about remote destination golf was in 1999, when Bandon Dunes Golf Resort hit the scene. Having survived for years on a steady diet of golf trips to all the East Coast hot spots like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, I was more than a little intrigued at the thought of making a trip to an isolated corner of coastal Oregon. Unfortunately, at that time, my buddies couldn’t quite grasp the concept of traveling to a town with fewer than 3,000 residents for our annual golf trip. As our group’s tastes in courses and what we wanted out of a golf trip began to evolve, I finally convinced the guys to step out of their comfort zone and discover the world of remote destination golf. Since then, we’ve never looked back. Here are a few choice courses I have visited in recent years that top the leaderboard.
The American Club, Kohler, Wisconsin
I first visited here in 2009 when I stopped in to play the resort’s flagship offering, The Straits Course at Whistling Straits. Widely considered one of Pete Dye’s best designs, this challenging course sits on the banks of Lake Michigan and offers stunning coastline and water views throughout the entire round. An authentic Irish theme permeates the experience with a stone clubhouse, walking-only golf course, untethered sheep grazing and an abundance of wind — just like on the Emerald Isle. To put the wind into perspective, I watched a bird walk down the fairway after an unsuccessful bid to fly against the blast. In witnessing that display, I knew my golf ball didn’t have a chance. In addition to the breezy Straits Course, The American Club has three other critically acclaimed golf courses and offers a variety of options for golfers who visit the sleepy little Wisconsin town of Kohler.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Oregon
With 85 holes of authentic links set along the remote and rugged coast of Oregon, Bandon Dunes is the ultimate destination golf resort. All four of the 18-hole courses at the resort have received accolades from every major golf media outlet and there is little question that the praise is well deserved. My first trip to Bandon Dunes was in 2010, and it was quite an eye-opener. Until I set foot on the property, I didn’t realize that this was 100 percent pure links golf, just like I see during the British Open every year. Everything was there — the pot bunkers, the quirky bounces, the rolling terrain and the gorgeous water views. All that and I didn’t even have to use my passport. Duffers seeking a unique experience, fun golf and beautiful views will not find many options better than Bandon Dunes.
Streamsong Resort, Streamsong, Florida
The newest entry to the remote golf resort category resides in rural Polk Country, Florida. Located on what was once a phosphate mining operation, Streamsong is a golf oasis in the midst of nothingness. As we drove to the resort from Orlando in January, there was more than one occasion where my friend and I exchanged a nervous glance that said, “Is this really the right way?” Once we caught a glimpse of the golf courses, however, any doubts we may have had were immediately washed away. What we found at Streamsong were 36 holes of world-class golf routed through rugged, undulating terrain over a myriad of dunes left behind by the mining operation. This is not your grandpa’s Florida golf. Once the 200-plus room hotel opens in late 2013, this will be the Florida golf destination.
Photos Courtesy of Streamsong Resort