Find the latest reviews of the world’s premier golf resorts and book your trip there. Selected with the help of industry experts, these luxury properties feature the best public golf courses, finest dining, outstanding accommodation and top leisure activities.
There are some superb resort courses on the island of Hawaii including Mauna Kea and Hapuna, where you can play next to the Pacific Ocean in tropical conditions. Four Seasons Hualalai is another wonderful resort that offers exceptional luxury accommodation and top-shelf golf.
Hualalai is a links-style course designed by Jack “The Golden Bear” Nicklaus and opened in 1996 next to the luxury Four Seasons resort. The unusual feature here: its groomed fairways have been laid between lava flows that have cooled down to a jagged black rock. You don’t want to go looking for your ball in there as your shoes will barely survive. The contrast between the green fairways and walls of black lava that stand like walls on either side of the fairway is stunning…
Location: Avenue du golf, 62520 Le Touquet, France
Website: www.letouquet.com ; www.manoirhotel.com/en/
Phone number: 33 03 21 06 28 28
Le Touquet Golf Club is one of the best golf destinations in Continental Europe. Located between a forest and dunes on the Opal Coast of north-west France, it features two championship courses that take advantage of the diverse environment. La Mer is a classic Scottish links-style course designed by British architect Harry Colt and built in 1931. It has hosted the French Open several times, the most recent of which the great Seve Ballesteros won in 1977. Elevated tees provide lovely views of the sea. La Forêt is laid out in the Le Touquet pine forest, which offers a more sheltered experience than the windy dunes. It was designed by fellow Englishman Horace Hutchinson and opened in 1904. The tranquility of the wooded course was broken when part of La Forêt was damaged in World War I. And again, as the Second World War intensified and Allied forces made landfall in France during June 1944, buildings surrounding the courses were bombed.
The courses have more recently undergone some major renovations to improve them for the modern game.
Independent website Top100golfcourses.com ranked La Mer as the 13th best course and La Forêt as the 54th in France in 2017. And 9-hole course Le Manoir – which was built in 1994 – is ideal for a quick hit in the late afternoon or a warm-up before the other courses.
The resort is about a two hours’ drive from Paris and you can check into Le Manoir, the historic on-site hotel that overlooks the golf courses.
“From a purely golfing point of view this is the best spot in Continental Europe that I’ve been to,” said German golf writer Ulrich Mayring. “In the area, you’ll have another world-class course in Hardelot Les Pins (designed by Tom Simpson) and if you venture an hour south there’s the hidden gem Golf de la Belle Dune.”
The challenges: For La Mer you’ll have to pay attention to the winds that whip off the English Channel and over the dunes. There are plenty of large bunkers to avoid, too, and fast greens. La Forêt has wider fairways but you’ll have to land the ball on smaller greens.
When to play: The courses are open year-round, although it gets close to freezing during January so you may want to play when it warms up.
Par: La Mer 72 ; La Forêt 71
Yardage: La Mer – 7032 yards, 6430 meters. La Forêt – 6314 yards, 5774 meters
Slope: La Mer 139. La Forêt 130
Best hole: Although La Mer’s sequence of holes from the 9th to the 11th are memorable, hole 10 – a 139-meter (152-yard) par three – stands out. La Forêt’s 454-meter (497-yard), par-5 hole 11 will test you.
The resort experience:
Le Manoir Hotel was the family home of Allen Stoneham, the founder of Le Touquet Golf Club, and the charm of the original early 20th-century manor remains. It’s a beautiful location: the hotel is surrounded by the Le Touquet Forest and overlooks the golf courses with the sea in the distance. The grand building was bombed during the Second World War in 1944. Following the conflict, it was transformed into a hotel to accommodate a growing number of golfers, according to manager Emmanuelle Christmann.
“Though the hotel suffered a lot during the War, Vincent Stoneham (son of Allen) and his wife Jean undertook a series of renovations and reconstructions to be able to satisfy a growing clientele,” he said. “Le Manoir Hôtel is the perfect place to stay for golfers as its position opposite La Forêt course makes it very easy and handy to take the bag out and walk to hole 1.
“The place being heavily marked by history, the hotel architecture is a blessing to old times, the bar fully inspired from English pubs.”
Golfers can also enjoy the facilities of the relatively new club house, which opened in 2016, Emmanuelle said.
“The Spoon, as it’s called, welcomes players (and non-players) to enjoy a fantastic view over La Forêt course. Its terrace is positioned to offer sunlight all day long.”
Le Manoir Hôtel was named Best Golf Resort in France in 2015 by Today’s Golfer.
Dine and wine: Restaurant l’Ecusson boasts of a high-quality cellar on the premises to go with à la carte menus inspired by seasonal products. The clubhouse also features a restaurant and English-style bar when you’ve finished playing.
The accommodation: The three-storey building has 41 rooms and suites. “Le Manoir is only a three-star hotel, but you’ll sleep (and pay) for a four-star and you’ll eat for a 4-star superior,” according to golf writer Ulrich Mayring. “It’s a great place for a couple to stay, but there aren’t the amenities you’d need for a family with kids.”
Other activities: Take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool, which is open July and August, or take some racquets out for a hit on the tennis courts.
- Belleek Road, Enniskillen, Fermanagh, BT93 7ED, Northern Ireland.
- 44 0 28 6632 3230
Northern Ireland features some outstanding golf courses and Lough Erne Resort happens to have two of them. Located on a peninsula between Castle Hume Lough and Lough Erne in the northwest of the country, you’ll find the Faldo Course, which was designed by England’s six-time major winner Nick Faldo in 2009 and was ranked No. 3 in Northern Ireland by Top100GolfCourses.com in 2017, and Castle Hume, a course that has hosted 10 Ulster PGA Championships.
Faldo’s course is a must-play for visitors to Lough Erne Resort, which European golf writer and President of the European Golf and Travel Media Association Jo Maes rates as one of the 10 best in the world.
“The Scene of a recent G8 meeting, this five-star resort offers traditional Irish charm wrapped in a modern cloak,” he said. “You feel as if there were lakes everywhere – there are – and the tower-styled lodge suites are dotted along the shores of Castle Hume Lough.”
Faldo’s course sets out along Castle Hume Lough and works its way through pine forest before heading to the Lough Erne side. The course record was set by former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who was attached to the club as the touring professional – he shot a 68 on the par-72 layout. It’s a true challenge for golfers of all levels, according to Maes.
“It will make you long for that pint of expertly poured Guinness after you’ve navigated your way past all the obstacles put in front of you. Elevated tees, deep bunkers, water hazards, sloped greens … this course has it all and it will test you.”
It’s a stunning course with 18 unique holes and 14 of them with views of the water, said course professional Lynn McCool.
“As you play the course you get a real sense of nature and challenge,” she said. “As you complete the par-3 fifteenth hole and walk to the back tee of 16, you pass what is locally known as The Faldo Turn. There lies in front of you one of the most breath-taking finishes in golf.”
Accuracy and distance management are crucial on the Faldo Course. Holes play next to two lakes and wetlands so there are many water hazards to contend with, especially playing approach shots over water. Many deep bunkers protect the quick greens, some of which are almost surrounded by water. Pro’s tip: go with the safe option – don’t be tempted to drive the green on any par 4.
Castle Hume has over thirty bunkers, numerous water hazards and seven thousand trees across its layout.
When to play: Year-round.
Par: The Faldo Course 72. Castle Hume 70.
Yardage: The Faldo Course 7167 yards, 6562 meters. Castle Hume 6204 yards, 5673 meters.
Slope: The Faldo Course 129. Castle Hume N/A.
Standard scratch score: The Faldo Course N/A. Castle Hume 69.
Best hole: The Faldo Course’s 351-yard (321-meter), par-4 hole 10 is the standout. The green has been built out on a man-made peninsula on Lough Erne with water almost surrounding it. Big hitters are invited to go for it, but many will find the water. Castle Hume’s signature hole is a short par 3 called Ely Island.
The designer says:
“I’ve played golf on every continent in the world and I can honestly say I am overwhelmed by the location and beauty of Lough Erne Resort.”
Sir Nick Faldo *
The resort experience:
Located in the town of Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, this five-star resort overlooks the Faldo Course and Fermanagh Lakelands. The accommodation consists of 120 rooms and suites in multiple buildings on the property that have a striking Irish-round tower design. Due to its scenic location and the fine service on offer, Lough Erne attracts honeymooners and wedding parties as well as keen golfers. Interestingly, the resort features a Thai Spa – said to be Northern Island’s only one – that has sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and infinity pool, all of which are complimentary for guests. Lough Erne was named 2010 Golf Resort of the Year by the Irish Golf Tour Operators Association.
Dine and wine:
Executive Chef Noel McMeel aims to use the freshest local produce each day for the meals prepared at Lough Erne. You’ll find fine dining at the Catalina Restaurant, which has photos on its walls of World War II seaplanes that were based at the Lough on its walls. I’m hoping to be there on Monday for the seven-course tasting menu. If that doesn’t work, I might try the Lough Erne Pork Dish, which has pork belly, pork fillet, pork cheek, ham hock, black pudding palmier, washed down with a drop of Le Domaine D’Albas, Chateau d’Albas, 2014. (I’d be nervous if I was a Lough Erne hog). After dinner, settle in by the open fire with a glass of Irish whisky in the Gordon Wilson Library. Other eateries include the Blaney Bar, which has a grazing menu, and the Loughside Bar and Grill (enjoy prime Irish meats and views of the Faldo Course).
The accommodation: There are six options for travelers, starting with the Traditional Rooms, which have a homey Irish country-estate style to the interiors along with a king-size or twin beds, and small luxuries such as a bathrobe and slippers. At the other end of the scale, you can select a three-bedroom lodge suite, which has a striking turreted design. Inside you’ll find en-suite bathrooms for each room, dining and living spaces, a claw-foot bath and luxurious Irish bed linen.
The Thai Spa is a highlight at Lough Erne. Bathe in the infinity pool before taking a treatment such as the Age-Defyer Facial, Personalized Body Wrap or Hot Stone Massage. Outside the resort, fish for salmon and brown trout in the surrounding loughs and rivers, explore the Upper Lough on canoe, or visit a remarkable subterranean world at the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
* Source: www.lougherneresort.com/the-faldo.html
- 1459 Kawana, Ito City, Shizuoka 414-0044, Japan
- 81 0 557 45 1111
Sitting on the eastern coast of Izu Peninsula about two hours’ train ride from Tokyo, Kawana Hotel has long been known for its golf. The resort has two courses set out along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean – Oshima and Fuji – but it is the latter that has developed a reputation as one of the best in the world. Fuji was designed by British architect Charles Hugh Alison and opened in 1936. The natural beauty of the site struck Alison when he was on vacation there in 1930, and he convinced hotel owner Baron Kishichiro Okura he needed a top-class golf course, according to a brief history provided by Planet Golf *.
It is the mountainous topography next to the ocean and stunning views that set this course apart – on a clear day you can see the snow-topped, 12,388-foot (3776-meter) Mount Fuji in the distance. The dramatic elevation changes start off the first tee, with the fairway dropping quickly before rising again by the ocean-side green on the 415-yard (379-meter) par four. Two cleverly positioned bunkers are ready to gobble balls off the tee and on approach respectively.
The designer managed to bring the best out in the seaside location, using the landscape’s features to create some exceptional holes, including No. 7 (a 393-yard / 359-meter par four with a tight tee shot between the trees, undulating fairway and four bunkers that flank a small green), No. 9 (a 367-yard / 335-meter par 4 with a split fairway that climbs) and the scenic No. 15 (a 480-yard / 439-meter par five that plays alongside the ocean cliffs and has a tough shot that flirts with the water), according to Planet Golf.
Fuji Golf Course is ranked No. 64 in Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses 2016-17 and hosts the LPGA Japan Tour’s Fuji-Sankei Ladies Classic Tournament each April. Japanese golf writer Masa Nishijima rated this the best resort golf course in Asia.
Kawana’s Oshima Course was designed by Japanese architect Otani Mitsuaki and opened in 1928. It features some stunning ocean views but does not match Fuji in terms of layout. Both Oshima and Fuji are available only for hotel guests, and golf carts feature a GPS guide to help players with distances.
The challenges: The elevation changes, narrow tee shots and smartly positioned bunkers will test low-handicappers here, while dense foliage will swallow up balls from errant shots.
When to play: The warmer months are fine (Kawana’s July average is 21 degrees Celsius, according to HolidayWeather.com **) but would be too cold in December, January and February.
Yardage: 6701 yards, 2127 meters
Best hole: The Fuji Course’s par 5 hole 15 is the signature hole here. You’ll be hitting from an elevated tee with the ocean on the left side of the dog-leg left. Big hitters will take their ball over the water and tree line. Watch out for the fairway bunkers and trees along the way to a shallow green.
The designer says:
“The scenery resembles that of the French Riviera, but at not a single spot between the Italian and Spanish frontiers can be found so superb a combination of sea, cliffs, trees and mountains.”
– Charles Hugh Alison *
The resort experience:
Kawana Hotel has an impressive and historic main building overlooking Sagami Bay. From the observation deck on the fifth floor of the Shin-Honkan Building, you can see over the two outdoor pools and golf courses and across to the island of Oshima.
There are cool places to relax here. Hang out in the library with your favorite book or journal, shoot some pool in the billiard room, or go to the Mah-jong Room to play a Japanese version of rummy that uses tiles.
The pools are filled with water from Amagi Mountain and are open during the summer season, but you’ll have to pay to swim unless you’re under three. The large lap pool could be worth it.
Dine and wine:
Guests have five options to choose from here, but I’d be booking into Inakaya first. The restaurant operates out of a 300-year-old country house and specializes in Japanese food. Elsewhere you’ll find the Main Dining room (French cuisine), the Grill (more casual fare), Sun Parlor Lounge (for tea, coffee and homemade cake) and Main Bar (cocktails and more).
Kawana starts with the Ocean View Twin Room A, with 40.5 square meters (436 square feet) and a balcony to chill out on, and moves through to a Suite Room with 74.6 square meters (803 square feet) including lounge area. The rooms come with all the typical amenities you’d expect from a top-class hotel and some extras (toothbrush, razor and Japanese bathrobe). The kettle and refrigerator will come in handy.
Take a trip to Akasawa Spa and relax your muscles in the hot spring as you take in the ocean views. It’s approximately 30 minutes away by car. You might also want to take the scenic views offered from the top of Omuro Mountain, which you can ascend easily using the lift. It’s about 25 minutes’ drive from the resort.
* Source: Planet Golf
** Source: www.holiday-weather.com/kawana_us/averages/
- 139 Tepene Tablelands Road, Matauri Bay 0478, Northland, New Zealand
- 64 9 407 0010
You know you’ve reached a certain level of opulence when the place you are staying at offers a helicopter transfer in its own private aircraft. Fly or drive to Kauri Cliffs from Auckland and you will be rewarded with one of the most scenic and interesting golf courses in New Zealand. The resort is owned by American billionaire Julian Robertson and is a sister property to his other luxury lodges, Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay and Matakauri in Queenstown.
Kauri Cliffs is set on the high rolling hills and clifftops overlooking the blue water of the Pacific Ocean at Matauri Bay in the north-east of New Zealand’s North Island. The course was designed and built by the late American architect David Harman in 2000 and was more recently renovated by Rees Jones who made the 5th hole a short drop-shot par 3, with a green flanked by five bunkers.
The front nine winds its way down lush rolling hills to cliff tops overlooking the ocean, hitting over gullies as you go. It’s stunning coastal scenery. The first part of the back nine sees you descend into valley farmland, hitting over marshes and avoiding trees before the fairways climb the escarpment again. I was happy to belt a 3-wood onto the green 471-meter (515-foot) hole 17 called ‘Rainbow’.
Kauri Cliffs was ranked 49th in Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Courses 2016-17, and has hosted the Kiwi Challenge, a PGA Tour Challenge event, in 2008 and 2009.
Most people fly into Kerikeri and get a transfer but it is possible to take a scenic and windy highway north from Auckland (a four-hour drive). It’s a picturesque farmland setting with some truly challenging holes, especially when the prevailing wind picks up from the south-west.
Control the ball off the tee and you can score well here. Most of the course follows a links-style and there is plenty of room to use your driver.
After taking on the Kauri Cliffs professional golfers Cameron Barnes and Sebastiano Galeppini, I was soundly beaten on both the back and front nine. But it didn’t matter – it was such a beautiful spot to play and enjoy some challenging holes, hitting over canyons, lakes and great elevation changes. I took almost as many photos as putts.
The highest holes on the golf course on the back nine offer a great vantage point to see of Cape Brett and the Cavalli Islands. Kauri Cliffs is a working farm so you’ll enjoy farmland views on the 6000-acre (2428 hectare) property, which maintains some 2000 ewes and 4000 lambs along with up to 1000 head of cattle.
The challenges: The undulating greens are fast but consistent. I rolled back off the 18th green with the wind after a decent bunker shot. Some nasty tall fescue will be a challenge to hit out of if you err passed the first cut. Carrying the ball over canyons (such as the 200-meter / 219-yard carry on hole 18), gullies, marshes and bunkers is all part of the fun.
When to play: Year-round.
Yardage: 7139 yards, 6528 meters
Best hole: From the championship tee on hole No. 7, ‘Cavalli’, you’ll be hitting over a deep gulley that falls away into the Pacific Ocean on this Par 3. It’s 201 meters (220 yards) to the green with the wind often moving the ball back towards the sea. The green has two bunkers in front and one on the right side. Enjoy the view of Pink Beach and the Cavalli Islands from the tee.
The resort experience:
You can expect absolute luxury here. The Lodge, where dinner and breakfast are served, has a stunning outlook over the golf course to Matauri Bay. You can choose to eat outside and enjoy this 180-degree panorama or inside in the lounge, card or dining rooms. The Lodge is luxuriously decorated without being opulent. It looks like a generous country homestead on the outside – but this one has a pro shop downstairs.
The accommodation is separate and feels secluded as you move down a path surrounded by totara forest. Cottages are split into two guest suites with a total of 22 suites available so it won’t ever feel overcrowded here.
It is easy to see why readers of Travel & Leisure Magazine (USA) voted Kauri Cliffs the No 1. Lodge/Resort in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Dine and wine: Gents require a jacket for dinner, but the staff will loan you one if needed. Drinks and appetizers are served in the sitting room.
There are six standard suites and 16 deluxe suites. They feature an open fireplace, generous-sized bedroom and ensuite bathroom with a giant tub and twin vanities. I can recommend soaking in the tub after a solid round of golf. The balcony is a great place to relax and take in the view. The bed and pillows are amongst the most comfortable I’ve slept on. The deluxe suites only get larger and more splendid. There’s also a two-bedroom Owner’s Cottage available when Mr Robertson is not visiting.
There is an assortment of fun outdoor activities during the summer. On Monday, you can take a guided walk to see native birdlife on the farm. Tuesday, participate in a putting competition with the golf pros as you drink cocktails. Wednesday features a pre-dinner haka by Kerikeri’s Kapa Haka. On Thursday, you can take a morning tour of the farm. Then Friday, the Lodge staff will transport you down to Pink Beach for a swim and dinner that will feature lamb, grilled seafood and local produce, including wine and cheese. Picnic hampers can be arranged for a private outing to one of the secluded beaches, too. Guests can also go fishing, mountain biking, surfing or play tennis.
The Spa’s signature treatments include a Kiwi Mud Wrap with thermal mud cocoon, facial and scalp massage or Manuka Honey Healing Cocoon, which uses local honey for the scrub. You’ll forget about any double bogies in here.
- Im Tal der Loreley, 56154 Boppard, Germany
- 49 0 6742 8080
Sitting on a plateau above the famous Lorelei Valley in Germany’s central west, Jakobsberg is your classic high-end golf destination. As the Rhine River winds its way through vineyards and forests a short distance below, you’ll be teeing off on a course that has great views down into the Rhine Valley.
The first hole looks across to Marksburg, one of the most impressive castles in the Rhine Valley, according to German golf writer Ulrich Mayring. “It is your aiming point for the second shot on the par 5 first hole.”
But there is a great variety of holes on offer here – some with outstanding views, others more secluded – that will test all your shots. Dubbed ‘Yellow Waterloo’, the 192-meter (210-yard) hole 3 will see you hitting over a gorge for a narrow, undulating green. You’ll face another gorge on hole 6, the ‘Grand Canyon’, where your tee shot must carry between 130 meters (142 yards) and 180 meters (196 yards) to the fairway, depending on how much of the dogleg you are trying to cut off. The 420-meter (459-yard) ‘Mission Impossible’ – or hole 15 – will challenge you for distance to make par 4.
“You’ll have to shape the ball off some tees and bomb it off others,” said Mayring. “You can score very low if your game is on. But they can make the greens very difficult, too.”
The course, which opened in 1994, was based on plans by American architect Robert Trent Jones Jr, but local designer Wolfgang Jarsombek built the course.
“Even though the course doesn’t have any fairway irrigation, it is very playable year-round and has a super fun factor.”
The challenges: You’ll have to navigate around large bunkers and five water hazards. The greens are fast and undulating, but if your game is on you can score low here.
When to play: The course is open most of the year but can be hit by snow and freezing conditions from December to February. Despite the exposed plateau location the wind is usually not too bad.
Yardage: 6507 yards, 5950 meters
Best hole: Hole 16, View of the Rhine, may be the easiest hole on the course but it comes with the best vista of the valley. Soak it up before you hit your tee shot 196 meters (214 yards) down the hill and onto the green from the back tee.
The resort experience:
The Jakobsberg was originally built by Emperor Frederick I in 1157 as a monastery, which is why you’ll find a beautiful chapel on the estate. When Dr. Hans Riegel – a German entrepreneur who started the popular confectionery brand Haribo (think Gummy Bears) – developed the site into a modern four-star hotel, he preserved the monuments and historic buildings. You’ll find examples of Riegel’s passions through the hotel – whether it be mounted hunting trophies, artworks by Benetton or ballooning. A shop also sells Haribo sweets so the kids will be happy.
“I’ve played there on almost 30 occasions and my non-golfing wife has never once been bored,” said Ulrich Mayring.
Dine and wine: Ask for a window seat at the Jakobsberg restaurant and you’ll have a view of the Rhine’s hairpin curve at Boppard. Or, if the weather is fine, head out to Rhine terrace and eat al fresco. It’s not a bad spot to enjoy some game specialities fresh from the hunting grounds on the estate. And try a drop of the dry Dornfelder from the hotel’s own vineyard, too.
You can pick between the Montgolfière and Gallery Safari bars if you just want to drink and chat, too. Flight’s End, a glass pavilion at the club house, has a bistro and light snacks once you’ve completed your round. Sit back and enjoy the view.
The accommodation: The comfortable rooms range from small single to a more spacious suite with living room and whirlpool. You’ll find them decorated with one of three themes: Benetton, African safari or Montgolfière (ballooning). Most have a terrace or balcony to enjoy the view.
The upper Middle Rhine Valley is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with historic towns, castles and vineyards to visit. History buffs will love exploring this region, which has been one of Europe’s most important trade and transport routes. Try cycling down the Rhine cycle path or hiking to the nearby Ehrbach Gorge near Schöneck Castle.
A variety of hunting expeditions for roe buck and wild boar can be booked in nearby hunting ground in the Lorelei Valley. You can also test your accuracy with clay pigeons in the shooting range. Pull!
- Rajnikunj, Thali – 7, Kageswari, Manahara, Kathmandu, Nepal
- 977 1 445 1212
Gokarna Forest Resort is tucked away in the Gokarna Protected Forest, a preserve that was once a private royal hunting ground for the kings of Nepal. They didn’t have to venture too far from the palace for some sport. Gokarna is a beautiful spot considering it is just over 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the city of Kathmandu and an even shorter distance to the Tribhuvan International Airport.
Nepal is a country that surprises because of the warmth of its people as much as the striking beauty of its Himalayan mountain range, which draws so many visitors each year. But golf is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Nepal, although I have had a memorable round at altitude there. Gokarna Forest Resort’s championship 18-hole course shows that could soon be changing. This 6750-yard (6172-meter) layout was designed by David McLay Kidd, a Scottish architect who grew up playing some of the oldest courses in the game and who got his break designing Oregon’s brilliant Bandon Dunes links. As well as being the top ranked course in Nepal by Top100GolfCourses.com in 2017, Gokarna is now considered one of South Asia’s finest courses.
The undulating fairways have been carved inside a forest that stretches for some 470 acres (190 hectares), and they pass streams and between hills as they progress through what once was a forbidden valley. The view from the first tee has the 6696-meter (21,969-foot) Mount Dorjee Lakpa standing majestically in front of you. In classic Himalayan fashion, tees are often elevated and as high up as 60 meters (197-feet) up on hillsides, according to Deepak Acharya, Senior Golf Director of Gokarna Forest Resort. Acharya considers the fairways to be narrow in comparison to the “huge” greens.
“Designer David McLay Kidd has marvelously crafted variations with the outlook of each hole,” he said. “The majority of visitors want to play the course a number of times. Long and straight hitters have the advantage on the golf course.”
Watch out for the cheeky monkeys, flying foxes, spotted deer as you progress through the forest. I can’t wait to play here.
It is not the longest course, but narrow fairways put a premium on accuracy. The pro’s tips: “Try to avoid the jungle. On most parts of the front nine, keep to the left side of the fairway, and on the back nine avoid the stream that runs all along the back nine. Since the greens are really big in size, practice putting before starting to understand the pace of the green.”
When to play: The golf course is open 365 days a year.
Yardage: 6755 yards, 6140 meters
The par-3 hole 8 is the signature hole and a daunting challenge. It plays 225 yards (206 meters) from the back tees and some 20-25 yards longer when the pin is at the back. There is trouble on the left side, and a deep pot-hole bunker guards the crest-shaped green on the right. The average score during professional tournaments was 3.8 in 2016.
The pro says:
“The forest, majestic views, undulating fairways, perfect rolls on the greens, and wildlife on the course – monkeys and deer – are the biggest attractions. And Kathmandu’s weather, between 20-30 degrees Centigrade during the day throughout the year, is icing on the cake.”
Deepak Acharya, Senior Golf Director
The resort experience:
The Nepalase are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet and you can expect the guest service here to be just as special. Gokarna is a forest retreat with a mix of classic resort features, including a spa with a variety of massages (the focus is on ancient holistic Ayurvedic treatments), a gym and health club with personal trainers, and a heated indoor pool, jacuzzi and sauna. The Malla- and Rana-period architecture suits the jungle-forest setting. Have a sun session on one of the courtyard chairs and soak in the mountain views. The morning yoga sounds like a smart way to limber up for golf, too. There is a free shuttle from the airport to get you here.
Dine and wine:
There are four different eateries. The Hunter’s Lodge Restaurant serves Nepali specialties, Durbar Restaurant (or King’s Palace) has international fare and the Club House Restaurant features Chinese and Thai dishes. In the evening, sip on a glass of champagne at the 8848 Mt Bar, which also features live music. Breakfast is included with the rooms.
The rooms feature modern interiors, polished floorboards or tiled floors, and elegant décor. Nepali art adds to the exotic feel and there are views of the course and mountains. There are six different options, starting with the Cottage Room (32-35 square meters, 344-377 square feet), which comes with herbal bath amenities, two bottles of water (always drink purified water in Nepal) and morning yoga. At the other end of the scale, the Gokarna Suite (93 square meters, 1001 square feet) is a duplex with an open-planned bedroom and square bath tubs and one or two bedrooms.
What better way to explore Gokarna Protected Forest than on horseback? The resort’s stable has a variety of horses and ponies that should work for riders of all experience levels. You can also hire a bicycle, take part in jungle paint ball, go bird watching or head out for a one-to-four-hour guided forest walk.
- Zone 4, Nhon Ly – Cat Tien Beach, Nhon Ly Commune, Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam
- 84 56 628 8888
If you are after an exotic luxury golfing vacation, then you should put FLC Luxury Resort Quy Nhon high on the list of destinations. This is more of a stay, play and chill-out-by-the-beach sojourn with daquiri in hand than an adrenaline-filled getaway. Located on the golden coastline of mid-Vietnam, some 40 minutes by car from Phu Cat Airport, the resort is built around the beach and two golf courses as its central attractions.
FLC Quy Nhon Golf Links (the Ocean Course), the first to open in early 2016, was created by Nicklaus Design who laid the link-style course out over sand dunes, with ample views of Nhon Ly Beach and the South China Sea to enjoy. The Links won the award for Best New Course in Asia Pacific at the Asian Golf Awards 2016.
“The 18-hole golf course was built on natural sand with spectacular views of the sea from 14 different holes,” said Jim Wagner of Nicklaus Design. “The front 9 is carved through an existing pine forest with a higher elevation than the back 9. The back 9 is routed along the sea and takes on a more rugged and playful character with large sand dunes helping to frame golf holes.”
The second course, the Mountain Course, was designed by fellow US company Schmidt and Curley (of Mission Hills fame). It offers more elevation changes and sits on higher ground above the resort with sweeping views of the sea on 16 of the 18 holes. This course opened only at the beginning of 2017 and was yet to have a slope and rating at time of publishing.
“We set out to create a course that was not just great itself, but also did its best to both compliment and contrast the existing Nicklaus designed Ocean course on the property below us,” designer Brian Curley said. “The Ocean course is wonderful and creates a character that makes the most of its tree-lined corridors and ocean-front dunes.
“On the Mountain Course, we chose to go in a slightly opposite direction, relying on width to accommodate the average player but still employing plenty of difficulty, especially at the greens, in order to keep the course challenging and fun.”
US construction company Flagstick, with the help of local labor, built both courses (it took just five and a half months to finish Links). Renowned Japanese golf writer Masa Nishijima rates FLC Quy Nhon as one of the top five resorts in Asia.
The challenges: Links course: Miss the fairway and you’ll be hitting off sand and straw, but there is minimal rough, and wide fairways should invite big hitters to let loose off most tees. Holes 6, 12 and 13 are challenging due to their length and difficulty around the greens. Par or bogey is a great score if the wind picks up, especially on the par-4 Hole 13, which plays straight at the sea.
When to play: You can play year-round, although it rains regularly in the monsoon season from September to January and the hottest month is June, with an average temperature of 34 degrees Celsius, according to Hikersbay.com.
Yardage: FLC Quy Nhon Golf Links – Ocean Course: 7273 yards, 6650 meters. Schmidt and Curley’s Mountain Course: 7077 yards, 6471 meters
Slope: FLC Quy Nhon Golf Links: 133
Rating: FLC Quy Nhon Golf Links: 75.1
Best hole: On the Links course, the final three holes along the ocean and sand dunes are all superb.
The designer says: “Although the par-4 13th will certainly leave a long-lasting impression on most golfers, the finishing sequence of holes 16-18 will be memorable for their endless sea views and the strategic impact of the stunning sand dunes that encompass parts of the last three holes.”
– Jim Wagner, Nicklaus Design
The resort experience:
FLC Quy Nhon Beach & Golf Resort is spread out over 300 hectares (741 acres) and makes full use of the views of Nhon Ly – Cat Tien Beach. As well as the two golf courses, it features a five-star hotel, luxury villas, a convention center, pine forests and Hon Kho Island. The rooms feature contemporary décor and a mix of traditional and modern design. Watching the sun rise over the South China Sea to the east is recommended here. There are outdoor and indoor swimming pools to cool off in, or lounge next to under an umbrella – you get the picture.
Dine and wine:
There are three restaurants to choose from: Mistral Top View, which is built on a hilly cove overlooking the Links course and ocean; Salsa the Beach Club covers most palates with Asian, Mediterranean, Brazilian BBQ and more common Western dishes; and Cheers Fun Pub encourages you to dance and eat tapas (but not at the same time). Elsewhere sip a daiquiri at Ocean Pool Bar or suck on a stogie at the Wine & Cigar Bar. Alternatively opt for your own private meal as a chef cooks up a storm in your room.
There are 327 rooms and suites in total. Each of the 90 villas offers a higher level of privacy than the hotel rooms – so might heighten the romance on this Vietnam getaway as you gaze out to the sea or take a dip in your swimming pool. Many villas have easy access to the beach, too. The villas feature modern interiors and range from two-bedroom suites (with king and double beds) with 218 square meters (2347 square feet), to the four-bedroom Golf Villa (two king and two twin beds) with a luxurious 431 square meters (4639 square feet). You won’t have to go without satellite TV, A/C or high-speed internet either.
It would be hard to go past The Spa. For a start, you could opt for ancient Cham purification rituals, which sound quite liberating. There is also “yogassage”, herbal therapy and thalassa (or seawater) therapy. For those more adventurous types, head out on a kayak safari, explore the area on mountain bike, or take a boat trip to Hon Seo Island and snorkel over the coral reef near Rang Beach.
- Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF, Scotland
- 44 01764 662231
It has a reputation as one of the leading golf resorts in Scotland, but Gleneagles offers a lot beyond the three championship courses on its property. It is one of the few resorts I’ve seen that features the aristocratic sport of falconry – it hosts the British School of Falconry – and that is just for starters for outdoor lovers who enjoy a taste royal treatment on holidays. However, I’d gladly travel here for an epic golf trip. Approximately one hour’s drive northwest from Edinburgh, you’ll find a destination with three exceptional golf courses – the King’s Course, the Queen’s Course and the PGA Centenary Course – set in rich Scottish countryside. The nearby peaks of Ben Vorlich and Trossachs in the west, the rock-faced Grampian Mountains in the north and rolling hills in the south are a classic highland backdrop as you tee off, according to Canadian golf journalist Anita Draycott who has written highly about each layout.
The King’s Club was designed by five-time Open Champion James Braid and opened in 1919 to challenge everyone from royalty to the best stroke makers in the game. Braid, one of the greats of Scottish golf, laid out a course that will test you from hole 1, ‘Dun Whinny’, with its giant bunker guarding a sloping green that drains into it, through to hole 18, “King’s Home”, a 480-yard (439-meter) par 5 marked by a ridge line across the fairway, 10 bunkers and a green with severe undulations.
At less than 5500 meters (6015 yards), the Queen’s Course – also the work of Braid – is short and feisty by comparison, according to Draycott. The moorland fairways wind their way between ridges and woodland in comparison to the more open King’s Course. With its beauty, Queen’s Course has enchanted everyone from pros Greg Norman and Tom Watson to Scottish actor Sean Connery and astronaut Alan Shepard.
They would have been captivated by holes such as the ‘Water Kelpie’, the attractive par-3 hole 13, which has the Loch an Eerie on the right side and a bunker on the left of the green.
Finally, the PGA Centenary Course – formerly the Monarch’s Course – was designed by Jack Nicklaus in the early 1990s and played host to the Ryders Cup in 2014, which was the first time a Scottish course had hosted the prestigious competition in 40 years. Europe retained the Cup that year, defeating the USA 16 ½ points to 11 ½ points. The PGA Centenary Course has also hosted the Scottish Open and Women’s British Open.
There is also the nine-hole PGA National Academy Course and nine-hole Pitch and Putt to warm up on.
The challenges: Club selection for approach shots is the key to scoring at the King’s Course, due to the stiff winds that whip over the hills. Slick greens and many well-placed bunkers are going to test even the best here. The Queen’s Course challenges with elevation changes, trees that narrow tee shots, water hazards like a ploughman’s ditch, dozens of bunkers and small or multi-level greens that can feature severe slopes and undulations. The PGA Centenary Course has the length to test today’s top professionals who must navigate around water hazards, bunkers and tiered greens.
When to play: The course is open all year subject to weather and maintenance, however, December through to February will have chilly conditions with average temperatures sitting between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius (43 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit).
Par: King’s Course 71; Queen’s Course 70; The PGA Centenary Course 72
Yardage: King’s Course 6790 yards, 6209 meters; Queen’s Course 5965 yards, 5454 meters; The PGA Centenary Course 7296 yards, 6671 meters.
Slope: King’ Course 139 *; Queen’s Course N/A; The PGA Centenary Course 145
Rating: King’ Course N/A; Queen’s Course N/A ; The PGA Centenary Course 77
Best hole: King’s Course: You’ll enjoy Hole 13 – ‘Braids Brawest’ or in other words, designer James Braid’s best. The 464-yard (424-meter) par 4 challenges with fairway undulations and the Auld Nick fairway bunker on the left, all with the pretty Ochil Hills in the background. Land your approach past the pin for an uphill putt.
Queen’s Course: ‘Queen’s Hame’, the picturesque par-4 hole 18, sees you hitting from an elevated tee over a small loch called the ‘Deuk Dubs’, before trying to land the approach on the right level of the two-tier green for the flag position. Golf course manager Scott Fenwick loves ‘Drum Sichy’, the par-4 Hole 6, with an elevated green that’s framed by bunkers.
PGA Centenary Course: Hole 4 ‘Gowden Bestie’, a classic Nicklaus challenge, has 239 yards (219 meters) before you reach a green that is guarded by a giant bunker on the left. The green rises to a plateau before falling away at the back. Also brilliant is the redesigned 18th, a par 5 dubbed ‘Dun Roamin’’ that gives big hitters a chance at eagle on the 533-yard (487 meter) hole.
The designer says: “It’s the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with.”
Jack Nicklaus on the PGA Centenary Course **
The resort experience:
The Gleneagles Hotel is a regal-looking chateau that started operating in 1924, after being built by the Caledonian Railway Company. It currently offers 232 rooms, including 26 luxury suites. This is a Five-Red-Star property – the highest service rating in the United Kingdom.
What is especially attractive about Gleneagles is that you have unlimited use of the Club for the price of your room. That includes a huge array of facilities (including the Alpen Onsen hot pool and sauna) complimentary activities (including fitness classes such as yoga and Tai Chi, lawn croquet, pitch and putt, and tennis).
Dine and wine:
You can expect to be treated like royalty in any of the resort’s four restaurants. Gleneagles’ chef Andrew Fairlie has earned two Michelin Stars for the restaurant that bears his name. Try the degustation menu, a nine-course festival for the taste buds that starts with ballotine of foie gras, peach and almond milk and ends with coffee and chocolates. Fairlie uses herbs, vegetables, salads and fruit from their own walled Victorian garden. Fine wines are sourced from boutique vineyards as far as Tasmania and matched with each course.
You’ll also find Scottish/French dishes at The Stathearn, Mediterranean fare at Deseo, and an all-day menu at the Dormy Clubhouse Bar and Grill. You might enjoy a tipple at one of three bars or cup of tea or coffee in two lounges.
The accommodation: There is no cookie-cutter approach to the rooms here – each room has a unique layout. Everything from an Estate Room with views of the Perthshire countryside through to family rooms that can accommodate up to two little people is available. There are two basic interior styles throughout to choose: modern or traditional.
Other activities: As previously mentioned, there is an interesting array of aristocratic activities for lovers of the outdoors. You can choose target shooting, falconry, indoor/outdoor tennis, wildlife photography, equestrian school, road cycling or dog training amongst others, but you’ll find me with a fly-fishing rod and a dry fly on the end of it, trying to fool a trout in one of the lochs. A spa, ESPA well-being center, hair salon and nail bar round out the magnificent selection.
* Source: www.scotlandgolf.com/scotlandgolfcourses/t-z/thegleneagleshotelgolfcourses.html
** Source: www.gsga.ca/project/gleneagles-golf-club/
- Montagu Street, Blanco George, 6530, South Africa
- 27 044 804 0000
Fancourt is set in the Western Cape’s scenic Garden Route region – think stunning mountain ranges, forests, and beaches along the Indian Ocean – near the South African city of George. It is a golf resort with an historic heritage. The estate goes back to the construction of Manor House by Henry Fancourt White, a surveyor who helped build the Montagu Pass over the nearby Outeniqua Mountains, in the late 1880s. It wasn’t until 1989 that Manor House was turned into a hotel and Fancourt a golf club by Helene and Andrea Pieterse.
Following that, German entrepreneur and keen golfer Dr Hasso Plattner and his wife Sabine bought and transformed the facilities in 1994, investing millions of rands to turn the estate into the premiere golfing destination it is today. Golf Digest SA editor Stuart McClean had no hesitation putting Fancourt at the top of his list of world’s top golf resorts. Golfers can choose from three championship courses here: The Links, Montagu and Outeniqua.
The Links is the signature course and has been ranked No. 43 in the world by US edition of Golf Digest. South African golfing great Gary Player and Phil Jacobs designed the layout and converted an airfield into a links-style challenge with undulating fairways and narrow greens. It tries to echo the challenges of great links courses of the United Kingdom, including revetted pot bunkers to protect greens. The Links has hosted the 2005 South African Open, the 2003 Presidents Cup as well as the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour.
Montagu, the original course that Gary Player also designed, is another brilliant challenge for guests staying at Fancourt Hotel or Manor House. Golf Digest SA has ranked it the sixth best course in the country in 2016. Here you’ll find a tree-lined layout with water hazards and its own undulating landscape to deal with.
You’ll find the views of the Outeniqua Mountains impressive as you tee off on the aptly named third course – Outeniqua, which although similar to Montagu with plenty of water hazards, is an easier assignment for golfers. A ‘stroke saver’ provides distances to hazards and greens on all three courses.
The challenges: Players on The Links – the top course here – should watch out for the lakes and wetland as well as strategically-placed pot bunkers that guard narrow, slick greens. Montagu and Outeniqua both challenge golfers with water hazards and trees to avoid, but the former is by far the hardest challenge.
When to play:
Year-round, however, each of the three courses is closed for maintenance during the year for weeks at a time, so check the schedule before booking your trip.
Par: The Links 73, Montagu 72 and Outeniqua 72
Yardage: The Links 6930 yards, Montagu 6714 yards and Outeniqua 6312 yards
Rating: The Links 74, Montagu 73 and Outeniqua 72
Best hole: The Links hardest hole is ‘Sheer Murrrder’, a 440-yard (402-meter) challenge that sees you hitting into the prevailing wind, trying to avoid a nasty bunker in the middle of the undulating fairway and staying away from the wetland on the left side. The green is flanked by two long bunkers.
Montagu’s par-5 eighteenth is a fine challenge – big hitters might carry the three bunkers on the left side of the fairway. That will give them a chance to hit over the lake in front of the green to set up birdie. Classic risk-reward.
Again, Outeniqua’s par-4 eighteenth (344 yards / 316 meters) is a fun finish – the tee shot must carry over a lake with four bunkers down the left side of the fairway and another lake on the left side of the green and bunker guarding the right side.
The pro says:
“Montagu and Outeniqua, both sprawling parkland courses, are ranked number sixth and sixteenth in the country respectively, while Scottish links-inspired course The Links takes pride of place at number one.” – Ryan Reid, Fancourt’s Director of Sport & Recreation
The resort experience:
Just a short drive from George Airport and you are in gorgeous countryside with the impressive Outeniqua Mountains in the background. The Fancourt resort sits on 613 hectares (1515 acres) and aims to treat guests to a luxurious retreat in one of two hotel lodgings – the Fancourt Hotel or the historic Manor House.
Fancourt Hotel and Manor both offer five-star services, with the latter providing butler-style attention for guests staying in its suites. But instead of being pampered all day, I’d be experiencing the many activities here. There’s the indoor heated Roman Bath to talk politics in, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, the golf academy, walking and cycling trails as well as birdwatching and fishing on the estate. After all that, you’d better get to the spa for a treatment such as the Roma Stone Placement Massage (a specialty using basalt rock).
Dine and wine:
There are four restaurants to dine at. The award-winning La Cantina offers traditional Italian (including wood-fired pizza), Monet’s at Fancourt, a restaurant and deli that has French cuisine (including chocolate eclairs) overlooking the Outeniqua course, the Club Lounge & Bar with American club food, and Henry White’s for classic European cuisine.
One of my favorite things to do is to try local wines and Fancourt has partnered with three of Western Cape’s vineyards (Graham Beck Wines, Jordan Wine Estate and Waterford Estate) so you can enjoy fine vintages with your food.
The Fancourt Hotel has 115 luxurious rooms and suites, all of which have a balcony to take in the mountain or Montagu course views. It starts at the Classic Room (32 square meters / 344 square feet) and moves through to the Two-Bedroom Suite (86 square meters / 926 square feet), which has its own dining area and fireplace. Each bedroom has its own bathroom.
The Manor House is a boutique lodging with 18 suites, each with butler-style service. Although it draws inspiration from the estate’s original Blanco House, Manor features modern design and furnishing. Guests can enjoy the library, swimming pool, lounge for afternoon tea and bar.
Lodging starts with the Homewood Suite (60 square meters, 197 square feet) has its own dining area, king bed, and balcony or patio. Or you can opt for the Master Bedroom (155 square meters, 508 square feet), two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, and lounge and dining areas.
The Manor House won Africa’s Best Romantic Boutique Hotel at the 2015 World Boutique Hotel Awards, so is a good option for couples.
Younger guests might be attracted to the Kidz Club (for ages 3-10) or Teen Lounge with pool table, foosball and table tennis. Without a doubt, I’d be taking the family to explore the Garden Route area. Swim in the Indian Ocean at one of the local beaches or let Fancourt book you in for some horse riding, hiking and mountain biking. There a some highly-rated safari experiences nearby, too, such as the Gondwana Game Reserve, where lions, elephants, cheetahs and rhinos roam free. Wild times.
- 300 W Main St, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 24986, United States
- 1 855 453 4858
Sitting in a valley in the beautiful Allegheny Mountains in the small West Virginian city of White Sulphur Springs, The Greenbrier is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf resorts in the United States. It features five championship golf courses by American designers, including the Old White TPC, The Greenbrier, The Meadows, The Snead and Oakhurst Links, the oldest golf club in America, having opened in 1884. The first three are open to resort guests who get a discount over members of the public.
In 2016, severe flooding caused extensive damage to the golf courses, especially Old White TPC, The Snead and The Meadows. But it wasn’t just the golf courses impacted by the deadly flood as Golf Digest’s Tim Rosafort reported.
“Greenbrier owner Jim Justice reached out to people who lost their loved ones and homes and had no place to go. He opened the doors of his resort to feed and house the displaced. More than 200 took him up on the invitation, some among the resort’s 1800 employees who live in the area.”
The staff at the famous resort and White Sulphur Spring residents were quick to start rebuilding. The Old White TPC is a 1914 Charles Blair Macdonald design and the restoration work that was done to modernize and fix this famous course tried to remain as true to the pioneering American architect’s original concept as possible, according to Jamie Hamilton, Greenbrier’s Associate Director of Golf.
“All of the work we’ve done during its restoration was done with the intent of honoring and showing his hole templates, features and design elements in the most authentic way possible.”
The Old White TPC is the host course for the PGA TOUR’s Greenbrier Classic and is the only Macdonald design available to the public in the US. This is one course to play and tick off the bucket list.
“It is the perfect combination of traditional design, over 100 years of history, modern tournament experience and a brand-new restoration featuring new grass types across the course,” said Hamilton.
Since the flood, The Meadows has had significant routing changes from Dick Wilson’s 1963 layout and other major renovations including the introduction of riveted bunkers throughout the course.
“As the only course on property, and one of relatively few in the US to feature this design element, we knew it would provide our golfers with a memorable and unique experience,” said Hamilton.
“The Meadows will impress golfers as a dramatically improved version that utilizes some of our best creek-side land, mountain vistas, newly introduced riveted bunkers along with updated greens and grass across the property.”
The Greenbrier was designed by American Seth Raynor in 1924 and renovated by Jack Nicklaus in 1978 before it hosted the Ryder Cup the following year (the US team won). The heavily-wooded course also hosted the Solheim Cup in 1994 (the US won again). There are some challenging holes here including the 456-yard (417-meter) hole 6 with its narrow fairway and green that’s protected by a huge bunker. It didn’t stop Sam Snead shooting 59 in the final round of the 1959 Spring Festival, the first to achieve this score in competition. The Greenbrier is set to be renovated again under the guidance of Phil Mickelson in 2017.
The Snead, a Tom Fazio course that opened in 2004, is open only to members and there are limited tee times for non-members at Oakhurst Links, which is a more recent addition to the Greenbrier Resort. Modern golf sticks are not allowed here – instead players hit gutta-percha balls with hickory shafted sticks.
On the Old White TPC you’ll face many risk-reward holes and it is about weighing up whether it is worth going for the green or laying up, especially with the number of bunkers protecting greens. “Macdonald liked to give players two options on most shots – the safe shot to the larger part of the fairway/green and the bold line where trouble comes into play,” said Greenbrier pro Jamie Hamilton. “As golfers play the course they have to decide on a shot-by-shot basis whether the risk is worth the reward or if the safer player is the better option.”
“On The Meadows, the key will be keeping it in the fairway off the tee as there are many tight driving holes. If a player can keep it in the fairway and avoid the green-side bunkers, it is a relatively short course and they can score well.”
When to play:
The Old White TPC’s season is generally April through to November, while The Meadows is March through to December. The Greenbrier’s best months are April through to October considering its position along the mountains. The winter months of January and February are generally too chilly for golf.
Par: The Old White TPC – par 70. The Meadows – par 70. The Greenbrier – temporarily unavailable.
Yardage: The Old White TPC – approximately 7300 yards, or 6675 meters. The Meadows approximately 6600 yards, or 6035 meters. The Greenbrier: N/A.
Slope and Rating: N/A
The Old White TPC’s hole 18 is a 175-yard (160-meter) par 3 dubbed ‘Home’. It has been the site of high drama at the finish of The Greenbrier Classic with play at the final green regularly deciding the winner, often during playoffs. The Meadows new hole 16 will likely be the signature hole, with a large drop in elevation and some lovely mountain views on the dogleg-left par 4. The Greenbrier’s tough 456-yard (417-meter) hole 6 is one to watch out for, too.
The pro says:
“The Old White TPC is the only Charles Blair Macdonald golf course available to the public and is an outstanding example of his highly-regarded design style. Additionally, as the host course for the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic it plays host to some of the best golfers in the world every summer. The Meadows will impress golfers as a dramatically improved version that utilizes some of our best creek-side land, mountain vistas, newly introduced riveted bunkers along with updated greens and grass across the property.”
Jamie Hamilton, Associate Director of Golf
The resort experience:
Golf is the central focus of the Greenbrier, a regular stop on the PGA Tour that has rich sporting history and three championship courses open for visitors. However, the Greenbrier started welcoming guests in 1778, well before the game we love flourished in North America. Instead, people were drawn to the natural mineral springs that were found at the 11,000-acre (4452-hectare) property – the same sulphur spring water is used today in the Mineral Spa for hydrotherapy and bathing.
There is a great sense of tradition at this resort – the Greenbrier is a National Historic Landmark. The hotel is an enormous grand white building whose famous façade and pillars are reminiscent of the White House. Pioneering interior designer Dorothy Draper directed the renovation of the luxury hotel after it was used as a hospital during World War II.
There are 33 suites, 710 rooms and 96 cottages and the interiors have a colorful and homey look to them. The resort boasts that 26 of the 45 US Presidents have stayed at the Greenbrier. It wasn’t just golf that these leaders enjoyed here – there are more than 55 activities at the resort as well as plenty of fine dining. The luxury holiday destination has continued to receive awards and plaudits for its services, such as being included in Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List: The World’s Best Places to Stay in 2014 and Travel + Leisure’s Top Resorts in the Continental US in 2014.
Dine and wine:
The Greenbrier features 20 restaurants, cafes, and lounges so it will take a long stay to try each of them. A team of 12 chefs, along with three sommeliers to match fine wines, are behind these culinary experiences. The Main Dining Room has been serving guests – not the same guests – since 1913. You can enjoy a buffet breakfast there or maybe have a coffee and pastry at The Greenbrier Gourmet. Sam Snead’s at the Golf Club (soups, salads, wood-fired pizza) and Slammin’ Sammy’s (burgers) pay homage to the legendary golfer who was the professional at The Greenbrier. You can head to one of these restaurants during the golf season for lunch. In-Fusion’s menu covers Chinese, Japanese and Thai, and it also sits next to the casino for those who enjoy a flutter on the roulette or blackjack tables. I favor a medium-grilled steak at Prime 44 West instead.
Signature Resort Rooms, Legacy Cottages (two to four bedrooms), Greenbrier Estate Homes (four to seven bedrooms) and the Windsor Club (one- to seven-bedroom suites) are available. The Dorothy Draper décor and interiors are colorful and traditional in keeping with the historic resort. Starting at a Gable Room (150 square feet, 14 square meters) with a double bed, flat-screen TV and Greenbrier Mineral Spa Toiletries, and going all the way through to the seven-bedroom Presidential Suite, there are plenty of choices here. We assume the presidents chose the latter option, which has a library, a living room with grand piano, dining room, and patio across two floors. All the secret service agents could get a king-size bed (if they’re allowed to sleep).
Perhaps the most surprising thing about The Greenbrier is the number of activities available on the 11,000-acre property. The resort boasts over 55 of them, some being seasonal, such as shooting ringneck pheasants. My favorites are the canopy tour (seven ziplines and five cable bridges plus rappelling), guided fly-fishing for trout in Second Creek (all gear provided), swimming in the Olympic-size indoor pool or heated infinity outdoor pool, movies at the cinema, and the Adventure Zone for kids, which has everything from bowling to horse-riding. I’ll also be taking the history tour of the declassified bunker at The Greenbrier. It’s no wonder so many presidents came to play golf here – they wanted to check out the emergency Cold War fall-out shelter, which is carved deep inside a mountain beneath the West Virginia Wing of the resort. This is a golf resort with a difference.
- Navarino Dunes, Messinia, Costa Navarino, 24001, Greece
- www.costanavarinogolf.com ; www.westincostanavariNo.com
- 30 272 309 5000
This resort in the southwest Peloponnese – a peninsula in Southern Greece that stretches into the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas – has a moral story to it, according to European golf writer Jo Maes, who recommended this golfing destination.
“Captain Vassilis Constanakopoulos, who came from humble origins, founded what was to become one of Greece’s biggest cargo shipping companies,” Maes said. “His ultimate vision was to return to his home region with an investment plan that would put it on the world map as a quality destination and at the same time, bring much needed economic development to an area often forgotten.”
Captain Constanakopoulos achieved his dream with Costa Navarino Resort, which features two five-star luxury hotels, luxury residences, spa centres and a holiday destination with a great range of facilities. There are leisure and sporting activities aplenty here, but golfers will be drawn to two high-quality championship courses – the Dunes Course and the Bay Course.
The Bay Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones II in 2011 and is laid out alongside Navarino Bay, the site of a decisive naval battle in October 1827 that saw Allied forces (Russian, English and French) defeat an Ottoman armada (Tunisian and Egyptian), a result that helped secure Greece’s independence. The par-71 course demands strategic play and accurate hitting as you move along the seashore. There are some tremendous views of the coastline with lush fairways set against the pale-blue Ionian Sea and rocky mountains in the backdrop. Get the camera ready for the ‘The Grove’, ‘Seaside’ and ‘Canyon’ holes. The Bay Course was named “Greece’s Best Golf Course 2015” at the World Golf Awards.
The Dunes Course was designed by German great Bernhard Langer with European Golf Design and opened in 2010. The links-style layout works its way next to the resort complex, moving past citrus and olive groves and a small meandering river towards the sea. The fairways are open, but watch out for the pot bunkers and undulating greens. Again there are some special ocean views to enjoy, especially on the par-4 second hole. The Dunes was ranked the No.1 course in Greece by Top100GolfCourses.com in 2017.
Keep your ball on the fairway on both courses or risk a high score. The Dunes is the harder challenge here, however, with its deep pot-holed bunkers, undulating fairways and large, sloping greens. The wind can increase the difficulty on both links-style courses.
When to play:
Both courses close in November and open in February.
Par: Dunes Course 71. Bay Course 71
Slope / Rating / Yardage
Dunes Course 110 / 73 / 6581 yards, 6018 meters
Bay Course 136 / 71 / 6140 yards, 5614 meters
On the Dunes Course, the par-4 hole 2 plays downhill with the ocean serving as a shimmering backdrop. There are three fairway bunkers, two on the left and one on the right to contend with. On the Bay Course, hole 1 is a driveable par 4 at 291 meters (318 yards) but you must carry a lake. Hole 4 (358 meters, 391 yards), is a stunner, too, with the town of Pylos in the backdrop.
The pro says:
“The Dunes Course is a tough test of your golf, especially the front nine. It has a good balance of tough and easier holes to keep you interested always and add balance to your round. The Bay Course stands as a unique course for its amazing views and the mix of sea and Olive Trees. There are no other courses like The Bay Course. Even if you play badly you still walk off with a smile. All in all, it is a shorter, tighter golf course with breath-taking sea views from at least 12/13 of the holes. The Bay’s smaller greens with subtle undulations give you a chance to make a good score.”
Yiannis Tsioukanis, British PGA Qualified Professional & Golf Manager
The resort experience:
Costa Navarino was named “European Golf Resort of the Year – 2017” by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). There are two luxury hotel options for visitors to the Greek holiday destination – The Romanos with 321 rooms and villas, and the Westin – both of which have appeared on Condé Nast Traveller gold lists.
“All products and most staff are sourced locally which has revived this part of Greece and has made Costa Navarino into one of the most iconic resorts in Europe,” said European golf writer Jo Maes. “There are two more courses planned, Navarino Hills and Navarino Blue.”
The Westin has 445 rooms and suites that have been created in the tradition of old mansions, with most looking out on the sea and golf courses. Many of the ground-floor apartments feature infinity pools, a good spot to watch the sunset.
The Westin is a golf hotel the whole family will enjoy. While adults might be drawn to the Anazoe Spa, which has treatments based on the teachings of legendary Greek physician Hippocrates, the factor that makes this resort standout are the activities for the kids. There’s an aquapark with waterslides and pools, as well as a recreation park with indoor basketball, badminton, table tennis and volleyball. Children’s clubs Cocoon (four months to three years) will keep the littlees busy with painting and clay, Sandcastle (four years to 12 years) will challenge them to arts and crafts, and the Youth Club will get teens on a team playing everything from football to volleyball.
Dine and wine:
The Westin aims to delight your palate by using organic ingredients and local fare from the Messinia countryside. The variety of foods on offer is impressive – with a total of 12 restaurants and eateries. Mories has a Greek breakfast buffet; Flame has signature meat cuts served on wooden platters; Da Luigi is for lovers of Italian; Taverna has homemade-style Greek dishes; Barbouni will serve your afternoon meal by the beach; Inbi has fusion Japanese; Armyra serves fresh seafood and Nargile looks after Lebanese food. Plus the Diner is an American-style diner, Souvlakerie has you traditional souvlaki, Kafenio & Deli will sort your coffee, and then Kayak Ice Cream Boatique is perfect for a scoop of dessert.
You’ll find 11 rooms and suites to choose from with modern interiors and décor and tiled flooring. The rooms feature Heavenly beds, comfortable pillow-top mattresses, and 42in flat-screen TVs. A Deluxe Rooms (39 meters squared, 420 feet squared) can sleep two adults and two children on a sofa bed and two singles, and comes with a private balcony or patio and separate shower and tub. At the other end of the scale, a two-bedroom Premium Infinity Suite (70 meters squared, 753 feet squared) can sleep up to six guests. It has an infinity pool, enlarged terrace and outdoor dining area.
As mentioned, the kids’ activities, which include indoor sports facilities, are outstanding. But there are plenty of fun outings for the adults, too. The Westinworkout Gym has a 21-meter pool, two steam rooms, two saunas, a whirlpool and relaxation room plus yoga, Pilates and aqua-gym sessions. Navarino has professional guides for hiking to historical sites, climbing at Proti Island or mountain biking local trails. The racquet academy features nine sports, including tennis and squash. Navarino Sea Under Water can take you to some great scuba diving sites in the turquoise water, including to a World War II wreck and Seal’s Cave where Caretta Caretta turtles can sometimes be spotted. Speedsters can also get their thrills at the Navarino Speed Experience Park in 270cc racing karts. Water-skiing, yachting, kitesurfing, kayaking, yachting (half-day to two-day cruises) … the list keeps going.
- Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Sas Al Nakhl, Abu Dhabi, 126797, United Arab Emirates
- www.westinabudhabigolfresort.com ; www.adgolfclub.com
- 02 616 9999 ; 971 564049253
Abu Dhabi, the capital the United Arab Emirates, sits on the coast of the Persian Gulf and the edge of the Arabian Desert. It’s an arid climate that is not conducive to cultivating lush fairways and greens for golf. But just as the city has seen massive investment and development since 2000, witnessed in buildings such as Etihad Towers, golf courses are being constructed like man-made oases. Architects such as Gary Player (Saadiyat Beach) and Kyle Phillips (Yas Links) have been brought in to develop world-class golf courses. The Abu Dhabi Golf Club – also known as The National – opened in October 2000. Designed by veteran Swiss architect Peter Harradine, it is considered one of the top courses in the United Arab Emirates. The par-72, 7440 championship course hosts the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, a PGA European Tour event that attracts some of the top players in the world each January with a $US2.7-million purse.
The desert land offered little in the way of natural features and elevation changes to include in the layout, but now has 90 bunkers and seven lakes. It had to be manufactured. It was an unusual challenge for Harradine.
“The National was a salt flat, we didn’t have a site to work with at all … There were no contours whatsoever – it was completely flat,” Harradine said in an interview with NBC Golf Channel. “We brought in a lot of sand to raise it and, of course, it’s all artificial what you see. The National is artificial. It was great because you could play god a bit.”
The championship layout has large bunkers around the greens (many in the shape of puzzle pieces) and fairways weave between the lakes and palm trees. With a rating of 75.8, this is a tough course.
Harradine was also instrumental in the design of the unusual-looking clubhouse, with a roof in the shape of a falcon that has its wings outstretched and a massive glass front that allows three levels to look out on the golf course.
“It was the first golf course in Abu Dhabi, so obviously it had to be something a bit unusual … we had to create an iconic clubhouse.”
The course is also floodlit and you are invited to play nine holes during the day and nine holes at night like a day-night cricket match.
Guests can also play a 3299-yard/3017-meter, par-36 nine-hole course that is far easier.
With the luxurious Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa built next to the course and ready to book your tee times, this is one of the top golfing destinations in the Middle East.
From the back tees, this is a long course. The layout is generally flat but errant shots can easily find the lakes – water hazards are on 12 holes – or large bunkers.
When to play: Year-round, although July and August have average temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or 37.7 degrees Celsius)**.
Yardage: 7440 yards, 6803 meters
Best hole: The par-4 seventeenth will see you hitting over a lake off the tee before the fairway doglegs to the right. There are three fairway bunkers to avoid and another two flanking the front of the green.
The designer says: “I think its success is that it is not too difficult and it can be played by the normal player. The fairways are wide, there aren’t many hazards.” ***
The resort experience:
The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa is located in the Sas Al Nakhl area, a short drive from the CBD and Abu Dhabi International Airport. The large main building is a light tan brick construction with falcon-shaped roofs. The chic interior is a mix of textured white-brick columns, dark wood panels and marble flooring. There are six restaurants at the property as well as the Heavenly Spa situated in lush gardens. Here, staff offer beauty treatments, such as facials and full-body wraps, and massage therapy for men and women in six treatment rooms. Given how hot it gets in summer, the 700-square-meter / 7535-square-foot lagoon-shaped main pool will be a welcome retreat. There’s also a lap-pool surrounded by palm trees.
I like that checkout is at 12pm.
Dine and wine:
I’ll be booking into Italian at Sacci to try the Risotto di Mare with lobster claws, Atlantic prawns, scallops and baby squid served with the cuttlefish risotto. Elsewhere you can enjoy a buffet at Fairways, pub cuisine at The Retreat sports bar, cocktails and seafood at the plush Lemon & Lime Lounge, vegetarian dishes or burgers at Shades Pool Bar, and fresh coffee at The Lounge. Kids can also get a pass for all-inclusive dining.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club house has some fine dining at The Grille for seafood and steak, lunch and beers at Café 28, and drinks by the club’s pool at the Championship Lounge.
There are 172 rooms, including 19 suites with modern interiors and contemporary decor. Starting at the Deluxe Room (45 square meter / 484 square feet), which has the option of a king-size bed or two twins to sleep three people, floor-to-ceiling-glass doors onto a balcony overlooking the golf course plus a work desk. The Presidential Suite (475 square meter / 5113 square feet) has two master bedrooms, a spa, living room, work area, kitchen and three terraces with views. Some rooms, such as this, come with breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi is provided throughout.
Guests at the Westin receive complimentary access to the Saadiyat Beach Club, a facility that sits next to the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf, approximately 30 minutes’ drive away. It features a 650-square-meter (6997-square-foot) outdoor pool that you can roll into off the cabanas that are right next to it. There’s also a spa in the club and restaurants, too. The nine-kilometer (5.6-mile) stretch of beach that Saadiyat sits on is a protected habitat for Hawksbill turtles.
In the city, I’ll be heading up to the Observation Deck at 300, which can be found on the 74th floor of Tower 2 of the Etihad Towers. You get a spectacular view of Abu Dhabi from 300 meters (984 feet).
Abu Dhabi has some fun family attractions, too, including the nearby Ferrari World, which has rides such as the Formula Rosa rollercoaster that reaches a speed of 240 km/h (149 miles/h) in five seconds. The Yas Waterworld has dozens of rides and slides, including a 235-meter (771-foot) Tornado waterslide. Then the Wadi Adventure park has a man-made surf pool, white-water rafting, and kayaking, too.
Back at the resort, the WestinWorkout Gear Lending Program provides clean workout gear, including joggers, if you didn’t pack your own. The resort will also provide trail maps for local 3- and 5-mile (5- and 8-km) routes.
* Source: www.oobgolf.com/courses/scorecard.php?id=314881
** Source: www.holiday-weather.com/abu_dhabi/averages/
*** Source: www.golfchannel.com/media/golfing-world-meet-course-designer-peter-harradine/
- 60 Tucker’s Point Dr., Hamilton Parish, HS 02 Bermuda
- 1 441 298 4000
The island of Bermuda lies approximately 1070 kilometers (665 miles) off the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean. In 2017, the British Overseas Territory hosted the 35th America’s Cup in the famous Great Sound, which sits on the west side of the archipelago. Rosewood Tucker’s Point resort is located on the north-east side of the island, only about 4.5 kilometers away from LF Wade International Airport. The Tucker’s Point Golf Club, a grand building positioned on a hilltop, is part of the resort community here and guests are welcome – they’ll find a complimentary day locker for their gear.
Bermuda is known as ‘the Jewel of the Atlantic’, and the Tucker’s Point golf course proves it is a small jewel in a very large ocean. From some higher spots, you can see both ends of the island. Large elevation changes on the layout are the key feature of this course, which was redesigned by American Robert Rulewich in 2002. He took a layout that was originally designed by Charles H. Banks in 1932 and embraced the hilly terrain that overlooks Castle Harbor to the north, Harrington Sound to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The course boasts of beautiful coastal views.
Elevated tees, undulating fairways, links-style holes and slick TifEagle greens make this a fun but not overbearing challenge. However, the great elevation changes mean you must be careful which club you choose for each shot, according to Jack Bridges, First Golf Professional at Rosewood Tucker’s Point.
“The Golf course has extreme elevation changes that move naturally with the landscape,” Bridges said. “Robert Rulewich is the former chief designer for Robert Trent Jones. His biggest challenge was laying a course over such hilly terrain. It’s a great golf course that provides a challenge, but won’t beat up the mid- to-high handicapper.”
“In terms of playability, the large elevation changes on almost every shot sets it apart from most other golf courses in the world. Elevation changes here can account for a three-club difference in some places.”
Golf carts equipped with GPS course guides will help you traverse the hills and give you distances to greens and hazards.
The challenges: Elevation changes and varying wind conditions off the Atlantic can make club selection difficult. The pro’s tips: “Favor being on the fairway over distance. The rough can get very thick and the ball will always sit down. Past the rough there is dense vegetation; hit your ball in there and you won’t retrieve it. When it’s breezy swing easy!”
When to play: Open year-round. The perfect months are May/June and October/ November, although the average monthly temperatures are just fine throughout.
Yardage: 6200 yards, 5669 meters
Best hole: Hole 17 is a drivable par 4 with about 315 yards (288 meters) to make it on the green after a slight dog-leg left. The elevated tee box provides a stunning view of Castle Harbor.
The pro says:
“The large elevation changes on almost every shot sets Tucker’s Point apart from most other golf courses in the world. Match this with some of the strong ocean breezes that we get and you are in for an interesting game!”
Jack Bridges, First Golf Professional
The resort experience:
Rosewood Tucker’s Point is a highly-recognized luxury resort, having earned the AAA Four Diamond Award, Forbes Travel Guide – Four-Star Resort, and Golf Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award for Best Resorts of The Americas all in 2016. There are 88 suites and guest rooms with bright interiors and classic décor that suits the British seaside colony.
The resort has two swimming pools to bathe your blues away. The Castle Harbor Pool has a lap lane as well as private alcoves when you want a break. The Palm Court Pool overlooks a sunken grotto known as Coffee Chine. The chaise lounges and private cabanas are perfect for kicking back in. Snacks and drinks can be ordered alongside both pools.
Sense Spa will help your body’s rejuvenation on this visit to Bermuda. From massages to manicures, expect to be pampered at this Rosewood facility. The Sense of Bermuda Experience is a signature service – over 4.5 hours you receive a Cedar Warming Massage, facial, manicure and pedicure, followed by fresh lunch.
The resort is about five hours’ flight from the east coast of the US, but a short drive from the airport.
Dine and wine:
After golf, you have two sound options right in the club house. You can enjoy a steak in the Grill Room or sit down for authentic Italian at Sul Verde as you watch over Castle Harbor. Back at the hotel, you can book a table for breakfast or dinner at The Point. This signature restaurant features 80-foot-long (24-meter-long) murals that depict eight seaports on its walls. The menu highlights include grilled local swordfish with neck clams and Wadson Farm chicken breast stuffed with pine nuts and chanterelles. I’ll be trying a five-course tasting menu (you can pick “Land” or “Sea”).
Within the Point Restaurant, slip into the Wine Room, which features some 3000 bottles on display. You can choose a candlelit dinner here, too. The Chef’s Table sounds like a fun experience, dining in the kitchen next to Executive Chef Gerry Adam. Then there is Tucker’s Bar for drinks with views of Harrington Sound, Sur Mer – the Beach Club Restaurant that sits by a pink-sand beach as well as the Beach Club’s Bar, which will serve you poolside or at the beach.
Even the basic guest rooms have fine coastal views of Castle Harbor or Harrington Sound. The Manor House Superior Room (500 square feet, 46 square meters) features a balcony, walk-in showers, separate bathtub, and dual vanities. Bathrobes and slippers are provided as well as plush Italian linens. At the other end of the scale, the Walsingham Suite (1650 square feet, 153 square meters) has a dining area with wet bar, living area with a fireplace and a half-bath for guests. The king-size bed and en-suite bathroom you’d expect.
Before indulging at the Sense Spa, you may want to earn your treatment in the 1900-square-foot (176-square-meter) fitness center, which has a lawn for yoga and Tai Chi. You’ll find four clay tennis courts and pros ready to sharpen your game, as well as a croquet lawn, too. But I’m really interested in the water sports here. The Dive & Watersports Centre will sign you up for a diving adventure aboard the Tidal Pull, a 31-foot (9-meter) dive boat takes you out to explore untouched coral reefs, caves and other dive sites in the pristine waters. Deep-sea fishing expeditions, windsurfing, and Kruger and Laser sailing boats are also available.
- 0316 Rustenburg, North West Province, South Africa
- www.sun-city-south-africa.com, www.suninternational.com/sun-city/
- 27 11 780 7000
With the motto ‘A World Within a City,’ you would expect this to be a big development with a lot to offer and frankly it is a huge resort. As Ernie Els told me when recommending it as one of his favorite resorts in the world: “Sun City is an incredible place; you’d never run out of things to do there!”
There are four hotels and a club plus everything from safaris to shopping in between. Importantly for golfers there are two top golf courses to choose from. The Gary Player Golf Course – the signature layout here – was rated by Golf Digest as the 99th best course in the world in 2016.
South African great Gary Player designed the course with American Ron Kirby in 1979. They integrated huge bunkers and massive greens into the layout. The walking-only course had a makeover in 2010, removing some bunkers and giving the par-4 9th an island green, according to Golf Digest.
As well as having plenty of distance to challenge golfers at 7162 yards (6549 meters), you’ll face challenges like the nasty par-3 third, where you must hit over a pond, but stop the ball on the large bean-shaped green before the deep backside bunkers.
The second golf course to play is the Lost City Golf Course, which was also designed by Player in 1993 and was ranked No. 28 by Golf Digest SA in 2016 in Africa. It offers an easier challenge with wider fairways but there are plenty of waste bunkers and water hazards, including one on the thirteenth hole that has dozens of Nile crocodiles living in it. Best to take a drop away from the edge.
Gary Player Course: If you don’t keep to the fairways you’ll be punished in the rough, some of which grows 4-8 centimeters (1.6-3in) long, and giant bunkers. Lost City Course: You’ll face waste bunkers and must avoid a lot of water hazards – there are some 28,000 meters squared (about 92 000 feet squared) of water features.
When to play: You can play year-round but it is best to tee off early in summer (December – February) as the temperature can reach 42 degrees Celsius.
Par: Gary Player 72. Lost City 72.
Yardage: Gary Player 7832 yards, 7162 meters. Lost City 7309 yards, 6683 meters.
Rating: Gary Player 76. Lost City 74.
Gary Player Course – the ninth hole is a 596-yard (545-meter) par five with an island green to hit onto on approach. Lost City Course – the 197-yard (180-meter), par-3 thirteenth is the signature hole.
The pro says:
“Lost City’s Hole 13 is the most beautiful hole ever … Don’t be brave and hit it short into the crocodiles. There are also six deep bunkers waiting for you around the green.” – JC Coetzer
The resort experience:
Golf Digest SA editor Stuart McClean rated this as the No. 2 golf resort in Africa. Travelers on every budget can find suitable accommodation here – ranging from the five-star Palace of the Lost City and Cascades Hotel (with three swimming pools), through to the Sun City Hotel (four star), Soho Hotel & Casino, and Cabanas Hotel (three star). The latter is located near the Kamp Kwena Children’s club and Waterworld Lake. Sun City is in the semi-arid North West Province (160 kilometers or 99 miles north-west of Pretoria), so you’ll want to be near the pool during summer when the average is over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Palace, which stands out for its grand architecture, offers a luxurious getaway. From the mosaic artworks and exotic furniture (some use zebra hide), through to the Olympic-sized pool, it is designed to feel like you’re staying in an African Palace. Massage treatments can be booked for your room instead of the spa, if you are feeling lazy.
Dine and wine:
With six eateries to choose from at The Palace alone, it’s unlikely you are going to go hungry in Sun City. The pick of them is Plume, a swanky, soulful-looking restaurant which puts African influences on French cuisine (the champagne bar is handy for some bubbly, too). You might also try Crystal Court (international fare), the safari-themed Tusk Bar & Lounge (cocktails), The Grill Room (if you miss your meat), The Palace Gazebo (a private spot for a romantic dinner) and the Palace Pool Deck (wood-fired pizzas, cocktails).
A standard Luxury Twin room (45 square meters / 484 square feet) at the Palace benefits from 24-hour room service, free Wi-Fi and a complimentary English breakfast. You’ll enjoy the mountain views from the balcony and some good sleep with the sound-proofing. The height of luxury is the African Suite (250 square meters / 2690 square feet), with kitchenette, study, dining room, Jacuzzis, butler service and your own sauna!
You may want to cool down in The Valley of Waves water-park, get lost in the labyrinthine Maze of the Lost City or get pampered in the Royal Salon. However, there is one must-do adventure here – take a safari through the nearby Pilanesberg National Park where you can see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros). You can even take a hot air balloon ride over the wild beasts.
- 57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, O’ahu, Hawaii, USA
- 1 866 475 2567
Description: This outstanding resort sits on Oahu’s North Shore, not too far from the famous big-wave surf breaks of Banzai Pipeline and Waimea. It features two courses, one designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay and the original George Fazio course. The Palmer course is regarded as the superior design. The first nine holes offer a links-style layout with water hazards and fairways more exposed to the trade winds. The second nine is set in a wooded wetland and the Punaho’olapa Marsh bird sanctuary. The course was ranked 78 in Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses in 2015-16 and has played host to the Champions Tour and LPGA.
The challenges: A healthy mix of bunkers, both on fairways and around the green, plus water hazards and strategically-placed trees to contend with. The prevailing easterly wind makes the first nine holes harder to contend with. The undulating greens must also be read well.
When to play: Year-round.
Yardage: 7218 yards, 6600 meters
Best hole: Palmer course. Hole three, named “Pa Ahamanu” or “Strong Winds of Kahuku” is one of the best challenges here. A lake straddles the left side of the par 5, a huge sand bunker sits in the middle of the fairway for your approach shot, and a bay must be cleared on the left side as well.
The resort experience:
Turtle Bay is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway or to take the family. It’s located on a point overlooking the picturesque bay, and the friendly staff will help you unwind. The resort opened in 1972 with keen golfer Bob Hope as the main act, but it doesn’t show its age and regularly ranks as one of the top holiday destinations in Hawaii, taking Travel Pulse’s Best Family Hotel / Resort, Hawaii Travvy Award in 2016. The Aloha spirit is alive here.
Dine and wine: There are seven restaurants to choose from, including Pa’akai’s fresh seafood (such as the Onaga, a long-tailed red snapper) and the Sunset & Pool Bar, which features a poolside luau with Polynesian dancers.
The accommodation: Luxury rooms and suites can be selected in the main resort building, or you can choose a smaller, more private villa. Many rooms have a great view of the bay. The superb beach cottage I stayed in had one of the biggest bath tubs I’ve ever seen. The spa, salon and fitness center have everything from meditation and aromatherapy to nail care and “bacial” deep-pore cleansing. There’s even spa treatment for kids and teens.
Other activities: Sign up for a two-hour lesson at Hans Hedemann Surf School and get ready to paddle out on a long board to the point beside Turtle Bay resort. It’s a magnificent experience for beginners and comes with all the bragging rights of surfing O’ahu’s famous North Shore. But it doesn’t stop there – you can enjoy a guided kayaking tour of Kawela Bay, snorkeling with sea turtles, stand-up paddle boarding, horse riding along ocean-side trails, guided mountain biking, Segway tours and tennis.
- Vidago Park, Apartado 16, 5425-307 Vidago – Portugal
- 351 276 990 900
The Vidago Palace Hotel was built during the reign of Portugal’s King Carlos I as a summer retreat next to mineral water springs, but opened for business as a hotel in 1910 after Carlos met his untimely demise and his son, King Manuel II, fled the country under threat. It’s located in Northern Portugal, about 1.5 hour’s drive from the coastal city of Porto. The resort is about 50 minutes’ drive to the Douro Valley region, an area famous for its wines and ports and one recognized for three World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
But before you try the port you must conquer the golf course, which has two distinct halves. Scottish architect Philip Mackenzie Ross designed the original par-32, nine-hole course on the extensive palace grounds in 1936. It was then renovated, extended and transformed into a championship 18-hole course in 2010 by British design group Cameron Powell.
The front half starts in the beautiful Centennial Park before descending into the Oura Valley for 11 holes. The final three holes return to the top of the Centennial Park with a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and villages. The elevated tees, which have impressive granite retaining walls, and greens both offer great vantage points over the parkland. Vidago’s fairways are lined with hundred-year-old trees and the bunkers are strategically placed within sight to test your distance judgement and control.
The original holes offer plenty of challenges. The 165-meter (180-yard) hole 3 is a tricky early test, with a stream running across the front of a green that also has five bunkers flanking it. The green has two tiers and narrows at the back. The 485-meter (530-yard) hole 4 has a stream down the right side of the fairway before crossing it near a green that also has four bunkers sitting in front of it. The challenge continues on the newer back nine, with the 345-meter (377-yard) hole 13 offering a similar test. The Vidago Palace course hosted the Portugal Senior Open in 2014.
Some narrower fairways lined by trees, but also plenty of elevation changes as well as smartly-placed bunkers around greens and streams to avoid. The advice here is to play the regulation three shots on par fives to stay out of trouble.
When to play:
Year-round, although frost and sometimes fog can delay the opening of the course during winter months from December to February.
Yardage: 6308 meters; 6938 yards
Hole 17 is the signature hole and is regarded as one of the most striking holes in Portugal for its stunning views and dramatic elevation change. Dubbed “Eagle’s Nest,” golfers tee off on the highest point of the course and play to a green that sits on the lowest point. The undulating fairway doglegs to the right on the par 5.
The designer says:
“We have strived to retain the integrity of the original design and to consciously reflect its aesthetics, playability and spirit.” – Cameron Powell *
The resort experience:
Vidago Palace has the heritage and grandeur of a castle built for a king, but since it was completely renovated in 2010 to mark the hotel’s centenary, it’s now regarded as one of the most luxurious resorts in Europe. Vidago Palace was named the Best Luxury Spa Hotel in the World at the World Luxury Hotel Awards in 2015 and the Best International Spa 2016 at the Condé Nast Traveler Awards 2016. Well-travelled European golf writer Jo Maes rates Vidago Palace as one of the top 10 golf resorts he has stayed and played at in the world.
“The hotel combines old but renovated charm with modern design and sumptuous luxury,” Maes said. “With multiple restaurants and food to match, a spa with water derived from the old thermal baths and tranquility in abundance, Vidago Palace is a place away from it all. Within driving distance of the Douro Valley vineyards and the historic city of Porto, it’s an ideal retreat.”
Dine and wine:
Some great dining options here. Gourmet restaurant Salão Nobre offers classic Portuguese and signature dishes by Portuguese MasterChef, Rui Paula (with one Michelin Star). You’ll also find elegant settings to dine in the Grand Ballroom and Four Seasons Room. Bathed in natural light under a glass skylight, the Winter Garden offers a romantic spot with fresh fruit and pastries for breakfast. The Wine Bar provides great local drops but you can also buy local produce such as cheeses, olive oil and bottled fruit and vegetables. For more informal dining, try the Club House Bar and Restaurant or the Pool Bar.
There are 70 rooms and suites in total, starting at Classic Room and moving through to a more luxurious Suite (with living room/library, Italian furniture, dressing room). Each accommodation features contemporary but elegant décor, bright interiors, designer furniture, views of the park, bathrooms with modern fixtures and creature comforts that would have surprised poor King Carlos I (like the LCD TV, branded cosmetic products and porcelain accessories.)
At the resort, you must try the thermal spa. Vidago Palace was built on an estate with three springs that produce natural carbonated mineral water that became known for its healing properties (it was a favorite with the aristocracy; they still bottle and sell Vidago water). The spa, which was designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Alvaro Siza Vieira on 100 hectares (247 acres) of scented cedar and pine, uses this same water source for a variety of therapeutic treatments including an ice fountain and vitality pool.
Off site, you must head to the Douro Valley to sample the port wine at vineyards that have been fermenting grapes for 2000 years.
* Source: www.cameronpowell.com/vidago_palace_golf_course.html
- Jalan Teluk Datai, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia.
- 60 4 9500 500
The fairways are like fine green carpets, laid out between dense rainforest – it’s lush. The 18-hole, par-72 course plays 6750 yards (6172 meters). Most tees offer a reasonably wide landing zone for your driver. However, you are punished for poor ball control. There is no point searching for it in the second cut. As your caddie will tell you, ‘it’s a jungle ball’ and you’ll have to tee off again.
Ernie Els explained to me what he was aiming for when he redesigned the layout.
“We have some beautiful scenery there, on the banks of the Andaman Sea and adjacent to a tropical rainforest, so we wanted to configure the hole-routings to make the most of that,” he said. “We also had the coastal road re-routed, which enabled us to have four holes that play right alongside the water, two on each nine. That’s a wonderful little stretch of holes.
“Maybe the most distinctive design feature is the absence of bunkers, which is obviously pretty unusual for any golf course. It makes sense on a number of levels, though.
“As I said, the course is located in the middle of a rainforest so there is plenty of rainfall and that’s probably the number one enemy in terms of bunker maintenance. So it has genuine practical benefits, but it also gave us some opportunities to be creative in other areas of the design; the use of trees in strategic areas, plus there’s a stream that runs across the course and that comes into play on several holes. So you don’t miss the bunkers.”
I played the course in October – the end of the rainy season, which begins in March. It rains consistently during this period so you must watch for your windows for playing.
Many of the greens are elevated, keeping them dry, and the drainage on the fairways is remarkable. After belting rain, my shoes somehow stayed dry.
The putting surface changes speed depending on whether it is the rainy or dry season.
It gets hot out there in the jungle – a humid 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) is typical in February. Sit out the front of the open-planned club house after your round and enjoy a cool drink and the great view of the course.
Els removed the bunkers and brought in jungle hazards, trees and a fast-moving stream. There is a GPS course guide in the golf cart to give you a flyover of the hole and distances to hazards and to the green. You must manage your game well to ensure you don’t have a blowout hole.
And watch out for the cheeky and sometimes aggressive macaque monkeys, which have been known to pick up golf balls. Seriously, I had to chase a group of ten of them away with putter in hand next to the green on the second hole.
When to play: The consistent rain during the wet season – between March and October – can make it harder to get on the course, but it is also cooler and less crowded.
Yardage: 6760 yards, 6181 meters
Best hole: Dubbed ‘Tranquility’, hole 6 offers a relatively narrow tee shot between trees that must be hit solidly. The approach shot to this 432-yard (395-meter) par 4 must carry a fast-moving stream that sits in front of a relatively small green after the fairway turns left.
The designer says: “The holes that play alongside the water are very special, very memorable. Golfers are going to take a lot of photos there I think! I also like holes No.5 and No.17, which play to a double green; that’s a really nice feature.”
– Ernie Els
The resort experience:
The luxurious Datai Langkawi resort is a romantic and eco-friendly destination, which features four world-class restaurants and a superb Malaysian spa experience to help you unwind. The resort is built into a jungle with luxury bungalows spread out on the property so you have privacy. I was amazed at how many animals I saw at the resort – monkeys, boars, colugos, sea eagles, pied hornbills and many more. A clear stream winds its way through the resort, adding the tranquil sounds of running water to the soundtrack of the rainforest. The beach-side pool and bar is the perfect place to relax after a round of golf. The friendly staff will take care of your golf clubs as well as transfers to the course and airport, too.
Dine and wine: Datai Langkawi offers truly memorable culinary experiences. The Gulai House offers authentic Malay with Indian flavors for a romantic night in the rainforest. The Beach Club can take care of lunch with a wood-fired pizza or pool-side daquiri. The Pavilion will make your eyes water with spicy and superb Thai, while the Dining Room has fresh fruits and omelets for breakfast, or Asian cuisine for dinner. Best to bring an appetite.
The accommodation: The Datai has 122 luxurious villas, suites and rooms spread out in the rainforest. One can stay near the canopy in the main building, tucked away deep in the jungle itself, or closer to a private beach. You’ll enjoy a large air-conditioned room, a bathroom a with double vanity and a giant tub. Sit back on the veranda and meditate to the sounds of the rainforest. A blissful and romantic retreat.
Enjoy a soothing massage in the Datai Spa, which is set next to a bubbling brook and draws on the Malay concept of ramuan – gathering and mixing medicinal plants. Treatments go from 150 minutes through to 210 minutes and can feature aromatherapy foot polishes, a Dosha tea ceremony, deep-tissue massage or a ‘love bath’ with champagne for two.
One of my favorite experiences was taking the morning and evening nature walks with resident naturalist Irshad Mobarak. He explains about an amazing variety of plants and animal species in the rainforest, including frogs, dusky leaf monkeys, great hornbills, colugos (flying lemur), an acid-filled rengas plant and tongkat ali, whose boiled root is used as an aphrodisiac. This resort is teeming with life.
- Carretera General, TF-47, km 9, Guia de Isora Tenerife, 38687, Spain
- 34 922 126 000
Located on the Guia de Isora coastline of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, which sit in the Atlantic Ocean off Morocco, Ritz-Carlton, Abama could just be the perfect out-of-the-way luxury getaway for golfers. Tenerife is a volcanic island with the sometimes snow-capped Mount Teide at its center, although the tropical climate also enjoys the most sunshine of any part of Spain – it is known as the Island of Eternal Spring, which sounds perfect for golf. It’s also the most populated of the Canary Islands, with two international airports acting as thoroughfares for the tourist destination (the closest to the Ritz Carlton being Tenerife South Airport, approximately 30 minutes’ drive away). But none of this will enter your mind as you tee off on the Abama Golf Course. This par-72 championship course was designed by the late Dave Thomas and opened in 2005. The Welshman was trying to create a European course similar to Augusta National in Georgia, according to course professional Brendan Breen. There may not be talk of moving the Masters to the Canary Islands any time soon, but Abama is a tropical treat for golfers just the same.
“The immaculately maintained 18-hole championship course contains over 300 species of subtropical plant life, including over 20,000 palm trees,” Breen said. “Almost all the holes of the course have spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the island of La Gomera.
“There are 22 lakes spread throughout the course´s ever-changing terrain, as well as waterfalls and white-sand bunkers.”
As well as the lakes and thousands of palm trees, perhaps the other feature to note is the elevation change across the layout. The course rises to 315 meters (1033 feet) above sea level, making the GPS buggies essential for getting around, according to Carsten Fritz on Top100GolfResorts.com, which ranked this as Spain’s 26th best course in 2017.
The course hosted both the Abama Open de Canaries European Tour event in 2005 and Tenerife Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour in 2006.
Considering the elevation changes and elevated tees, you’ll have to be careful about club selection here. There are also plenty of strategically-placed lakes to avoid as you shoot towards large greens. Pro’s tips: “Play for position on the fairways and to the center of the greens. The nape of the green plays an important part in how the ball will run to the hole.”
When to play:
365 days a year – with little rain and warm conditions, this is the perfect climate for golf.
Yardage: 6268 yards, or 6281 meters
The signature hole is the par-5 10th (483 meters, 528 yards), which doglegs to the left and has out-of-bounds on both sides of the fairway. On the left side, there are three lakes running up to the green.
The pro says:
“To play well at Abama Golf, you have to exercise good course management. There are a lot of risk-and-reward holes.”
– Brendan Breen
The resort experience:
The resort buildings form a terracotta citadel with Moorish style that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and the island of La Gomera from the slope of The Teide. The property stretches down to a private sandy beach that can be accessed by a cable car from the hotel’s cliff-top perch. Lush vegetation and flowers flourish in the hotel grounds thanks to the constant sunshine. The Ritz-Carlton features a spa with hydrotherapy pool and ten treatment rooms, seven swimming pools, 10 dining options (including two Michelin-star restaurants), and the Ritz Kids club with eco-minded activities for youngsters.
Dine and wine:
With 10 dining options, you are spoilt for choice. However, I’ll be putting two-Michelin-star M.B at the top of the list. Chef Martin Berasategui’s signature restaurant serves Basque cuisine with authentic flavors. Next in line will be Japanese restaurant Kabuki, which has one Michelin star. The restaurants are blessed with fresh produce grown on Tenerife’s fertile volcanic soil. You’ll also find seafood (El Mirador), the 20/20 Steakhouse, Italian (Verona), traditional Spanish (Txoko), cocktails and light food (Beach House), buffet breakfast (La Veranda), Canary Island specialties (Los Chozos), light Clubhouse lunch (La Casa Club), beers on tap (Sports Bar), Cuban cocktails (Cubanika), and live music and more cocktails (Lobby Bar). There’s also 24-hour room service should you get hungry in the wee hours.
The terracotta strikes a bold tone outside, but the interiors of the rooms are more mellow with softer tones and modern décor. Featherbeds and plush linen on the beds, marble bathrooms, a coffee machine and bathrobes and slippers are included. These are spacious offerings, starting with the Deluxe Room (50 square meter, 538 square feet) with its furnished terrace and ocean, resort or golf course views. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors take advantage of the outlook as well. The bathroom has a double vanity, separate tub and toilet with bidet. It can sleep three adults, too. The Imperial Suite has an impressive 950 square meters (10,226 square feet) and includes a terrace with a heated swimming pool.
Take the cablecar to the summit of Mount Teide at 3718-meters (12,198 feet), which is Spain’s highest peak. You can also go paragliding with a professional, go whale-watching on a catamaran to the huge cliff of Los Gigantes, or throw yourself into any number of water sports, including jet-skis, kite surfing, surfing and parasailing.
- 80 Carolina Vista Drive, Pinehurst, North Carolina, 28374, United States
- 1 855 235 8507
Pinehurst is known as “the Cradle of American golf,” which might seem a lofty tag until you get to know the history of this golf resort. Golf was in its infancy in the United States when entrepreneur and inventor James Walker Tufts had the idea to create a resort and village with multiple courses after purchasing 600 acres (243 hectares) of land in the sand hills of south-central North Carolina in 1895. The village became known as Pinehurst and the first course was completed in 1898. Tufts commissioned Scottish professional golfer Donald Ross to redesign No. 1 and add three new courses in 1900. Although Ross was not a proven architect, the meticulous Scot set to work creating courses that used the natural sandy ground to its full potential, weaving fairways between tall pines, building natural-looking bunkers and creating crowned greens with challenging breaks and slopes. Ross was a minimalist, using the features of the natural terrain and doing as little earth moving as possible to shape his courses.
There are now nine golf courses at Pinehurst, aptly named No.1 through to No.9. However, Ross’ greatest achievement was Pinehurst No.2, which opened in 1907 and still rates as one of the best courses in the United States. Golf Digest ranked it 63 in its list of the World’s 100 Greatest Course – 2016-17 and 30 in its list of America’s 100 Greatest Courses – 2017-18. It best displays Ross’ philosophy of giving golfers strategic choices.
The greens are fast, undulating and firm, with the highest point being in their center and the slope falling away to the edges. Depending on the pin position, it can be difficult to either attack the flag or recover from a missed approach shot. The native sand, wiregrass and pine needles sit between fairways as the natural rough. Hole 16 is the only one where water comes into play. Renovation work was done on the course by R.T. Jones in 1974 and then by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2010 to restore it to Ross’ original natural character, eliminating rough that was introduced earlier, increasing the length to 7565 yards (6917 meters) and adding bentgrass to the greens.
Crenshaw loved Ross’ design philosophy. “He always thought Pinehurst No.2 was for the expert player but still playable for the resort guest.”*
“Pinehurst absolutely was the pioneer in American golf,” Ross once said. “While golf had been played in a few places before Pinehurst was established, it was right here in these sand hills that the first great national movement in golf was started.”*
Pinehurst has hosted more golf championships than any other site in the United States, with No.2 being the battleground for the US Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014, the PGA Championship in 1936, Ryder Cup Matches in 1951, the US Women’s Open Championship in 2014 (Michelle Wie won just after German Martin Kaymer took the US Open) and the US Men’s Amateur Championship in 1962 and 2008. It has seen many of the greatest golfers over that 120-year period compete there, from Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones through to Tiger Woods and Rory McIIroy. It was the site of Ben Hogan’s first championship win in 1940, after he edged out Sam Snead in the North & South Open, as well as being the stage for the famous duel between Phil Mickelson and Payne Stewart, which saw the latter make two incredible putts coming home to claim the 1999 US Open title. Robert Dedman, Jr, the CEO and owner of Pinehurst Resort, put it in perspective during a short documentary about No. 2.
“You get nervous when you are on that first tee, because you realize every great golfer of the last 100 years has played this championship course.”* Right, no pressure.
The US Open will return to Pinehurst No.2 in 2024.
The challenges: On Pinehurst No. 2 you’ll need to keep it on the fairway or you’ll most probably be hitting out of sandy rough or wiregrass, both of which can provide tough lies. There are 111 natural-looking bunkers to avoid, especially around the crowned greens, which are fast, undulating and tricky. No. 2 is long from the back tees, too. Pro’s tip: Take a caddie to help navigate Donald Ross’ greens. “These greens have been confounding the world’s greatest players from all of the great eras of golf, and having some assistance in reading Ross’s intricate and subtle maneuvers will help considerably in the player’s score.”
When to play: Although Pinehurst is open year-round, the average temperature is chilly between December and February.
Yardage: US Open: 7588 yards, 6938 meters. Blue: 6961 yards, 6365 yards
Best hole: A balanced course throughout, but the par-5 hole 5 is a beauty. Playing 576-yards (526-meters) from the back tee, the fairway turns to the left just before a green that has four bunkers on the edge of the fairway in front of it. The par-5 hole 16 (528 yards / 483 meters) is another tough battle – you hit over a water hazard as the fairway doglegs left. There are multiple bunkers to avoid. And hole 11, a 483-yard (441-yard) par 4, has been a critical birdie opportunity taken by tournament champions Payne Stewart, Michael Campbell, Michelle Wie and Ben Hogan, the latter having shot 3 four days in a row on his way to win the 1940 North & South Open.
The pro says:
“I’ve always thought that No.2, from a design standpoint, has always been my favorite course in the country. Pinehurst is a totally tree-lined golf course, without a tree being strategically in play. Pinehurst just has so much in it, so much variety, it has so much character, it is just so much fun to play.”*
“Donald Ross believed in providing golfers with strategic choices, and Pinehurst No. 2 was intended to epitomize that philosophy. In March 2011, No. 2 reopened following a year-long restoration project designed to restore the course’s natural and historic character, and the strategic options that were the centerpiece of Ross’s vision.”
Ben Bridgers, Director of Golf, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club
The resort experience:
Pinehurst resort is spread out across the small North Carolina village. The earliest marketing plan for the resort was as a health retreat that was enhanced by the Pine-scented air. That quickly changed when golf became more popular at the turn of the 20th Century, and the resort grew. There are now four hotels on offer: The Holly Inn, a Four-Diamond hotel that was built in 1895 and Pinehurst’s original lodge that has afternoon tea at 4pm; The Carolina, a grand luxury hotel with 230 rooms nicknamed “the Queen of the South”; The Manor Inn with the feel of a sportsman’s lounge; and The Condos at Pinehurst, with two- or three-bedroom apartments that include a kitchen, private bathroom and living area for families or groups. The hotel buildings of The Holly Inn and The Carolina retain a classic southern style in their design.
The Spa at Pinehurst, housed in a beautiful white building, continues this classic look. There are 28 treatment rooms, steam room, sauna, and whirlpool spread across 31,000 square feet (2880 square meters) here. Head to the spa for a four-hour treatment (with massage, pedicure, facial, manicure and lunch), or something from the “Gentlemen’s Menu” such as the sports massage. You can also opt to pay for a pass to use the lap pool and whirlpools. The fitness center is complimentary.
The accommodations, restaurants, golf courses, and activities are within easy walking distance or you can take the complimentary resort shuttle service.
Pinehurst is approximately two hours’ drive east from Charlotte, or one and a quarter hour’s drive southwest from Raleigh. Pinehurst received the Golf Digest’s Editor’s Choice Award in its list of Best Golf Resorts in the Americas in 2016 and Golf Magazine’s Platinum Medal Resort – 2014-15.
Dine and wine:
Being a resort village you can expect some variety here, and the nine restaurants should keep you satisfied. At the Carolina, the Dining Room has a buffet breakfast, and steak for lunch or dinner; The Ryder Cup Lounge features memorabilia from the 1951 matches played there, a fireside lounge and eight beers on tap (it’s one of Gold Digest’s 50 Best 19th Holes); and the Carolina Coffee shop is good for a sandwich or fresh brew.
The Holly Inn features the AAA-Four-Diamond 1895 Grille with seafood and Carolina-inspired cuisine, and The Tavern, which has an antique Scottish bar and a hearty pub menu. You’ll also find the Donald Ross Grill, a favorite lunch spot for golfers, at the Resort Clubhouse. The 91st Hole here also has burgers.
Elsewhere, Course No. 7 has the Fairwoods Dining Room for Cobb salad, and Course No. 8 has Centennial Dining Room with a deli-style menu.
All up there are 480 guest rooms across the three hotels as well as condominiums and villas.
The Carolina, which opened in 1901, is an elegant luxury hotel with grand architecture that sits on the National Register of Historic Places. The rocking chairs on the veranda look like a great place to relax with a whisky in hand. The Carolina has 230 guest rooms including a 1600-square-foot (148-square-meter) Presidential Suite with the modern touch of a 60in multimedia screen.
The Holly Inn is another place I’d love to stay at. Although the wooden lodging was built in 1895, the 82 guest rooms have all the modern perks whilst retaining the elegant interiors and details. A Traditional Room has a king-size bed with feather top, Wi-Fi and an LCD TV.
You’ll find more casual lodging at The Manor, which opened in 1923, with its 42 guest rooms. Those in large groups can opt for one of Pinehurst’s four- three- or two-bedroom villas, each with a full kitchen.
Apart from the nine golf courses to play here, if you have the energy you might try the highly-regarded tennis facility. It has 24 courts (six hard surface and 18 soft Har-Tru). Pinehurst also has two croquet courts, which have hosted the US Croquet Championship. The West Lawn Activity Centre has a hot tub, two pools, an outdoor fireplace and putting green.
Even better, head to Lake Pinehurst and Beach Club for action on the 200-acre lake. Enjoy kayaking, fishing, swimming, sailing and canoeing. There’s also a picnic area, beach volleyball, barbeque grills, and lifeguards watching over swimmers.
* Source Pinehurst.com
- Sonnenalp 1, 87527 Ofterschwang, Germany
- www.golfsonnenalp-oberallgaeu.de / sonnenalp.de
- 08 321 272 181
Set in the Bavarian mountains in the south of Germany not far from the principality of Liechtenstein, this resort features two fine 18-hole courses. You’ll enjoy stunning Alpine views as you progress through a layout that keeps surprising.
“The routing must be considered a stroke of genius due to the dearth of contiguous space,” writes Ulrich Mayring for Top100golfcourses.com. “More than once it looks like the golfer has finally played himself into a dead-end, but the course keeps on winding its way forward between houses, barns, pastures, ravines and mountains.”
Sonnenalp has a flatter layout through meadows and forests but is still worth playing. The snow-capped Allgäu Alps add a scenic backdrop and you can stop at a rustic Halfway House before the 10th hole for refreshments.
On Sonnenalp, golfers will be challenged by doglegs, ponds, small streams, strategically-placed bunkers and undulating greens.
The five-star hotel on site also offers its guests weekly tournaments to sign up for, introducing an element of competition to the beautiful setting. You can also warm up on the nine-hole Gundelsberg course.
Owner Karlheinz Fäßler employed Swiss golf course architect Donald Harradine to design Sonnenalp in 1975, whilst local designer Kurt Rossknecht completed Oberallgäu and Gundelsberg in 2004, establishing this resort as one of Europe’s top golfing destinations. Rossknecht modernized Sonnenalp in 2008.
There are two clubhouses – Waldhaus and Seehaus – with accompanying pro shops servicing golfers here, too. The clubhouses each have golf academies that employ the latest teaching methods, such as video feedback and sports psychology, to help sharpen your game.
The challenges: After the driveable par-4 first hole on Oberallgäu, smart club selection is needed to stay out of trouble from bunkers, lakes and trees on this windy, mountainous course.
When to play: March – November. This becomes an Alpine ski resort when the snow starts falling in winter.
Par: Sonnenalp par 73; Oberallgäu par 72
Sonnenalp 6133 meters, 6707 yards
Oberallgäu 5936 meters, 6492 yards
Slope: Sonnenalp 136. Oberallgäu 127
Rating: Sonnenalp 74.8. Oberallgäu 71.5
Oberallgäu’s “Pond Witch”, the par-4 fourth hole, offers two truly challenging shots to reach a small target in regulation. Avoid the trees on the left off the tee but make sure you don’t cut the ball into the lake on the right, which follows the dog-leg to the right all the way to the green. Then on Hole 7, a par 4 dubbed “Grand Canyon” will see you hitting downhill over canyon and water hazard.
On Sonnenalp’s Halfway House, the par-4 10th, golfers will face a stream to hit over, and a fairway that narrows on both sides with trees closing in. If you make it past that, your approach shot will have to carry a pond on the left side in front of the green, which is also flanked by two bunkers. Hole 13, a par 3 called “S’Insele”, is another top challenge with the green almost surrounded by water.
The manager says:
On Sonnenalp: “The ambitious golfer will be challenged by doglegs, ingrown ponds, small streams, bunkers and tricky greens that need technical skill, while the less ambitious golfer can enjoy the fair course at the same time.”
On Oberallgäu: “The championship course was designed by the renowned golf course architect Kurt Rossknecht. A round of golf here, with a breathtaking 360° panoramic view, is a special experience. Oberallgäu is set against the picturesque scenery of the Nebelhorn and is considered one of the most charming Alpine courses in Germany. The fairways are harmoniously integrated into the beautiful landscape with its old stock of trees. The undulating fairways are indeed challenging.”
Hanspeter Schratt, Manager of the Golf Resort Sonnenalp-Oberallgäu
The resort experience:
Expect five-star service at the Sonnenalp Hotel, a resort that started operations as a lodge in 1919 by Ludwig and Resi Fässler. The property has stayed in the family for four generations (currently managed by Anna-Maria and Michael Fäßler) and aims to bring that family warmth to its service. The spa and wellness center is set out over 10,000 square meters (107,639 square feet) with ample facilities.
With three bars, multiple lounges, two libraries and a concert room that features bands playing everything from jazz to Bavarian folk for guests, the resort offers plenty of places to relax.
It also has the world’s best whirlpool, according to Ulrich Mayring: “The destination offers anything you expect from a top mountain resort.”
Sonnenalp Hotel won the Diners Club Award for European Resort of the Year in 2012 and TopHotel Award – ‘Edutainment’ in 2016 for its educational and entertaining activities for children (see activities) amongst many other plaudits.
Dine and wine:
The Sonnenalp’s Michelin-star restaurant Silberdistel is located at the top of the main building. Enjoy great views of the Allgäu Mountains as you dine on nine courses of gourmet food. The main dining restaurant in the center of the building is good for breakfast and buffet lunch. Or you can opt for barbecue, steaks and burgers at Fäßlers Grillstube.
The Waldhaus and Seehaus clubhouses each feature a restaurant you can settle into after a round. The former has a classic wooded Alpine lodge feel while the latter is built in a Allgäu country-house style. The chefs use local produce to prepare Bavarian and German dishes. Watch out for the cakes, which are baked on site, and enjoy the Alpine view as you dig in. There’s also a day restaurant in the spa called Seepferdl where you can eat light meals in your bathrobe.
The accommodation: Seven different room types are on offer – 218 in total – to match your budget and the size of your group. It starts with the compact EZ Comfort & Deluxe for single travelers happy to fit into 13 square meters (140 square feet). There is a modern and fresh look about these rooms. At the other end of the scale, you can retire to your own Alpine chalet. Within the 142 square meters (1528 square feet) on offer you’ll find two bedrooms, a luxury bathroom and a fire place to cozy up to. These Berghirsch apartments are dog-friendly to the point of having a dog mini-bar with treats. Woof!
Other activities: The spa and wellness center provides everything from anti-ageing cosmetic treatments and massages for couples to physiotherapy and traditional Ayurveda treatments. But Sonnenalp’s differentiating strength is its focus on keeping kids happy during the German holiday season. There are over 70 activities for children of all ages to throw themselves into – many aim to educate youngsters about sustainability, wildlife and the environment. They might enjoy horse riding, water skiing, canyoning, ziplining up to 120 km/h (75 miles/h) down the Alpspitzkick, ballooning over the mountains, and even tandem paragliding! Then the little people can chill out in the children’s cinema or take a theatre workshop after that. How completely cool.
- Manor Cir, Sanctuary Cove, Queensland, 4212, Australia
- 61 7 5530 1234
Situated just north of Queensland’s famous Gold Coast, Sanctuary Cove is a prime destination for vacationing golfers Down Under. The InterContinental Resort is nestled next to two championship golf courses – The Pines and The Palms. The Pines is Australia’s only Arnold Palmer signature course. The 7197-yard (6581-meter) layout is carved into 250 acres (101 hectares) of pine forest with golfers given narrow fairway corridors on several holes. Fourteen of the holes are shaped around six man-made lakes. It’s likely you’ll run across a kangaroo or two as you progress around the course as well as plenty of birdlife, such as ducks, pelicans and kookaburras.
You are straight into the forest on the first hole, a 406-yard (371-meter) par four that has a line of tall trees that ensure you must control your drive through before attacking a green with three bunkers surrounding it. On hole 13, you’ll be hitting across a lake on the 220-yard (201-meter) par three, which has four bunkers protecting the green.
“What takes the golfer at first is the sheer beauty of the towering pines framing most holes, and the picturesque pine straw at their bases,” said golf professional Matt Ballard. “That combination makes for some spectacular and intimidating tee shots. Again, these reflect Palmer’s aggressive style in that golfers are invited to take risky lines, only to get to the ball and realize the rough cuts in and out of the fairway edges.”
Australian Golf Digest ranked The Pines course No. 45 in the country in 2016.
The Palms Course was considered a much lesser layout until it was redesigned by Australian architect Ross Watson and reopened in April 2011. It was a complete overhaul of the original design, re-routing the layout and reshaping and regrassing the greens. It jumped up the Australian Golf Digest rankings to 48 in 2016. The fairways wind between cabbage palms, and you’ll face plenty of water hazards and deep bunkers that protect undulating greens. It is shorter than The Pines at 6456 yards (5903 meters) but will still challenge golfers of all standards with holes such as the 314-yard (287-meter) hole 3, a par 4 that has a lake on the right side of the fairway and a giant bunker on the left.
If that is not enough, Sanctuary Cove guests are invited to try the nearby Links Hope Island course, which was designed by five-times British Open champion Peter Thomson.
The Pines offers some narrow corridors to hit through, tricky bunkering and 14 holes wrapped around lakes. The Palms is the easier course, with more open tee shots and wider fairways.
When to play: Queensland’s sunny coastline is the ideal climate for golf, year-round.
Par: The Pines 72. The Palms 70
Yardage: The Pines 7197 yards, 6581 meters. The Palms 6456 yards, 5904 meters
Slope: The Pines 132. The Palms 130
Rating: The Pines 74. The Palms 72
The Pines’ par-5 third hole is a 516-yard (472-meter) dogleg left with four fairway bunkers down the left side and three on the right side. It will take two accurate shots to make the green in two. The signature hole on the Palms is the par-3 hole 16. It may only be 160 yards (146 meters) to the green but you’ll have to carry over water all the way and avoid the deep bunkering around the putting surface.
The pro says: “Don’t try to overpower both The Pines and Palms golf courses, if the tall pines don’t get you, the water hazards will … The Palms is a lot more forgiving than The Pines – at least from tee to green. Tee shots are far more open, with wider fairways, and rough populated by palm trees that offer less challenging escapes.”
– Matt Ballard
The resort experience:
InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort has become a popular spot for businesses having conferences and individuals looking for a place to relax not too far from the golden beaches of the Gold Coast. The luxury hotel offers 243 rooms and suites in a variety of buildings spread out across a leafy property next to the Coomera River and Sanctuary Cove village.
The concierge will transfer you to the golf courses by buggy and organize sunscreen, lunch or clubs. As well as access to the Sanctuary Cove Country Club (with gym, 25-meter heated pool, tennis courts, spa, sauna, and fitness classes) and Sanctuary Cove Golf Club, you can book yourself for a treatment at the Champions Hair Beauty Day Spa. The highlight that I remember from Sanctuary Cove is the one-acre salt-water lagoon pool with sandy-beach. It’s a great place to relax. There’s even a chapel for celebrating weddings.
Dine and wine:
Resort guests can choose between four dining venues. The Fireplace is Sanctuary Cove’s signature restaurant. Head chef Matt Hart is behind a kitchen that has garnered praise for its steaks, wood-fired cuisine, and wine selection (it received 2 Wine Glasses from Gourmet Traveler Wine in 2016). The menu is seasonal, with the produce sourced locally. You can also get a buffet breakfast at Cove Café, sip on a cocktail or gobble a light appetizer at The Pool House by the terrace pool, or have a chilled Australian beer at the Verandah Bar.
The resort also offers High Coffee in the afternoon with sandwiches, pastries and lamingtons.
The Great House is the main hub, with the lobby, three restaurants and the spa. There are seven lodging options in different buildings throughout the property each with light interiors and modern décor. They range from a Classic Room (37 square meter, 398 square foot) to a more luxurious Manor Suite with balconies, a lounge room (with fire place), kitchen, board room and jacuzzi.
On the water, head out from the marina for some deep-sea fishing on a charter. It’s possible to spot a humpback whale between July and November when they are migrating. The Gold Coast is famous for its theme parks. Dreamworld has rides such as The Giant Drop and Tower of Terror II for older thrill seekers as well as Wiggles World for toddlers who like to dance. Warner Bros. Movie World has a ride called Superman Escape that will see you move from 0 to 100 km/h in 2 seconds. Sea World has all the marine life you don’t see every day up close, educational exhibits and rides, while Wet’N’Wild is the perfect spot to cool off on a steamy Queensland summer day with all kinds of water slides.
Back at the resort, you’ll find a games room with foosball, table tennis and board and card games. For outside fun, there’s a giant chess set, cricket sets (nothing like backyard cricket in summer, folks) and bocce. And Planet Trekkers is a kids’ club with a variety of supervised activities for youngsters in two blocks – to give mum and dad a break.
- Cherokee Road on Winding Bay, Marsh Harbor, Abaco, The Bahamas
- 242 367 0077
The Bahamas is synonymous with tropical beaches, warm turquoise water, and vacations in the sun – and the perfect spot for golf. You’ll find all this at the Abaco Club at Winding Bay, which is located on the east side of Great Abaco, one of the largest islands in coral-based archipelago that makes up the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The resort is approximately 310 kilometers (193 miles) east of Miami or about 1 hours’ flight to Marsh Harbor International Airport.
Golfers are drawn to the championship course here – a Scottish-style links course that overlooks a white, powder-soft beach on one side and the North Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Renowned British architects Tom Mackenzie and Donald Steel designed the course over coastal dunes, including pot bunkers and slick, undulating greens. You may have to snap out of your tropical island slumber to score well here. The Abaco Club hosted the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, a Web.com Tour event, in 2017. So, you may want to warm up on the practice range and short-game practice area before teeing off.
“It is not the typical, short Caribbean holiday course of the sort affiliated with most Caribbean resorts,” warned Head Professional Robert Blumer. “It requires thought, imagination, patience and skill to score well here.
“The course looks – and plays – like a links golf course, which is the ideal configuration for an island course where wind is almost always a factor. The pot bunkers, the swales in the fairways, the vexing greens, the hard-and-true nature of both the fairways and greens – these all provide a links golf experience, but in the warm Bahamian sunshine rather than the cold rain of the British Isles.”
The idea of heading back to the resort pool after a tough round here is appealing. But first you’ll be hitting along the shore of Winding Bay’s tranquil turquoise waters on the front nine, before the back nine plays along the cliff-top shoreline with the swell from the Atlantic crashing down next to you. It attracts some of the top players in the game, too, according to Blumer.
“PGA Tour members Darren Clarke and Thomas Aiken are both club members and residents of the club, both love playing the course (Clarke prepares every year for The Masters here), and the new practice facility with double-sided range and extensive short-game practice area help them stay at the top of their games.”
Keep your ball out of the pot bunkers. You may need to lower your trajectory if the wind gets up, too. The elevated greens require accurate and pure pitch and chip shots. Pro’s tips: “The key to scoring well at The Abaco Club is placing your approach shots on the right part of the greens – or if you do miss a green, not short-siding yourself. The greens generally have three or more contoured sections – finding the right one with your approach makes two-putting much easier.”
When to play: Perfect golfing temperatures allow the course to be open 365 days a year.
Yardage: 7111 yards, 6502 meters
The 312-yard (285-meter) hole 5 is a driveable par 4, but you must carry your tee shot over a beach. Miss the green and you could be playing from the beach or from a pot bunker. Lay-up and you must judge the wedge shot well onto a green that slopes sharply from right to left. There are some spectacular views of Winding Bay along the left side.
The pro says:
“One of the most scenic courses anyone will ever play … The course is a true championship course, as shown during play at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, a Web.com event featuring some of the world’s best golfers. What sets it apart from other courses, and particularly from other Caribbean golf courses, is that it is a bona fide links design.”
Robert Blumer, Abaco Club Head Professional
The resort experience:
The Abaco Club on Winding Bay is a private sporting club for homeowners and members that opens its doors to visitors staying at the resort. English entrepreneur and sailor Peter de Savary founded the club in 2004. The story goes that he sailed into the bay, hacked through the jungle for a spell with a machete and was mightily impressed by the location, which has two miles (three kilometres) of beach on the south side, and tall cliffs on the east side. Savary then spent a fortune building the luxury resort and golf course, opening the resort for members who wanted to get away from it all. This is the type of place where you’d expect that the bartender knows the drinks of the regulars, most of them rich and some of them famous. Celebrities such as Sean Connery, Annika Sorenstam and Rod Stewart have been known to visit. Club ambassador and Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke loves the low-key nature of the resort.
“I love the relaxed atmosphere here,” Clarke said*. “It’s extraordinarily beautiful, and there’s no place I’d rather spend time, especially with my family.
“One of the things that I particularly like about The Abaco Club is the fact that, strictly speaking, it’s not a resort. Anyone can visit the Club (and I highly recommend that you do!) but in truth, it’s a private, international sporting club with members from all over the world.”
The resort’s infinity pool looks out onto Winding Bay, over the nearby Sugar Cay and out to sea. It’s not a bad spot for a cocktail. The full-service spa offers healing massages such as the Bahamian Rhythmic Touch Therapy. You can also employ a personal trainer in the fitness center to burn some extra calories.
The Abaco Club is about 25 minutes’ drive south of Marsh Harbor International Airport.
Dine and wine:
There are three options for catered dining. Flippers Beach Bar
serves fresh Bahamian fruit for breakfast as well as lunch in a part tiki hut, part café. Wednesday is barbecue night with live music, a bonfire on the beach and ‘s’mores’ for the children. The Cliff House overlooks Winding Bay from a ridge at Ocean Point. It specializes in fresh, locally-caught seafood, including grouper and lobster. You can also book a chef to come and cook at your rental home’s kitchen.
The difference at this resort is that instead of a regular hotel, you’ll be renting a vacation property. You can opt for a one-bedroom Cabana (570 square feet, 53 square meters), two- three- or four-bedroom Cottage or an Estate Home. The Cabana sleeps two in a compact dwelling that features modern furniture, a screened-in porch, high ceilings and air conditioning. It’s a short walk to the beach through the lush tropical bush. The Cottages have an open-planned kitchen, chic furniture, bathroom with tub and dual vanities, and living room area.
The resort attracts deep-sea and salt-water fly-fishermen. A boat ride of about 15 minutes will get you to the edge of the reef and a deep drop-off that is good for targeting tuna, mahi, marlin, grouper and other trophy fish. Alternatively, salt-water fly-fishing on the flats is world-class, too. Darren Clarke landed a 38-pound permit, just short of the world record, near the club. Some water sports equipment is provided free for guests. Snorkel off the beach to Sugar Cay and try to spot a sea turtle or large tropical fish. And take out a paddleboard or Hobie Cat. The Sea of Abaco is sheltered by shoals and cays, making it a good area for sailing and boating as well. Scuba diving can also be organized to explore coral dive sites. The club’s concierge can help organize your adventures. Tennis courts are also available.
* Source: theabacoclub.com
- 3100 Route de Bagnols en Foret | 83440 Tourrettes, Provence, France
- 33 04 94 39 90 00
Set in beautiful rural setting in Provence, France, some 35 minutes’ drive west of Cannes on the French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur), Terre Blanche Spa and Golf Resort is a classic luxury destination with a lot to offer golf travelers. There are two high-quality courses available for hotel guests – Le Château and Le Riou, with the former being the tougher challenge. Designed by the late Welsh professional golfer and architect Dave Thomas, each layout embraced natural features of the land including lakes, valleys, ravines and woods to deliver courses that suit the environment.
Le Château is considerably longer (7087 yards, 6480 meters) than Le Riou (6444 yards, 5892 meters) and its combination of slick greens and well-positioned water hazards and bunkering make it a championship course of some repute. Golf World Magazine UK ranked Le Château No. 13 in its list of Top 100 Golf Courses in Continental Europe 2016-17, while Terre Blanche was ranked No. 1 in the Top 100 Golf Resorts in Continental Europe.
Le Riou’s steep fairways and immaculately kept greens overlook the village of Pays de Fayence. The course, which is open to hotel guests and members, was ranked No. 39 in France by Top100GolfCourses.com in 2017.
Golfers can warm up on the rooftop range, take a lesson (children can go to the Leadbetter Academy) or get their swing fixed using video analysis at the cutting-edge Albatross Golf Performance Centre, a certified European Tour Performance Institute. That’s if you can extract yourself from the infinity pool and five-star service at the resort.
Le Château course: You’ll need a driver off the tee to score well here due to the length, but beware of obstructing trees and bunkers that are positioned in likely landing areas on the undulating fairways – especially on doglegs. There are water hazards on seven holes (2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 16). The greens are large so it is all about getting your approach near the flag.
Le Riou course: It is shorter but requires more precision off the tee. The club pro recommends using a hybrid or long iron. You’ll be hitting over water hazards on Holes 8, 9, 13 and 18.
When to play: Being in the sunny south of France, both courses play year-round.
Par: Le Château 72 ; Le Riou 72
Le Château: 7087 yards, 6481 meters
Le Riou: 6444 yards, 5893 meters
Slope: Le Riou 146. Le Château 150
Rating: Le Riou 73.4. Le Château 78.1
Le Chateau’s 11th is the signature hole with a rock creek that cuts across the fairway and two large bunkers guarding the par 5’s green. Le Riou’s 18th is regarded as its most memorable, with a stream that runs down the right side of the dog-leg right and fairway bunkers all the way down the left of the par 5.
The pro says: “Terre Blanche has to be considered as a whole. The golf courses are enhanced on the golf side by state-of-the-art practice facilities … Then there is the five-star hotel, the spa and restaurants.” – Jean-Marie Casella, Director of Golf
The resort experience:
This five-star resort is constructed like a Provençal village on a hillside, with 115 Suites and Villas (from 60 square meters to 300 square meters / 646 square feet to 3229 square feet) each with a private terrace and view over the surrounding area. Although pitching itself as a place of natural beauty where you can get away from the hustle and bustle, it is only 45 minutes’ drive from Nice International Airport and even closer to Cannes.
Terre Blanche is billed as a resort for couples and families with youngsters or teenagers due to its mix of activities and places to relax. The centerpiece of Terre Blanche is a 600-square-meter (1966-square-foot) infinity pool that overlooks the resort, the Provence countryside and nearby villages. Next to the pool are private cabanas where you can stretch out and enjoy the same view. The Spa features an indoor pool that opens to a heated outdoor vitality pool and fragrant garden. It also has 14 massage and treatment rooms available.
Taste buds are not forgotten here either. There are four restaurants, offering a variety of culinary experiences (including one with a Michelin star).
Terre Blanche keeps winning awards for its service, including Europe’s Best Luxury Golf Resort Spa and France’s Luxury Hideaway Spa at the 2016 World Luxury Spa Awards as well as France’s Leading Resort at the 2013 World Travel Awards.
Dine and wine:
The first place to book yourself into is the Michelin-star Le Faventia, which offers refined contemporary French gastronomy. Led by celebrated chef executive Philippe Jourdin, who received two Michelin stars when he joined the resort in 2003, expect fine local wines to compliment dishes such as Bœuf Français De Race (French beef fillet tournedos with duck foie gras, roasted then smoked with vine cuttings and served with Seillans wine and aged port sauce).
You can also head to Le Gaudina (breakfast or brunch in a cool setting), Le Tousco (salads, pizza and burgers by the pool), Les Caroubiers (gourmet and original dishes at the clubhouse) and Le Pitchoun (a buffet for children up to 12 years old).
The separate white stone and red clay suites and villas make it feel like a village community rather than a hotel. Once inside, you’ll notice a mix of contemporary and traditional Provençal décor and light interiors. The creature comforts include heated bathroom tiles, double vanity bathrooms, a lounge and a private terrace. The most luxurious option is the Premier Villa, which also has a separate living room, large terrace, dining area and two bathrooms.
An impressive variety of outdoor adventures await in Provence. Explore some of Europe’s biggest canyons at Verdon Gorges, tour local vineyards on an electric bicycle, visit the perfumeries of Grasse, or take in the lavender fields on the road to Avignon. Terre Blanche can organize half- or full-day trips to these locations as well as some other great activities. The brave can take a gliding lesson at the aerodrome at Fayence to get a complete view of the area from the air in silence, or take a helicopter tour instead. I’ll be spending a day on the Riveria and travelling to St Tropez and Pampelonne Beach by boat.
- One Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, 29455, USA
- Kiawah Island
- 1 800 576 1570
Kiawah Island is a golf resort I’m excited to visit. This huge development lies on a bridge-connected island just south of Charleston on South Carolina’s golden coastline. It became famous in the world of golf after hosting several major tournaments. There are five championship golf courses to play, each with unique challenges, designed by five of the biggest names in golf architecture.
The Ocean Course is the most prestigious, having been the site of the 2012 PGA Championship, which saw Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy raise up the Wanamaker Trophy. It was here that Bernhard Langer missed a crucial six-foot putt resulting in Europe handing back the Ryder Cup to the US in 1991, and the golf course where Irishmen Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley claimed the World Cup of Golf in 1997. It will be the site of the 2021 PGA Championship as well.
Indiana native Peter Dye and his wife Alice designed the Ocean Course in 1991, and it is known for being one of the toughest golf courses in the United States due to constant winds that blow over the layout as well as the fast greens and multitude of bunkers. There are views of the Atlantic Ocean along every hole here. The Ocean Course ranked No. 44 in Golf Digest’s list of the World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses – 2016-17.
Jack Nicklaus’ Turtle Point Course features three impressive oceanfront holes. The layout was renovated under the Golden Bear’s recommendations in 2016, adjusting greens, re-grassing fairways and tees with salt-tolerant Paspalum and rebuilding sand traps. Garry Player’s Cougar Point (redesigned in 1996 and set for renovation in 2017) has gorgeous views of the Kiawah River, a constant presence on the front nine. It provided locations for the famous golf movie The Legend of Bagger Vance starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. There is a mix of risk-and-reward par fives, par fours that will test you for distance and accuracy off the tee, plus tricky par threes.
Osprey Point was created by Tom Fazio, and his layout winds its way through saltwater marshes, lagoons and forests. You might see the odd alligator sunning itself on the banks of a water hazard here. With generous landing areas off the tee, most out-of-play areas on the left and few forced carries, this is a friendlier course for the high-handicapper. Across the river on Johns Island, you can play Oak Point, a course designed by Carolina native Clyde Johnston that was renovated in 2015 with Paspalum grass. Carts are available for afternoon tee times on all courses.
The mountain to climb here is the Ocean Course. The windy conditions, bunkering, and slick greens and distance from the tips will mean you’ll have to be in fine form to keep the score card respectable. The pro’s tips: employ a caddie and listen to the expert. “Pete Dye is a master of making the player look the wrong way. On the tee box, many of the holes look like there’s no place to land your drive but when you reach the fairway, you’ll see it’s 40-50 yards wide. Your caddie will know where to hit it.”
When to play: Year-round.
Par: All courses par 72.
Slope / Rating / Yardage
The Ocean Course: 144 / 77.3 / 7356 yards or 6726 meters
Turtle Point: 14 / 73.8 / 7061 yards or 6457 meters
Cougar Point: 137 / 73.3 / 6875 yards or 6286 meters
Osprey Point: 135 / 72.8 / 6902 yards or 6311 meters
Oak Point: 130 / 71.9 / 6701 yards or 6127 meters
The pro says:
“Don’t go for the miracle shot. If you hit it in the dunes, take your medicine and get it back into play. Miracle shots are extremely rare on The Ocean Course and more often mean you’ll be reaching into your bag for your next ball.”– Brian Gerard, Director of Golf, Kiawah Island Golf Resort
The resort experience:
Kiawah Island is about 45 minutes’ drive from the historic and beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. As well as being a special destination for golfers, Kiawah Island doubles as a tennis resort. It has two tennis centers, each with 12 courts and has also been ranked the No. 1 tennis resort nine times since 2016 by TennisResortsOnline.com. With plenty of calories burnt between golf and tennis it’s a good thing that Kiawah Island has 18 dining outlets to choose from, of varying price-point and specialty.
When it comes to accommodation, you can retire to The Sanctuary, a 255-room, five-star/AAA Five Diamond oceanfront hotel. That or choose one of the 450 luxury villas (one- to four-bedroom) or one of the 90 private homes to rent (three- to five-bedroom). With the warm South Carolina climate, I’m glad The Sanctuary has two outdoor pools and an indoor pool with Hyrdo Toning Fitness Classes. But you may just want to chill out on the highly-rated beach out front – just ask the concierge for a chair and umbrella.
Among the many plaudits Kiawah Island has earned: No 2 – Best American Beach Resort by Conde Nast Traveler in 2014 and No. 4 – Top Golf Resort in the World, by Andrew Harper Travel Readers’ Choice in 2013.
Dine and wine:
All the culinary options you could hope to find at one resort are here. I’m interested to see what a T-bone from a AAA Four Diamond/Forbes Four Star steakhouse tastes like. I’ll find out in The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary. Otherwise I could choose Tomasso for Italian, the Cherrywood BBW and Ale House, Southern Kitchen for some authentic southern cooking, the Atlantic Room for Seafood, or the Ryder Cup Bar for some pub ‘grub’. The list goes on.
It is five-star luxury from the Stand Guestroom (520 square feet, 48 square meters) up. Even this basic option, with its light, classic interiors and elegant furniture, has a king-size bed, a balcony with ocean views, a five-fixture bathroom (including dual vanities, marble shower and deep bath tub), televisions and DVD/CD players. The Presidential Suite has 3000 square feet (279 square meters) and includes a marble-tiled foyer, dining room and two balconies.
The resort’s coastal position means that there are plenty of activities to enjoy on the water at the beach or in the marshland that wraps around the island. You can surf, kayak, mountain bike, fish or paddleboard. You can also choose to go boating or take a nature excursion. It’s hard to ignore the 24 tennis courts at the resort either. When you are exhausted, retire to the Kiawah Island Spa, which has been rated as one of the best in the United States by Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. I think I’ll get a Body Rescue and Citrus Head-To-Toe Massage.
- 405 Spray Avenue, Banff, Alberta, Canada, T1L1J4
- 1 506 863 6310 / 1 800 720 825
Fairmont Banff Springs has two courses – the 18-hole Stanley Thompson and 9-hole Tunnel Mountain – laid out between huge mountains in the Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The championship course was designed by Canadian Stanley Thompson in 1928 and it plays away from the famous Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, a grand building known as ‘Canada’s castle in the Rockies’ that has been accommodating guests since June 1888. When Thompson was approached to build the course he said he had been asked to build the last word in golf, according to Steve Young, Director of Golf.
“The course was the first in the world to cost more than $US1 million to build,” Young said. “When the first unofficial ranking of world golf courses came out, Banff was ranked No. 8 ahead of many prominent courses, including Winged foot, Pinehurst and Augusta National.”
The layout winds its way through a valley, and the fairways are relatively flat. The inward holes are laid out along the pristine Bow River. The bunkering is an outstanding feature of the design, being both strategic and aesthetically pleasing. The mountain scenery is the other stunning feature and Thompson made sure each hole made full use of the setting.
“He backdropped every hole with a scenic and grandiose background,” Young said. “From 150 yards (137 meters), when you look at a golf green site you are inevitably looking up at a distant peak of a mountain.”
Perhaps the most unusual factor is the Fairmont Banff Springs courses are built in a designated wildlife corridor. And there is plenty of wildlife nearby when you play, according to Young.
“If you stop and just listen you hear birds, running water and moving trees. If you are lucky you hear footfalls of animals, a warning or mating call, and even a chase scene.”
The course is closed between November 1 and April 30 when the wildlife has right of way. “We get wolves, coyotes, elk and cougar travelling through the valley dominated by the golf course (bears are asleep).”
The Stanley Thompson Course ranked No. 4 in ScoreGolf’s list of Canada’s Best Public Golf Courses in 2015.
Thompson built in risk-reward into many of the holes. The more direct approach will require flighting the ball over obstacles, mostly bunkers. The pro’s tips: “Adjust for elevation where it is present (holes 2, 4, 6 and 15) and remember you are playing a mile above sea level so your ball will fly farther in the lighter air.”
The greens are generous in landing area but fast. You’ll have to putt well to score here. “Know that greens break towards the river and that the grain of the greens runs away from the hotel.”
When to play:
As well as being a designated wildlife corridor in the colder months, the region sees a lot of snow in winter. The Stanley Thompson course is open on the second Friday in May through to the last weekend in September, depending on weather.
Par: Stanley Thompson Course 71. Tunnel Mountain Course 36.
Yardage: Stanley Thompson Course 6938 yards, 6344 meters. Tunnel Mountain Course 3287 yards, 3006 meters
Slope: Stanley Thompson Course 135. Tunnel Mountain Course 129.
Rating: Stanley Thompson Course 72.9. Tunnel Mountain Course 70.4.
Best hole: There are many picturesque holes on the Stanley Thompson Course but No. 4 is the signature hole. Called ‘Devil’s Cauldron’, it is one of Canada’s most heralded par threes and has recorded the most hole-in-ones at Banff Springs. Playing 192 yards (176 meters) from the back tee, you’ll be hitting over a pond that is filled with water flowing from the mountains. If you miss the bunkers that surround the green, sloping banks will feed the ball onto the putting surface.
Hole 5 is a thriller, too. The green is framed by Cascade Mountain behind it, while looking back at the tee you’ll see a rock wall building up to the snowy Rundle Peak in the backdrop. It takes four solid shots to make par.
The pro says:
“No housing, no highways, no airports, no unnecessary movement occurs while you play. It is therapeutic, rewarding, challenging and energizing all at the same time. 18 unique holes that leave you wanting to return.
“My greatest piece of advice is that if you are not playing particularly well or mishit a shot, simply look up. The majestic beauty of the place and surroundings you are being afforded to play in should cure any ill feelings.”
Steve Young, Director of Golf
The resort experience:
American golf writer Bob Fagan rates Fairmont Banff Springs as one of his top 10 golf resorts in the world and with good reason. The hotel, ‘Canada’s castle in the Rockies’, is a grand building that looks out on the majestic mountains next to the Alpine town of Banff, Alberta, which has plenty of restaurants and other attractions such as museums and galleries. There is an elegant look to the interiors that suits the classic architecture of the castle-like structure.
The luxury resort becomes a destination for skiers, snowboarders, dog sledders, snowshoers and ice skaters in winter but you can enjoy the European-style Willow Stream Spa all year. Here you can let your muscles relax as waterfalls wash over you and you bathe in a mineral pool. It was named Canada’s No.1 Top Hotel Spa in Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2015. You might need it after enjoying a spot of tennis, some laps in the pool or horse riding. Everything from babysitting to bike storage is available at this five-star hotel.
Dine and wine:
The Fairmont Banff Springs features an impressive 11 restaurants and bars to choose from. However, Stanley’s Smokehouse comes highly recommended. The restaurant can be found at the championship golf course and has panoramic views of the fairways, Bow River and Canadian Rocky Mountains. The locals tell me the beef brisket, slow cooked over cherry wood for 18 hours, is a fine way to cap off a day of golf.
There are 764 guest rooms and suites on offer here. They range from a cozy Fairmont Room (150 square feet / 14 square meters) with a king-size bed and limited views through to the Royal Suite (1500 square feet / 139 square meters) also with a king-size bed, but boasting 360-degree views of the Bow Valley and Canadian Rockies. The suite, which is located in the pinnacle of a castle peak, also comes with a grand piano (seriously), reception foyer, powder room, upstairs library and living room. It is fit for a king or queen no doubt.
Banff is an outdoor wonderland, summer or winter. In the warmer months, besides the tennis and lap pool at the resort, you can sign up for river rafting, horseback riding, hiking or mountain biking. There’s also the ‘Kids’ @ the Castle’ club with activities such as arts and crafts plus a bowling and entertainment center (including pool and table tennis) to enjoy at night.
- Bissar Akbarpur, Haryana 122102, India
- 91 1267 285500
You’ll find ITC Grand Bharat after a little over an hour’s drive south-west of New Delhi’s Indiri Gandhi International Airport in north India. The luxury retreat sits on a 3000-acre (1214-hectare) estate in the Aravali Hills and it features a 27-hole complex designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear’s first signature course in South Asia. Before you hit a ball, the grand Indian architecture of the hotel’s main building and apartment complex will strike you. The pale, ornate buildings are set against lush manicured grounds and the golf courses. It made an impression on Canadian golf writer Dave Finn when he visited. He described it as an “oasis of tranquility.”
“The ITC Grand Bharat is maybe the most opulent hotel you will find anywhere in India.”
Aerial Shot & The Golf Course
It is interesting to note that India was one of the first countries to embrace golf after the United Kingdom. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club was founded in 1829 and claims to be the oldest golf club outside of Britain. The All-India Amateur Championship had its inaugural event there in 1892. ITC Grand Bharat’s courses were completed in 1996. A Golf Academy is attached to the resort, where you can book in for a lesson and swing analysis.
The golf club includes The Ridge, The Valley and The Canyon nine-hole courses. Following Nicklaus’ design blueprint, Landbase India transformed barren land into lush fairways and greens with the help of organic nutrients from leaf mold, farmyard manure and Neem cake.
The Ridge and The Valley nines combine as a signature course of some note. The Indian Open was held here in 2000 and 2001.
The Ridge has fairways that narrow, favoring accurate hitting over distance. Three of its holes have water hazards running along one side of the fairway. The Valley is kinder to longer hitters, offering wider landing zones off the tees. The Canyon nine is one of the most picturesque in The New Delhi Capital Region, with views of the surrounding hills and mountains. A number of its par 4s are driveable but not without risk. Dave Finn summed up what is on offer: “Each course offers a variety of short and long holes, with plenty of bunkers, strategically located water hazards and undulating greens.”
Kaya Kalp – The Royal Spa
The challenges: On the championship course, undulating fairways that narrow towards the green, long water hazards, well-placed bunkers and some long par threes.
When to play: Open year-round, although it can get chilly in January. The courses are closed on Mondays.
Par: Ridge (36) – Valley (36) 72. Valley – Canyon (36) 72. Canyon – Ridge 72
Yardage: Ridge – Valley 7114 yards, 6505 meters. Valley – Canyon 6708 yards, 6134 meters. Canyon – Ridge 6676 yards, 6104 meters
Slope: Ridge – Valley 140. Valley – Canyon 134. Canyon – Ridge 134
Rating: Ridge – Valley 73.8. Valley – Canyon 71. Canyon – Ridge 71
Best hole: Hole 11 on the championship course (the Valley nine’s hole 2) will challenge for distance, playing 224 yards (205 meters) off the back tees. The green sits on the left side of the slope with bunkers guarding it. There is out of bounds from tee to green and an element of risk and reward depending on pin placement. The hole consistently plays over par in championship events.
Restaurants, ITC Grand Bharat
The pro says:
“The hillocks and knolls of the Aravallis lend themselves ideally to create enticing fairways, cunning greens and engaging waterways, which are enough to quicken any serious golfer’s heart.”
– Priya Puri, Head Golf Professional, Classic Golf & Country Club
The resort experience:
ITC’s philosophy is to create hotels that are “rooted in the soil” and ones that show off the grandeur of India’s heritage and culture. ITC Grand Bharat is in keeping with that – nationally-inspired architecture and interior design, and gracious Indian hospitality. The opulent hotel was voted Best Resort in Asia in Conde Nast Traveler USA’s Readers’ Choice Awards in 2015 and 2016. The resort features 100 suites, four Presidential Villas and Kaya Kalp – The Royal Spa, a facility with nine treatment rooms that was awarded Best New Spa (Resort) at the GeoSpa AsiaSpa India Awards in 2016.
Dine and wine:
Thank God for Indian food – you can have this and more at ITC Grand Bharat’s five restaurants and two bars. Enjoy regional cuisine including Mewati Barbecues at Apas Promenade, European fare in The India Room and ‘Swasthya’ cuisine (eating for health and taste) in the Aravali Pavilion. The Peacock Bar is a good spot to unwind at the end of the night with a glass of fine wine. After your round, at the club house, the Nineteenth Hole specializes in serving fine spirits, or sit down in The Sandpit for lunch or dinner.
The Deluxe Suites (70 meters squared, 753 feet squared) offer a choice between terrace access or a lap-pool. I’m going with the lap-pool. The interiors are modern and classy – there’s a lounge in the living area facing a 42in LCD TV, quality bed linen, tub and dual vanities in the bathroom, plus a bathrobe and slippers. All suites are serviced by Retreat Hosts that aim to go beyond what a traditional butler service offers. Short of hitting the golf ball for you, that sounds good. The Presidential Villas (532 square meters, 5726 square feet) come with a personal chef, which is fine provided he knows when its bedtime. There’s also a dip pool and jacuzzi, a sauna in the bathroom, and an elevator that takes you to two bedrooms on the first floor.
The Club House
Kay Kalp spa features a 90-minute Golfer’s Recovery treatment that sounds appropriate. Deep tissue massage with warm herbal poultices aim for your sore spots and loosen your muscles. The acupressure scalp and foot massage help rejuvenate the body.
For those keen on getting busy outdoors, take a Segway tour, go zorbing (rolling down a hill inside a giant ball), or try some badminton, squash or tennis at the resort.
- Phuoc Thuan, Xuyen Moc, Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Vietnam
- thebluffshotram.com ; www.thegrandhotramstrip.com
- 84 64 378 8666
The Bluffs is a stunning links-style course on the south-eastern coast of Vietnam approximately two and a half hours’ drive to the south-east of Ho Chi Minh City. It was designed by Australian golfing legend Greg Norman and opened in 2014 with a game between New Zealander Michael Campbell, Englishman Robert Rock, Vietnamese star Tang Thi Nhung and rising local amateur Ng Bao Nghi. Campbell was impressed with the layout.
“I’ve played a lot of courses around the world and this (one) is as good as it gets,” he said.*
The golf resort, which features the luxurious hotel The Grand, is emblematic of how golf is growing in statue in Vietnam. The course plays host to the Ho Tram Open – one of the country’s richest sporting events – on the Asian Tour in March.
Adopting an approach of least disturbance to the sand dunes it is built on, Norman embraced the site’s natural features – vegetation, rocks, streams and undulating topography – to create each hole.
“This is one of only two pieces of land of this quality and character I have ever been given to work with – the other being Doonbeg [in Ireland],” Norman said in a statement published by the course. “I’m a firm believer in using what Mother Nature gives us on a particular site. This one has it all.”
The result is outstanding – The Bluffs was named “World’s Best New Golf Course” at the 2015 World Golf Awards in Portugal, Golf Digest ranked it No. 74 in its list of the World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses 2016-17 and Japanese golf writer Masa Nishijima rates it as the second-best golf resort in Asia.
To give you an idea of the challenge: the 257-yard (235-meter), par-3 fifteenth plays uphill to the highest part of the golf course, with sandy waste area all the way to the left side of the green. It’s worth taking in the ocean views once you get there.
The Bluffs clubhouse is impressive, too – a 2300-square-meter (24,757-square-foot) building that features the five-star Infinity restaurant, spacious lockers and a balcony that overlooks the back nine and the East Sea.
“This site is also more elevated (than most), which offers more dramatic views and also brings the wind into play more,” Norman said. “Wind was definitely one of the most significant factors in designing the course, especially since the direction changes 180 degrees for several months during the year. It affected nearly every decision, from the initial layout of the holes to fairway widths and irrigation coverage. Fortunately, we were able to create a good balance of holes for it.”
The challenges: Classic links-style shotmaking with natural undulations, blind shots around the large sand dunes and a mix of jungle vegetation and sandy wasteland if you miss the fairways.
When to play: The course is open year around but will play longer during the wet season (from April to September) as opposed to the dry season (October to March). The course is closed for maintenance on Tuesdays.
Yardage: 7007 yards; 6408 meters
Best hole: Hole 10 will test even long hitters with 651 yards (595 meters) to the green. The par 5 plays downhill off the tee, before levelling out, and can then be attacked in several ways.
The designer says: “Playing true links golf among the dunes of southern Vietnam and having dramatic ocean views throughout your round will make The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip one of the most unique golf experiences in the world.” – Greg Norman *
The pro says: “It’s a seaside course, naturally carved through sand dunes. The elevation changes provide for some extremely dramatic views. The course has two distinct wind directions, which can be very strong in the dry season.”
Patrick Kelly, Head Professional
The resort experience:
After you wrap up your round, it’s time to head back to The Grand – a 541-room hotel that aims to treat you with warm service and five-star luxury. The rooms are elegant, the buffet breakfast is included and the room service is 24 hours, but it’s the activities that stand out here. This place looks like an absolute hoot to visit. It’s perfectly positioned next to the sandy beach and has a bunch of features for kids (or the young at heart) such as the huge Dragon Slide that carries you into the pool (for kids 12 and up), putt-putt golf, an arcade-style game center, and the Grand Cinema with movie screenings, all complimentary for guests. The Grand Central Park has football, basketball and a kids’ playground, too. However, I may have to stay away from the Jukebox Karaoke, depending on how brave I feel – there are individual rooms for those inclined.
Dine and wine:
You might have to walk the course after touring the eateries – there are 11 restaurants and bars to choose from here catering for every palate, including
two gourmet facilities: Ju Bao Xuan, which serves up Cantonese cuisine, and The Grand Bistro, which offers French-crafted fare including steaks and fresh seafood. I’m going to try the fresh seafood at Ginger, which specializes in traditional Vietnamese dishes, and 8 Dragons, which has Chinese noodles and Korean fare. Afterwards, I might settle back with a whiskey in hand at Club 9, a nightclub with dancing into the early hours.
The accommodation: There are six different types of rooms to choose from, starting with the Grand Double (with two double beds) all the way through to the Premier Ocean View Suite, with two bathrooms, a fridge and microwave, lounge room and stunning outlook over Ho Tram Beach. Expect double marble vanities, tubs and showers in the bathrooms. The rooms carry free Wi-Fi and 46in LED TVs but hopefully you’ll enjoy the views over the dunes, the course and the East Sea on the balcony instead.
As well as the previously mentioned kids’ activities, it is hard to go past the fun on Ho Tram Beach. The beach services team can fix you up with a surfboard, body board, stand-up paddle board or kayak. There is beach-side yoga, too. Other facilities include a fitness center, Kids’ Corner (with daily activities such as crafts and tennis) and spa. More adventurous types can take the Minh Dam Tour, a half-day outing that takes in historic sites at Minh Dam Mountain.
* Source: thebluffshotram.com
- Carretera Chetumal – P. Juarez Km. 309, Playa Paraiso, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
- www.thegrandcollection.com/en/hotels/riviera-maya/iberostar-grand-hotel-paraiso ; golf.iberostar.com/en/playa-paraiso/golf-courses
- 888 923 2722
I can just picture it – somewhere beautiful to relax in the sun. Somewhere south of the border, down Mexico way. The Grand Hotel Paraíso will do just fine. This impressive resort is located on the Riveria Maya, on the Caribbean coastline of north-east Yucatán Peninsula. We’re talking gorgeous turquoise waters and tropical conditions in and out of the water. But before you grab a daiquiri and a hammock, you’ll want to play the championship golf course. It was designed by P.B. Dye, the youngest son of renowned American course architect Peter Dye. He has picked up some techniques from his father in terms of challenging golfers with smart layout and visual trickery. Greg Bond, the director of golf at the Iberostar Playa Paraíso Golf Club, sums up the challenges of the undulating course this way:
“Extreme vertical movement, treacherously sloping greens, beautiful hand-laid stone work with an authentic Mayan touch and perfect playing conditions,” Bond said. “P.B. Dye set out to create a golf course that is visually intimidating. Although many of the holes seem tighter than a bowling alley, the reality is there is more room than meets the eye.”
The course works its way through jungle vegetation. Some eye-catching stonework pays tribute to the ancient Mayan civilization as you work your ball down the fairways. At the end of the ninth hole, there’s even a replica El Castillo pyramid from the Chichén Itzá Mayan ruins (which are located about two hours’ drive inland). Extreme elevation changes, deep bunkers, blind shots and tight fairways keep things interesting on this golf course.
“What this fun P.B. Dye course lacks in gulf views it makes up for with huge undulations – in its fairways and its greens – and tons of visual variety,” Golf Digest’s Peter Finch wrote after touring the area. “It’s definitely worth buying a yardage book here because the course holds many mysteries for first-timers.”
I never like playing on an empty stomach. Fortunately, the package you book into at Iberostar means that you can have your fill of food and drinks before, during or after your round. US golf writer Bob Fagan rates this as the best ‘all-inclusive’ hotel and golf course combination he has experienced in his wide travels.
Iberostar Playa Paraíso has hosted the Big Break Mexico Golf Channel competition as well as the Canadian Tour events and the 2016 World Amateur Team Championships.
The challenges: Hit it straight, trust the yardage book and bring your best putting game on these sloping, tiered greens.
When to play: The course is open 365 days a year in the tropical conditions.
Yardage: 6704 yards, 6034 meters.
The 427-yard par-4 ninth is the signature hole. You’ll be hitting over a rock river bed off the tee, with a fairway bunker on the left and two on the right.
The pro says:
“This course challenges every part of your game, it is absolutely one of the best true tests of golf I’ve seen anywhere. You must be a complete player to play well here. Additionally, the course conditions compete with any facility in the US, Canada or Mexico.”
Greg Bond, Director of Golf
The resort experience:
Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso is a four-diamond, five-star, adults-only resort about 30 minutes’ drive south from Cancun International Airport. Ornate and elaborate, the hotel is built in a Neo-Renaissance style and features marble floors, large columns, interior gardens and a ceiling painting on the interior of a dome.
Being ‘all-inclusive’, guests can enjoy their food and drinks at the restaurants, the minibar, or use the 24-hour room service, as part of the package price. You can start to relax as soon as you arrive at the hotel and someone hands you a glass of champagne at check-in. When you’ve unpackaged, a concierge will hand you a towel, sun-screen and a newspaper to read poolside.
There are in fact three pools – one with sea water and an aqua-bar, a heated indoor pool and another with fine views. A white-sand beach is right out the front, where you can sit on a pool chair and doze off between swims. A butler service is also ready to shine your shoes back at the hotel. Resort activities are also included for the one price and there are dozens to help you burn off all calories.
Dine and wine:
Get ready to eat and eat well. There are four a la carte restaurants, a 5-star Bella Vista buffet, five bars and 24-hour room service, featuring a wide variety of meals and drinks. You can choose Venezia Italian Restaurant, teppanyaki Japanese at Haiku (catch the food on your plate after chef cooks it in front of you), authentic Mexican dishes at La Brisa and Toni’s Surf and Turf fare. Iberostar push their chefs to create new menus as seen by Chef On Tour, an initiative that showcases the creativity of the group’s Michelin-star chefs. I might put on some weight here.
The Grand Hotel Paraíso has 10 accommodation options all with concierge and butler service and a customizable mini-bar. It’s not a small development – this includes 300 Grand Suites overlooking the ocean or gardens, 10 secluded villas and two Presidential Suites. Even a basic suite comes with a balcony and views. Use the pillow menu to get the right fit for your king-size or queen-size bed. The marble bathrooms feature double-vanity sinks and a whirlpool bath. Satellite TV channels and a DVD player are also standard. You get a separate dining room, wrap-around terrace and a hammock with the Presidential Suite.
The activities, which are included in the package, take this resort to another level. There is a focus on fitness here – which works well after the buffet. The fitness center has yoga, TRX, tai chi, spinning sessions, kick boxing and aerobics. Outside you can enjoy archery, tennis, basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball and shooting. In the water, take a catamaran or kayak out for a spin, try snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, get a taste of scuba diving in the pool, or play water polo. You’ll have to pay extra for the jet-skiing, sailing lessons, water skiing, para sailing, winding surfing and PADI diving school course, but I’m not sure you’ll have time for all of these.
After all that, you’ve earned a Thai massage at Spa Sensations, which has a sauna, Roman and Turkish baths, thalassotherapy (seawater) pools and a Mayan-style Temazcal (sweat lodge).
- Rosapenna, Downings, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland
- 00353 0 74 9155301
Located in County Donegal on the striking north-west coast of Ireland, the Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort is a haven for lovers of links golf. The 800-acre (324-hectare) dune system features two championship courses – Old Tom Morris links and Sandy Hills – as well as a nine-hole academy course and training facility. Old Tom Morris, the original course, was established after the four-time British Open Champion visited the region in 1891 and staked out a links course using the undulating landscape overlooking Tramore Beach at Sheephaven Bay. The Scotsman spread the word about the fresh links course back home and Rosapenna became a popular spot for some of the world’s top golfers by the end of the 19th Century. A timber lodge was built to accommodate the travelling golfers, making this one of the oldest golf resorts in Ireland.
Old Tom Morris was redesigned and modernized in 2009 by Irishman Pat Ruddy of the European Club, replacing and separating the original back nine (known as the Coastguard Holes), which were then attached to a practice range. Sandy Hills, which was also designed by Ruddy, opened in 2003. It offers more length to challenge golfers, being about 300 yards (274 meters) longer than Old Tom Morris. The fairways run between the marram-covered dunes and there are elevated tees and greens. Golf Digest Ireland rated Sandy Hills as one of the best links courses in the country.
“A stunning modern links that funnels its way through centuries-old dunes created by, and still whipped by, the winds coming in off the Atlantic Ocean,” said Peter Acheson, Golf Digest Ireland editor *.
Considering the superb links challenge offered by both courses, Planet Golf’s Darius Oliver rates this as one of the best golf resorts in the country.
“It’s a combination of a beautiful, out-of-the-way coastal location, two distinct links/dunes golf courses and the charming family-run hotel and hospitality business. You could easily spend a few days there, especially with good weather.”
The challenges: Try to keep on the fairways and out of the deep bunkers. Winds can whip up off the Atlantic Ocean to make scoring on both courses difficult. Keeping the ball low and using links techniques such as bump and running and putting off the green are recommended. Sandy Hills is the tougher challenge here.
When to play: The courses open year-round, although the average temperatures drop to the single digit degrees Celsius during winter. The hotel is closed from November 1 to March 17.
Par: Old Tom Morris 71. Sandy Hills 72.
Yardage: Old Tom Morris 6975 yards, 6378 meters. Sandy Hills 6506 yards, 5949 meters.
Competition Scratch Score rating: Old Tom Morris 71. Sandy Hills 72.
Best hole: The signature hole on Old Tom Morris Links is 14, a 198-yard (181-meter) par 3 with a bunker in front of a small green. On Sandy Hills, hole 6 (420-yard, 384-meter par 4), at the southern end of the course, a drive over a crest reveals a gorgeous view of beach and bay with Muckish Mountain in the backdrop.
The pro says: “Both courses provide a stern links test while situated in one of the most beautiful bays in the world.” – Frank Casey Jnr, Director of Golf
The resort experience:
Rosapenna is a seasonal hotel but serves the golfers well during all but the winter months. The Casey family have owned and operated the resort since 1981, expanding the accommodation to a four-star 62-room hotel as well as the golf courses on offer. In 2012, they bought the nearby St. Patrick’s Golf Links (which has been redesigned by Jack Nicklaus), adding 36 holes and some 370 acres (150 hectares) to the development. The resort features a spa that includes an indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room. The Donegal coastline is a beautiful part of Ireland and well suited to links golf. Rosapenna’s hotel and restaurant have grand views of Sheephaven Bay. The resort is about 3.5 hours’ drive from Dublin Airport and 2 hours’ drive from Belfast International Airport.
Dine and wine:
The Vardon Restaurant is named after English golfing legend Harry Vardon (with six Open titles), who had a hand in tweaking the Old Tom Morris course. No doubt Vardon would have enjoyed sitting down here for some of the fresh seafood that is delivered daily to the kitchen. Crab, shellfish, lobster and scallops are regularly on the menu. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset over Sheephaven Bay, too.
After dinner, enjoy a single malt Irish whiskey at the James Braid Bar (named after another Open champion who helped renovate the original course).
The rooms are elegant and comfortable. They start with a Classic Room (300 square feet, 28 square meters) with the basics (double bed, refrigerator, en-suite bathroom) and step up to the Bayview Suite (450 square feet, 42 square meters) with king-size bed, private balcony, 40in LCD TV and more luxurious bathrooms. All rooms come with Wi-Fi but you’ll probably be too busy enjoying the views over Sheephaven Bay to connect.
Take a copy of the Sheephaven Bay Walking Guide from reception and enjoy one of the great walks along the coastline here. The beautiful Glenveagh National Park is a 15-minute drive from the hotel, too. In the summer, you can also enroll in surf school and paddle out into the Atlantic at one of Donegal’s beautiful sandy beaches. Horse riding, deep-sea fishing and scuba diving can all be easily organized as well.
* Source: www.rosapenna.ie/sandy-hills-links.html#.WL1VpvmGMRk
- Beau Champ, Grande Rivière Sud Est 40901, Mauritius
- anahita.mu ; www.fourseasons.com/mauritius/golf ; | www.ileauxcerfsgolfclub.com
- 230 402 2200
Mauritius is a small island nation that sits a little over 1100 kilometers to the east of Madagascar. Anahita the Resort is located on the east coast of Mauritius, about one hour’s drive from the capital, Port Louis. The resort features two championship courses that overlook the Indian Ocean – one designed by South African Ernie Els and the other designed by German Bernhard Langer. The ‘all-inclusive’ resort package allows you to play both courses as part of the deal, and includes 55 range balls and a daily one-hour introductory lesson.
Completed in 2008, the Els course is managed by Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita and features wide fairways and great views of the coastline. The 6828-meter (7467-yard) layout winds its way through tropical vegetation with a turquoise lagoon on one side and jagged mountain peaks in the backdrop on the other. Six of the holes run next to the shore, including three that provide a scenic finish that carries through to the last green, which is well protected by bunkers. The par-five 18th fairway passes a lagoon on the left, and stone ruins on the right side.
The Ernie Els course hosted the Mauritius Open in 2016, a European-, Sunshine- and Asian-Tour-sanctioned event. It made an impression on 2016 South African Open winner Brandon Stone who competed in the event. “It’s stunning. You stand on that 17th tee box, you just overlook the estuary and you can see the waves crashing on the coral.”*
At the end of the round, the Il Forno Restaurant & Bar is there for some Mediterranean-style food or a cleansing ale. Ernie’s Shooter is the recommended drink. The Four Seasons Golf Academy can provide video analysis of your swing if you are looking to work on your technique, best before an Ernie’s Shooter.
The Bernhard Langer-designed Ile Aux Cerfs Golf Course (also known as Le Touessrok) is laid out across 38 hectares (94 acres) of a small island just off the coast from the Anahita resort. So, you’ll be taking your golf clubs on a boat shuttle that leaves every 30 minutes. Ile Aux Cerfs is a stunning-looking course woven into a lush tropical island setting that was previously the site of an old sugar plantation. Players will hit the ball off undulating fairways that pass volcanic rock outcrops, white-sand beaches, lakes, massive bunkers and gullies. The course was renovated in 2014-15 to make it easier for higher handicappers. From the tips, seven of the holes require carries over 200-yards (183-meters) of water so it will test the nerves.
The Ernie Els course was ranked No.3 and Ile Aux Cerfs No.1 in Mauritius by Top100GolfCourses.com in 2017.
These are tough courses. The Ernie Els course will challenge you for distance with 6828 meters (7500 yards) as you avoid strategically-placed bunkers, while the Bernhard Langer course has nine lakes and seven holes that require you to carry over water with solid strikes. Three of these are over sea inlets.
When to play: Year-round – it’s a tropical climate with little change in seasons.
Par: Both courses 72
Slope / Rating / Yardage:
Els Course 147 / 74 / 7500 yards, 6828 meters
Langer Course (Ile Aux Cerfs): 155 / 75 / 7115 yards, 6469 meters
The signature hole on the Els course is No.4. Dubbed ‘The Ocean Drive,’ you have to avoid fairway bunkers on the left off the tee, before hitting to a green that sits on a peninsular almost surrounded by water, with bunkers placed just behind it. On the Langer course, the 410-yard (375-meter) hole 18 poses a tough test. Called ‘Back to the Boat’, this par 4 requires you to carry mangroves off the tee before hitting to a three-tiered green.
The pro says:
“The course is consistently well conditioned, with spectacular views, and a selection of tees to suit all levels of golf. The Il Forno restaurant will have something to replenish your energy for another round!”
Dave Usendorff, Director of Golf at the Ernie Els Course
The designer says:
“What I have aspired to create with Le Touessrok golf course is a golfing experience that truly arouses all the senses. From the amazing natural setting to the challenges presented by the course, I want it to be a game to remember for all who play.”
– Bernhard Langer **
The resort experience:
It’s worth watching out for deals at Four Seasons, but Anahita the Resort’s ‘all-inclusive’ package is hard to beat. This luxury resort is spread out over 213 hectares (526 acres) of tropical gardens next to the Il Aux Cerfs Lagoon. It has two beaches – one that looks out on the Indian Ocean and the other by the lagoon, a fitness center, tennis courts, a water sports center and a wellness center. There is a tropical island feel to the design of the suites and villas with thatched roofs a common feature amongst the palm trees. The Anahita Spa by Thémaé Paris has a focus on tea-based treatments and products. It also has a steam room and jacuzzi. The OurSpace Kids’ Club and Escape Teens’ Club have plenty of activities for the young people. Lounging under an umbrella on a seat with daiquiri within reach on the beach is the right approach to resort golf.
Dine and wine:
With five restaurants, a coffee shop and in-suite dining (private chef option and room service), you won’t go hungry. Starting at breakfast, you’ll find international fare and local dishes at Origine Restaurant, then fine dining with Mauritian specialties at the Signature Restaurant, Italian dishes overlooking Els’ 18th hole at Il Forno: Trattoria Restaurant, Mauritian and Méditerranéen fare at Bliss Beach Restaurant and Domaine De L’Etoile Restaurant, which is set in nearby tropical bushland. Back at the resort, The Vu Bar has live bands on weekends and a DJ during the week if you want to dance.
The Prestige Villas come in one- to five-bedroom options. These have modern interiors with comfortable décor, king-size beds, en-suite bathrooms with separate bathtubs, a full kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a living room, three LCD TVs and a swimming pool. The Prestige Suites come with one or two bedrooms, a terrace with lagoon views, a living area, kitchen and bathroom with tub and dual vanities, and as an added treat, an infinity plunge pool.
Domaine de l’ Etoile – a nature reserve that covers over 1200 hectares (2965 acres) of forests, pastures, rivers – is only 15 minutes away. Explore the beautiful surrounds on foot, quad bike, horse or buggy. Or stay closer to the resort and get wet. You’ll find kayaks, Hobie Cats, windsurfers and paddle boats. You can also take a closer look at the coral on a snorkelling or scuba diving trip or on a glass-bottom boat tour. Kids will love the Adventure Park, which has a zip line and other tree-top activities. The fitness center has yoga, boxing, core workouts, Pilates and aqua-gym.
* Source: afrasiabankmauritiusopen.com
** Source: www.tcsworldtravel.com/blog/ile-aux-cerfs-mauritius-private-golf-course
- 72-100 Kaupulehu Dr, Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, USA
- 1 808 325 8000
There are some superb resort courses on the island of Hawaii including Mauna Kea and Hapuna, where you can play next to the Pacific Ocean in tropical conditions. Four Seasons Hualalai is another wonderful resort that offers exceptional luxury accommodation and top-shelf golf.
Hualalai is a links-style course designed by Jack “The Golden Bear” Nicklaus and opened in 1996 next to the luxury Four Seasons resort. The unusual feature here: its groomed fairways have been laid between lava flows that have cooled down to a jagged black rock. You don’t want to go looking for your ball in there as your shoes will barely survive. The contrast between the green fairways and walls of black lava that stand like walls on either side of the fairway is stunning. There are unsighted shots over these ancient lava flows. On the seventh, the lava makes a narrow canyon in the middle of the fairway – one of the most unusual hazards I’ve seen on a golf course.
Hualalai hosts the PGA Champions Tour each January and it has the facilities to match that occasion. Even so, the course is designed to be forgiving for casual golfers.
The 18th has a stunning outlook of Waiakauhi Beach. You’d never know that the resort was damaged by the tsunami of March 2011, after an earthquake off the coast of Japan sent a massive tidal wave across the Pacific. It ploughed into the waterfront suites and lifted a deck onto the middle of the fairway.
The challenges: Apart from some unsighted shots over the lava flows, there are some long, well-placed fairway bunkers to contend with. However, the fairways generally offer wide landing areas off the tee.
When to play: Year-round.
Yardage: 7117 yards; 6507 meters
Best hole: I’ll go with the picturesque par-three 17th, which has the ocean crashing into the lava on the left and a giant bunker in front of the green. I played a pitching wedge off the lava (note, not good for clubs).
The pro says: “The 17th tee – my favorite part of my office. This little hole is spectacular … Jack [Nicholas] has taken this black lava, the white sand, the blue ocean and sky, and the green grass and contrasted it in a very dramatic way. It is a nice little par three as long as you keep in mind the wind … Aim to the left side of the green or even the left rocks.” Brendan Moynahan, Director of Golf Operations. *
The resort experience:
Four Seasons Hualalai offers your classic beach-side vacation. There are many areas to chill out or get wet. There are seven swimming areas in total – including the adults-only Palm Grove pool with swim-up bar, and the King’s Pond, a 1.8-million-gallon (6.8-million liter) salt-water aquarium carved out of lava and stocked full of marine life. Here you can snorkel with some 4000 tropical fish from more than 98 species, including a spotted eagle ray.
Unwind at the 2600-square-meter (28,000-square-foot) Hualalai Spa, which has a stream running through the tropical garden as well as saunas, steam rooms, soaking tubs and cold plunges. Body treatments include massages such as a hau’oli wawae, which takes care of the foot, neck and scalp treatment and coffee mocha scrub (coffee-infused salt).
Beach weddings take place in the tropical space here, and honeymoons for that matter, too. And with children 12 and under playing golf for free when accompanied by a paying guest, they are keeping families in mind, too.
Dine and wine: There are three ocean-side restaurants and two lounges. There’s al fresco dining at Beach Tree during the day, or get stuck into the fresh sushi at ‘Ulu Lounge or taste a Mahi Mahi at Hualalai Grille. At night, enjoy a drink next to the firepit at the ‘Ulu restaurant. You can even organize a private luau at the Hoku Amphitheater with that special someone. Hula and fire dancers put on a show while you feast on a five-course meal.
The accommodation: Hualalai has 51 suites and villas and 125 guest rooms, each with lava-rock garden showers. This is luxurious accommodation with a truly Hawaiian touch. You can choose something as big as a three-bedroom Makaloa Villa, which is more like a private beach home and has its own pool and whirlpool. The Oceanfront Room can comfortably fit two adults and a child and gives you a superb view of the Pacific Ocean.
Other activities: There are plenty of ocean adventures to enjoy, such as a ribcraft snorkeling tour, whale-watching, stand-up paddle boarding or paddling a four-man outrigger canoe. There are scores of activities here for all the family to enjoy, too, from basketball and tennis to Hawaiian crafts and sand sculpting. Or learn how to make a flower lei – the aroma is delightful.
* Source: www.fourseasons.com/hualalai
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Sources: Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Top100GolfCourses.com
Hualalai – Four Seasons – Hawaii, United States
Four Seasons Hualalai offers your classic beach-side vacation. There are many areas to chill out or get wet. There are seven swimming areas in total – including the adults-only Palm Grove pool with swim-up bar, and the King’s Pond, a 1.8-million-gallon (6.8-million liter) salt-water aquarium carved out of lava and stocked full of marine life.