A Regional Guide to Great Golf Vacations
Fall is on the horizon, and with crisp air and colorful foliage comes the opportunity to save big on end-of-season pricing for a great golf vacation. You’ve had all spring and summer to hone your game, learn how to play safe during Covid, and practice golf at home in your backyard or basement. Now, it’s time to take your skills on the road and visit some of the amazing golf destinations in your region and beyond.
Wherever you live in this great country, there’s bound to be some great golf courses within driving distance. And if you’re looking for a weekend getaway, this regional guide to great golf vacations will hopefully give you the motivation you need to get out there and explore some of the most special courses that America has to offer.
Golf Vacations in the Northeast Region
The Northeastern region boasts some of the most scenic golf courses in America, thanks to its clean air, beautiful forests and topographical diversity. If you’re a fan of fall colors, these “woodsey” courses are carved into old growth forests that will knock your socks off.
Stowe Country Club: Stowe, Vermont
Nestled high in the mountains of Vermont, Stowe is known for its range of outdoor activities and scenery that provides some of the best mountain vistas this side of the Rockies. Golfers looking for a mountain retreat can choose from two courses: The Stowe Country Club or The Mountain Course.
The Stowe Country Club course was constructed in 1952 by William F. Mitchell and later refined by Walter Barcomb. This 6,100 yard par 72 boasts panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and rolling fairways that reflect its dairy farm history. The elevation and cooler summer temperatures mean that the greenery stays in-tact all season, staying just as lush and well-maintained as they do on opening day.
If you’re looking for a challenge, The Mountain Course plays 300 yards longer than Stowe Country Club while reaching an elevation of more than 1,800 feet. Voted #1 in Vermont two-years running, this rugged design from architect Bob Cupp features rock outcroppings, wildlife sightings, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
Pound Ridge Golf Club: Pound Ridge, New York
If you don’t have time to escape to Vermont, Pound Ridge Golf Club in Westchester County is a top public course in the state offering “country-club like” playing conditions and a classic Pete Dye design. A weekend prime rate of $235 puts this in the sweet spot of a special golf day that doesn’t break the bank, but it’s proximity to New York City means tee times are in high demand.
The 7,100 yard, par 72 layout boasts great foliage, fairways that meander over rolling hills, and meticulously manicured greens. Nestled on the New York Connecticut border just north of White Plains, Pound Ridge is a great public course for anyone trying to escape the grind of New York City. Built in 2008 by Pete and Perry Dye, Pound Ridge is a 7,100 yard par 72 with a slope of 150 that boasts great foliage, fairways that meander over rolling hills and meticulously manicured greens. Want to get the experience of a private club but don’t know a member at Winged Foot? Look no further than Pound Ridge.
Bethpage State Park Golf Course: The Black Course
A review of northeastern golf wouldn’t be complete without a feature of Bethpage Black, the premier public course in America and host of the 2009 US Open, the 2019 PGA Championship, and the 2024 Ryder Cup. Famous for a number of reasons, its popularity makes getting a tee time an experience unto itself. If you have ever camped out for sports or concert tickets, you might appreciate a stay at the “Bethpage Inn”, which is how regulars have branded the experience of sleeping in their cars to score one of the coveted first-hour tee times reserved exclusively for the walk ups.
If the thought of vehicular slumber makes your back throb in anticipation, you can still secure a tee time (after 8am) using the online reservation system, 7 days in advance for New York residents and 5 days in advance for non-residents. This is a rewarding golf endeavor and an experience you won’t forget, so make sure you’re fully aware of the Bethpage Black reservation rules and procedures before you make your way out to the park.
Golf Vacations in the Eastern Region
The East is well known for its golf destinations. The gulf stream keeps the coast warm and conditions amenable to golfing year round, so many of the courses that line the eastern portion of our continent are open all year. The lush greenery, oceanic breezes and considerable sunshine make this region one of our favorite golfing destinations to explore.
Golf Mecca: Pinehurst Resort, North Carolina
Nestled in the North Carolina Sandhills lies the “home of American golf,” the site chosen by Donald Ross to replicate a golf experience learned from Old Tom Morris at the birthplace of modern golf, St. Andrews in Scotland. The Pinehurst Resort is world-famous and features one of the best courses in the country, Pinehurst #2. It’s a bucket list entry for nearly every golfer and an experience unlike any other, but the surrounding area features 40 outstanding courses and a throwback village experience that makes Pinehurst a weekend destination for all ages and appetites.
If you don’t want to drop the cash to play one of the 9 courses at the resort, you can still plan an amazing golf getaway by booking times at Pine Needles, Tobacco Road, and The Country Club of North Carolina. Playing amidst the pines (and often from among them) might be as close as you can get to the experience of playing Augusta National
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
If Pinehurst is golf Mecca, then Myrtle Beach is the smorgasbord. With more than 90 coastal courses to choose from, this is an excellent location for any type of golf vacation, from bachelor/bachelorette parties to family reunions. More than just golf, the area is surrounded by nightlife, great restaurants, and outdoor activities to keep everyone happy whether they’re on the links or not.
As the self-proclaimed golf capital of the world, your primary chore will be choosing which courses to play. You can go upscale with lodging and golf at the Barefoot Golf Resort or book a beach house and choose your own Myrtle Beach golf adventure. Some of our favorites include the Caledonia Golf & Fish Club for its incredible island geography, True Blue Golf Club for its incredible Mike Strantz architecture, or The Dunes Golf and Beach Club for its old school country club feel.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach not family-friendly enough for you? Hilton Head might be the destination for you. With a slightly more exclusive feel, the island of Hilton Head offers the stunning oceanfront vistas of a southeastern coastal town with the resort feel of an island getaway. Hilton Head boasts 24 unique courses, ranging from the dream round at the annual tour stop of Harbour Town Golf Links to more affordable rates at the Old South Golf Links. Throw in fine dining, phenomenal shopping, and unique beaches mean that Hilton Head can give you and the family a golf weekend they will never forget.
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
We couldn’t make a list of golf destinations without including The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Designed and built in 1991 by Pete and Alice Dye, this is just one of those courses that will take your breath away. Boasting some of the greatest seaside golf there is, if you ever have a chance to play Ocean, be sure to bring a good camera and lots and lots of spare balls.
Golf Vacations in the Southeast Region
The American South might not have the oldest courses, but its ability to keep them open and playing year-round lends a certain modicum of charm and versatility. High year-round temperatures with plenty of sunshine and rain help these courses stay relatively green from January- December, and the balmy weather in winter months will attract snowbirds looking to get some rounds in during an otherwise frigid February.
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Alabama
Built as a means of diversifying Alabama’s state pension fund, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a series of 26 courses over 11 sites across the state. Featuring 468 holes, the RTJ Trail is golf’s equivalent of hiking the Appalachian Trail. A fixture in every golf vacation “best of” list, the trail features phenomenal courses and unique challenges including Lake at Grand National, Ross Bridge, The Legend at Capitol Hill, Ridge at Oxmoor Valley, Sherling/Canyon at Cambrian Ridge and many more. Many of the courses offer discounted replay rates for aggressive 36 hole days, and also feature “short” courses which are nicely designed Par 3s and ideal for a low key afternoon with your playing partners.
Mapping your route on the RTJ Trail is part of the fun, and if you’re scheduling for the fall then you can even include a stop at courses near one of two major SEC conference schools to take in a little pigskin if you time it correctly.
FarmLinks at Pursell Farms: Sylacauga, Alabama
Not all Alabama golf happens on the trail, however, and FarmLinks at Pursell Farms is the shining example of that. One of the South’s best private courses, FarmLinks was ranked at #4 on the Golf Advisor: Golfer’s Choice Top Courses in America list. Designed in 2003 by Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, the immaculately maintained fairways and greens combined with the surprising affordability makes it easy to see why this course is a fan favorite.
Golf Vacations in the Midwest Region
The midwest comprises a huge area of relatively flat terrain that’s really good for one thing: growing plants. With so much space to work with, and so little in the way of grand, open designs, architects are free to make some great parkland courses with massive yardages.
Course No. 4 Dubsdread at Cog Hill: Lemont, Illinois
Opened in 1964, Course No. 4 at Dubsdread was designed by architects Dick Wilson and Joe Lee (1964), and then refurbished in 2008 by Rees Jones, Greg Muirhead and Ron Forse. Blending in perfectly with its natural surroundings, #4 has narrow, rolling fairways and intricate bunkering making it a course for golfers who possess a decent degree of accuracy.
One of the longest courses on this list, #4 is a 7,500 yard par 72, and with its recent renovation, an immaculate gem of a public course.
Door County, Wisconsin
If you’re reading this around the time of it being published, you better hurry and plan your golf trip to Door County. The pointed peninsula that borders Green Bay to the east, this outcropping of land offers panoramic views of lake Michigan, and some of the most scenic golf that the Midwest has to offer.
With about 10 public courses scattered around the peninsula, golfing in Door County is not only beautiful, but challenging given the course architecture and rocky terrain. As it is so far north, the season in Door County is very short, making the reasonably-priced greens fees much sought after and fleeting. Players looking for an experience (and willing to pay for it) can travel a few miles south to Sheboygan where they’ll find Whistling Straits, a world-class Pete Dye design and site of Dustin Johnson’s infamous club grounding penalty at the 2010 PGA Championship.
Golf Vacations in the Southwest Region
In contrast to most of the other regions on this list, the Southwest sees very little change in temperature and weather, so a round in February can feel a lot like one in August. And unlike the South, East or Midwest, there are no extreme weather phenomena that might otherwise spoil a trip planned months in advance. So you can rest assured knowing that when you book a round in Arizona, New Mexico or Southern California, it’s just gonna be hot, dry and sunny as hell.
Torrey Pines: San Diego, California
If you’re anything like me, playing TP South on Tiger Woods PGA Tour was a highlight of the game. The gorgeous bluffs of La Jolla, the roar of the Pacific Ocean as you battled the winding links – it was a rush. As a municipal course that hosts some of the biggest PGA events, Torrey Pines Golf Course is a hard course to pass up. That said, exorbitant greens fees and an overcrowded course means that it rarely looks the way it does in the video game or on TV. While residents of the city can play for a steal, out-of-towners can pay upwards of $300 to get in a round on the legendary course.
The secret? Play TP North. The cost is the same, but the course will inevitably be in better condition due to less traffic, and the layout is much more playable as it hasn’t been fine-tuned for a pro tour. And if you still hate me for sending you to San Diego to golf on a muni, have a burrito at the smallest place you can find with the longest line. There’s nothing on this planet I’d rather eat than a $6 San Diego Burrito.
TPC Scottsdale: Scottsdale, Arizona
Home of the raucously unique Waste Management Open and year round sun, this Arizona course will make an awesome winter trip for you and your foursome. Not only is TPC Scottsdale a beautiful course, but its proximity to other courses in the area puts this on my list of great bachelor party trip ideas — especially if you can organize it for the weekend of the Waste Management open, which coincides with Super Bowl Sunday.
Golf Vacations in the Western Region
Like the Northeast, the West is kind of hard to define. When I think of “The West” I either think of cowboys (more Southwest) or California. Honestly, It probably covers anything over the Rockies, so that’s how we’ll play it for this section.
Pebble Beach, California
For me, Spyglass Hill at Pebble Beach Golf Links represents the ultimate golf challenge. Designed by our old friend Robert Trent Jones, and boasting some of the toughest holes in golf, this course will break your mind, and make you reconsider ever leaving the vineyard.
With a slope of 145, Spyglass is as challenging as it is stunningly beautiful. I’d tell you to bring a good camera, but you’ll be better served bringing every club you own, because you will need them. With its picturesque mix of ocean views and wooded “wilderness”, this is a course that’s at the top of many golf bucket lists.
Bandon Dunes, Oregon
Whether you’re playing Dunes, Trails, Pacific or Old MacDonald, you just can’t go wrong with a trip up to Oregon and the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Four top-notch courses within such close proximity means that no matter what mood you’re in, there’s always one of the best courses that you’ve ever played right there at your disposal.
From the oceanic views of Pacific Dunes, to the more woodsey and remote Bandon Trails, this is idyllic golf at its Northwestern best. But word to the wise: pack a windbreaker.
There isn’t a “perfect” golf destination for every golfer. Maybe you’re like me and hold a grudge against a whole state for it being home to your college teams’ rival school, or maybe you’re still mad because of that time you lost a whole box of Pro-V 1’s after a $450 greens fee. Whatever your fancy, you can book an incredible golf vacation to one of these regional destinations and enjoy the best golf that our country has to offer.