By Shane Sharp
The dogwoods and azaleas of the Southeastern U.S. are blooming, and the first round of the 2021 Masters is about to get underway. Put simply, the golf season is upon us. And oh what a season it is shaping up to be.
Golf participation surged in 2020 as avid golfers played even more golf, new players were introduced to (and stuck with) the game, and an influx of juniors has the future of the game looking brighter than ever. And if 2020 was the year for playing golf around town, 2021 is looking like the year to grab the clubs and hit the road.
For have-clubs-will-travel golfers, this golf-rich region serves up some of the best golf destinations the country has to offer. Here’s a sampling of top shelf resorts from the land of BBQ, bourbon and college football.
Innisbrook Golf Resort – Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course is a favorite among PGA TOUR pros, and it’s also one of the most difficult on the circuit. This highly amenitized resort west of Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico houses four courses along with a variety of rooms, suites and vacation rentals.
PGA National Resort and Spa – Palm Beach County is a hotbed of golf, and it doesn’t get any hotter than PGA National Resort and Spa, home of the PGA TOUR’s Honda Classic. Five courses, including the Jack Nicklaus designed Champ, await golfers willing to test their mettle against this tournament tested venue.
PGA Golf Club – The flagship public property of the PGA of America, PGA Golf Club is a 54-hole golf panacea with a world-class practice range, short game area and short course. Catch a bite to eat in the Taplow Pub and stay a few nights in the adjacent Perfect Drive Villas or neighboring Hilton Garden Inn.
Streamsong Resort – One of Florida’s newest golf resorts got even newer with the opening of its Gil Hanse-designed Black Course in 2018. The resort’s Red and Blue courses have also quickly moved atop the national rankings, and the Streamsong Lodge is the perfect place to kick back and relax, post round.
Callaway Resort and Gardens – Golf may not be the first thing that comes to mind at this famous water-skiing stronghold, but the 18-hole Lake View and Mountain View Courses are a couple underrated gems. Golfers can chose from the AAA Four Diamond Lodge, cottages or villa accommodations.
Reynolds Lake Oconee – Reynolds Lake Oconee is to Georgia as Pinehurst Resort is to North Carolina. That is to say, a seemingly endless supply of golf in the form of six highly-ranked layouts designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Bob Cupp and Jim Engh. Lodging ranges from cozy cottages to the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, Lake Oconee.
Sea Island Resort – While Georgia is better known as the home of The Masters, the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort is a PGA TOUR player favorite. So much so, several pros make their home at this golf haven on Atlantic. The Seaside Course is a Tom Fazio redesign perched hard on the Atlantic, the Plantation Course was recently renovated by natives Davis and Mark Love, who also recast the Retreat Course in 2001.
Grandover Resort – Golfers need only veer off I-85 in Greensboro to access this 36-hole collection designed by Gary Panks. A full-service onsite hotel offers all the accoutrements, from casual and fine dining to a spa and fitness center.
Pinehurst Resort – Nine 18-hole courses, including the famed No. 2, frequent U.S. Open host course, make Pinehurst Resort the largest golf resort in the U.S. Golfers also love The Cradle, a nine-hole short course designed by Gil Hanse, and Thistle Dhu, a 75,000 square-foot putting course. Golfers can choose from three hotels, including the recently renovated Manor Inn, just a short walk to the new Pinehurst Brewing Co.
Rumbling Bald – Spring in Western North Carolina means mountain golf and Rumbling Bald along scenic Lake Lure obliges with two 18-hole tracks, Apple Valley and Bald Mountain, designed by W.B. Lewis and Dan Maples. Spacious vacation rentals are available for stay-and-plays, and the lake offers endless off-course activities.
Cherokee Valley Course and Club – Upstate South Carolina’s premier golf destination, Cherokee Valley is home to a P.B. Dye mountain-style layout, on-site cottages and a brand-new casual dining restaurant, Core 450. Get game ready at one of South Carolina’s most expansive practice facilities.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort – For golfers who want to play where the pros play this year, Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course is hosting the 2020 PGA Championship in May. If Pete Dye’s diabolic oceanside layout it too tough to tackle, four other 18-hole courses adorn this majestic barrier island near Charleston. Catch a good night’s rest at the Sanctuary at Kiawah, a AAA Five Diamond hotel.
Myrtle Beach – While it’s not a resort, per se, the Grand Strand one of the world’s most iconic golf destinations. Accommodation options are limitless, and lineup cards can be filled with vaunted venues like Tidewater Golf Club, Grande Dunes Resort Course, King’s North at Myrtle Beach National, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club.
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort – Hilton Head is known as “Golf Island,” and the three brawny layouts at Palmetto Dunes are a big reason for that moniker. The Robert Trent Jones features one of the island’s only oceanfront holes, and the George Fazio and Arthur Hills courses round out the bill. Golf groups love the popular “Birdies and Beer Getaway” and the resort’s comfy vacation rentals.
Sea Pines Resort – Settled along Hilton Head Island’s south end, The Sea Pines Resort is home of the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage tournament and famed Harbour Town Golf Links. Two other championship caliber tracks reside inside the gates, Heron Point by Pete Dye and Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III. The Inn and Club at Harbor Town is just a pitching wedge from the clubhouse and the famed Yacht Basin is a short jaunt away.