An Overview of Golf Vacations
For those who wish to improve their game (or simply watch a lot of great golf): schools, resorts and tours
Palm Springs, California: As a runner-up to Myrtle Beach, golfing here is of the highest quality, and widely available on numerous courses, but frightfully expensive (both for lodgings and greens fees) in winter and early spring. Go, instead, in off-season (June 1 to December 31) and you'll enjoy remarkably low rates for golf and accommodations at hotels ranging from the upscale Palm Springs Hilton Resort to the Wyndham Palm Springs Hotel (using the Tahquitz Creek Legends Course) to the moderately-priced Holiday Inn Palm Mountain Resort (using the Mesquite Country Club.) For a mouth-watering brochure of all the low-cost opportunities available to you during the blisteringly-hot summer months (it does cool down in fall and early winter), write to the City of Palm Springs Tourism Division, 777 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 201, Palm Springs, California, 92262, or access palm-springs.org/.
A Tale of Two Floridas: Florida is one of the most golf-crazed states in the Union, and off-season it offers great bargains. But unlike Arizona, Nevada, or other hot-weather locales, off-season varies greatly throughout the state. For instance, southern and eastern Florida turn into golf ghost towns when summer's high temperatures and humidity arrive. But Orlando, which revolves around school holidays, is jammed all summer long, as is the Panhandle. There, winter is off-season, although to golfers from the rest of the country, even then it's a fine getaway from the cold.
The premier golf resort in the Panhandle is Sandestin (800/622-1038, sandestin.com/) in Destin, famed for some of the world's best beaches. A few years ago, Sandestin was purchased by Intrawest, the Canadian ski-resort operator that pioneered the pedestrian resort village concept at Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, and Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Things have only improved at Sandestin with the addition of a new hotel, a new high-end course, and a village full of shops, restaurants, and nightlife. In the winter off-season (November to February), when it's fine golf weather here, packages are $190 per person, double occupancy, with lodging and golf on either at one of four courses.
On the Atlantic Coast, near Jacksonville, the largest golf resort is Palm Coast Golf Resort, with four courses by big-name designers Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Palm Coast changed hands, and the new owners built a marquee fifth layout, Ocean Hammock (800/654-6538, oceanhammock.com/), a Jack Nicklaus Signature course with a luxury hotel to go with it. It's priced out of reach of bargain hunters, but stay at Palm Harbor for a steal. Unlimited-play packages, which easily allow for two rounds per day with late-summer daylight, plus a room at the on-site resort hotel and discounts on meals, starts at $45 per person, per night weekdays, from May to October.
Reno, Nevada: Reno features many of the same big-name hotel/casino operators found in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, plus access to numerous golf courses in the Reno/Sparks area, as well as those in nearby Lake Tahoe and Carson City. Throw in plentiful cheap dining and entertainment, as well as great weather, and these gambling-subsidized golf packages are great buys.
There are about a dozen good courses in the immediate Reno vicinity. Most hotel packages include the same courses, so price, hotel choice, and included features are the main distinctions. Atlantis Casino Resort currently offers a package for $89 per person, consisting of two nights' lodging, two breakfasts, and one round of golf at the better courses (800/723-6500, atlantiscasino.com/). Harrah's Sweet Tee package includes two night's lodging, a round of golf at one of the better courses, for $79 per person (800/HARRAHS, harrahs.com/).
The Reno airport is an inexpensive destination served by both major airlines and low-cost carriers, notably Southwest. Details of golf packages from 14 casino hotels are available at http://golf.renolaketahoe.com/.
Primm, Nevada: Anyone who tells you great golf courses are expensive is dead wrong. Primm is proof. Drive just 40 miles south from the Vegas Strip on I-15 to Primm. You won't find Primm on most maps. It's not really a town, just an exit near the California border with three casino resort hotels, a huge factory-outlet mall, a gas station, and the two-course Primm Valley Golf Club (primmvalleyresorts.com/). The whole shebang is owned by MGM Mirage, which also owns Las Vegas's Shadow Creek, the nation's most expensive golf course, with greens fees of $500. (Yes, $500.) Locals call Primm Valley "the poor man's Shadow Creek," and they aren't far off. Like its cousin, Primm's courses were designed by Tom Fazio, widely considered the greatest living designer. Primm's 36 holes feature the same ornate landscaping as Shadow Creek: flower beds, elaborate water features, boulder-lined creeks, and waterfalls. In fact, all three courses have been ranked in Golf Magazine's "Top 100 You Can Play."