GOLF Magazine's Gold Medal Golf Resorts 2004-05

We are pleased to call to the podium this glittering array of 25 Gold Medalists for 2004-05. Veteran travelers likely will agree with most of our choices, which are based on an extensive GOLF MAGAZINE reader survey. We have included readers' comments at the end of each entry so you can compare notes with other golfers. Whether you've visited before or are planning your first trip, you can't do better than these resorts. For golfers, they're golden.

The American Club
Kohler, Wisconsin

Kohler is Wisconsin's Oz: an unexpected wonderland less than an hour's drive north of Milwaukee, the American Club is the resort's showcase hotel and the only Midwest resort hotel ever to earn the AAA Five Diamond award -- 19 years running. The club's four Pete Dye masterworks are the Meadow Valleys and River courses at Blackwolf Run and the Irish and Straits layouts at Whistling Straits. The Straits, an unforgettable track with monstrous dunes and cavernous bunkers, snared this summer's PGA Championship only two years after opening in 1998. Of the 10 restaurants on the property, a must-visit is the Immigrant Room & Winery Bar, where the new Cheese Room offers more than two dozen varieties of local fromage. When in Wisconsin...

You Said It: Excellent shape with excellent staff.... Heaven on Earth.... Treated like royalty.... A better option for East Coast residents than Bandon Dunes.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Bandon, Oregon

There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, and nearly every possible combination has been used to describe Bandon Dunes. Put simply, Tom Doak's Pacific Dunes and David McLay Kidd's Bandon Dunes courses are flat-out two of the best courses on God's green earth, ranking second and ninth, respectively, on GOLF MAGAZINE's Top 100 You Can Play. A third course, by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, is taking shape. But don't expect any superfluous resort amenities, as Bandon is about golf the way Bali is about beaches. If you are looking for action beyond a friendly nassau, look elsewhere. There isn't much around, and the accommodations are serviceable if a bit sparse. But the food is hearty and the drink ample. This is pure golf for the purist.

You Said It: Not a lot of nightlife, but who needs it?... A must for any serious lover of the game.... A minimalist resort -- just great golf.

The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa
Carefree, Arizona

You've got to love a town called Carefree. Worries are in short supply at the expansive Golden Door Spa, with its 22-page treatment menu. Two Jay Morrish-designed courses, North and South, are pure target golf but they're about right for most resort guests from the second sets of tees. The boulder formations here are stunning, and 160 adobe casitas conjure Fred and Wilma's Bedrock. Enjoy striking Sonoran Desert sunsets at the Latilla restaurant then witness the desert dwellers come alive on a special tour using night-vision goggles. These folks think of everything.

You Said It: Visually beautiful.... Outstanding service and golf.... Value in midsummer is excellent.

The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colorado

We should all be so vibrant at age 86. Opened in 1918, this grande dame, with its pink, stucco facade, still reigns in the Rockies. Today the East and West courses are a mix of holes by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Donald Ross. Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay's Mountain Course is closed for renovations until 2006. The task of resurrecting it falls to Jack Nicklaus, who won the 1959 U.S. Amateur on the East course.
The resort is big -- 700 rooms and suites -- yet retains an intimate charm. There are 11 restaurants; make sure you have at least one meal on the patio at Charles Court, overlooking the glimmering lake between the Broadmoor's main towers.

You Said It: The whole place is stunning.... Spectacular vistas, superb service, outstanding golf.... You never have to leave.

The Coeur d'Alene Resort
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Repeat visitors know that Coeur d'Alene is more than just the place with the floating green. A recent facelift stretched Scott Miller's wildflower-infused design to a stout 6,757 yards. While renting a pontoon from the resort's marina is an idyllic way to enjoy Lake Coeur d'Alene, golfers look forward to the trawl out to the floating 14th green, which changes position daily. Indispensable caddies, free quickie massages before teeing off, and a driving range with floating balls you hit into the lake all make for a memorable outing.

You Said It: World-class service.... One of the most beautiful views one could imagine.... Will return soon.

Four Seasons Resort Aviara
Carlsbad, California

Aviara is a favorite of the golf-nerdy Carlsbad cognoscenti and though the resort offers just one course, it is a beaut: Arnold Palmer tore a page from Alice in Wonderland, crafting a layout that bobs and weaves through the most vibrant flora this side of the Rose Parade. Set on a hilltop looking over Batiquitos Lagoon and within sight of the Pacific Ocean, the 329-room resort is pure Southern California swank. Restaurant Vivace is one of the San Diego area's finest eateries, serving fresh fare (try the grilled Baja swordfish) with a Northern Italian flair. The game room downstairs is decked with pool tables, foosball, tabletop shuffleboard and games for kids -- both big and little.

You Said It: Golf holes had character.... Manicured beyond belief.... Staff members went out of their way to give us a private, guided tour of the gardens.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii

The crispy opakapaka meuniere with caramelized Maui onions and roasted macadamia nuts may be reason enough to go to Hualalai. The Pahu i'a restaurant is hands-down the best on the Big Island. The golf course is a winner, too. Home of the Champions Tour's season-opening MasterCard Championship, the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout is a visual contrast of green grass on black lava. Nicklaus's courses can be penal, but this one seems parental: fair, but quick to punish misbehavior. The small beach is not the stereotypical Hawaiian white strand, but there are plenty of pools, including King's Pond, carved from lava rock and stocked with more than 3,500 fish. Snorkeling gear is complimentary.

You Said It: There is no other hotel in the world that treats you like No. 1.... The golf course is beautiful.... Very rewarding.... The service is off the charts.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Scottsdale, Arizona

Arizona is so overrun with golf courses that it is saying something special to proclaim the two courses at Troon North the best public-access tracks in the state. Add a Four Seasons resort and this is about as can't-miss as they come. There are 210 guest rooms in 25 casita buildings that meld tastefully with the scenery. The Monument course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, is as demanding as it is gorgeous. The Pinnacle course is tighter with dramatic elevation changes. Monument ranks 21st and Pinnacle 58th on GOLF MAGAZINE's Top 100 You Can Play. The Acacia restaurant is divine, particularly the 18 oz. rib eye with lyonnaise potato and peppercorn sauce.

You Said It: This is golfer's paradise.... attentive staff had an excellent memory for names.... Service was extremely high and not obtrusive.

Grand Cypress Golf Resort
Orlando, Florida

[TRAVEL_TOOLS "right"] Near Disney but a world away, this 1,500-acre resort features 45 holes by Jack Nicklaus: the North, South and East nines plus the New Course, the Bear's tribute to the Old Course at St. Andrews, complete with hellish bunkers, seven double greens and a serpentine burn. The Grand Cypress Academy of Golf is one of only 12 teaching facilities to make GOLF MAGAZINE's biennial Top 25 Golf Schools every year since the list's inception in 1999. Lodging includes the vast Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort and the Villas of Grand Cypress. If you have the cash, spring for a villa. You won't regret a second -- or penny -- of it.

You Said It: The villas were perfect for a group.... Excellent family facility.... Much more than golf and Mickey!

The Greenbrier
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

The place just ain't the same without old Sam. Before his passing in 2002, "Slammin' Sammy" Snead was the man around here the way Santa's the man at the North Pole. Rest assured, The Greenbrier has bounced back; falconry, trap, skeet and wingshooting (in season) and a Land Rover Driving School are just a few of the diverse diversions. And then there's the golf, three championship tracks headlined by the Greenbrier Course. Originally built in 1924 and redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1977, it is the only resort course to have hosted both the Ryder and Solheim Cups. Accommodations include some 500 guest rooms, 40 suites, 100 guest houses, four estate houses and the famous 112,000-square-foot Cold War bunker for hiding members of the U.S. Congress in case of a nuclear attack on the Capitol (open for tours but not overnight stays).

You Said It: Southern charm.... Nice mountain course layout.... Well-groomed grounds.... Excellent stay.

The Homestead
Hot Springs, Virginia

An hour's drive east over the Virginia border sits another old haunt of Sam Snead, who got his start in golf caddying at this stately mountain resort. The word that best describes The Homestead, founded 10 years before the American Revolution, is "timeless," thanks in part to a painstaking restoration. The Old Course, which claims the longest continuously used 1st tee in the country, dating back to 1892, is an original Donald Ross design with a Rees Jones revamp. Robert Trent Jones fashioned the Lower Cascades course, and William S. Flynn's Cascades course has hosted seven USGA Championships. Therapeutic mineral water from the town's hot springs has soothed many a weary traveler, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. If only these walls could talk.

You Said It: Everything you need is right there.... The three courses each present different challenges.... Secluded... picturesque... immaculate.

Kapalua Resort
Maui, Hawaii

[GOLF_COURSE_SEARCH "right"] It's the resort every PGA Tour player most wants to visit -- and not just because it hosts the winners-only Mercedes Championships every year. It's hard to go wrong at either the Kapalua Bay Hotel, graced by the most romantic beach in Hawaii, or the Ritz-Carlton, where fresh, chilled pineapple enjoyed poolside is absolute decadence. Despite notorious Maui trade winds that can hurtle hats into space, Kapaula's three courses are all fun and different. Arnold Palmer designed the Village Course, which plays so up and down and side to side that Dramamine might be in order. Palmer collaborated with Francis Duane on the Bay Course, an easygoing, enjoyable track. But the big dog is the Plantation Course, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore's 7,263-yard, par-73 behemoth. Mere mortals should not take heart in Ernie Els's record 31-under par at the 2003 Mercedes.

You Said It: The views are breathtaking.... Talk about elevation changes.... Instructors and staff are most helpful.... Most enjoyable, from golf to accommodations.

Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club
Kauai, Hawaii

The excitement of getting lei'd upon arrival in Hawaii can quickly be tempered by a long schlep to your hotel. Mercifully, the Kauai Marriott and Kauai Lagoons Golf Club offer faster access to the 1st tee than any luxury resort in the islands. One mile from Lihue Airport, the resort occupies 800 tropical acres overlooking Kalapaki Bay and fronting one of the best beaches on Kauai. Jack Nicklaus designed both the Mokihana Course, an open links layout, and the Kiele Course, a superior test that skirts ocean cliffs and freshwater lagoons. The back nine at Kiele is memorably dramatic, notably the par-3 13th and par-4 16th holes, which flirt with photogenic disaster along the bay. Getting there may be easy; leaving is not.

You Said It: Wonderful resort.... Great course and service.... Lush fairways and greens.... Would love to return.

The Lodge at Koele
Lanai, Hawaii

This year, our respondents promoted the Lodge at Koele from silver to gold. Maybe it's the golf. Greg Norman's (with Ted Robinson) Experience at Koele is a fantasyland in the mountains. The moon shot at the 390-yard 17th hole into the deepest gorge on the island is the most memorable drive you will ever try to kill. Maybe it's the serenity. If a golf ball hits a tree in the forest but there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Maybe it's the lodge, with its rich wood interiors and beautifully appointed guest rooms, each with king beds and views of lush gardens. Maybe it's the invigorating new archery range, air-rifle gallery and sporting-clay course. Maybe it's the succulent food or the pineapple cider at check-in or the wicker rockers on the porch. Then again, maybe it's the entire experience.

You Said It: Vermont setting in Hawaii.... Loved the Orchid House.... The Lodge is an ideal honeymoon spot.... The 17th hole is truly unforgettable.

The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach, California

Yes, Pebble Beach is expensive. Yes, play can be slow, as the masses milk every second on the hallowed grounds. But there is no cure for butterflies on the 1st tee, reality blows anticipation out of the water at the par-3 7th hole, and the 18th is a golfer's rite of passage. There are some new looks at the links, including a redesigned green and bunker at the 2nd hole and pushed-back tee boxes at the 9th and 14th, but you ain't seen nuthin' till you've pulled back the curtains in your room and glimpsed a view of Stillwater Cove and the famed par-5 18th. A beer in the Tap Room is mandatory, but only after your complimentary spin around 17 Mile Drive in a shiny Lexus. That's right, guests have access to an entire fleet of Lexuses (Lexi?). This is a pilgrimage every serious golfer must make, no ifs, ands or three-putts about it.

You Said It: Hard to find anything wrong.... One of the most wonderful places on Earth.... It's scary; once you do it, it becomes addictive.... Dream of a lifetime and did not disappoint.

Manele Bay Hotel
Lanai, Hawaii

It is telling that the richest man in America chose this setting for his wedding. Bill and Melinda Gates were married on the 12th tee at the Challenge at Manele, one of the most phenomenal holes on the planet. Course designer Jack Nicklaus added a second oceanfront stunner at the 444-yard 17th, demanding a carry over crashing surf from the tee and a downhill approach to a cliffhanger of a green. Calm your nerves with a swim in gentle Hulop'oe Bay. There are no flights to the tiny island of Lanai from the mainland, only inter-island connections. But the 45-minute ferry ride from Maui is relaxing -- even enthralling between December and April, when humpback whales breach in the channel between the islands. at the 249-room Manele Bay Hotel, the ambiance is strictly Hawaiian hang loose.

You Said It: The seaside Manele resort is perfectly complemented by the mountainous Koele lodge.... Both resorts are exceptional, yet each is unique.... Just gorgeous.

Mauna Lani Resort
Kohala Coast, Hawaii

Mauna Lani is, in a word, kupaianaha ("awesome"). The Francis H. I'i Brown golf courses, North and South, were both designed by Robin Nelson and named after the resort's founder. The North Course plays through groves of Kiawe trees, while the South Course is etched into the lava. The two oceanfront par 3s on the South are the ones you'll tell your buddies about when you get home. A new Fire & Ice spa offers a natural lava sauna and[STYLE " " "spotlighttitle"]massages in private, thatched hales. Also not to be missed are the ancient fishponds and the fish-feeding tour at the shark pond. The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows fronts a palm-dotted, white-sand beach. The Fairmont resort chain recently acquired the adjacent Orchid hotel. Either way, you can't go wrong.

You Said It: The very best in golf resorts.... The courses, lodging and dining are fabulous.... My favorite anywhere.

Pinehurst Resort
Pinehurst, North Carolina

How can one explain Pinehurst's penchant for landing blue-chip events like the 2005 U.S. Open and 2007 U.S. Amateur? Easy: Its blend of history, golf and rustic grace is incomparable. A restored resort in an idyllic setting helps (the Holly Inn is newly refurbished and the Carolina Hotel continues to impress), as do eight great courses vying to join Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Augusta National on the short list of tracks every golfer dreams of playing. Challenging golfers since 1907, No. 2 is Donald Ross's piece d'resistance, at once astonishing and unpredictable. Ross also crafted No. 3; Tom Fazio built Nos. 4 and 8. Rees Jones has been tapped to conjure No. 9, which should ensure return visits. Rome wasn't built in a day, and Pinehurst can't be played in a weekend.

You Said It: Wow.... Walking No. 2 with a caddie was the highlight.... If you want laid back, here it is.... Grade A.... It's freakin' Pinehurst!

Princeville Resort
Kauai, Hawaii

Shangri-la (n.) 1. A distant and secluded hideaway, usually of great beauty and peacefulness. 2. Princeville. Framed by sheer mountains that plunge into azure water, Princeville enjoys Kauai's most divine setting. The hotel graces an ocean bluff, with the shiny marble lobby on the top floor and the guest floors descending toward the ocean. The open-air design brings the outside in, as if the tranquil Hanalei Bay were in your own backyard. Robert Trent Jones's Prince course is a wild child, stretching 7,309 yards and often slashing its way through deep thicket. The Makai ("towards the sea") presents three nines -- the Ocean, Lakes and Woods -- that are more player-friendly. Playing early improves your chances of nabbing a patio table at the Living Room, where the sushi is always fresh and the sunsets are never less than dazzling.

You Said It: It has everything -- ocean, mountains, waterfalls.... The most opulent resort I've experienced.... The lounge at sunset might be the most beautiful place in the world.

Sea Island Resort
Sea Island, Georgia

A noted golf nut, President George W. Bush will visit Sea Island in June when major world leaders gather for the G8 Summit. It's doubtful the leaders will hit the links, which will be their loss. Rees Jones did some masterful doctoring here in 1998, melding nine-hole layouts by Walter Travis and Dick Wilson into the Plantation Course. Tom Fazio doubled the fun at the Seaside nine, now a regulation 18 enhanced by surrounding creeks and marshes. Davis Love III, who graduated from kid caddie to Sea Island's longtime resident PGA Tour pro, retooled the Retreat Course. The Cloister hotel, now under renovation, has long set the standard for Southern comfort and hospitality, while the 3-year-old Lodge, with 40 rooms, is more intimate. Despite all the changes, Sea Island remains old school, requiring that gentlemen wear a jacket and tie in the evening at The Cloister's main dining room, and offering lessons in ballroom dancing.

You Said It: Outstanding dining.... Outstanding quality of service.... Combination of excellent golf and beach.

Sunriver Resort
Sunriver, Oregon

Bandon Dunes gets all the love, but Sunriver in Central Oregon has more to offer off the course. You can spend a few hours in the Sage Springs spa, take on the challenging ropes course or float down the Deschutes River in a canoe -- all while the kids are occupied at Sunriver's Fort Funnigan. Sunriver does have three fine golf courses: the Woodlands by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the John Fought-designed Meadows, and the star of the show, Bob Cupp's Crosswaters, where the four par 5s -- including Endless, the 687-yard 12th -- average more than 625 yards. Rooms in the Lodge Village come fully equipped, but the resort's River Lodges are truly upscale. For a true taste of Oregon, sidle up to the Ponderosa pine bar in The Owl's Nest and savor a Pacific Northwest microbrew.

You Said It: Great golf package.... Fun resort with lots of outdoor activities for every age.... Helpful, courteous staff.

Wailea Resort
Maui, Hawaii

[TRAVEL_TOOLS "left"] The Wailea Resort offers a perfect balance between doing everything and doing nothing. The Wailea Golf Club comprises three courses. The Blue is the original, built by Arthur Jack Snyder and known as the "Grand Lady of Wailea." Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed both the Emerald course and the Gold course, home of the Wendy's Champions Skins Game (a.k.a. the Senior Skins). The Gold is a stern test of shotmaking; leave the spraying to the whales in the background. The golf club is not part of a hotel property; it's an amenity to several outstanding Wailea resorts, all within a five-minute drive, notably the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea and the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui. The Grand Wailea Resort boasts the otherworldly Spa Grande, renowned for its hydrotherapy water circuit. And every weary traveler should enjoy a deep shiatsu barefoot massage at least once.

You Said It: The most beautiful courses on the island.... Picturesque layout with great views.... I felt like a member of the course from the time I arrived at the bag drop.

Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando, Florida

Like Pinehurst, Disney World's plethora of courses (99 holes in all) are too much to squeeze into a weekend -- and that's without the theme parks and attractions. A favorite PGA Tour stop for the pros and their progeny, Disney's five courses include three by Joe Lee -- the Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista layouts -- and two marvelous mouseprints by Pete Dye (Eagle Pines) and Tom Fazio (Osprey Ridge). Lodging runs from $77 per night to higher-priced deluxe digs. The Dolphin, the Swan and the Grand Floridian are the creme de la creme, but the South Pacific-themed Polynesian is a favorite for families.

You Said It: Good challenge but not excessively hard.... The 'cast members' seem to anticipate everything.... If you cannot find something to do here you should never leave home.

The Westin La Cantera Resort
San Antonio, Texas

An abandoned limestone quarry gives the 5-year-old Westin resort not only its name (la cantera means "the quarry" in Spanish) but a unique setting in the Texas Hill Country. The public spaces and 508 guest rooms, including the tony Casita Village, are decorated with Western art, polished tile, rich wood and intricate wrought iron that recreate the colonial era. The Resort Course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, hosts the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open and has nearly as many curves as the Superman Krypton Coaster, visible at neighboring Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Arnold Palmer christened the Palmer Course in 2001. The King's layout is notable for its beautiful par 3s -- check out the cascades at the 188-yard 4th. Good looks just keep coming at this Texas star.

You Said It: Loved it.... Great services while on the course.... The pool made the trip enjoyable for everyone.... Best resort in Texas to take your wife to.

Williamsburg Inn
Williamsburg, Virginia

With two exceptional courses and townsfolk deeper in character than Daniel Day-Lewis, Colonial Williamsburg is a destination like no other. John D. Rockefeller Jr. conceived the exquisite Williamsburg Inn as a luxury retreat, and a meticulous renovation in 2001 restored his vision:.Original furniture in the historic main building was refinished, chandeliers refurbished, a new tea room added and the number of guest rooms reduced from 100 to 62 so each could be enlarged. at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, Robert Trent Jones crafted the Gold Course, which lays claim to the original island-green par 3, built 17 years before Pete Dye's famous 17th at Sawgrass. Rees Jones shaped the Green Course with fairway mounds that nudge off-line tee shots targetward. Proving that the best things in life are still free, children 15 and under need only a parent to get on the nine-hole Spotswood Course.

You Said It: The Gold Course deserves all the praise it gets.... Immaculate azalea-lined fairways.... Five-star service at the inn.... Lots to see and do.

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