The American Club’s overall score actually went up from 2010 to 2012, easily making it one of the three best golf resorts in North America. Perhaps surprisingly, The American Club nipped Bandon Dunes in the Golf category, 95.60 to 95.24, due in part to the formidable Whistling Straits PGA Championship course, not to mention the spruced up Blackwolf Run layouts that will host the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Two other tracks complete the package here.
Our new No. 1 isn’t resting on its laurels. Fresh off the successful debut of its Doak/Urbina–designed Old Macdonald, Bandon is slated to open a 13-hole par-3 course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2012.
Although Bandon’s inspired layouts, clifftop setting and walking-only policy have helped make it one of the world’s best golf experiences, the resort is definitely not a one-trick pony—it placed fourth in the Service category and in the top 12 in both Lodging and Food & Drink.
Consistency is synonymous with this remarkable Rockies retreat, which rings up honors every time. Top 15 showings in the Lodging, Food & Drink and Service categories help explain that rock-steady record, but the golf shines, too, as evidenced by the spiffed up East course, which hosted the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. Add a five-star spa and the Penrose Room, Colorado’s only Five-Star and Five Diamond restaurant, and you’re in rarefied air at more than 6,000 feet.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu
Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii
The Champions Tour kicks off its season here on the dry Kona-Kohala Coast, and no wonder. The service is off the charts— No. 3 in our 2012 ranking—and a lavalined, oceanfront Nicklaus course won’t beat you up. With another third-place finish in the Lodging category and a fourth in Food & Drink, the Four Seasons Hualalai is a superior resort experience in every way.
A staple at the very top of this ranking since its inception, the Greenbrier offers a Top 15 golf experience, thanks to its Jack Nicklaus–redesigned Greenbrier course, which played host to the 1979 Ryder Cup, and also to its Old White layout, a C.B. Macdonald original restored by Lester George that currently hosts a PGA Tour event. Still, the Greenbrier soars with its No. 1-ranked Service. Thanks to an infusion of cash and TLC from new owner Jim Justice, the pride—and greatness— is back at The Greenbrier.
Both Four Seasons properties on Lana’i missed out on Platinum status in 2010. In 2012 Manele Bay reclaims the honor it held in 2008. Its surprisingly high Golf ranking—fifth in our survey—as well as a second-place finish in Service explains the meteoric rise. (Pampering by cabana attendants at the resort’s saltwater pool may help explain the high marks for Service.) A fifth in Lodging and 11th in Food & Drink demonstrates the complete experience offered at this clifftop, oceanside retreat.
This 10,000-acre coastal resort serves up 10 miles of private beach, 30 miles of marsh-lined paths, shrimp and grits at the Jasmine Porch restaurant, and the superb Sanctuary hotel, helping to illustrate why Kiawah earned Top 15 honors in every category. But the top draw is the 4th-ranked Golf. Come August, the PGA Championship will be played on the incomparable Ocean Course.
Whether treated as a group or as separate entities, the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero are all unquestionably Platinum quality. Of course, the Top 3 Golf is why most make the pilgrimage, with fabled Pebble Beach having hosted the 2010 U.S. Open and more than holding its own against the world’s best. Food & Drink took a hit when upscale Club XIX closed its doors in October after 47 years, but golf’s most storied 19th hole, the Tap Room, still welcomes post-round tippling, and Stillwater at the Lodge continues to serve up fine food and unforgettable ocean views.
When you’re rocking on the front-porch swing of the 111-year-old Carolina Hotel, it’s easy to see why Pinehurst still charms. The place seems unchanged by time. Still, there’s constant progress, notably with the No. 6-ranked Golf offerings. Last year saw the inspired restoration of Donald Ross’s singular No. 2—one of the property’s eight courses—by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, in time to mature for the 2014 Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens in back-to-back weeks.
A recent ownership shakeup has done nothing to diminish the greatness of this classic Lowcountry luxury destination. For proof, Sea Island landed the No. 1 ranking for Lodging, thanks to the property’s two distinctive hotels, the Lodge and the Cloister, whose styles perfectly complement each other. Ranked No. 2 for Food & Drink and No. 6 for Service, Sea Island also gets rave reviews for its historic golf offerings, which are friendly to players at all skill levels, including the pros. In addition, the Tom Fazio–refurbished Seaside course hosts the PGA Tour’s McGladrey Classic.