Twenty-eight years after GOLF pioneered the ranking of the game's greatest resorts, we've discovered a simple truth: It's (almost) all about the golf. That's what it comes down to for our overall winner, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, which reclaims the No. 1 ranking it last held in 2012–13. To be fair, many elements define our best resorts, but Bandon's unparalleled golf offerings swayed the thousands of you who logged onto GOLF.com during two recent survey periods.
To arrive at our final tally in 2016, we combined our Premier Resorts criteria—Golf, Lodging, Food & Drink and Service—with the votes from GOLF.com's Golfer's Choice Awards, where Best Resort for Buddies Trips, Best Resort for Families and Best Resort for Value were factored in. The results? Many familiar places occupy the upper rungs, with some newcomers sprinkled throughout.
PLATINUM WINNERS 2016-17
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
It's easy to see why Bandon captured the highest honors in the all-important Golf category. Four coastal courses rank in the top 13 of our Top 100 Courses You Can Play in the U.S. (including No. 1, Pacific Dunes), and two small-ball offerings draw raves (the 13-hole, par-3 Bandon Preserve and the artful Punch Bowl putting course). What helped crown Bandon our top overall resort was a Buddies Trips win, a second in Service and a sixth in Value.
The American Club
Another stellar major at Whistling Straits—last year's PGA Championship, where Jason Day edged Jordan Spieth—cemented The American Club's outsized popularity in our Golf category, where it finished No. 2 behind Bandon. The resort's four superb courses make for great bonding (with a few double-bogeys along the way), as the destination yielded a top-6 Buddies Trips ranking.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Our overall winner from 2014–15 darn near defended its title in 2016, capturing the top spot in Service and scoring a top 5 in Food & Drink (thanks to the special-occasion Penrose Room, Colorado's only five-star, five-diamond winner, and the spirited, pub-style Golden Bee). Toss in Rocky Mountain scenery, dazzling amenities and historic golf, and you have a perennial Platinum winner.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, at Historic Ka'upulehu
Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii
The Champions Tour kicks off its season here on the dry Kohala Coast, a treat for the players and for anyone else looking for top-ranked Lodging, top-3 Service, top-10 Food & Drink and a lava-framed, oceanfront Jack Nicklaus course that won't go too tough on you. (This is Paradise, after all.)
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
A staple among our Platinum winners since the category debuted, The Greenbrier scores high in Lodging, Food & Drink, Service and Families. It also boasts the Old White TPC, which hosts the PGA Tour; the Nicklaus-designed Greenbrier course, a past host of the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup; one of the nation's oldest and most-acclaimed mineral spas; and clear, bracing Allegheny Mountain scenery.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Kiawah Island, S.C.
Back in 2012, Rory McIlroy dominated the field and the Ocean Course en route to his first PGA Championship win. Kiawah will get a chance at revenge when the tournament returns there in 2021. In the meantime, guests will continue to enjoy a top-10 property for Families, the handsome Sanctuary Hotel, and well-reviewed golf offerings that, in addition to the Ocean Course, include tracks by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player and Clyde Johnston.
Pebble Beach Resorts
Pebble Beach, Calif.
With its 100th anniversary approaching in 2019, Pebble Beach is fine-tuning every aspect of its resort properties, including a successful tweaking of its flagship amenity, Pebble Beach Golf Links. (At this year's AT&T Pro-Am, Tour pros hailed the restoration of the par-3 17th.) It's not just top-3 Golf that elevates Pebble Beach. Its Tap Room is the game's greatest 19th hole, and the new Stave Wine Cellar at Spanish Bay leads to a top-10 Food & Drink finish.
At first glance, Pinehurst seems on the quiet side—at least looking at life from the perspective of the front-porch rockers at its 115-year-old Carolina Hotel. However, marks for Golf are so strong (top 4) and the amenities and staff so welcoming (top 5 Service), it claims a top 3 for Buddies Trips. Teeing it up on legendary Pinehurst No. 2, caddie in tow and daydreaming of 2024 U.S. Open glory, will do that.
The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee
Although a name change ends the era of "Reynolds Plantation," this place is better than ever. Five championship courses await Ritz-Carlton guests, including Rees Jones's Oconee, Jack Nicklaus's Great Waters and the recently renovated Plantation course. Still, it's the lake activities, dining at Georgia's Bistro and the Linger Longer Steakhouse, and a refurbished spa and fitness center that continue to give Reynolds its heat.
Sea Island Resort
Sea Island, Ga.
Give Bandon Dunes its golf due, but no resort in America ranks as high in so many categories as Sea Island. This coastal retreat in Georgia's Lowcountry lands No. 1 marks for Food & Drink, top-3 status for Lodging and Service, and does well with Families. It also earns its Golf props with three thrilling courses, notably Seaside, which hosts the PGA Tour's RSM Classic.
Sea Pines Resort
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Dramatic improvements over the past 24 months catapulted Sea Pines into the Platinum elite. Start with a regrassing and new irrigation at Harbour Town, and then a stunning 26,000-square-foot clubhouse that debuted in March 2015. Other recent developments include the Plantation Clubhouse, which services Sea Pines' other courses; the Sea Pines Beach Club; a superb new restaurant; enhancements to the Inn at Harbour Town; and player-friendly alterations to the glitzily named Heron Point by Pete Dye. Also in the works: a Davis Love makeover of the Ocean, Sea Pines' original course.
Bowling Green, Fla.
When it debuted in early 2014, Streamsong's huge 280,000-square-foot Lodge faced a daunting prospect: Live up to the wild acclaim that greeted the resort's two links-style courses, the Coore-Crenshaw–designed Red and the Tom Doak–designed Blue. It succeeded. Streamsong scored top 5 honors for Buddies Trips, its middle-of-nowhere location proving no obstacle. The Lodge's minimalist design, grotto-like spa, superior on-site bass fishing, and way-cool rooftop bar, Fragmentary Blue, were instant hits. Streamsong's peerless caddies will be busier still in 2017, when Gil Hanse's Black course is unveiled.