At a time when most of us are getting by with less, GOLF Magazine is giving you more. In this 11th edition of our Premier Resorts ranking — started in 1988, it is the oldest and most authoritative rating of the game's finest properties — we've expanded the list of winners from 75 resorts to 100.
This doesn't signal a diluting of quality but rather an acknowledgement that the number of North American properties deserving recognition has increased over the years. Once again, our Platinum category showcases the properties at the pinnacle, followed closely by our Gold and Silver medalists. And the winners have only you to thank for their status: More than 6,000 of you cast votes at Golf.com to determine the victors. We're also adding three properties to our Eco-friendly hall of fame, honoring them with the Green Award for environmentally sensitive practices. Want to know about the best resorts in your area? See our online-only list of the best resorts in each region of the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Trying times call for creative measures, and all of these destinations are offering tempting deals that add value to your visit. There's never been a better time to travel. Just make sure you jot down some notes so you can make your vote count next time.
For the second straight time, this heartland retreat wowed our readers to emerge with the highest overall score. Ranked second for the quality of its golf and in the top ten in all other criterion, The American Club proves that a resort doesn't need an ocean or centuries of history to triumph. Herb Kohler's haven will showcase its luxuries again in August when the PGA Championship returns to Whistling Straits, but don't overlook its Blackwolf Run layouts, which will host the 2012 U.S. Women's Open.
Not only did Bandon Dunes top the poll for its Golf offerings, it actually earned the highest score ever given in any category. That's due not only to the three world-class tracks here — Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails — but also because of the early raves from those who've had sneak previews of its soon-to-open fourth course. The Tom Doak/Jim Urbina collaboration called Old Macdonald, with holes inspired by the works of famed architect Charles Blair Macdonald, opens this summer. Also new is the Inn, a 39-room structure that peers down at the finishing hole on Bandon Dunes.
This venerable Rocky Mountain retreat earned a top three showing in Service and a top five performance overall. Last summer saw the debut of six luxury cottages set along the 18th fairway of the East course, which helped The Broadmoor to its second place in Lodging. Not to be forgotten is its 82-year-old golf tradition, led by the Donald Ross/Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed East course, home to the 2008 U.S. Senior Open.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu
Ka' upulehu-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii's top destination rose from our 11th ranked resort in 2008 to 10th this year, just enough to enter the Platinum elite. The Champions Tour kicks off its season every year here on the dry Kona-Kohala coast. Every room in the bungalow-style resort enjoys Pacific views and spa highlights include the Hualalai hot rock massage and the Polynesian niu (coconut) scrub. Hualalai ranked tops for Food & Drink, so those with an appetite for perfect weather and a flawless setting will devour this Four Seasons.
Comeback of the year honors go to this 232-year-old legend, which transformed itself from a recession victim to a rising star thanks to Jim Justice, the West Virginia coal baron who rescued the resort from the brink and secured a PGA Tour event for its C.B. Macdonald-designed Old White course. The Greenbrier benefited from top five ratings on Service and Food & Drink, the latter thanks to Prime 44 Steakhouse, which opened in October, as well as brand new casino-style gaming.
Kiawah earns high marks for its Sanctuary Hotel, but it finished fourth for its Golf options — five courses that are certified as Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuaries. It's best is Pete Dye's Ocean Course, a beautiful brute that will play host to the 2012 PGA Championship. Dining has been revamped, starting with the Sanctuary's Ocean Room, which is now a more buddies-style steakhouse.
The terrific combination of the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero keeps Pebble Beach Resorts as a top five finisher. In anticipation of hosting this year's U.S. Open, improvements at Pebble Beach include firming up the fairways and rerouting some of them almost to the ocean's edge. You tabbed Pebble Beach resorts as No. 3 for Golf — a fair assessment — but walking up the 18th fairway with a cocktail waiting in the Tap Room is a singular thrill.
The oldest and largest golf resort in North America remains one of the best, thanks to its high Golf ranking. In anticipation of hosting the 2014 U.S. Men's and Women's Opens back-to-back, the celebrated No. 2 course will get a makeover from Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw later this year. Flexibility is Pinehurst's ace, with seven other courses, plus lodging options that include the historic Carolina Hotel, the Holly, the Manor Inn, and condos and villas.
Halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, this oasis sports five courses, two of which, the Oconee and Great Waters, are among GOLF Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play. Great Waters reopens in April 2010 after a restoration by Jack Nicklaus. However, a resort doesn't climb from Silver in 2006 to Gold in 2008 to Platinum in 2010 without improvements across the board, and Reynolds has certainly elevated its game in every department.
It's all about the two's for Sea Island: the resort has two distinct hotels (the Cloister and the Lodge), two fine golf courses (Seaside and Plantation), and posted a strong second place finish in our voting. Sea Island was the runaway winner in our Lodging category, an honor earned with touches like the 24-hour butler service at the Lodge and the massive river-view rooms at the Cloister.
How We Did It
You voted for GOLF Magazine's Premier Resorts on four criteria: Golf, Lodging, Food and Drink and Service. We apportioned 40 percent of the overall score to Golf and 20 percent to each of the other categories. More than 6,000 readers voted at Golf.com to determine the winners.