This year marks the 20th anniversary of Golf Magazine’s best resorts rankings, which are chosen by our most trusted group of travel experts: our readers. To celebrate, we’ve created a new category — Platinum Medals — that honors golf’s finest properties. Here is a list of the 10 finest golf resorts in the United States.
The American Club
Just call it “Le Grand Fromage.” This dairyland resort was actually the top vote-getter in our reader survey for the quality of its golf. And who could argue? Its four Pete Dye courses—two each at Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run—offer superior designs, stirring settings, and stern challenges. The American Club itself is no slouch either. The Kohler Waters Spa has no equal in the Midwest, and the Immigrant Restaurant & Winery Bar is a star in its own right (check out the unique regional cheese room after your round). Despite its remote location, the American Club is proof that if you build it they will come, and they’ll tell others to come, too!
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
For buddy trips and serious golfers who relish a walking-only battle with the elements, this is probably as good as it gets. Bandon Dunes is home to three of
GOLF Magazine’s top-ten public-access courses, including No. 1-ranked Pacific Dunes. While some resorts rely on over-the-top spas and marble-encrusted rooms to attract their guests, the folks at Bandon Dunes concentrate on keeping things simple: comfortable rooms, excellent food and drink, and superb golf. Despite all that, the resort refuses to rest on its laurels. Construction work will soon begin on the new 39-room Inn at Bandon Dunes, while architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina have started moving dirt at Old Macdonald, Bandon’s fourth course, which is slated for a 2010 opening.
Four Seasons Resort Lana’i at Manele Bay
Veterans of resort golf know there’s only one thing better than a great course—a great course that’s empty! Fresh off a $50 million renovation, this Four Seasons resort edged out its Hawaiian siblings at Hualalai and Koele thanks to its golf experience. Ranked No. 33 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play, this Jack Nicklaus effort is best known for its par-3 12th, a cliff top marvel so memorable that Bill Gates got married here. Like its sister property at Koele, Manele Bay can be a pain to get to, but that keeps crowds down and the golf experience pristine.
Sit in the rocking chair on the big porch of the 107-year-old Carolina Hotel and it’s easy to appreciate Pinehurst’s appeal: the view never seems to change. The reality, however, is that there’s constant progress here. This year marks the conclusion of a three-year upgrade that has seen rooms get flat-screen TVs, marble-tiled bathrooms, and ultra-plush bedding. Nevertheless, most folks come here to walk the fairways at Donald Ross’ fabled No. 2, the two-time U.S. Open venue. There may be eight courses at the resort, but there’s only one No. 2.
The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa
Tucked away in the high Sonoran Desert foothills north of Scottsdale, The Boulders is more mild west than Wild West. Beyond the guarded gatehouse, the only traffic you’ll encounter is jackrabbits and roadrunners, and the occasional coyote chasing both. Jay Morrish’s North and South courses ribbon through cactus forests and the gigantic rocks that give the resort its name. The front nine of the South could be the most spectacular in Arizona. The Golden Door spa will take the edge off any tough score, and eco-eaters will love the new organic garden.
White Sulphur Springs, W.V.
Visitors have been coming to The Greenbrier since 1778, but the resort has stayed on top for 230 years by continually improving. A restoration of C.B. Macdonald’s Old White Course has resurrected the mountain masterpiece, and last year also saw the debut of Hemisphere, with its world-class tasting menu, and the opening of the 38°80 nightclub. For all its changes, the Carlton Varney /Dorothy Draper interiors are still intact and visitors can still tour the resort’s Cold War-era underground bunker.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Celebrities and presidents have been trading chips and quips at the Broadmoor for more than a century, but Colorado’s grand dame isn’t ready to grow old. Since our last ranking the Broadmoor has added the Mountain Course, one of GOLF Magazine’s Top 10 New Courses of the Year in 2006, and its exquisite Penrose Room restaurant has become the state’s only five-diamond winner.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Kiawah Island, S.C.
After breaking into the upper echelon of golf resorts in 2004 with the opening of the superb Sanctuary Hotel, Kiawah Island shows no signs of slowing down. The resort has just opened a 24,000-square-foot clubhouse at the Ocean Course, the signature layout that is ranked No. 28 in GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the U.S. Off the course, ten miles of private beach, countless bike paths through moss-draped oaks and a nature-based spa round out the genteel enticements at this Charleston-area retreat.
Pebble Beach Resorts
Pebble Beach, Calif.
This year we’ve combined the Pebble Beach resorts into one, because whether you stay at the Lodge, the Inn at Spanish Bay or Casa Palmero, they’re all Platinum quality. The Lodge is drenched in character while the Inn boasts a modern ambience. The dining is greatly improved here, led by Club XIX, and the off-course options include kayaking in Stillwater Cove and horseback riding in the Del Monte Forest. But nothing competes with walking up the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach. Everything else is just gravy.
Sea Island Resort
Sea Island, Ga.
Sea Island has been family-owned since 1928, but it has transformed itself into a terrific twenty-first-century resort rather than remain a relic of a bygone era. The golf is fine, but the accommodations elevate Sea Island. The Lodge is the finest small golf hotel in the U.S, while the Cloister—rebuilt in 2006—is among the best properties anywhere.