Great golf gateways: take to the greens at fine resort destinations from the shores of Hawaii to the mountains of North Carolina

Great golf gateways: take to the greens at fine resort destinations from the shores of Hawaii to the mountains of North Carolina – Product/Service Evaluation

Jim Kerr

FOR MOST GOLFERS, HOME courses, like old clothes, offer a certain comfort. On the road, however, it’s another matter. A bit of challenge and adventure is expected on new and unfamiliar ground, be it mountainous or flat, wetlands or desert, barren or lush. Something exotic, famous, or strikingly scenic may be in order on this, a once-a-year–or even once-in-a-lifetime–opportunity. The cost of playing–within sanity-is not a major concern. After all, this is a vacation.

Go to any corner of America today and you will find a golf course. Close to seven million Americans a year golf while traveling on vacation, and just about every destination is entered in the competition. To help select some particularly good vacation spots that offer fabulous golf, here are some venues around the country:

HAWAII. You can hardly go wrong here, no matter which isle yon choose to visit. Several world-class courses have sprouted in recent years like pineapple and sugar plantations did decades ago. In fact, some are built on former plantations as well as on volcanic rock and mountain hillsides. On the Big Island of Hawaii, nothing could be finer than a morning on the Mauna Kea Resort course along the Kohala Coast, which set the standard when Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed it 40 years ago. Hapuna, an adjacent course, came three decades later, a mountain stronghold of tight fairways, clever uphill doglegs and hilltop greens. Both are associated with two beachfront Prince hotels.

Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii’s other out islands also offer some of the world’s finest golf. And while it is known more for Pearl Harbor and Honolulu than golf, the island of Oahu has several notable courses at reasonable rates (by Hawaii standards). The Ko Olina Resort and its golf club is 40 minutes from Waikiki on west Oahu, far from the madding crowds. The exceptional water features and lack of parallel fairways give it a private ambience, and the adjacent Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa is an oasis of tranquility. But for sheer fun, magnificent scenery, and the most challenging round you’ll probably ever play, try the Ko’olau Golf Club on Oahu’s windward side. The lush rain forest and views of the ocean are unforgettable, although you will want to forget the number of balls you lose.

For complete information on golf throughout the Hawaiian Islands, call (800) GO-HAWAII or visit


Nowhere in the country will you find more conspicuous affluence than Orange County, California, with its luxury hotels, broad, palm-studded boulevards, fashion malls, and designer golf courses. But wait. Just because every other automobile on the road is a $60,000 model, you don’t have to be a trust baby to afford a brief golf vacation here. An association of six courses, known as “Orange County: California’s Golf Coast,” has put together packages involving several resorts and six courses, all within 40 minutes of each other.

The most breathtaking layout is the Ocean South Course at Pelican Hill in Irvine, a spectacular Tom Fazio design along the Pacific Ocean. It’s Southern California’s answer to fabled Pebble Beach up north, only more accessible and a lot cheaper. The stunning scenery, suberb conditions, and challenging holes rival any coarse you’ve ever played.

Two other courses at opposite ends of the cost meter are Monarch Beach, an ocean resort course in Dana Point ($150 weekdays), and Coyote Hills in Fullerton ($46 twilight rate after 2 p.m.). An interesting component of the latter, a picturesque and well-kept track in the affluent suburban hills, is the presence of a few dozen oil derricks, spread around like so many dinosaurs dipping into the earth. The land is owned by an oil company, which wisely leases it for the golf course. If the derricks come into play, you probably shouldn’t be here.

The other courses in the association are Strawberry Farms and Oak Creek, both in Irvine, and Tustin Ranch in Tustin. For complete information on all the Orange County consortium courses, associated resorts, and packages, call (800) 5551982 or visit

INLAND GEORGIA More than 40 years ago, Cason Callaway gave his wife Virginia 5,000 magnolia seedlings for her birthday. They both loved nature, and their legacy, a 14,000-acre retreat known as Callaway Gardens in western Georgia, an hour southwest of Atlanta, goes far beyond those magnificent, now fully-grown magnolias. Woodlands full of hardwoods, gardens bursting with azaleas, and lakes brimming with fish offer plenty of outdoor enjoyment in a place where all ages can find relaxation and a better understanding of the living world. Not to mention some fabulous golf.

The kids, totally immersed in discovering the flora, fauna, and each other, will probably never notice (or care) that also nestled among these trees and around these lakes are two superb 18-hole championship courses. They are low key compared with the resort’s other attractions, including a Discovery Center, Butterfly Center, lake beach, and the world’s largest azalea collection, but the links are a highlight for any golfer, whether or not he or she stops to smell the flowers. The Lake View course, with its many water hazards, is a tad shorter and easier than the Mountain View layout, with its tree-lined fairways and heavily bunkered, elevated greens. Just ask the pros who haved played on this course over the past decade in the PGA Buick Classic.

Meanwhile, the whole family will rest comfortably after an active day in one of the resort’s 155 two-bedroom Southern Pine Cottages, all with kitchens, dining areas, screened porches, decks, and fireplaces. For rates and reservations, call (800) 225-5292 or visit


Coastal island golf at attractive rates doesn’t get much better than the Hampton Club on St. Simons Island, just east of Brunswick, Georgia. The 18-hole course on the north end of the island meanders through ancient forests and across a sea of salt marshes, where four of the holes on the back nine are located on hammock islands connected by wooden bridges,

Designed by Joe Lee mad opened in 1989, the Hampton is now owned by the nearby King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, a venerable landmark that first opened for business in 1935. The resort has 140 guest rooms, plus 44 two- and three-bedroom beach villas, and the main hotel building has been restored with 57 rooms. With its Mediterranean architecture and dark wood furnishings, it reflects a regal history, although today’s guests are more likely to be families seeking beach fun and golfers looking for a challenging game. The latter is guaranteed, not only by holes 12 through 15 over the marshes, but by numerous others where water threatens.

Brunswick, with its English flavor, was laid out before the American Revolution and served as a main port for the area. Today an armada of shrimp boats based here supplies dozens of local restaurants that also offer helpings of Brunswick stew. Ospreys and eagles circle over the marshes to the east as golfers make their way along the Hampton Club links.

There are several other coastal courses nearby, such as Jekyll Island and Sea Island, but you can’t beat the $59 King and Prince Resort guest rate at the Hampton Club after September 1. The resort also has an indoor pool with a hot tub, four outdoor pools, sailboat mad kayak rentals, historical and nature tours, and fishing charters. For more information, call (800) 342-0212 or visit

SOUTH CAROLINA. There are many good golf destinations ill South Carolina, but Myrtle Beach overpowers the rest simply by offering so many options. A golf course building boom that began in the 1960s has sprinkled the 60-mile coastal corridor known as the Grand Strand with 120 courses.

In summer, it’s a family affair here, with arcades, beaches, parks, miniature golf, and countless other amusements. Entertainment is a la Branson, Missouri, with such venues as Dixie Stampede, Alabama Theater, Legends in Concert, and Carolina Opry. In the fall, there are fewer youngsters and more male golfers, many on convention trips or traveling in small groups. As many as 16 different seasonal golf green fee rates are published, but almost no one comes here to play without buying some kind of golf package, which is invariably more economical than walking on individual courses.

One of the best upscale packages is the “Island Package” at Pawley’s Plantation Golf and Country Club, which offers four nights deluxe accommodations ranging from $319 to $594, depending on season, and four rounds of golf at Pawley’s Island, Heritage, and a choice of True Blue or Caledonia, all outstanding tracts. Call Pawley’s Plantation Golf and Country Club at (800) 367-9959 or (877) 763-7341 or visit

NORTH CAROLINA. If it’s spring, summer, or fall, you might want to gear your golf escape to higher elevations. Rhododendron surrounds several lakeside greens at Linville Golf Club, located adjacent to and operated in partnership with the historic 24-room Eseeola Lodge. Located on Route 109 in the Blue Ridge Mountains 15 miles south of Boone, both the lodge and the golf course, a Donald Ross-designed mountain classic, go back to the 1920s. The course has been revised over the years, *always with the view in mind, and both the resort and championship course are consistently ranked by golf publications as among the top in the Carolinas.

The high country surroundings are also classic. Numerous hiking trails and winding streams criss-cross the property. There’s a heated swimming pool, tennis courts, croquet, and a children’s playground and day camp. Shopping in the area for crafts and antiques adds to the diversions. Best of all, the lodge is only a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and just down from Grandfather Mountain, with its great views, geological exhibits, and Audubon-quality animal habitats. Hiking trails, a spectacular swinging bridge, and other family attractions will entertain everyone for hours.

Spring and fall golf packages at Eseeola Lodge are $489 to $569 for two nights, including deluxe accommodations in the lodge, golf both days, and breakfast and dinner. Call (800) 742-6717 or visit

FLORIDA. There are well over 1,200 golf courses in the Sunshine State, but if you want to hang with the pros and play where they vacation, you might try the centrally-located Kolter Resort at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie. PGA partnered with Kolter, a well-known international real estate developer, to provide a championship golf venue for both PGA pros and guests here. There are three outstanding courses designed by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye, both noted for their environmental sensitivity, and playing golf here is like taking a nature trip amid Florida flora and fauna ranging from palmettos mad pines to rolling hills and wetlands.

There’s also a golf clubhouse, a golf learning center, and even a short, six-hole course to hone up your short game. The resort is conveniently located between the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast near 195, and when everyone has had their fill of golf, other pursuits in the area include hitting the beach a few minutes away and shopping Vero Beach’s outlets. The resort’s 250 guest accommodations include reasonably priced rooms, town-homes, and golf villas, along with three heated swimming pools and other amenities. For more information, call (800) 682-5551 or visit

COPYRIGHT 2003 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group