Traveller's Guide: US golfing holidays
Across the Atlantic lie famous fairways and gracious greens to suit every golfer – but which to choose? Jeremy Ellwood takes a swing
Saturday 17 May 2014
Most British golfers who have ever loaded their clubs on to a US-bound plane will likely have been heading for Florida or the Carolinas, which is understandable given their eastern seaboard location and the wealth of superb golfing options they offer. But there are 47 more states in this vast union, each with fabulous fairways to explore. So, while there's nothing wrong – and myriad things that are right, as we'll see – with sticking to a more traditional US golfing destination, the horizon is much broader.
The British have long loved playing golf by the sea, and several US states, plus those on the Great Lakes, offer golf by the water's edge. The courses on the Californian coast's magical Monterey Peninsula have long seduced us – despite the longer flight from the UK – thanks to the captivating images of Pebble Beach that we enjoy whenever the PGA Tour visits. The famous Golf Links (001 800 654 9300; pebblebeach.com) is the pricey star act at $495 (£330) a round including cart, while the course at Spanish Bay (001 800 654 9300; pebblebeach.com) offers links lovers a home-from-home experience at $270 (£180) per round, with cart.
Some of America's most revered courses are those with the longest histories, and few go deeper than Pinehurst (001 855 235 8507; pinehurst.com). This North Carolina resort dates back to 1895, with Donald Ross's renowned No 2 course hosting the US Open again this June. There are now eight – yes, eight – Pinehurst courses to keep you entertained, with a two-night stay in The Manor Inn on site, including dinner and breakfast daily plus three rounds of golf, costing $812pp (£541) from early June to early September based on two sharing (flights not included).
Britons are sometimes guilty of dismissing "American-style" golf, a catch-all term for lush manicured fairways, big sloping greens and copious water hazards. Yes, there is plenty of that, but how offended would we be if our own rich variety of courses was dismissed simply as British-style golf? The scale and diversity of the landscapes in the US guarantees even greater golfing variety among its 15,000-plus courses, whether by the water, in the mountains, in the plains or out in the desert. If you're not sure where to go, Your Golf Travel (0800 193 6629; yourgolftravel.com) will build a package to suit your requirements in many of America's most popular golf states. And if lugging your clubs through airports doesn't appeal, Golf Rental World (001 866 300 5909; golfrentalworld.com) can deliver direct to your hotel from $25-$35 (£17-£23) per day for a week's rental.
Check with your carrier before you travel about the rules for transporting golf clubs. British Airways' baggage allowance in economy is one piece weighing up to 23kg, with the fee for an extra bag £55 each way. Premium economy passengers get a second bag free of charge. Virgin Atlantic will fly out your clubs free of charge in addition to your normal allowance providing your golf bag weighs less than 23kg.
On the Pinehurst trail
You can play a different course every day without moving the car at Pinehurst Resort (001 855 235 8507; pinehurst.com) in North Carolina, from the late 19th century's charming No 1 layout to Tom Fazio's 1990s No 8, and his 21st-century remodelling of No 4.
As for No 2, which all-time great Jack Nicklaus rates among his favourites, there's a $195 (£130) premium on any of the resort's own packages and it will be closed for US Open duties from 8 June until 3 September. You can take in Pinehurst and some of the best golf in the Carolinas with Golf Breaks.com (0808 274 9436) which offers a 14-day North and South Carolina Tour from £2,500 (excluding flights).
A sample itinerary might include 13 nights at four different resorts, with three nights' B&B at Pinehurst, playing Nos. 4, 8 and 2 courses, then room-only or self-catering for the other 10 nights, as you gradually head down to the Nicklaus-designed Harbour Town Links via the Kiawah Resort's Ocean course.
This tour includes 11 rounds of golf and 14 days' car rental.
North Carolina has more than 400 courses, while South Carolina's 60-mile Grand Strand coast boasts over 100 public courses – a greater concentration per capita than anywhere else in the US. Meanwhile Florida has in excess of 1,250 courses – more than any other single state.
Super Travel Golf (020-7962 9494; supertravel.co.uk) can take you to the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach from £1,079pp, based on two sharing and on a room-only basis, including flights from Heathrow to Miami and five rounds on the resort's courses (from June to September).
Virgin Holidays (0844 557 4321; virginholidays.co.uk) has a Spring Special to the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, with a week on a room-only basis for £1,295pp until the end of May, including flights from Gatwick to Orlando, car rental and a round on each of the resort's three courses.
Out in the desert
The PGA Tour spends early-season time in the desert. At the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale (001 480 585 4334; tpc.com/tpc-scottsdale), a rowdy but good-natured crowd gathers every year to cheer and jeer around the amphitheatre-like 16th hole. There's something surreal about a lush green oasis among the cacti and desert scrub.
The Arizona/Grand Canyon/Las Vegas Tour from Eagle Golf Tours (01273 419111; eaglegolftours.com) offers a 14-night Arizona golf break including six rounds of golf, flights from Heathrow to LA, car hire and golf cart hire from just £1,350pp, with scope to take in the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam.
Temperatures can be oppressive even in May and October, so you may prefer the cooler winter months. If you can stand the heat, the lowest prices can be found from June to September.
Way out West
If the lure of Pebble Beach is too great to resist, Super Travel Golf (020 7962 9494; supertravel.co.uk) is offering six nights in the Inn At Spanish Bay (above) from £2,749pp in May and June based on two sharing on a room-only basis to include direct flights from Heathrow to San Francisco, and a round each on Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill and The Links at Spanish Bay.
Dr Alister MacKenzie fans should head on up the North Californian coast to Pasatiempo (001 831 459 9155; pasatiempo.com) in Santa Cruz, a course the creator of Augusta National regarded as his personal favourite. Green fees start from $165 (£110).
A modern classic
Whistling Straits in Wisconsin has four courses in total, with the Straits and Irish courses complemented by the River and Meadow Valleys courses at Blackwolf Run. All were created by legendary course designer, Pete Dye, and his wife Alice.
The resort's Dye-abolical package offers three nights at the American Club on site, plus a round on each of the four courses, with repeat golf on the Irish and Meadow Valleys courses, from $1,115pp (£743) excluding flights, but including a complimentary video lesson, carts at the two Blackwolf Run courses and caddie fees at the two Whistling Straits courses.
New and improved
Two contrasting courses at The Prairie Club in Nebraska (001 402 376 136; the prairieclub.com) opened recently to wide acclaim. The Dunes is the handiwork of 1996 Open winner Tom Lehman. A day's unlimited play costs from just $165pp (£110), or $335pp (£223) if you also stay in the Lodges or Cabins, with breakfast and golf cart included on a double occupancy basis.
Other much-heralded newcomers include Bandon Dunes' five wonder courses (001 888 345 6008; bandondunesgolf.com) on the Oregon coast (from $100/£67 per round), and Whistling Straits by Lake Michigan in Wisconsin (001 855 444 2838; americanclubresort.com/golf), where green fees are $190 (£127) for the Irish course and $370 (£247) for the Straits. Try Central Florida's new Streamsong Resort (001 863 428 1000; streamsongresort.com). You can stay and play room-only with a round on either the Red or Blue courses from $287.50pp (£192) until the end of September, based on two sharing.
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