Lifestyle Wanderlust the April 2024 issue

Tee Off Around the World

These top destinations combine travel with golf.
By Jonathan Hermann Posted on April 1, 2024

When to go Whenever the golf courses are dry and uncrowded

Currency Varies

Language Changes depending on the destination, but always know how to say “fore” in the local language to warn other golfers

Companies to consider Royal Caribbean, Silversea Cruises, CIE Tours, Tauck

Pine-lined fairways, powder-soft sand traps, meticulously manicured greens, and serene, ball-collecting lakes—the world’s best golf courses blend the natural beauty of an area with time-honored traditions to create a space that inspires.

Of course, to test your skills on these pristine courses, you have to travel there. Luckily, many of the best courses just so happen to be located in some of the world’s most desirable vacation destinations. Travelling and golfing are lifestyle partners, allowing you to intimately experience the local terrain, decode its physical secrets, and face its artistically designed challenges.

Plus, let’s face it, many of us have grown up watching the world’s most iconic golf courses challenge the likes of Arnie, Jack, Tiger and Rory for years. When you travel to the destinations below—the ones that provide you with both an incredible vacation experience and access to the sport’s most storied courses—you can finally discover how you stack up against the greats who played there.

The Ocean Golf Course, The Breakers Palm Beach

Continental U.S.

Luckily you don’t have to travel far between legendary courses and the local scene. Florida is a recognizable haven for those in search of chill beaches and long fairways. You’ll find both at The Breakers Palm Beach. Originally built in 1897 along the coast and delightfully redesigned in 2000, the oldest golf course in Florida consists of 5,778 yards of lush tropical landscaping, six lakes, hundreds of palm trees and the sound of crashing waves. Forget flat and boring—the course is a mesmerizing collection of curves that will challenge any scratch golfer. When not playing, you can enjoy upscale shopping on Worth Avenue, catch a match at the International Polo Club and stroll through the Norton Museum Sculpture Garden.

For a different feel, Scottsdale, Arizona’s Troon North Golf Club is classic desert golfing at its finest. At either of its two courses, the Pinnacle or the Monument, you’ll find striking rock outcrops, natural ravines and even boulders of the Sonoran Desert—all of which are gorgeous but sometimes superbly distracting. If the challenge becomes too stressful, finding a nearby place to relax will be easy. The area hosts more than 50 luxury resorts and day spas, many using ancient local ingredients and Native American healing techniques to soothe your soul.

Of course, you can’t spotlight American courses without mentioning Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, rated the greatest public golf course in America by Golf Digest. This is the course where history has been made, thanks to the numerous U.S. Opens hosted here. Just imagine putting from where Jack Nicklaus hit his birdie shot on the 4th to claim the 1961 U.S. Amateur or from where Tom Watson drained a 35-foot birdie putt on the 14th in the final round of the 1982 U.S. Open. The course’s stunning coastal views—along with the shops and galleries in the small beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea—will only add to your enjoyment.

The 7th Hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links

Los Cabos, Mexico

You don’t have to go far outside of the United States to find the perfect vacation combination: luxurious beachside resorts, decadent Mexican cuisine, sun-dappled ocean waters, photogenic geologic curiosities, a vibrant nightlife scene, and several of the world’s top golf courses. Perfection, thy name is Los Cabos. Here, resorts elevate golfing to an art form. Fairways stretch between seaside cliffs, drives often need to sail over cactus forests, sand traps might be either beach dunes or sprawling desert, and water traps are more typically called the Pacific Ocean.

Often referred to as the Pebble Beach of Baja, Cabo del Sol is a legendary course conceived by the equally legendary Jack Nicklaus. One of the first golf courses in the area, the first few holes are but warm-up for the final trio. The 16th is a par 4 that points directly out to sea, the 17th is a par 3 that sees you teeing off atop a cliff in hopes of navigating a sandy cove and jagged rock outcroppings, and the final hole hugs the shoreline in such a manner as to provide ocean spray and a challenging par 4.

Another Nicklaus-designed course, this time with the help of none other than Greg Norman, is Puerto Los Cabos outside the historic town of San Jose del Cabo. Backdropped by the Sea of Cortez and the Sierra de la Laguna mountains, the course is a series of heavenly strolls punctuated with the occasional striking of the ball. A crowd favorite is the par-3 6th with its tee set 100 feet higher than the green. While your shot may make you see red, the view is exquisite.

Golf Course in Los Cabos, Mexico

Hawaii

This string of sculpted emerald islands is a paradise for amateur and accomplished golfers alike. From Robert Trent Jones Jr. to Jack Nicklaus, the biggest names have drawn on Hawaii’s distinct terrains—steep elevation shifts, black and red lava flows, and rainforest jungles—to craft world-class courses. Signature holes are as acclaimed for their beauty as their difficulty, many jumping cliff-to-cliff across wave-lashed coves.

Hitting multiple islands in one unforgettable trip is the way to go, with commuter flights making it easy to hop to another island for a day to play the local courses. On such a journey, be sure to visit Maui’s Ka’anapali Kai, where whales are often sighted cavorting offshore. For a more challenging course, the Ko’olau Golf Club on Oahu will send you through the rainforested slopes, extreme elevation drops, and waterfall-wettened sides of the 2,000-foot Ko’olau Ridge. Be prepared to lose a great a number of balls—all with a smile on your face. Of course, if you need a bit more excitement in your natural scenery, the Mauna Kea Golf Course on Hawaii Island fringes a dormant volcano; note it doesn’t count as a hole-in-one if you hit your ball into the caldera.

Golf Course in Maui, Hawaii

Scotland

The mecca of golf travel is Scotland, where the country’s passion for the sport is almost as rich as its medieval history. Although the first record of golf is connected to St. Andrews in cobblestoned Edinburgh, the entire country pays homage to its love of the game with courses, parks and prestigious clubs speckled across the lush country.

Sink your spikes into the birthplace of the sport at the Old Course at St. Andrews, which has been welcoming the world’s best players for over 600 years. Visit the Road Hole, an infamous par 4 that will truly test your mettle, and try not to get caught in the Road Bunker sand trap. Your unforgettable round will be backdropped by the wide skies and tall, grassy, seaside plains that Scotland is famous for.

After driving around the dramatically scenic, castle-perched Ayrshire coastline, you can then drive the celebrated fairways of the Royal Troon Championship Golf Course. The course—designed by the same architects who constructed Augusta—is open to the public on weekends, where golfers will need to dust off their fairway woods to tackle the challenging 7,175-yard course. The course may be tough, with large mounds and ample sand traps; however, the views of the ever-changing sky and sparkling South Bay make your high score easier to swallow.

Wherever you visit, golfing is a great way to appreciate the local flora, meet other enthusiasts, and enjoy a beautiful afternoon. After all, discovering a destination, talking to its people, and just having fun is the recipe for an amazing vacation.

The Old Course Hotel, St. Andrews Links, Scotland

You’ll need your energy to tackle the links at the places mentioned above, so be sure to try as many of these local delicacies as you can.

Los Cabos 

Almejas Chocolatas (Mexican chocolate clam) > Shellfish roasted on a stone bed is covered in a regional herb known as little rosemary.

Smoked Marlin > Sports fishing is big here, so it’s no surprise that smoked and shredded marlin is a staple often served with tortillas.

Hawaii

Poke > This chunky, raw-fish salad is served in a variety of ways and is perfect for picnics on the beach.

Saimin > Chinese egg-noodle soup has been infused with local influences and is now served with green onions, kamaboko, kimchi and Portuguese sausage.

Scotland

Haggis > This traditional dish is made from “sheep’s pluck” (don’t ask) mixed with oatmeal, suet, herbs, spices and seasoning, then packed into a natural casing and boiled.

Cullen Skink > A classic soup, it’s made with smoked haddock, potatoes and leeks—the perfect pub food.

Smoked Marlin Foccacia with Avocado and Tomato

Cruising gives more to golfers than just an onboard mini-putt course. Some cruise lines offer golf-themed sailings that take you to some of the best courses in the world. Others simply take you around the world, where you can spend the afternoon at a regional course swinging away against local competition. Here are some favored ports for golfers.

Bermuda > As mentioned in the December 2022 edition of this section, Bermuda cruises involve multiple nights docked at either Hamilton or King’s Wharf, giving you plenty of time to hit courses with gorgeous ocean backdrops.

Southampton, U.K. > The closest major cruise port to London, Southampton is where many British Isles and Baltic Sea cruises are launched. Local favorites include Stoneham Golf Club and the New
Forest Golf Club.

Sydney, Australia > Australia’s cosmopolitan city has perfect weather for golf most of the year, making it easy to enjoy local favorites like the Bondi Golf and Diggers Club near the famous surfing beach.

Auckland, New Zealand > A fabulous destination for wine, hiking and golf, Auckland’s courses—like the one found at Titirangi Golf Club—are designed to inspire, much like the area’s numerous vineyards.

Barcelona, Spain > Often the starting and ending point of western Mediterranean cruises, Spain’s culturally rich city has numerous options for golf lovers, with courses like Real Club de Golf El Prat.

Ship docked in Hamilton, Bermuda

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