Spectacular courses combine with sumptuous lodgings for a vacation Tiger Woods might envy.
Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, California
Four legendary courses, three luxurious lodgings, incomparable coastal scenery―golfers' fantasies come true here on Central California's Monterey Peninsula. Of course, they don't come cheap. Lodging starts at $505 a night for the 269-room Inn at Spanish Bay, $580 for the 161-room Lodge at Pebble Beach (most of which dates to 1919), and $705 for the 24-room Casa Palmero, an intimate, Mediterranean-style enclave of exclusivity. However, the room rates do include preferred booking privileges at Del Monte Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and the glorious Pebble Beach Golf Links; 800/654-9300 or pebblebeach.com.
The Lodge at Sea Island, St. Simons Island, Georgia
Old-school elegance pervades this 40-room getaway, which has earned both five diamonds from AAA and five stars from Mobil Travel Guide. The 24-hour butler service attends to such details as unpacking and pressing one's golf attire. Personalized stationery stands ready to facilitate correspondence. Haunting music from a lone bagpiper floats over the grounds to announce the end of each day. Most important, three 18-hole championship layouts await anyone confident enough to match wits with three devilishly creative course architects: Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, and Davis Love III; 800/732-4752 or seaisland.com.
The Manele Bay Hotel, Lanai, Hawaii
Jack Nicklaus designed The Challenge at Manele―18 dramatically beautiful holes that scramble along the shoreline, sometimes using the Pacific Ocean as a water hazard. The accommodations at the 249-room lodge, by contrast, coddle rather than challenge. Rooms offer private balconies and marble baths. Spa treatments rejuvenate tired golfers. Nearby Hulopoe Beach in 1997 earned the title of "America's best beach"; 800/450-3704 or manelebayhotel.com.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, Florida
This luxe, Mediterranean Revival outpost on the edge of the Everglades already has achieved five-diamond status from AAA. Greg Norman created the resort's Tiburón Golf Course. Its 36 holes, with their coquina-shell sand and sod-wall bunkers, test top players without torturing duffers. Resort guests get full privileges at the beachfront Ritz-Carlton, Naples, another five-diamond property (with a spa) five minutes away; 239/593-2000 or ritzcarlton.com.
The American Club, Kohler, Wisconsin
In 1918, plumbing magnate Walter J. Kohler, Sr., added to his company town a Tudor-style structure to house immigrant workers. In 1981, the building, less than an hour north of Milwaukee, received a considerable upgrade and became the elegant American Club. Each room in the AAA five-diamond resort hotel features a spa tub (by Kohler, of course). More recently, the resort added Whistling Straits, two 18-hole public courses along Lake Michigan that left even their designer, the legendary Pete Dye, in awe. "I should say this with some degree of modesty, but in my lifetime I've never seen anything like this. Anyplace. Period," he says; 800/344-2838, ext. 700, or destinationkohler.com.
Bandon Dunes Resort, Bandon, Oregon
Three 18-hole courses―Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and the new Bandon Trails―take golf back to its origins. The game began on Scotland's craggy, wind-whipped shores. In fact, the term "links" originally referred to narrow strips of land that "link" the beaches with inland farms. The rolling, tumbling terrain and Pacific Ocean breezes create such beauty that golfers might even forgive the havoc those conditions can wreak on their games. Or maybe not. Like the courses, the resort buildings blend with the natural contours of the land. Sumptuous lodging and fine dining welcome home weary golfers; 888/345-6008 or bandondunes.com.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
With five championship courses designed by such titans as Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, and Gary Player, only one thing kept this Charleston-area resort from being enshrined among the very best golf retreats: super-luxe accommodations. Now, with the opening of The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, that shortcoming has vanished. Pete has returned more than once to tinker with his legendary seaside Ocean Course. The world saw the results when the 2007 Senior PGA Championship took place there; 800/576-1570 or kiawahresort.com.
Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Carlsbad, California
Arnold Palmer designed this 18-hole gem to take advantage of the coastal topography along the tidal Batiquitos Lagoon. Wildflower-lined fairways enhance the ruggedly lovely views of the surrounding mountains. The Spanish Colonial-style resort, just north of San Diego, offers the sort of luxurious accommodations and excellent dining typical of a Four Seasons property―plus a spa; 800/819-5053 or fourseasons.com/aviara.
Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Every golfer knows about the Pete Dye-designed TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course and its famous Island Hole (the 17th, where only a narrow walkway connects the island green to the fairway). But this resort, nestled between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean just south of Jacksonville, also boasts four other championship courses, all of which offer water challenges of their own. In fact, it's difficult to lose sight of water anywhere on the property, either inside or out. Guests can even fish the lagoons; 800/457-4653 or sawgrassmarriott.com.
Casa de Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic
Eight gorgeous ocean holes provide tempting scenic distractions on the legendary, Pete Dye-designed Teeth of the Dog course. Pete and his wife, Alice, also designed the resort's other two courses. Alternative sporting options include tennis, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, and clay-pigeon shooting. The villas supply the most lavish lodgings, with private concierge service and either a pool or a spa tub. However, everybody gets to share the expansive, soothing Caribbean views; 888/222-8859 or ghotw.com/hotel/home/casa-de-campo.htm.