Destinations: Golfing North America

By Eric N. Hart

You’ve heard of Pebble Beach, Augusta National and, of course, local favorites Doral and Turnberry. But with the sheer volume of golf courses that pepper North America, there are some regions that, undeservingly, take second fiddle. Luxurious experiences abound beneath the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies, along the sun-drenched beaches of the Mexican Riviera and even within some of the Midwest’s most popular travel towns. Here, we present some of our favorite golf destinations on the continent. By no means is this meant to be a comprehensive list; it is instead meant to bring attention to some of the other, oft-forgotten, yet equally praiseworthy, golfing domains.

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Branson, Missouri

They say the stars come out several times a day in Branson, which is situated in the heart of the Ozarks. The city prides itself on being the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” thanks to the numerous theaters, theme parks and, of course, golf courses.

Go: The Ozarks’ most stunning kaleidoscope of colors is displayed in the fall, but the best golf months are June and July.

Stay: Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris’ Big Cedar Lodge is a woodwork and waterfall paradise on the shores of Table Rock Lake. bigcedar.com

Play: Big Cedar Lodge offers the best of all golf worlds with three distinct courses: Buffalo Ridge-Creek, a Tom Fazio design; the Jack Nicklaus Signature par-3 course, Top of the Rock; and the new Gary Player “Short Course.”

Eat: Fans of Arnold Palmer can dine high above the lake at Osage Restaurant, or in the mesmerizing Arnie’s Barn, which Morris relocated from near Palmer’s home in Pennsylvania.

Travel Tip: Every sweet tooth appreciates a stop at Cakes-n-Creams diner.

Kohler, Wisconsin

Discerning travelers flock to the western shore of Lake Michigan near Kohler, about an hour north of Milwaukee, where a whopping five championship golf courses preside. destinationkohler.com

Go: Late spring and early fall are the least busy months and most colorful times to enjoy the seasonal transitions of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes.

Stay: The American Club, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond resort, is home to one of only 47 five-star spas in the world.

Play: All four courses in Kohler—two at Blackwolf Run, two at Whistling Straits—are Pete Dye designs, including The Straits, host of the 2020 Ryder Cup.

Eat: The Immigrant Restaurant famously splits into six rooms, paying homage to the French, Dutch, German, Norman, Danish and English heritages of early Wisconsin settlers.

Travel Tip: Don’t overlook the fifth course in the area—a Jack Nicklaus Signature design—The Bull at Pinehurst Farms. golfthebull.com

Banff, Alberta

Alberta is nothing short of breathtaking, and with natural paradises such as Banff National Park so close to the Calgary International Airport, it has never been more worthy of a visit.

Go: Banff rewards outdoor explorers year-round, but the golf season is relatively short, from late-July through August.

Stay: Fairmont Banff Springs, which towers over beautiful Bow Falls, and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, situated on the crystal-clear lake—are just 40 miles apart within Banff National Park. fairmont.com/banff-springs; fairmont.com/lake-louise

Play: Stanley Thompson designed 27 holes at Banff Springs, a championship course with one of the world’s most famous par-3s, and a “tunnel nine” that further astounds with the mountainous amphitheater around you.

Eat: The 10-course “grand degustation” at The Rimrock Hotel’s French-inspired Eden will entice your palate, while the views blow your mind. banffeden.com

Travel Tip: Take a ride on the Banff Gondola for some of the most spectacular views.

Mayakoba, Mexico

It’s only a two-hour flight from Miami to the familiarly warm, yet famously uncrowded, private beaches of Mayakoba.

Go: Avoid the crowds and stick to the private shores of Mayakoba in March and April.

Stay: Four luxury hotels compete for attention in Mayakoba: Rosewood, Banyan Tree, Andaz and the AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Mayakoba, which is set along the beach on a maze of crystal-clear waterways. mayakoba.com

Play: Greg Norman’s El Cameleón is the annual host of the PGA Tour’s OHL Classic, known for its cenotes (caverns) in the fairways, beachfront holes and crisscrossing canals.

Eat: Las Brisas at the Fairmont offers fine dining on the beach.

Travel Tip: The prestigious Jim McLean Golf School at El Cameleón offers digital golf swing analysis and professional instruction that’s customizable to your vacation itinerary.

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