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Play the best of the Emerald Isle for less green!

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There are over 400 golf courses in Ireland, and the great majority of them are good to great. Most golfers who set their sights on the Emerald Isle are looking to bag one of the “trophy” courses like Waterville, Lahinch, Ballybunion, The K Club and others in that strata. There’s nothing wrong with that, because all of those courses offer an exceptional golf experience. But those memories come with a price tag: a round at one of the big-name golf courses can easily cost $300 or more, and that’s if you can manage to secure a tee time for you and your group. If you play a few of those on the same trip, you will have the cost of greens fees putting a serious dent in your overall budget for the trip.

But with a little effort, great golf can be found at courses that have equally special golf experiences at a fraction of the cost.

And you can take the money you save to visit some of the great foodie destinations around Ireland, buy plenty of swag from the pro shops (I am partial to bag tags and club ties), extend your trip by a day or two or even upgrade your flight (the latter of which I highly recommend; Aer Lingus Business Class has good pricing, even in-season, exceptional service and the extra real estate will ensure you get there and back with a smile rather than a limp.)

Check this list of lesser-known but highly regarded tracks.

Please note the prices listed are estimates that reflect the range of pricing based on time of year and day of the week. Check with the course for exact pricing and also current exchange rates from U.S. Dollar to Euro.

Cruit Island Golf Club
County Donegal
Greens Fee: $40

The least known on this list is also the most unique. Cruit (pronounced “Critch”) Island is a 9-hole layout that has two sets of tees so that you play around it twice to get the 18-hole, par-68 links experience. Built by a group of golfers who bought the land and built the course because they didn’t want to go 30 miles to the next closest course, Cruit Island is perched along a craggy shoreline that on a clear day rivals anything you find on the Monterey Peninsula for sheer beauty. The wind is a factor on every hole, and you could well find yourself hitting 3-wood into a 150-yard par-3 depending on the gusts that day. Speaking of par-3s, the 6th is one of the best in links golf.

Because it is wedged into a relatively small space, some of the holes feature severe doglegs and daunting blind shots; it is up to the player to interpret it as wicked or whimsical. The course is not as meticulously maintained as some other tracks but that is part of its charm. The clubhouse is just as cozy as the course, the perfect place to warm up with a Jamesons and soak in more of the stunning views of the Atlantic Coast. Easily one of the best golf bargains to be found in Ireland or anywhere else.

County Sligo Golf Club – Colt Championship Course
Rosses Point, County Sligo
Price: $120 – $200

Perhaps the best known of the lesser-knowns, County Sligo is a classic links layout that has tested the best for over a century. Founded in 1894, the course was redesigned to its current form by the great Harry Colt in 1927. Defined by the rugged coast of the northwest Atlantic where it sits, the course has had players like Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, and others establish themselves as champions to be reckoned with there. The course has all of the wind and terrain that you would expect from an Irish links; The first two holes play almost 500 feet uphill, but the golfer is rewarded for the hike on the tee box of the par-5 3rd, which has a 360 degree view of the Benbulben rock formation and Atlantic coastline that is second to none in the country.

The par-4 5th hole plays from a cliffside into a valley of holes that will challenge the skill, stamina intellect of the players, but the inherently fair nature of an exceptional links design mans that less than stellar players will have tee boxes and shot options that make the course playable and enjoyable. The par-4 17th hole brings the golfers back over the mountain in spectacular fashion and the blind tee shot at the 18th will bring joy and/or pain depending on your courage and accuracy. The course used to play for under $60 as recently as five years ago but the word has gotten out and rack rates have pushed upward. But if you call in advance of your trip, the head pro has been known to negotiate a better price for groups.

Donegal Golf Club
County Donegal
Greens Fee: About $55 – $140

Another links course set on a promontory that juts into the Atlantic Ocean, Donegal Golf Club offers a quintessential links golf experience.  The course, a par 73 for both men and women, consists of five par 5s, four par 3s, and nine par 4s, stretching over 7,400 yards from the tips, with five regulation tees from each hole, plus a beginner tee. The outside loop plays along the dunes and the ocean, providing stunning views of the surrounding area. The inner loop is more protected, however, the constantly changing sea breeze provides a continuing test for both skilled and amateur golfers. The course is long, but it is a relatively easy walk, and unlike many courses in Ireland it can provide a cart with advance notice. Originally designed by the legendary Irish golf course architect, Eddie Hackett, the course is yet another links being tweaked by the now-ubiquitous Pat Ruddy. No less an authority than 2011 Open Champion Darren Clarke called Donegal Golf Club ‘one of my favorite courses in the world.’ Full disclosure, he is a member. Facilities include a driving range, warm-up area, and putting, chipping and bunker practice areas. And don’t leave without trying the fish chowder after the round.

Narin and Portnoo
County Donegal
Greens Fee: $80 – $140

You might be noticing a pattern here; there are some mighty fine golf courses in the Northwest coast of Ireland known as the Wild Atlantic Way. Another wonderfully windblown offering is Narin and Portnoo (named for the two towns that the course sits between). While not very well known outside Ireland, many locals consider it one of the must-play courses in the country. The par-73 track is known for the natural beauty for the course and the surrounding land, both exceptional even by Irish standards. It’s a big golf course from to back and side to side, but the wind and white stakes will require good decisions and consistent precision from the golfer. Golf has been played at Narin and Portnoo since 1905, but the membership has hired superstar designer Gil Hanse to take it into the next 100 years; the course changes are made on the fly while the course is open so you may see some of the new greens that will be in play in 2020. One major plus is that Narin and Portnoo has a forecaddie program, a big help in planning your way around the course. As with all of the courses on the list, make sure your phone battery is full to capture the stunning views of Gweebarra Bay. After the round, order up a dozen of the best raw oysters anywhere with your Guinness.

Concra Wood Golf Club
County Monaghan
Green Fee: $45 – $90


This parkland golf course is the perfect way to either start or finish an Ireland trip. It is a parkland course, meaning it plays on terrain and turf more familiar to American players. The course opened in 2008, not a great time to start any enterprise and especially not a 5-star golf course. The course has recovered from financial troubles and has emerged better than ever. Designed by Irish golfing legends Christy O’Connor Sr. and Jr., the course winds its way along the hills and valleys surrounding Lough (or Lake) Muckno. Some of the looks are beyond dramatic; the 340-yard 2nd is a drivable par-4 that features a 40ft. drop from the tee…but it pales in comparison to the back nine, starting with the 430-yard par 4 10th. A good drive to a flat spot in the fairway leaves an approach that resembles dropping a ball from a low-flying helicopter to a green well-protected by bunkers and the lake.

That leads to a stretch of holes that play beside the lake that ranks as one of the best four-hole stretches in the country. Ironically, this non-links track is one of the toughest walks in Ireland—think Augusta National-type elevation changes. If you are not fit, don’t be ashamed to take a cart. And get a yardage book to prevent nasty surprises on some of the blind shots on the course!

 

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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King-Collins Golf adds 18-hole design to portfolio with Landmand GC

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Master plan for Landmand Golf Club. Credit: King Collins Golf Course Design

King-Collins Golf’s first design, Sweetens Cove, has received a seemingly endless amount of praise over the last several years. Both the course and the design team have been the darlings of golf social media since the community discovered Sweetens Cove. And yet, it has taken Rob Collins and Tad King a while to add a full 18-hole course to their design portfolio. All of that is about to change.

King-Collins Golf has certainly received many inquiries in the past few years, but the cold hard truth of the golf course design business is few of them ever really get legs. Then, Will Andersen reached out to King-Collins in April of 2019 through the contact form on their website and things changed rather quickly.

According to Rob

“I could just tell by the way he was talking that it was the real deal. He said that he had had some other big name architects out there, but none of them really clicked and some of them didn’t even take the project seriously. It sounded like he had a little chip on his shoulder and, to be honest, that really resonated with me because Tad and I have dealt with very similar issues after Sweetens Cove. You know, we’ve been fighting so hard for our big break and it’s like every time a good piece of land comes up, you hear the same four names and just irritates the heck out of me. Anyway, I called Tad and said, ‘Hey, we got a real one here.’”

Rob Collins and shaper Gus Grantham discussing their plan. Credit: Rob Collins

Will showed Rob and Tad around their family’s land in Homer, Nebraska, which lies on the Missouri River near the Iowa and South Dakota borders. The land had been farmed by their family for several years (Landmand is Danish for farmer, by the way) until it wound up in the government’s Conservation Reserve Program.

Will tells the story of how they decided to turn it into a golf course

“I had been working at Conway Farms near Chicago and was going to be a golf professional when I decided to move back to Nebraska in 2008.  At that point, I said something to my dad about building a golf course, and he was like, ‘Well, we’re not going to do anything else with the land. We’ll probably leave it in the CRP program or at some point we might sell it.’ That was obviously not a great time to be building a golf course, so we signed another 10-year contract with the CRP program.”

“Then, I looked at him this year [in 2019] as they were about to renew the CRP contract and I said, ‘Either we’re going to do something now while the economy’s pretty good or we just don’t ever do it.’ And he said, ‘Alright. Let’s just do this golf course.’ I know that sounds simple, but that was it. What’s funny is my dad’s never once played golf in his life. The only person that played golf in my family was my mom’s dad. He’s the one that got me into it.”

Upon seeing the land, it’s safe to say Rob, Tad, and Will saw eye-to-eye rather quickly.

From Rob’s perspective

“They have some spots down by the Missouri River that were really pretty, but they were prone to flooding and then he took us up to another site up in the hills and it was like, ‘Okay wow. This is the one right here.’  The site we’re working on was actually clear cut by Will’s grandfather, so there’s only one tree on the whole property (near the 11th fairway). It’s really an extraordinary piece of land.  Tad and I talked about what we wanted to do to the site and the type of golf course we wanted to build (lots of options, emphasizing the ground game, and using as many natural contours as we can). We also talked about our design-build method where we do the vast majority of everything in-house, which keeps our cost very low compared to a lot of other folks. I think all of that seemed to be music to their ears.”

The site of Landmand Golf Club. Photo credit: Rob Collins

Will echoed that sentiment

“Rob and Tad were basically giddy when they saw the property and that was a good sign for me. According to Tad, all they really had to do was ‘massage the land’ and it’d make a great golf course. That’s exactly what my dad needed to hear too because he didn’t want them to completely dismantle the whole property. It wasn’t until after we hired them for the job that we found out they hadn’t built an 18-hole golf course from scratch yet.”

As for design features, Rob shared some thoughts on the course itself

“There’s going to be a giant Sitwell green [a nod to Alister Mackenzie’s original design of the 12th hole at Sitwell Park] as well as some smaller greens here and there. Some holes will play along the ridges, some more in the valleys. The golf course just has a real nice rhythm to it, and I don’t think it ever really gets stagnant anywhere. There’s one particular stretch of the course where there’s a 575-yard par 5 followed by a short 310-yard par 4, and then a 110-yard par 3 and a longer 420-yard par 4. There are parts of the golf course where you can see 14 or 15 holes meandering across this super bold terrain. Ultimately, it’s a great piece of property for a great client and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

They signed contracts in the summer of 2019 and construction began around Labor Day. The course will be grassed in 2020 (bentgrass greens and a drought-tolerant bluegrass/rye mix in the fairways) and open for play in 2021. The plan is for a par-73, 7,075-yard course with wide fairways, firm and fast conditions, and a heavy emphasis on variety. Landmand will be a public facility with a small number of season-pass holder-style memberships.

Stay tuned for more information as the project develops.

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The New Orleans Golf Experience

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I love New Orleans. I first visited the Crescent City in 2010 and for the past decade, the place has seeped into my soul. It’s my home away from home. My family and I make a habit of visiting as often as we can, and it has become a bit of a tradition to take a weekend trip to NOLA in December just before Christmas. My 18-month-old son has already been twice, and this last trip he discovered the wonder that is creole gumbo.

But in all my visits to the Big Easy, I had never once played golf. Typically, one of our trips only lasts a weekend and, quite honestly, it’s hard to pull myself away from the city for half a day to play 18. This time, I finally did it. Twice.

The first day of our weekend excursion, I crossed the Mississippi River and headed out to TPC Louisiana, home of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic. The next day, I enjoyed an early morning walk around Audubon Park Golf Course, a city run and operated par-62 deep in the heart of Uptown. Two very different experiences…

But First, Let’s Talk about Nawlins

For the past three years, my family has stayed at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel in the middle of the French Quarter. I’ve actually stayed here many more times than that, including for my bachelor party, because I think its the best combination of location and comfort that you can find in the quarter. There are, of course, countless other options nearby, but the Omni really just does it right. It’s going to be tough for us to pick a different hotel from now on.

Hotel Room Balcony at Omni Royal Orleans

The hotel’s entrance is a wonderfully classic southern lobby with marbling throughout. Our room was spacious and included a balcony overlooking Royal Street, the most charming of the French Quarter roadways. Jam-packed with antique stores, boutiques and bistros, Royal is where we spend most of our time…as opposed to the long days and longer nights on the Bourbon Street of my younger years. But if some time on Bourbon is what you are looking for between golf rounds, the Royal Omni is still only one block away.

When we go to New Orleans, the primary purpose is food. The city is known for its food and some of the best restaurants in the world are located right here in NOLA. Typically, we eat a big meal at Antoine’s, Irene’s, Mr. B’s Bistro or Mother’s Restaurant, and then we walk around town and window shop until it’s time to eat the next big meal.

I made sure both of my rounds of golf were early in the morning so I could get back to town for both lunch and dinner. It’s tough to miss an opportunity for a good meal in New Orleans.

TPC Louisiana

TPC Louisiana is a 20-minute car ride across the river from the quarter, in a town called Avondale. The clubhouse is a true-to-form southern structure adorned with columns and ferns. Typical for the area and exactly what I was hoping for. Bayou through and through.

The pro shop and the rest of the clubhouse are well decorated and outfitted. Not many major brands missing in the shop but it is typically merchandised for a TPC course. Athletic brands like Under Armour and Adidas rule the roost here. And the TPC Louisiana logo leaves much to be desired, just like its sister courses. The Zurich Classic apparel is sprinkled throughout as well. And photos from past champions line the entrance, which always legitimizes a clubhouse a bit, I think. It’s fun to play a course that Justin Rose has won on.

It was a foggy day in Avondale, which suited me just fine. Out from the city and into the swamp, TPC Louisiana should feel a bit spooky the first time you play. There is water on a great many of the holes, which means alligators are also sure to be near. My dad and I put on some Creedence Clearwater and attacked the course, trying to hit each shot far enough into the fog to make the ball disappear.

TPC Louisiana is a Pete Dye design, and true to form, some of the holes are most certainly “Dye-abolical.” For the PGA event, the par 72 course can stretch out to 7,425 yards. In damp conditions, this place can be a real beast. Just the way Dye likes it.

     

The trees are typical for the region. Large and covered in moss, a signature natural feature for golf in the south. And to me, it might be the most important feature of golf in New Orleans. One of the reasons I love the French Quarter is the feeling you get just being there. The Spanish influence of the architecture. The rod iron balconies with hanging ferns as big as a Volkswagen. Live music on every other corner. The feeling of age. This place has been here for a long time, throughout hurricanes and depressions, and it came out vibrant on the other side. And it isn’t going anywhere.

Golf in the deep south can give those same feelings. Floods can come and take some of the course with them, but the tall, strong, century-old cypress and oak trees remain, decorated with moss. TPC Louisiana was built in 2004, so it’s a relatively new course. But the feeling is still old here. The land allows for that feeling. You’re in the bayou here and everything feels mature. A great place for golf.

It wouldn’t be a Pete Dye track without some phenomenally punitive bunkering. Gorgeous to look at but hell to get out of. Most greens are surrounded by coffin bunkers and awkward lies. The wet weather does give these greens lush conditions, too. The mini verde bermuda grass was in perfect shape for our round and each putt rolled true. But we did learn the greens don’t break as much as they look.

       

For the tour quality layout and conditions, the price for golf isn’t bad at all. The course offers dynamic pricing, meaning the cost will change depending on the month, day and even time of day. But in December, a round can run anywhere from $70 to $150 depending on when you want to tee off. That’s not unreasonable.

The ninth hole is one of my favorite holes on the course. A delightful little par 3 with water on the left and a green structure held up by railroad ties. It’s just quintessential Louisiana. The clubhouse watches gracefully behind the flag and it just feels like a good shot will be rewarded with a mason jar of sweet tea at the turn.

9th Green

Large waste bunker hazard

  

The signature hole is undoubtedly the closing par-5 18th. Water all along the right side is beached with a bunker structure that has to be 200 yards long. On warm days, this is a popular sunbathing spot for all the mamma gators.

The hole only plays 565 yards from the Dye Tees, which makes getting home in two a possible task for the longer hitters. A definite birdie hole with a well-placed drive, it’s a great finishing hole for the tour players and spectators alike. But with all that water looming along the right side, the tee shot can be a knee buckler.

  

We walked off the course with plenty of time to head back to the French Quarter and enjoy the rest of the day before dinner. Like I said, time in NOLA is best spent waiting on the next great meal.

Dinner for us was at The Rib Room, a favorite spot of mine that is conveniently located in the Omni Royal Orleans hotel. In 2017, a group of my best friends toasted to my upcoming nuptials here at the Rib Room at the ultimate bachelor party dinner. So this will always be a special place to me. It also just happens to cook up a first-class rib-eye steak, which I order every time. Also, make sure you get the New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp to kick things off. So damn tasty.

Maybe the best thing about the Rib Room, however, is that after a long meal with lots of red meat and red wine, I can just stumble upstairs to my hotel room overlooking Royal Street. It’s certainly one of the perks for staying at the Omni. And it means my kiddo can get into his pajamas and play with his mardi gras beads for the rest of the night.

Spend Some Time in the French Quarter…

I think in order to truly appreciate golf in New Orleans, you need to appreciate New Orleans. TPC Louisiana is a great golf course in its own right, but if you have a certain affinity for the bayou culture and lifestyle, you’re going to love the golf in this town. So if you take a golf trip to New Orleans, I hope you still leave an empty day on your schedule for the city. Walk around the town, see the sites, enjoy the food.

It is tough to keep my dad away from the casino. If you’re a gambler, Harrah’s is a fine substitute for Vegas. It’s a large, beautiful structure at the end of Canal Street and backed up to the mighty Mississippi River. It houses every game and drink your heart might desire.

   

We have dear friends that live in Cleveland, Mississippi, named Matty and Suzette. They’ve made it a tradition to come into town this same weekend each year for a visit, too, and to share good food and stories. We always convene at Antoine’s for a “three-hour lunch” that typically culminates in too much buttery french white wine and still not enough time for all the shared memories and laughs. It’s my favorite meal of the year and always a great time to see Matty and Suzy. New Orleans is about community, after all. And I love my community of people.

The wonders of the Mississippi

Cafe Du Monde Beignets. A must for all tourists, young and old.

Audubon Park Golf Course

Not far from the quarter, just past Tulane University on a darling thoroughfare called Magazine Street, sits Audubon Park. Approximately 350 acres of actual park land in New Orlean’s Uptown neighborhood, the park is bordered on one side by the Mississippi River and on the other side by the stately St. Charles Ave and it’s wonderful streetcars.  The golf course proudly declares that they are the only course in America that you can get to by street car. Charming.

And the whole experience of golf at Audubon Park is charming. The course was built in 1898 and is completely circled by a jogging and walking trail, which is always well populated due to it being such an absolutely beautiful area for a walk. I hit several shots under the watchful eye of stroller pushing moms and leashed golden doodles. The presence of so many non-golfers around the course makes the place feels very European.

Audubon Park Clubhouse

 

The clubhouse is a perfect complement to the course. Small but classic, with a pro shop big enough for a couple of groups of four at a time. Pay your green fee, maybe buy an 1898 logo hat and then head to the first tee. This is true public golf. And it is fun as hell. I decided to walk this round in order to get the full experience.

     

Audubon Park Golf Course is a unique layout. The 18 hole design is only 4,220 yards and a par 62. This includes 12 par 3s (six on each side), four par 4s and two par 5s. It’s the perfect spot for a game. The surplus of par 3s make the course incredibly walk able and I didn’t see many carts on the course at all.

Because of the park presences and the short hole designs, you do see a lot of other people during your round. The whole place feels communal and everyone was quick to say hello and share a smile. That’s New Orleans. Friendship defines Audubon Park.

Despite the shortness of the course, the place didn’t feel small at all to me. There are some real deal par 3s out there. And the two par 5s play like real par 5s. I didn’t walk away from the course feeling like I had just played some par 3 mini-golf design. It still feels like real golf. And honestly, it’s the most fun I have had on a course in a long time.

  

The conditions were phenomenal for a city park course. The greens were pure. Having just played TPC Louisiana, a site for a PGA Tour tournament, I didn’t feel like there was much of a downgrade in quality at all. The course certainly lacks some design creativity that you get with more land to work with. But the par 3s often have carries over water and peninsula greens. I never once felt bored with the routing or design.

When I told people I was playing Audubon Park, the common reaction was always “oh you’re going to have so much fun out there. That course is a blast.” I think there is something to the fact that par is only 62 that adds to the enjoyment. The pressure of traditional scoring and trying to “break 80” or “break 90” goes away and you are just out there to enjoy the game. Also, there is just something really fun about playing three par 3s in a row.

When I checked into our hotel at the Omni, the man behind the counter asked me what I was doing in town. I told him I was here to play some golf and he said “A bunch of us always head out to Audubon Park after work once a week to play. It’s a blast and we can get in around in 2 hours before the sun goes down.”

Audubon Park Golf is good for the game. Accessible, communal, and honestly cheap enough for everyone to enjoy. The green fees are $28 for resident and $38 for non-resident walkers. Only $10 to walk 9 and $20 for a twilight round. For the fun, that is damn tough to beat.

 

After my round, I left my bag with the pro shop and took a walk through the park. It ended up being a beautiful day. I crossed Magazine Street and met my family at the neighboring Audubon Zoo. It amazes me that such a wonderful golf course can be a part of the same park family as a first-class city zoo. Combine the two with your family and I had a really amazing four hours in Audubon Park. New Orleans has a gem here and it feels like the soul of the city.

 

New Orleans Golf

It just doesn’t get a ton of talk in the golf community, but a weekend golf trip in New Orleans should be higher on people’s lists than it is. TPC Louisiana is first class and a real test of golf with a touch of Pete Dye’s diabolical influence. Audubon Park might be the exact opposite but it is the epitome of what fun golf should be. Just a delightful place to swing the club.

Add all that to the fact that you get to spend a weekend in one of the coolest cities in the world, surrounded by culture, music and phenomenal food. I’m not sure why golfers aren’t flocking to the Big Easy. In fact, I think maybe you should.

If you want help planning your next golf experience or just have any questions about some of mine, reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram and shoot me a message. And feel free to check out my other golf experience articles. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Follow the sun: 3 winter golf trips where the PGA Tour plays

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golf, beach, ocean, Puerto Rico

Winter hasn’t begun and you’re already more sick of it than hearing another opinion about Patrick Reed’s sand play. You’re not alone. Approximately 433 million North American residents live in four-season climates where winter and golf aren’t always compatible. You can beat the winter blues and scratch your golf itch by following the PGA Tour this winter. Here are three places to consider.

ocean, cliffs, sunshine, travel, hawaii

Hawaii hosts two PGA Tour stops in January, and it’s one of the best golf states in the U.S. (Pictured: Poipu Bay, Kauai)

Aloha Hawaii in January

It doesn’t get better than this Pacific Ocean oasis for winter golf. The PGA Tour plays here in the Sentry Tournament of Champions (Plantation Course, Jan. 2-5, Maui) and the Sony Open (Waialae CC, Jan. 9-12, Honolulu). Xander Schauffle and Matt Kuchar are defending champions, respectively. With five major islands and scores of courses to choose from, it’s hard to make a poor choice. Perhaps start by identifying what style place you prefer. Want nightlife and action on and off course? Honolulu fits the bill. More into the laid back vibe? Kauai is calling. The Garden Isle is lush and serene, with courses including Puakea, Poipu Bay, Wailua, and Hokuala.

Inside tip: expect omnipresent trade winds that invite shot imagination and wildly unusual club selection. It’s not atypical to need 3-4 clubs more than normal (or less).

cactus, Arizona, desert, golf, golf course

Arizona – the land of cactuses, deserts, great golf courses, and ideal winter golf weather

Waste Not Arizona

You know about the Waste Management Open (TPC Scottsdale, Jan. 30-Feb. 2), home to electric stadium golf and stands full of wasted minions who particularly worship defending champion Ricky Fowler. But you should also know that there are more great golf courses in Arizona and around Phoenix-Scottsdale than you can count. Many are owned by Native American Tribes that were designed by some of the game’s greatest architects, including Tom Doak and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. They’re particularly compelling because they mix top-rated courses with Native American cultural influences. Talking Stick, We-Ko-Pa, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, Wild Horse Pass. You get the desert picture.

Inside tip: Desert golf can be point-to-point golf. Keeping the ball on the green stuff is paramount, considering all of the sand, rocks, cactuses, and scorpions that lie outside of it.

ocean, golf course, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar, Tom Fazio

With 17 golf courses , beaches, 4,000+ restaurants, and more than 80 direct flights daily, Puerto Rico is as convenient and satisfying a winter golf getaway as they come. (Pictured: Tom and George Fazio-designed Ocean Course at Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf & Beach Resort) 

Puerto Rico Fore February

While Hawaii and Arizona are relatively convenient to many, it’s not so much for those living in the eastern part of the continent. Puerto Rico is particularly traveler friendly for them. Not only because there are more than 80 direct flights to the Caribbean Island daily, but no passport is required for U.S. citizens. While Martin Trainer is defending his Puerto Rico Open title (Feb. 20-23, The Resort at Coco Beach), you could be playing one of the Island’s 17 courses, including a worthy collection around capital San Juan. These include TPC Dorado Beach (36 holes) – which GOLF named one of the Top 5 Luxury category places in out 2019 Top 100 Golf Resorts compendium – Rio Mar Golf & Beach Resort (36), and St. Regis Bahia Beach (18). Playing Coco Beach is another Capital Region option. Home to two Tom Kite designed 18-hole courses (Championship and International), Coco Beach was formerly a Trump International golf licensed venue.

Inside tip: Puerto Rico is the most exotic of the three winter golf destinations listed. But it’s bilingual and welcoming, just like its courses, all of which offer public access.

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