MobileGolfer’s 40 Best Golf Trip Destinations in America: Nos. 10-1
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MobileGolfer’s 40 Best Golf Trip Destinations in America: Nos. 10-1


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5. Mobile/Gulf Shores (Alabama)

Courses: Fallen Oak, Camp Creek, Kelly Plantation, Regatta Bay, Emerald Bay, Sandestin Resort (The Raven, Links & Burnt Pine) RTJ Golf Trail (Magnolia Grove, Cambrian Ridge & Lakewood Golf Club), Kiva Dunes

Best Kept Secret: Earl Stone’s Rock Creek

I told you the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail made the list twice. This is the other one. What makes it more valuable than Birmingham as a GolfGetaway? Top-100 course Fallen Oak across the state line in Biloxi. Three great golf courses at Sandestin Resort across the other state line in Destin, Fla. (next to Kelly Plantaion, Regatta Bay and Emerald Bay). Kiva Dunes out on the island. Lambert’s Restaurant in Foley. All of that and then the remarkable Trail stops at Cambrian Ridge (four nines, including an awesome Short nine), The Grand Hotel in Point Clear (two courses) and the three courses at Magnolia Grove (including a fantastic 18-hole par-3 course). Take all of that and add in The Brick Pit, Krispy Kreme donuts and all the white beach sand of the Gulf Shores -- this is a less-congested Myrtle Beach, a less expensive Florida Gulf destination. And, bottom line, it beats Michigan because you can play golf here 12 months out of the year. So, all of you golfers stuck in long winters across the top half of the United States, if you’re looking for remarkably high-value stay-and-play escapes ON THE BEACH, you’d be erring big time if you didn’t look at Mobile/GOLF Shores for your next group trip. It can get a little cold, and it can get a little hot, but most of the time, it’s just right.

THE 7TH GREEN AT PEBBLE

4. Monterey (California)

Courses: Pebble Beach Resort (Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Links at Spanish Bay), Pasatiempo, CordeValle, Half Moon Bay Resort (Ocean)

Not Really a Best Kept Secret: The back nine at Pacific Grove

You have to be wealthy and have wealthy friends to pull off a group golf getaway in Monterey. Considering Pebble Beach Resorts require a two-night stay to then pay $500-plus to play their crown jewel course, and the other two “cheaper” rounds (Spyglass and Spanish Bay) would be the most expensive rounds in 44 states -- yeah, good luck. That said, thousands of people DO make this pilgrimage every year because THIS IS PEBBLE BEACH. Whether Pebble Beach or Pacific Dunes is the rightful “Best Public Course in America” really doesn’t matter, you’ll hear compelling arguments both ways. What does matter is, if you have the means and opportunity to play Pebble Beach, you suck it up and play it. It can be a long round, with everyone trying to get their money’s worth out of every single shot and distracting views that go on pretty much forever (especially in the evening). But if you get the chance to play out here, do it and do it right. Come with patience. Come with respect. Come with appreciation for the blessing you have to get to play THE PEBBLE BEACH, and you’ll go home happy no matter what you shoot. I shot 82 there last time, after starting 7-8. (One of the best rounds of my life even with those two $#!%%! Holes.) Fly out to San Francisco Airport (SFO). After your mandatory two nights at Pebble Beach Resorts hotels, move to Quail Lodge or the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. You can play Pasatiempo and CordeValle if you’ve got really deep pockets, otherwise stick to the newly renovated Quail Lodge course, Black Horse/Bayonet and Poppy Hills or the two at Half Moon Bay. I realize that other destinations have MORE great golf than Monterey (unless you can get onto Cypress Point or Monterey Peninsula CC) but all those other destinations don’t have Pebble Beach. And that’s worth a lot to ANY golfer. NOTE: Pacific Grove is as good a golf value as you can get in these parts. It too, can be a long round as “the Poor Man’s Pebble Beach” and the front nine is just so-so, but that back nine...WOW!

The 14th on the Bandon Trails course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon (Photo by Brian Oar / GolfNewsNet.com)

3. Bandon (Oregon)

Courses: Bandon Dunes Resort (Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes, Old Macdonald, Bandon Trails & Bandon Preserve), Sandpines

Best Kept Secret: Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch

No offense to Pebble Beach and all its collective greatness but Bandon Dunes is unequivocally the single best GOLF resort in America. (For now -- Sand Valley and Big Cedar are coming!) Four of the country’s best golf courses on one property AND Bandon Preserve, which is arguably the country’s greatest short course -- it’s almost not fair. Add in the Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch experience next door (for those willing to put in a little extra work and money for a lot of extra fun) and Bandon Dunes is THE destination for America’s golf getaways. So why is it No. 3 on the list? It’s too remote. That is the allure to many, and it is the ONE resort in America that I would contend EVERY GOLFER must try to get to once. Yes, there are more flights that get you close now. But, it’s a long way from Bandon to the next best golf in Bend. If and when Pacific Gales ever opens up here, Bandon will have a little more diversity. I HATE telling people to go out to Bandon and NOT go to Bend (and vice versa). If you’re a David McLay Kidd fan (which everyone should be) you’re going to love the original Bandon Dunes course. But then you also need to play Tetherow in Bend (where Kidd has a home). And they’re just too far away for most golf groups to make BOTH make sense. You can fly into Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend and spend a full five nights at Bandon Dunes, playing each course twice. You never have to leave the property and will have all the great everything you want. Like I said, if I were strictly making this a list of “Best Golf Resorts,” Bandon Dunes would be No. 1. (NOTE: I’m asked all the time to rank Bandon’s courses. I have them: 1. Bandon Dunes. 2. Pacific Dunes. 3. Bandon Preserve. 4. Old Mac. 5. Bandon Trails. Ask me tomorrow and the order might be different. Yes, they are ALL that great!)

About the author

Eric N. Hart

Eric N. Hart

Eric Hart (aka MobileGolfer) is an award-winning travel and leisure writer for Golf News Net and the owner of Stays + Plays Travel Agency in the Midwest. Eric has stayed at 250-plus resorts and hotels around the world and played 500-plus golf courses. He has worked with 16 tourism agencies and written more than 1,100 articles for 14 regional, national and international golf, family and travel publications since he began in 2007. With a passion for promoting both golf and family travel, Eric routinely hits the road with his son and/or the full family (wife and four kids).

Reach Eric by email at info[at]staysandplays.com