The 10 Best Golf Resorts in North America — Chosen By You!

It’s only fitting that The Broadmoor has climbed to the top of our biennial resort rankings. Though lofty heights are nothing new for the venerable retreat in the Colorado Rockies, this is the perennial contender’s first trip to the summit. In a mild upset, the Broadmoor narrowly edged out the reigning champ, Bandon Dunes.

As always, the quality of the golf was paramount in tabulating the votes. We enjoy puffy pillows and plummy wine as much as you do, but challenging layouts and tee-box panoramas come first in our book. As you cruise through our list of Platinum, Gold and Silver medal winners, warm yourselves with late-winter thoughts of emerald fairways and hot-stone massages. This year, 15 first-time medal winners made the list, including the Grand Del Mar in San Diego, our highest-ranked newcomer.

Oh, and when you call the folks at the reservation desks, ask about special packages — including all-you-can-play deals. You might save a few bucks, or land a bigger room. And during your stay, remember two important things: (1) Never leave a birdie putt short. (2) Never tell your buddies about the mud mask and facial you had at the spa. That’s our little secret.

The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colo. 855-634-7711,

Since legendary entrepreneur Philip Anschutz purchased The Broadmoor in 2011, management has made impressive renovations to the hotel and its restaurants, and also dramatically upgraded the amenity package. The Broadmoor’s jump to the top spot in our rankings was powered by a runaway win in the Service category and top-5 showings in both Lodging and Food & Drink. True, the golf (three 18-hole tracks) isn’t as spectacular as it is at some iconic resorts. But the East Course — featuring design elements courtesy of Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones — is strong enough to have hosted both the 2008 U.S. Senior Open and the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. And, well, the Rocky Mountains will just have to suffice as the backdrop for your on-course heroics.

The American Club
Kohler, Wis. 800-344-2838,

Since we introduced the Platinum medal category in 2008, this heartland haven has earned four straight slots in the Top 3. And now the historic hotel has been remodeled, as has the adjacent Carriage House Annex. Good news for beer-and-brat fans: The celebrated Horse & Plow restaurant has reopened. The Golf score is the strong suit at The American Club. The revamped Blackwolf Run course wowed competitors at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. And the Whistling Straits track, with its countless bunkers and stunning Lake Michigan vistas, is muscular and demanding enough to host both the 2015 PGA Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup.

The Greenbrier
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. 855-453-4858,

The Greenbrier is an old reliable among our Platinum winners—it just exudes tradition. Yet its golf greatness derives from the fact that it never stands still. Consider the 101-year-old Old White TPC course, one of the few C.B. Macdonald masterworks open to the public. The course was lovingly restored by Lester George in 2006, and more recently it was further toughened up to challenge the big boys on the PGA Tour, in the Greenbrier Classic. Even with its three acclaimed tracks — the Greenbrier Course hosted the 1979 Ryder Cup, Seve’s first — it’s the resort’s top-6 rankings in Lodging, Food & Drink and Service that keep it in rarified air.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Bandon, Ore. 888-345-6008,

The Oregon gem didn’t take long to become a legend. The oldest of its four full-length courses is only 14, but Bandon Dunes already has a place in our golf psyches. There’s something about its mix of earth and sea and sky that thrills. Although Bandon finished No. 2 overall, it won the coveted top spot in the Golf rankings. And this year, reviewers rave about Bandon’s new small-ball offerings: Bandon Preserve, a brilliant 13-hole par-3 course courtesy of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and The Punchbowl, America’s most entertaining putting course. This 3.5-acre gathering place — or is it a watering hole? — features drink holders at every tee.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Kiawah Island, S.C. 800-654-2924,

When Rory Mcllroy lapped the field with his record-setting march to victory at the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah’s Ocean Course, the world was reminded of the track’s character and the resort’s beauty. Four other top-notch tracks lift Kiawah to a Top 10 Golf ranking, and the eco-sensitive resort on the Atlantic Ocean grabs top-20 spots in every other category. The pristine beaches are exquisite, the tennis program world-class, and the Sanctuary Hotel (its decor conjuring thoughts of Gone with the Wind) is a charmer. The Atlantic is a constant companion at Kiawah. As you sip a Dark & Stormy (spiced rum, ginger beer and lime) at the Ryder Cup Bar while you gaze out at the course and the waves, you’ll feel both the energy and serenity of the sea.

Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation
Greensboro, Ga. 706-467-0600,

This boutique-sized property with massive golf offerings slipped out of our Top 10 in 2012. Now under new ownership, Reynolds Plantation is back in the Platinum elite. It boasts a lovely lakeside location midway between Atlanta and Augusta — a stay would be the perfect capper to Masters week. The renovated rooms emphasize gracious Southern stylings, and the restaurant, Georgia’s Bistro — with timber ceiling beams and a baronial fireplace — has been polished up. And they haven’t forgotten the golf. A reworking of the Landing course by original architect Bob Cupp, with former Augusta National superintendent Billy Fuller, has restored The Ritz at Reynolds to its elevated status.

Pebble Beach Resorts
Pebble Beach, Calif. 800-654-9300,

We could treat the three resorts — the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero — as separate properties. But the shuttle system, shared facilities and overall high quality make them feel like one dream-fulfilling package. Always a top-5 scorer in Golf (Those rocks! Those seals! That ocean!), Pebble has upped the ante yet again, this time by tweaking the greens and expanding the practice facility. The biggest upgrade in dining options is The Bench, a new restaurant that overlooks the 18th hole at the Lodge at Pebble Beach. Wood-roasted entrées, relaxed ambience and Instagram-worthy views of the Pacific have already made it wildly popular with both guests and locals. It’s no surprise that Pebble…well, rocks.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu
Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii 808-325-8000,

As if you needed another reason to visit paradise, this multiple Platinum winner on the dry north Kona coast of Hawaii’s Big Island earned the No. 1 ranking in Lodging. Guests rave about the resort’s roomy, low-slung bungalows, which melt into the landscape and offer a seamless transition between indoors and out. For good measure, the property scored a third-place finish in Service and a fourth in Food & Drink. There’s plenty to tweet home about on the oceanside Jack Nicklaus course; it’s friendly, lava-lined and packed with holes demanding enough to test the Champions Tour pros each year in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.

Pinehurst Resort
Pinehurst, N.C. 855-235-8507,

This June, Pinehurst’s fabled No. 2 will make history when it hosts both the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens in back-to-back weeks. Donald Ross’s classic course — and those famed crowned greens — will be ready, having been brilliantly restored by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Many of the resort’s other golf venues have been polished up as well. They’ve converted the bent-grass greens on courses 1, 3 and 8 to the smoother-rolling ultra-dwarf Bermuda. And they’ve added a new 18-hole putting course, Thistle Dhu, so named because when steamship magnate James Barber first saw the property on which he built his estate — and the first miniature golf course in the country — he is rumored to have said, “This’ll do.”

Sea Island Resort
Sea Island, Ga. 888-732-4752,

If you’re a charter member of Foodie Nation, take note: Sea Island won the resort Food & Drink crown. That’s quite a coup given all the good eats out there. A new dining option, Tavola, merges classic Italian with traditional Lowcountry accents in a casual environment. And Sea Island is also top 5 across the board: No. 3 for Lodging (both for its Lodge and for its historic Cloister), No. 4 for Service, and stellar as to the golf. The Retreat Course was reworked by Davis Love Ill and his brother Mark in 2000. The Plantation course makes magic of marshes, and the links-style Seaside course, host to the McGladrey Classic, is both beautiful and Tour-tough.

Courtesy of Joe Passov (

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa: Legends, tangerines and birdies come together in southern California

ojai valleyThe Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is about a 90-minute drive northwest of Los Angeles in the village of Ojai (pronounced O-high), but it’s a world away from Hollywood.

Perhaps that’s why generations of movie stars and moguls — including Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Walt Disney — have made the drive, as well as other SoCal residents and tourists seeking escapism in a real-life, back-to-nature experience.

The property itself was featured in the Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn film “Pat and Mike” as well as Jack Nicholson’s “Chinatown” sequel, “The Two Jakes.”

The Inn is just a 15-minute drive from the ocean, situated in a lush, green valley at the foot of the Los Padres National Forest. The naturally hilly terrain and surrounding mountains create impressive vistas, a resort laid out on top of and around the bulbous topography, and a challenging layout for golfers to play.

Ohio glass manufacturer Edward Drummond Libbey built the hacienda-style resort in 1923. He hired architect Wallace Neff to design the Spanish Colonial-style clubhouse and George C. Thomas, Jr. to create the golf course at Ojai Valley.

Golf at Ojai Valley: A course for all clubs

Thomas is quoted on a plaque near the first tee waxing about this layout: “I believe I am absolutely impartial as to the courses which I have helped to build, but I consider the Ojai course as far and away above the best of them … there is not a weak hole at Ojai.”

It’s hard to argue with the architect as you survey the course from the clubhouse, taking in the driving range on a plateau down below you and the adjacent first tee, which faces out into nature.

As you may expect from a AAA Five Diamond resort, the golf valet offers club rentals, shoe polishing, bag storage and on-demand club repair. Caddies are also available with advance notice. The carts are equipped with GPS and hole flyover features.

It is not the longest course, playing just 6,292 yards from the tips to a par of 70 (72 for women), but it is challenging with a slope of 132 and nothing if not picturesque.

Jeff Johnson, the Inn’s director of golf instruction, says the course plays long since almost all of the holes have an uphill approach. He recalled Arnold Palmer’s comments coming off the course after a senior’s event held on site: “That’s the longest short course I’ve ever played.”

The two nines have distinct personalities.

“The front nine is target golf with forced carries, doglegs; a fun nine holes that are easy for the better-than-average player,” Johnson says. “The slopes and carries are harder for average golfers.”

The backside is longer, more open and straight and offers up more birdie opportunities.

Many of the fairways, especially the opening holes, are slanted as they’re built into the side of the rolling hills and balls will run downhill toward the deep barrancas that wind throughout the course, so play your shots accordingly.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa off course

The area’s fertile land is ripe for growing oranges and the sweet Pixie Tangerines for which the region is known. If you happen to be there in-season (March-May), be sure to ask the concierge for pixies.

For a closer look at the countryside, rent a bicycle from The MOB Shop’s kiosk beside the Inn’s pro shop. The MOB Shop can arrange everything from a trendy Linus Bike for cruising through town or along Pacific Coast Highway or serious cycles for a climb up the valley’s towering peaks. The company arranges tours for individuals as well as corporate outings.

After a hard day pedaling over the trails, swinging clubs out on the course, or just enjoying one of the resort’s pools, visitors can count on the Inn’s noted spa to tap into the valley’s good vibrations.

“Ojai is the unofficial ‘Zen Capital’ of southern California, so it is natural that guests and celebrities alike want to escape the hustle and bustle of city-life to a tranquil destination where you can be left undisturbed,” says Heather Dillon, PR director for the Inn.

The spa does not allow mobile devices, it’s a child-free area, and is the place to truly leave those cares, and sore muscles, behind.

Families flock to the Herb Garden pool. And Camp Oak organizes fun activities for children while parents tee it up or get a rub down.

As for dining options, the Oak Room offers upscale dinners inside or out with views overlooking the 11th tee box. Sunday brunch features bluegrass under its branches and kids of all ages are invited to clap, stomp and dance along in the grass.

Jimmy’s Pub — named for three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret — offers microbrews and lighter fare for the turn, family lunch or a group watching sports at the bar.

A new signature restaurant is expected to open by early summer. Dillon says it’s one of several ongoing enhancements that will include a new adults-only pool near the lobby.

Sunset at Ojai Valley: Not soon forgotten

One thing’s for sure, book tee times and spa appointments early (especially in summer) as you don’t want to miss sunset; always a special occasion in Ojai and at the Inn. Grab a drink and a spot outside, or stroll out onto the putting green, but give it some time because when the sun disappears for the day, the rosy tinge on the horizon grows slowly until the east-west mountain range bursts with a majestic glow. Take a photo because along with that impossible birdie putt or sweet approach over the barranca, this money-shot will make you want to come back.

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