If you live in a cold-weather clime like I do, it’s understood that death and taxes are not our only certainties. The weather, or lack of enjoyable weather, weighs heavily on our collective psyche once the calendar turns to a new year. Will this year produce an early spring, or just a few teaser days of warm weather around St. Patrick’s Day like in recent years?
If the thought of shoveling and shivering has got you down, then I suggest you get out of town to one of these elite warm-weather golf destinations.
Editor’s Note: Check out part two of this series where I document a few shoulder season locations. These golf hot spots like Pinehurst, North Carolina; Branson, Missouri; and Hurricane, Utah are best enjoyed in April or May, when their weather becomes ideal.
TPC Scottsdale (Stadium and Champions Course), Scottsdale, The Fairmont Scottsdale
Why It’s Worth the Trip: Even the most casual golf fan can visualize the chaos when I mention “The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.” During the week of the NFL Championship, this simplistic par-3 is transformed into the PGA Tour’s ultimate party. And thanks to the public platform surrounding the TPC family of courses, anyone can play this amazing venue as well! While the newly revamped Stadium Course may host the Waste Management Open, TPC Scottsdale is also home to the outstanding Champions Course, an ideal venue when 18 holes just aren’t enough.
What Else You Should Know: This is one of the few places where I could write even more on the “stay” than the “play,” as our accommodations were that memorable. The adjacent Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a thriving mini-city, complete with a massive conference center, three pools, six tennis courts, six restaurants, and a two-mile walking trail that encompasses the entire property with stunning views of the golf course. La Hacienda, Chef Richard Sandoval’s perfect invention, is a must-try dining experience when in the area.
Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix
Why It’s Worth the Trip: Wildfire GC consists of two award-winning courses, the Faldo Championship Course and the Palmer Signature Course. Both courses are used during the JTBC Founder’s Cup, an LPGA regular-season tournament contested in mid-March. The Faldo Course is an atypical desert masterpiece, as massive sand blowouts and century-old cacti elicit a part-Pinehurst, part-Australian-desert feel. The Palmer Course takes golfers on a scenic desert experience with wide fairways and massive putting greens. Both courses are flanked by surrounding mountains and 360-degree epic views.
What Else You Should Know: The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is set against 316 stunning acres within the Sonoran Desert. Many of their guest rooms and suites feature private balconies that overlook the desert and one of two golf courses. This is an all-inclusive paradise that is highlighted by numerous restaurants and a full-service spa and fitness center. Plus, the resort is close to all major attractions in the greater Phoenix-Scottsdale area.
Streamsong Resort, Streamsong
Why It’s Worth the Trip: If you were blindfolded and dropped off at Streamsong Resort, it would take you at least five guesses before you came up with Florida. Thanks to wild elevation changes, wispy native grasses, and towering sand dunes, Streamsong Resort takes golfers on a journey to minimalist perfection. Opened in 2013, Streamsong Resort originally featured two of the top 60 courses in the U.S., The Red and The Blue. The Red Course, designed by the dynamic duo of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore is highlighted by what the architects call “some of the most unusual, interesting and dramatic land forms we have ever encountered … the landscape is different than anything we’ve ever worked with.” The Blue Course, designed by Tom Doak, is no pushover, with a dynamic set of par-3s and a bevy of jaw-dropping holes.
What Else You Should Know: Streamsong just added its third Championship layout, Streamsong Black, designed by Gil Hanse. The course opened during the fall of 2017 and recently won the prestigious 2018 Best New Course award by Golf Digest. Walking is strongly recommended on all three courses, plus they offer a unique six-hole and 12-hole loop that allows golfers to play the first six holes on both Red and Blue Courses in roughly three hours. Streamsong Resort is roughly 90 minutes from Orlando and Tampa and offers an all-inclusive vacation, thanks to their 216-room lodge and multiple dining options.
Why It’s Worth the Trip: Even though the legendary Arnold Palmer passed away in 2016, his legacy lives on at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. The 270-acre resort, which he purchased in 1974, is as classy and dignified as the man himself. Guests have the ability to play the private 27-hole layout by purchasing any one of their affordable stay and play packages. There is something to be said about experiencing holes you’ve watched played on TV every March during The Arnold Palmer Invitational, part of the PGA TOUR since 1966.
What Else You Should Know: Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge has every amenity a golfer could hope for, including a full-service spa, multiple fine-dining options, and the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy. The 27 holes at Bay Hill are divided into three nines — the Champion and Challenger Nines, which create the 18-hole TOUR layout, and the underrated Charger Nine. The closing stretch of holes 16 through 18 is one of the finest par-5, par-3, par-4 combinations in the nation.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon
Why It’s Worth the Trip: I am proud to say that I am not equipped to describe the beauty of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort accurately, as my trip last March to Mike Keiser’s creation was otherworldly. Located roughly five hours southwest of Portland, Bandon Dune Golf Resort features four courses within Golfweek’s 2018 Best Modern Courses list. Incredibly, the list ranks all four in the top 15, with Pacific Dunes, Old MacDonald, and Bandon Dunes all coming in the elite eight. Plan at least a four-day trip so your group can play all four championship courses without having to play 36 each day.
What Else You Should Know: The weather is hit or miss on the west coast of Oregon during the winter, but typically March and April will produce temps in the 50s with minimal rain. Make sure you plan for all types of weather as it can be gorgeous one minute and raining cats and dogs the next. Bandon Dunes is a walking-only facility and I highly recommend taking a caddie to confirm a true links golf experience. Make sure your group plays The Preserve, the finest par-3 course I’ve ever played!
Golfers Who Give Back
As you plan your year of golf, keep an eye out for the many tournaments that raise money for great causes. For inspiration, check out this list of top golfers who give back and the charities they support.
More from Make It Better:
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- 5 Unexpected Alternatives to Popular Tourist Destinations
- 6 Winter Vacation Destinations That are Tons of Fun for Non-Skiers
Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native who has been the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine since 2005. Glen’s ultimate golf goal is to play in all 50 states and currently he is more than two-thirds the way there. Glen and his wife have a rescue German Shepherd dog and are passionate supporters of their local humane society. Glen also enjoys participating in charity golf tournaments such as those benefitting Special Olympics. You can read all of Glen’s previous works at midwestgolfingmagazine.com by clicking on the “Past Issues” tab within the main menu.