Golf. One of the most popular sports in the world – and for good reason. Accessible at any age, there’s a real joy in playing a leisurely round or two on a beautiful, lush course when the weather is fine. It’s a pastime that has been enjoyed for centuries, from professional to amateur, from Royalty to the common man/woman, a love affair that shows no signs of waning any time soon. But perhaps one of the real beauties of the game is that it also makes for the perfect vacation.
Golf and travel go hand in hand, at once providing the opportunity to explore some of the world’s most stunning destinations while giving you a chance to up your handicap. But whether you’re playing or watching, here are some of the world’s best golf trip destinations – with a dash of luxury thrown in. So, tick all of them off your golfing bucket list – because you deserve it.
Best golf trip ideas for your bucket list
- The Old Course – St. Andrews – Scotland
- The British Open – Portrush – Northern Ireland
- The US Open – Pebble Beach – California
- The Masters – Augusta National – Georgia
- PGA Championship – Bethpage Black Course – New York
- Royal Isabela – Puerto Rico
- Royal Melbourne – Victoria – Australia
The Old Course – St. Andrews – Scotland
It’s a bit of a no brainer this one – no golf vacations list would be complete without including a trip to the home of the sport. It was here sometime in the 15th century that our (fore)fathers began to develop the game we know and love today. The Old Course in St. Andrews on the east coast of Scotland is home to the prestigious Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the oldest of its kind in the world, founded in 1754. There are no less than six beautiful and challenging courses here, but the highlight is undoubtedly the famous double greens and Swilcan Bridge – a 700-year-old golfing Mecca.
Old Course, “Old Course, St Andrews” by G Laird is licensed under CC BY 2.0
And after a day enjoying the fineries that you can experience on the green, St. Andrews is an ancient delight, known for its Cathedral, the ruins of St. Andrews Castle, and – of course – the excellent British Golf Museum – which no true fan should miss. Scotland has recently been voted the most beautiful country in the world, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy a golf trip to these shores. Their traditional fish and chips are the best in the British Isles, too.
The British Open – Portrush – Northern Ireland
Staying in the UK we move across to Northern Ireland’s beautiful Portrush course, home of this year’s British Open. The Dunluce Links are up there with the most challenging in the world, named after the ruined Dunluce Castle that overlooks the green. Right on the wild, rugged, Northern Irish coast, players will be battling with the elements as much as they are against each other. In 2007, Golf Digest ranked it as the fourth best course outside of the US.
Portrush itself is a charming seaside town built out along a peninsula, itself a popular holiday destination, with beautiful beaches to keep you entertained when not watching the pros duke it out for the Claret Jug. But Belfast should be your base, a town steeped in maritime history, not least as the birthplace of the RMS Titanic. A travel package to the British Open this year promises to be every bit as dramatic as the landscape that welcomes it.
The US Open – Pebble Beach – California
Perhaps the most iconic of all stateside courses, Pebble Beach is a by-word for golf trip excellence. It has hosted the thrilling US Open no less than five times, with the sixth arriving this year. As far as coastal courses go, few would argue its pedigree, proudly sitting above the crashing waters of the Pacific below. Every hole is a dream, but it boasts the most incredible vistas from the 7th and 8th. As Jack Nicklaus said, “If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach.” High praise indeed.
Monterey is home to 20 courses, all within swinging distance of one another. And there’s no denying the stunning beauty of the landscape that encompasses them. The famous Highway 101 down through Big Sur is one of the best drives on the planet, with some truly memorable viewpoints along this particular 17-mile stretch. And with the US Open landing on Father’s Day weekend this year, there’s no better time to book one of the best golf trips for guys money can buy. This is just a different class.
The Masters – Augusta National – Georgia
This clash of the titans is the only major tournament to be held on the same course each year. Since 1934, the best of the best battle for the coveted green jacket over links designed by founder Bobby Jones and the great golf course architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie. It has been extended and improved significantly over the years to keep it a consistent challenge. A former plant nursery, every hole is named after a tree or shrub, giving you an indication of just how gorgeous this vividly emerald course is. As bucket list golf trips go, it certainly needs to be tee’d off.
The course is situated in the heart of Augusta, the old stomping ground of soul legend James Brown, and the Museum of History has exhibits dedicated to both him and golf. This leafy town has real southern charm, with a late evening stroll along the breathtaking Savannah River a particular highlight. There’s still plenty to see and do here for all the family over this four-day contest, making The Masters one of the best golf vacation destinations around.
PGA Championship – Bethpage Black Course – New York
Just around the corner in May, the 101st PGA Championship finds its way to the most challenging of all Bethpage State Park’s courses – the Black. Opening back in 1936 and located on Long Island, this green has grown into a very demanding 18, famous as a driver’s course because of its long fairways. Designed by US golf architect A.W. Tillinghast, it rightly gets considerable praise from golfing greats, particularly as it’s accessible to the public yet maintains its quality as much as any exclusive club. Its PGA debut is set to be a memorable experience for all attending.
When it comes to golf trip ideas, adding a city like New York into the mix has the potential to offer some truly world-class hospitality. You’ll never be short of anything to see or do in the Big Apple when taking some downtime from the action. Take in a show on Broadway, enjoy a birds-eye view from the Empire State, or people watch at Times Square. The city is filled with golfing stores too, making it one of the best places for golf trips if you really want to treat yourself.
Royal Isabela – Puerto Rico
You don’t have to go too far if you’re looking for a bit of tropical golf. Puerto Rico is home to some really good quality courses – Perhaps the best being the stunning, coastal Royal Isabela club. Located on the northwest coast, its 426 acres of Atlantic views and pristine greens, all set within one of the most decadent and luxurious resorts on the island. With a year-round temperate climate, Puerto Rico is a golfing paradise – and Royal Isabela the jewel in the crown. It’s challenging, 73 par round will enthrall you, even if the coastal conditions embarrass your game.
But apart from the sumptuous surroundings and 5-star accommodation, what makes Puerto Rico one of the best golf vacation destinations is the price. Certainly compared to some of the aforementioned courses, you can live like a king or queen here for a fraction of the cost. And in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, resorts are extensively rebuilding, eager to once again attract golf fans from all over the world. There’s no better time to enjoy this bucket list golf trip than now.
Royal Melbourne – Victoria – Australia
Another course by the indubitable Mackenzie, the Royal Melbourne Club is Australia’s premier golf trip destination. Located in a region known as the Sandbelt, the soil has made it particularly easy to place bunkers wherever an architect desires. As you might expect in the Scottish-Yorkshireman’s deft hands, he has created an experience quite unlike any other. The sheer variety here will keep your game in check – particularly with approach shots and an abundance of tricky hazards. You’ll need to be a member of an overseas club to play through though.
But as luck would have it, this coming December sees the return of the President’s Cup to Australia’s finest course, where an international team (minus Europe) takes on a team from the US. And with the wintery weather setting in throughout the northern hemisphere, it’s a perfect choice for a bucket list golf vacation this year. A holiday down under is just what Dr. Mackenzie ordered.
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