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The sweet marriage of golf and luxury consummated itself very early on in the game’s existence in America. Resorts where the country’s gentry had been vacationing long before golf was part of the American sports landscape quickly aligned themselves with the noble game imported from Scotland in the late 1800s.
Golf was being played by 1892 at The Homestead, the classic American resort that grew up around the healing natural springs in the Virginia mountains. Three years later the game landed at the Bedford Springs resort in south-central Pennsylvania. Pinehurst, the American resort now most associated with golf, unveiled its first course in 1898. Once the ball was rolling – pun intended – there was no stopping it.
Today, golf intermingles with luxury at resorts across the country, and whether you’re traveling to the beach, the mountains or the heartland, you can find a luxury resort where you can escape the daily grind and enjoy a holistic spa, a relaxing soak in a mineral spring, a good wine list with a hearty cut of beef and, oh yes, a fine game of golf.
Since 1788, The Greenbrier in the West Virginia mountains has hosted the world’s dignitaries and America’s aristocrats. It is the standard by which golf resorts are measured. The Greenbrier hosted the 1979 Ryder Cup on its Greenbrier Course and now holds an annual PGA Tour event on its first course, built in 1914, the Old White TPC course. Old White was recently renovated to restore the characteristics – punch bowl greens, imaginative bunkering and random mounds in the rough that create artificial hazards – of original designer C.B. Macdonald. The resort’s third course, The Meadows Course, has been changed many times to accommodate growth at the resort and while it doesn’t have the smooth flow of the other 2, it is a very friendly course for higher handicaps. Still, But it is the resort’s vast amenities the resort offers that make it the best – the impeccable accommodations, the world-class spa, the extravagant dining and even a casino.
The world recognizes Pinehurst Resort as home to the internationally acclaimed Pinehurst No. 2, which has hosted 2 of the last 14 U.S. Open championships. There are 7 more courses ranging from the newly renovated but still friendly No. 1 to the long and very difficult No. 4 to the Tom Fazio-designed No. 8, which shows the true geographic characteristics of the North Carolina Sandhills. The resort is far more than golf, offering 7 more courses and the majestic Carolina Hotel, which is now more than a century old yet retains the elegance of its old-world charm, as well as several other inns. After golf, lawn sports like croquet and lawn bowling are the most prevalent activity, although the spa has gained acclaim even though it is just a few years old.
As proof you can find luxury golf in all sorts of places these days, travel 60 minutes north of Milwaukee, WI, where the farmland suddenly gives way to what might be mistaken for Ireland. The American Club resort’s 36-hole Whistling Straits facility on the western shore of Lake Michigan serves a giant helping of Irish links golf, which on a windy day will be more than you can handle. But that’s ok, The resort, owned by Kohler Company – yes, the huge kitchen and bath fixture company – pampers its guests with an array of fine restaurants and the Kohler Waters Spa where a vast menu of treatments will rejuvenate your body and soul.
By Nick Kontis founder of the World Travel List