Image: Black Mesa Golf Club spa, New Mexico
Jeff Logan  /  © iStockphoto.com
The central New Mexico corridor is dotted with spectacular and distinctive desert courses. Start with Black Mesa Golf Club, then retire to the mountainside Ten Thousand Waves spa for Japanese-style spa therapy treatments.
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updated 4/2/2008 3:18:39 PM ET 2008-04-02T19:18:39

It's a common enough scenario. You're a dedicated enthusiast of the links, but your spouse isn't. For many, amazing courses aren’t enough to justify a five-day vacation, but how about an arts festival in Edinburgh? Or treatments at a world-renowned spa in New Mexico? They might close the deal.

Bill Hogan, president of luxury golf vacation planner Wide World of Golf, says, "A group of men might travel to Scotland and play 36 holes a day, then go to a pub and then have dinner and call it a day. Couples like to do more sightseeing and be engaged by more experiences—such as cooking lessons in the afternoon, or perhaps fly-fishing, or going to some great vineyards."

Going to a comprehensive world-class resort is one easy way to ensure there’s more to do than just golf. At the Gleneagles Hotel and Resort in Scotland, for example, there are three golf courses—plus such rugged outdoor pastimes as horseback riding, shooting and falconry. Likewise, in a well-developed destination like the Dominican Republic, you can play any of a half-dozen great golf courses in the morning, and in the afternoon go snorkeling or head out for deep-sea marlin and mahi-mahi sport fishing. Or, of course, you can just lounge on the beach with your companion.

With careful planning and expert advice, virtually every activity can be worked into a golfing trip. Sam Baker, of Haversham & Baker, purveyors of high-end golf vacations to Europe and the Far East, tell us, "Last year a group of golfing horse-racing enthusiasts had us plan for them to spend time in Dublin during the Irish Derby at the Curragh in nearby County Kildare.”

For honeymooners (or second honeymooners) who are wavering over a destination, world-class golf can tip the scales. A place like New Zealand may seem like a long way away, but "New Zealand is such a distinctive destination because wherever you go, it's so incredibly beautiful," says Ken Fish, owner and president of Absolute Travel, a boutique travel planning agency specializing in deluxe itineraries to Asia, Africa, South America and the South Pacific. "There's great accommodations, and great food and wine, and knowing how much great golf is there can make the difference for a lot of folks."

Closer to home, regions of Europe that are famous for wining and dining may also thrill the dedicated golfer. Bill Hogan has been traveling to France for decades, but still sounds amazed when he describes Golf Club du Médoc. "Right in the heart of Bordeaux, some of the best wine-growing real estate on the planet, you have a golf club that's quite gorgeous, and the place is very luxurious. It was always somewhat surprising to me that this valuable real estate, which could generate millions of dollars per annum growing fruit, was used for a golf course."

Image: Italy, southern Tuscan coast
Manuela Weschk  /  © iStockphoto.com
Generally speaking the golf in Italy is no match for the cuisine, the scenery or Italian warmth and charm—but any reason to visit Italy is a good one. This summer, Italian golf gets a boost when the luxurious Argentario Golf Resort opens on the southern Tuscan coast, just across the sea from Corsica.
Even seagoing adventures aren’t unheard of. Ken Fish has booked many such trips for his clients. "Since so many of the great golf courses of the world are located on the coasts, it allows us to tailor trips for them which include things like fishing and kayaking, often to destinations they scarcely knew existed."

Indeed, golf can be the driving force behind exploring exotic locales. Thanks to the sport’s explosion in the Far East, for instance, golfers are finding it worthwhile to bring along the sticks when they travel to China, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Image: Maui Wave Riders in Kihei, surfing, Hawaii
© www.gohawaii.com
Novice surfers can get lessons from Maui Wave Riders in Kihei, while the bravest and most accomplished riders (or dedicated spectators) can travel to Hookipa.

"Rapidly developing countries produce wealth, which in turn produces demand for luxuries like large homes and golf courses," says Sam Baker. "Spring City near Kunming, China is as much a real estate development for the wealthy of Asia as it is a golf resort."

Businessmen in these nations are also finding that golf is an effective calling-card. "Destinations promoting tourism as a vital part of their economy quickly discover that no segment of the traveling public spends more than golf tourists—several times more than the next highest category," Baker notes. "It makes sense for local governments to encourage and even subsidize investments in golf courses to attract higher-spending tourists."

Here are a few itineraries to destinations around the world where you can find great golf and other diversions every bit as thrilling as holing an eagle putt.

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