Major golf courses of a size and quality worthy of a vacation trip are rather “spotty” outside the United States, to such an extent that the few outstanding foreign locations come immediately to mind. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Spain are golfing standouts of Europe; Jamaica and Puerto Rico have the major golf facilities of the Caribbean; Australia has them in the South Pacific. Beyond that handful of destinations, you find scarcely any really substantial opportunities for worthwhile, golf-related travel to Asia and the Miiddle East, to Africa, India, and South America.
The United States is another matter. Here, every major resort worthy of the name has a golf course, and the leading resorts have outstanding golf courses. Golf vacations are such an important travel activity, in so many scores of locations, that it hardly pays to attempt a listing of them.
Rather, we’ve limited ourselves in this section of our Web site to describing (a) the major golf “camps” and “schools” of America, supplying instruction in golf on an intensive basis; (b) the major golf areas and several typical golf resorts of America, in which golf occupies a very special position, and is a subject of instruction; and (c) two major golf tour operators who make the arrangements for trips to major golf tournaments.
Golf Camps and Schools
The John Jacobs Golf Schools
The largest chain of American golf schools is that of English golf star and coach John Jacobs—the John Jacobs Golf Schools — at 34 resort hotels in 16 states; it is now in its 31st year. Reason for its success? Affordable prices for high quality instruction at good resort and hotels. The exact formula is built around a price of $995 per person for six nights at the hotel, five days of weekday golf instruction from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. (interrupted by lunch) at most hotels, six breakfasts, five lunches, and two dinners (opening and closing ceremonies.) Believe it or not, that “package” is offered at hotels as high in category as the Sunrise Hilton in Fort Lauderdale, at Marriott’s Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, California, at Rancho Viejo Resort in South Padre Island, Texas, at the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, and many others, even in their high season winter months. It’s an excellent value, and you’ll want to obtain the free, 72-page brochure outlining the program in all of its locations and seasons. Write to Jacobs Golf Group at 7825 East Redfield Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85260-6977, or phone 888/853-3739 or 480/991-8587, or fax 480/991-8243, or access www.jacobsgolf.com.
The Golf School
The Original Golf School, debuting 25 years ago at Mount Snow, Vermont (Grand Summit Resort Hotel) is operated from May until October at Mount Snow, from in the winter months at Crystal River, Florida (Plantation Inn) and Beach Club Golf Link (Ocean City, MD), and during the summer and early fall at Sugarloaf, Maine (Grand Summit Resort Hotel). Participants receive hotel lodgings (double occupancy,) five hours of golf instruction daily, lunch daily, and other extras, for as little as $997 (depending on the resort) for five days. There’s one pro teacher for each four students. There is a program for women-only at Mount Snow. Write for literature to The Original Golf School, Rt. 100, West Dover, VT 05356 or phone 800/240-2555, or access www.thegolfschool.com.
In the field of individual golf schools, limited to one location per school, I find two establishments to be especially impressive.
A far more expensive golf school than those we’ve earlier named, whose students make their own arrangements for accommodations in any of the many upscale hotels and lodgings of the popular, mild-weather, offshore Hilton Head Island. Here, of course, you are in one of the nation’s outstanding golf locations, and the Golf Academy was founded in 1994 to take advantage of Hilton Head’s eminence in the sport. Instruction is by “Class A” PGA professionals, and is “meant to be non-intimidating,” according to the Academy. It has programs for golfers of every level and welcomes singles, couples, seniors and the young. Accommodations can range from villas in Sea Pines (the island’s foremost golf area) to beachfront hotels, to cozy B&Bs. Instruction packages? They are for either three or four days. Each day typically begins with instruction from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by lunch, with a round of golf afterwards at 2 p.m. Breakfast and lunch are included in the rates, which are $1,395 for three days of instruction, $1,695 for four days of instruction. Add the cost of lodgings and dinner.
The Academy of Golf at PGA National
1000 Avenue of the Champions
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
Offers three-day programs of instruction for beginners and advanced golfers alike, in classes that always include the partial participation, at least, of director of instruction Mike Adams. With a 3:1 student:teacher ratio, one-on-one attention is virtually guaranteed. More than 1,200 golfers a year come to these four championship courses, on which the fundamentals are stressed and every latest advance in technology is used. A three-day package, not including lodging, is $1,250, which includes breakfast, and six hours of instruction daily, followed by a round of golf. Complete computer analysis and personalized video are also included. Hotel packages are also available.
The national capital of golf, with more golf courses and resorts than anywhere else, is — you may be surprised to learn — Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a resort city on the sea, at the mid-point of a 60-mile-long beach of South Carolina called the “Grand Strand.” Myrtle Beach has 120 18-hole golf courses (with more on the way) and numerous resorts or clubs attached to those courses, almost all of which are available to the public at rates that reflect the democratic, low-cost policies of Myrtle Beach itself. The second most heavily visited beach resort in America for persons traveling by car, Myrtle Beach in the ’90s became a travel phenomenon, a destination for millions each year, some of them attracted by a growing number of country music theatres and other evening performance venues, and others by golf. Though the golfing here hasn’t much “cachet,” and you might not want to boast about the stay to your friends, it is certainly a center for affordable golf vacations, and totally unpretentious in atmosphere and facilities. For more detailed information and hotel brochures, call the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce at 800/356-3016 or go to www.myrtlebeachlive.com.
The runner-up to Myrtle Beach is, of course, Palm Springs, California, whose golfing is of the highest quality, widely available on numerous courses, but frightfully expensive (both for lodgings and greens fees) in winter and early spring. Go, instead, in off-season (June 1 to December 31) and you’ll enjoy remarkably low rates for golf and accommodations at hotels ranging from the upscale Palm Springs Hilton Resort to the Wyndham Palm Springs Hotel (using the Tahquitz Creek Legends Course) to the moderately-priced Holiday Inn Palm Mountain Resort (using the Mesquite Country Club.) For a mouth-watering brochure of all the low-cost opportunities available to you during the blisteringly-hot summer months (it does cool down in fall and early winter), write to the City of Palm Springs Tourism Division, 777 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 201, Palm Springs, California, 92262, or phone 800/927-7256, or access www.palm-springs.org.
Phoenix, Arizona, comes next. And one way to make the arrangements is through Desert Deluxe Golf & Vacation Properties, described immediately below:
Desert Deluxe Golf & Vacation Properties
7702 E. Doubletree Ranch Road #300
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(480) 348-8108 (fax)
Desert Deluxe will first make the recommendation, and upon your agreement sell you a package that combines accommodations with greens fees and car rental. The firm chooses from many championship courses at different resorts, and offers mid-season (October to December, April and May) rates of $199 per person per night, including apartment accommodations, one round of golf daily, and use of a mid-size car. Arrangements are for the serious golfer, most of them booking from four to seven days.
In the golf-happy state of Florida, a great many golfers make use of the Saddlebrook Resort, and its well-known school of golf instruction:
Arnold Palmer Golf Academy at Saddlebrook Resort Tampa
5700 Saddlebrook Way
Wesley Chapel, FL 33543
Designed to improve “both fundamentals and attitude.” The Arnold Palmer Golf Academy offers programs for adults and juniors on all skill levels, and bases its teachings on Arnold Palmer’s classics of golf instruction: “Mastering the Fundamentals,” “The Scoring Zone,” “Practice Like a Pro” and “Course Strategy” program. Three months and six months after “graduating” from the school, the player mails in a videotape of his or her swing and receives back an in-depth analysis from the staff, meant “to keep them on track.” Located in a “four diamond” resort with four-star restaurant, Saddlebrook has two 18 hole golf courses, 45 tennis courts (har-tru, Laykold, red clay and even Wimbledon-style grass,) a 500,000 gallon “Superpool,” and unique “Walking Village.” Three and five-day programs include accommodations, breakfast, daily instruction, video analysis, 18 holes of golf daily, cart and greens fees, and Fitness Center admission. Seasonal pricing from $307 per person/per night, double occupancy.
Value Golf Vacations
260 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Golf enthusiast David Brice founded Value Golf Vacations, he says, to cater to the value-conscious “middle market,” the person of normal or modest income who nevertheless dreams of playing the renowned courses of Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. The business is targeted at those golfers who travel extensively in the United States to various courses, but believe that Europe is beyond their financial means. (In fact, says Brice, 44% of their clients have never been outside the country before traveling with Value Golf.) Recently, the firm has launched a series of affordable, long golf weekends, beginning on Thursday evenings and returning Mondays, to both Ireland and Scotland. Included is airfare, three rounds of golf, car rental and accommodations, for as little as $1,095. Brice claims that at these courses the golfer experiences a new and more exalted kind of golf. But to keep costs down, guests stay at inexpensive bed and breakfasts, all personally inspected by Brice or his staff. (The B&Bs are often owned and operated by local golfers.)
Wide World of Golf
P.O. Box 5217 4th Avenue at Mission
Carmel , CA 93921
Michael C. Roseto founded Wide World of Golf 46 years ago, the first — he claims — to introduce American golfers to the renowned courses of Scotland and Ireland. He has now extended his reach to include trips to Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Among other things, Wide World is the official golf operator of Seabourn/Cunard Cruises, making arrangements for passengers to play upon disembarking at various ports. Clients of the firm are every sort of golfer, from beginner to advanced; and tours are also organized to major PGA tournaments, where passengers play golf in between events.