No resort has the location of The Homestead, on Lake Michigan and near the Sleeping Bear Dunes. (Courtesy of The Homestead) Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu has two excellent golf courses, including an Arnold Palmer design. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) The Inn at Spanish Bay overlooks the ocean.  (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor) The 850-foot Lazy River at ChampionsGate is fun for the kids, but also a relaxing way to end a day on the golf course. (Courtesy of Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate) Families can enjoy a round of footgolf on the Cascades Course at Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County, N.J. (Courtesy of Crystal Springs Resort) The Kohler Waters Spa at The American Club in Kohler, Wis. enables Mom (and Dad) a soothing respite. (Courtesy of The American Club) Kids can learn to sail at the all-inclusive Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port St Lucie, Fla. (Courtesy of Club Med Sandpiper Bay)

Kid tested, Dad approved: The 12 best family-friendly golf resorts in America



My kids are downright spoiled.

I know every parent probably says that, but my gripe is legit. My childhood growing up in Michigan consisted of family trips to North Dakota, Minnesota and Oregon, to see the grandparents and other relatives -- not exactly glamorous getaways.

By contrast, my son and daughter are world travelers. We've taken 10 days to tour London and Paris. Our three different cruises have visited at least five Caribbean islands. They've hung out at Florida's Disney World and California's Disneyland so many times that I've honestly lost count. Last year, we asked them if they wanted to go to Hawaii for vacation, they said no because "we've already been there." Brats!

They've also been to more than two dozen of the best golf resorts around the country. Probably more than anybody, my kids understand what makes a family golf getaway great. They aren't interested in the game so much as they're looking for cool pools, interesting excursions and a kid friendly vibe.

If a happy wife equals a happy life, then happy children builds the family bonds stronger. Here are Deegan's Dozen, 12 of America's friendliest family golf resorts, all test-driven by my kiddos, wife and yours truly. Listen to the experts, even if two of them are only 13 and 11 years old:

Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa; Thompsonville, Mich.

For the kids: The Park at Water's Edge is the summer hotspot with an outdoor pool stocked with kiddie slides, basketball hoops and lily pads. My kids have experienced just about everything imaginable at the resort -- climbing the rock wall, making tie-dye shirts, riding the ski lift, navigating the Edge Adventure Course (a ropes course high above the pool), playing laser tag, renting mountain bikes and zooming down the Crystal Coaster, a luge-style track with self-driven sleds that speed down the mountain.

For the parents: We stay at the Cottages at Water's Edge for their convenience and comfortable spaces. They're within walking distance of an excellent spa and two fun courses, the Betsie Valley and Mountain Ridge. The dining at the Thistle Pub & Grille will dazzle.

Crystal Springs Resort; Sussex County, N.J.

For the kids: What a playground at the four-diamond Grand Cascades Lodge. My children bounced back and forth between the indoor/outdoor Biosphere Pool Complex, which has an indoor water slide set amid a rocky jungle-like setting, and another outdoor pool featuring a separate whirlpool that spins water round and round. A free all-grass putting course is available in front of the lodge. The nine-hole Cascades Course offers big holes and footgolf. Four-person family carts can be rented at the nine-hole Minerals Course.

In the nearby ski hills of Vernon lies the Action Park at Mountain Creek, one of the most extreme outdoor play-lands in the country. The thrills of cliff jumping and flying off a Tarzan swing into deep pools of water feel tame compared to riding the "H2-Oh-No" waterslide. The Mountain Alpine coaster and Soaring Eagle are drier, less stressful entertainment. There's even a sports zone where youngsters can test their hockey, golf, soccer and tennis skills.

For the parents: Wild Turkey Golf Club and Ballyowen Golf Club are two of the best golf courses in New Jersey, and Crystal Springs Golf Club one of its toughest. The fire-and-ice themed Reflections Spa, and Restaurant Latour, with its 78,000-bottle wine cellar, delivers first class all the way.

Ritz-Carlton; Half Moon Bay, Calif.

For the kids: The indoor pool being separated from the resort can feel like a hassle for parents, but kids still love it. All ages will enjoy exploring the cliffs, whether riding a rental bike on top of them or searching rocky ocean tide pools below them. Find a seat early at one of the outdoor fire pits if you want to roast marshmallows.

For the parents: This posh seaside retreat is one of my all-time favs. Both golf courses at Half Moon Bay -- the Old Course and the Ocean Course -- are solid four-star designs along the ocean, but everything inside -- the rooms, the restaurants, the spa -- is five star-plus.

Kendall hates golf but she loves the #ballpicker. #futurecaddie? #Ritz-CarltonHalfMoonBay

A photo posted by Jason Scott Deegan (@jasondeegangolfadvisor) on

Walt Disney World Resort; Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

For the kids: Duh. Do I need to write more?

For the parents: I've stayed in accommodations ranging from the spartan (the Wide World of Sports complex) to the posh (the Grand Floridian). Next time, I want to see the new Four Seasons Orlando and its Tranquilo Golf Club. Disney's Magnolia Course and Palm Course hosted the PGA Tour for more than 30 years.

The Homestead; Glen Arbor, Mich.

For the kids: This charming resort in northern Michigan is located in maybe Michigan's most beautiful setting. My kids favor the speedy waterslides in the pool near check-in over the pool near the beach on Lake Michigan. Mountain Flowers provides a scenic nine-hole, par-3 course for all skill levels. S'mores on the beach as the sun sets ends the day in style. Our family traditions involve dining on the patio at Boone Docks in tiny Glen Arbor and hiking the mammoth sand dunes of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

For the parents: The Leelanau Peninsula exudes such a laidback vibe. The Spa Amira sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. You can take fly fishing classes from the Streamside Orvis Fly Fishing School or improve your chipping and putting at the David Pelz Scoring Game School. The conditioning and playability of Palmer's Manitou Passage golf course has improved immensely over the past few years.

The American Club; Kohler, Wis.

For the kids: The Midwest's only five-star resort is rustic enough that it doesn't feel stuffy. The Sports Core Health and Racquet Club has indoor tennis courts and a pool and a small outdoor beach area on a lake surrounded by hiking/walking trails. The beaches along Lake Michigan in Sheboygan are massive. Youth archery and horseback riding are available in summer. Kohler Kidz gives everybody a break from one another.

For the parents: My wife is enamored with the Kohler Waters Spa and the Kohler Design Center. I feel the same way about the Straits Course at Whistling Straits and the River Course at Blackwolf Run. We had two of our most memorable family meals inside the rustic cabin at the River Wildlife Lodge Restaurant and the Sunday brunch at the Immigrant Restaurant.

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate; Orlando

For the kids: ChampionsGate has enough fun power to lure families away from SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Studios and Disney. There are 15 acres of pools, including a 125-foot corkscrew waterslide and 850-foot lazy river; a lighted nine-hole, par-3 course and a plethora of activities such as dive-in movies, resort scavenger hunts and video-game tournaments.

For the parents: Mom can disappear at the Mokara spa, and Dad can grab a lesson at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. With seven restaurants, where to eat won't be a problem. ChampionsGate's National Course and International Course, both designed by Greg Norman, will each undergo a renovation to get new grass on the greens and restore the bunkers around the green complexes. The International closes in June and will reopen in 2017.

Turtle Bay Resort; Oahu, Hawaii

For the kids: Where else can you get a family surf lesson and a helicopter ride touring jungles, a sacred mountain waterfall unreachable by man and the ocean? Kids can swim at the pool or frolic in an ocean cove sheltered from the thundering swells surfers crave. Fire dancing shows light up the night.

For the parents: Replay Resorts has re-energized Turtle Bay with $40 million in capital improvements since 2011, including 410 stylishly renovated rooms in its main hotel and new programming that revolves around the culture and beauty of the North Shore. Turtle Bay's Arnold Palmer Course might be the best resort course on the island, and the Nalu Kinetic Spa, which doubled in size in 2013, has secluded outdoor treatment rooms set on the water's edge.

The Inn at Spanish Bay; Pebble Beach, Calif.

For the kids: Pebble Beach Resorts introduced the "Pebble Beach Explorers" program in 2014 to cater more to families with children. Packages include complimentary activities and meals for children with a paying adult. Youngsters check in at an "Explorers" desk just off the main lobby inside the inn to receive a scavenger hunt map and wristbands signaling their V.I.P. status. Where you go next depends on everybody's interests.

My wife and daughter loved their 50-minute Family Horseback Ride that started at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center and wandered through the Del Monte Forest near the beach. My son and I played the nine-hole, par-3 Peter Hay Course that overlooks Stillwater Cove. Tennis and swimming at the Spanish Bay Club, or beach time, are also options. Off property, hiking the Point Lobos State Reserve and visiting the interactive Monterey Bay Aquarium are musts for landlocked out-of-town visitors. Both showcase the ocean.

For the parents: Golfers can't leave without teeing it up at Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill. Crowds gather nightly around the outdoor fire pits behind the inn, listening to the melodic sounds of a bagpiper.

Today's office. #nofilter #PebbleBeachGolfLinks.

A photo posted by Jason Scott Deegan (@jasondeegangolfadvisor) on

Club Med Sandpiper Bay; Port St Lucie, Fla.

For the kids: Admittedly, Club Med isn't a traditional golf resort, but maybe that's why the kids adore it so. It's the only all-inclusive Club Med resort in America. Kids will run out of daylight before they run out of programming, all run by an energetic staff. My son learned to sail on the St. Lucie River. My daughter dreams of returning to fly on the outdoor trapeze.

For the parents: The on-site golf course is okay, but there's plenty of other fancier layouts nearby, including PGA Village, with its Ryder Course, Wanamaker Course and Dye Course. Mom and Dad can relax with endless drinks by the pool or get active with fitness classes and sports instruction. Group golf lessons are free.

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa; Carlsbad, Calif.

For the kids: La Costa edges out another California favorite, the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, because of its location near so many great SoCal attractions: Legoland, California SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo and the beach. The resort's Sandy Beach Family Pool and the two 100-foot waterslides at the Splash Landing Pools work in tandem to exhaust rambunctious kids. Kidtopica kids' club, arts and crafts, surf camp, dive-in movies and s'more roasting are also on the menu.

For the parents: Virtually everything -- from the guestrooms to the Champions and Legends golf courses -- has been upgraded in the last five years. I haven't found many, if any, better overall spa experiences than La Costa's Southern California Spa.

Boyne Mountain Resort; Boyne Falls, Mich.

For the kids: All three Boyne Resorts properties in northern Michigan keep families busy, but the Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa's Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark sets this place apart. So do the Deer Lake Villas, located near a small beach on a serene private lake. My children run wild at the nearby tennis courts and on a giant lawn featuring an all-grass putting course. Boyne added zip-lining a couple years ago, and there's also horseback riding.

For the parents: The Alpine Course and Monument Course are nice, although probably more middle-tier in Boyne's large golf empire. The rooms and restaurants are nice.

13 honorable mentions

Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort, Wisconsin Dells, Wis.; Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, Rancho Mirage, Calif.; Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, Hawaii; St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif.; Quail Lodge & Golf Club, Carmel, Calif.; Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, Wis.; Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Acme; Suncadia Resort, Cle Elum, Wash.; Inn at Bay Harbor, Petoskey, Mich.; Fairmont Grand Del Mar, San Diego, Calif.; Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, Pa.; Madden's on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minn.; The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, Calif.

Kids love the #splashtopia ... adults like me prefer the #RanchoLasPalmasCC as their playground

A photo posted by Jason Scott Deegan (@jasondeegangolfadvisor) on

12 more places I've been that I imagine my family would love

Fairmont Kea Lani Maui, Hawaii; Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C.; The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.; La Cantera Hill Country Resort, San Antonio, Texas; Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Destin, Fla.; Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa and Kaua'i Marriott Resort on Kauai, Hawaii; Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Amelia Island, Fla.; Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, The Fairmont Orchid and Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, all on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Apr 07, 2016



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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.