To play golf, or to watch golf?
That's a question many golfers grapple with every weekend, when there's usually one, if not more, great golf tournament on television. If you'd like to watch the game's best, consider baking one of the PGA Tour's events into your next golf vacation.
Throughout the tour season, we often showcase the host destination's larger golf and travel scene. Many of them are excellent, including the 2016-17 opener, the Safeway Open at Napa's Silverado Resort & Spa. Despite the late withdrawal of Tiger Woods, the fan-friendly event continues to grow, particularly as a result of Safeway's five-year deal, leading to better spectator infrastructure, including, of course, wine tastings -- all making a strong case as being the Tour's signature fall series stop.
To gather the top 10, we factored in such things as where else you can play in the destination during tournament week, as well as the climate that time of year and the strength of the fields that normally appear.
A few great destinations narrowly missed the cut, like the Greenbrier and Las Vegas. Be sure to tell us about your favorite PGA Tour events worth traveling to in the comments below or on on Twitter @golfadvisor.
Tournament of Champions, Maui, HawaiiJan. 5-8 | Tickets
The simple fact that the Tournament of Champions is held on the Hawaiian Island of Maui gives this event a one-up lead on the first tee. But there are a few other intangibles that make it worth visiting:
Few climates are as much as a slam-dunk as Maui in January. (Don't let the odd years when inclement weather and stiff breezes maligned the event sway you: the north shore of Maui is far more exposed to the elements than sunny and usually benign south Maui.) The TOC's field, while limited, welcomes all the winners from the previous PGA Tour season, so there will be plenty of star power. And you certainly won't run into the crowds on the sprawling Plantation Course at Kapalua (also, guests 18 and under receive free entry).
Where to play: The Plantation Course is generally considered the best course on Maui, so hopefully you can stick around after the event to play it. That said, Wailea Golf Club's Emerald Course and Gold Course are sublime, and Royal Ka'anapali, a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design, is also considered a top 10 course in Hawaii. The daily-fee courses, Kahili, Dunes at Maui Lani and Maui Nui Golf Club are more affordable and worth playing.
Farmers Insurance Open, La Jolla, Calif.Jan. 26-29 | Tickets
With cliff scenic bluff and ocean views, the views don't get any better for watching a PGA Tour event, with the exception of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am up the coast. Using both the North Course and South Course at Torrey Pines, which is technically a municipal facility, this long-standing, early-season event is the pride of San Diego, which arguably has the most pleasant weather in the United States year-round. Plus, in 2017, viewers and spectators might get to see the return of the event's seven-time winner, Tiger Woods.
As for golf, the choices in the San Diego area are virtually endless, from the resorts like the 36-hole Omni La Costa, 54-hole Sycuan Golf Resort, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and Park Hyatt Aviara, to terrific daily fees like Maderas Golf Club, Encinitas Ranch and Coronado Golf Course, just to name a few. Throw in San Diego's Gaslamp District for dining and shopping, its beautiful beaches and world famous zoo and other attractions, and you've got for one great week.
Waste Management Phoenix Open, Scottsdale, Ariz.Feb. 2-5 | Tickets
If you're looking for a good time, a really good time at golf tournament, it doesn't get much better than the week-long party at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course. In particular, we're talking about the par-3 16th hole, also known as the "Coliseum," where 20,000 fans pack the stadium style seating around the green, cheering, booing and making small wagers on the caddie races up to the green. After the rounds, there's also the Coors Light Birds Nest at a special tent headlining bands, great music and enthusiastic partygoers. The event has 17 other holes, too, including the dramatic island green par-5 15th and drivable 17th holes. And if you want to take a break from the tourney to test you own skills, golf choices are endless with more than 200 courses in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, ranging from the resorts like the Four Seasons Troon North, Phoenician, the Boulders and Westin Kierland to great public venues like Grayhawk, all overseeded to pristine conditions.
2017 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Pebble Beach, Calif.Feb. 9-12 | Tickets
There are many reasons the old "Crosby Clambake" just might be the best tournament on the PGA Tour for spectators.
I'll give you the best one: the chance to walk Pebble Beach Golf Links without paying the $500 green fee. When the sun shines on California's Monterey Peninsula, there's no better place in America. If you want to avoid the crowds at Pebble Beach on Thursday or Friday, there are two other stunning oceanfront courses worth checking out: Spyglass Hill G.C. and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The field isn't always as strong as it could be, but that's where the celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Aaron Rogers and Bill Murray step in to fill the void. Tickets range from $60 to $80 for a daily pass or $150 for a weekly badge.
It's not a bad idea to stay at the resort, so you don't have to fight the traffic or rely on parking shuttles to get on site. Plus, the Links at Spanish Bay remains open throughout the week. If you can't afford the Inn at Spanish Bay or the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the charming Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a wide range of inns for accommodations. The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa, located adjacent to Del Monte Golf Course, the oldest remaining layout west of the Mississippi, is within walking distance of the beach and the Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey.
The Quail Lodge & Golf Club and Carmel Valley Ranch -- each boasting their own scenic courses -- lie inland in the sunnier Carmel Valley. The Bayonet Course and Black Horse Course at Bayonet & Black Horse in nearby Seaside and Pasatiempo, the Alister MacKenzie-designed classic less than an hour's drive away in Santa Cruz, prove golfers will run out of time before they run out of choices.
The fun never ends away from golf, either. The Monterey Bay Aquarium along Cannery Row, a ride along 17-Mile Drive and the coastal hiking trails of the Point Lobos State Reserve are other must-see attractions.
Dell Match Play World Golf Championships, Austin, TexasMarch 2-5 | Tickets
The Texas capital of Austin, home of Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Harvey Penick is on the Texas Swing sidelines no more. The inaugural staging of the WGC Dell Match Play in Austin in 2015 was well received, with a great field, weather, scenery and fans. Austin Country Club is a wonderful course to walk, particularly the holes down along Lake Austin and Pennybacker Bridge. A.C.C. is just minutes west of all things downtown Austin, so great music, barbecue and fantastic nightlife is all at your disposal. The WGC limits spectators to a manageable number, which is great for fans who are able to get tickets -- it's still fairly easy to make your way around Pete Dye's rugged Hill Country design.
What's better for those in town is that the best public-access courses are readily available during WGC week. Located quite close to A.C.C. is Barton Creek, which has two Fazio designs and a Ben Crenshaw-designed golf course on site (a fourth course, the Palmer Lakeside, is west of town on Lake Travis.)
You have to stay at the Omni Barton Creek to play here but that's not the case east of town at Wolfdancer Golf Club, which may have an even better setting than Barton Creek, with no homes on the property, just the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort. Horseshoe Bay Resort has three Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed golf courses but is a bit of a trek west of Austin. For daily fees, check out Star Ranch or Falconhead Golf Club, or some local flavor at historic Lions Municipal Course.
Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Orlando, Fla.March 16-19 | Tickets
Sadly, host Arnold Palmer won't be seen at Bay Hill Club & Lodge anymore, greeting players and guests, but The King's death is also why tournament week March 13-19 will be so special. There will be tributes galore to Palmer, who brought the tournament to Bay Hill in 1979. The field should be more stacked as a result. It's only fitting that golf's royalty -- guys like Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods -- play to pay their respects to The King.
Of course, everything that makes Orlando such a visitor-friendly destination is still a major draw. Families are spoiled for choices between the theme parks, entertainment and thrill rides of Disney World, Universal Studios (and the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction) and Sea World Orlando, among other attractions.
Even if they can't play Bay Hill, golfers have options aplenty. Premier experiences on pristine courses come with stays at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando; the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes; and The Four Seasons Resort Orlando, featuring the redesigned Tranquilo Golf Club. The Mission Inn Resort & Club, the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, Reunion Resort, Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge, Orange Lake Resort, Grand Cypress Resort and the Disney courses that hosted the PGA Tour for four decades all offer at least 36 holes.
The Masters, Augusta, Ga.April 6-9 | Tickets
For golf fans, the Masters is a bucket-list tournament to attend. After all, for much of the country, this is the unofficial start of the golf season. And while getting tickets isn't easy or cheap, it isn't impossible if you check out the secondary market or attend practice rounds. The latter is highly recommended anyway since that's your chance to take pictures of your favorite players and one of the world's most perfect and hallowed golf courses. Plus, there's the par-3 contest on Wednesday, where you get the added bonus of watching legends of the game like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player tee it up in a fun atmosphere.
As for accommodations, they're expensive and hard to get in Augusta proper, but drive in from Atlanta or South Carolina, and it's doable. And as far as playing golf in the area, there are some pretty good choices. One option near Augusta is Champions Retreat, a 27-hole private club that opens its doors for public play during Masters week. It has three nines, each designed by Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. Other great plays include the River Club (Tom Fazio), Jones Creek (Rees Jones), Forest Hills Golf Club (Donald Ross/Arnold Palmer) and historic Palmetto Golf Club and Aiken Golf Club in Aiken, S.C., just across the state line.
RBC Heritage at The Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, S.C.April 16-19 | Tickets
It doesn't get much more iconic on the PGA Tour schedule than Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island, host of the Heritage since 1969. Fans and pros regard the hospitality here as highly as anywhere. It's spot on the schedule the week after the Masters also means that your spring golf-itch will have been awoken in a big way.
While Harbour Town is tied up for the event, the rest of the island is chock full of options, and Sea Pines' recent upgrades mean you should definitely stay on property for at least a portion of your trip. Davis Love III unveiled the brand new Atlantic Dunes Course this October, and along with next door Heron Point, there is a sparkling, brand new clubhouse, part of extensive resort upgrades over the past few years.
Few destinations have more golf in such a small area as Hilton Head and Bluffton, S.C. Beyond Sea Pines, strong options include the Robert Trent Jones Course, George Fazio Course and Arthur Hills Course at Palmetto Dunes, Oyster Reef, the Robert Cupp Course and Arthur Hills Course at Palmetto Hall Plantation and Dolphin Head.
The Players Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.May 11-14 | Tickets
Only the Masters rivals THE PLAYERS' combination of an elite field and a venue's ability to set up permanent spectator infrastructure. The Players Championship on the PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass certainly ranks among one of golf's must-see events. This is where, of course, you can watch the best players in the world try to handle the pressure on the famed island green 17th or take a tour at Sawgrass's magnificent, 77,000-square-foot clubhouse, which serves as a museum of sorts to our great game.
Just down the road near historic St. Augustine is the real golf museum, the World Golf Hall of Fame, where the game's greatest are enshrined, and artifacts and exhibits are preserved. Exhibits span the development of the game: equipment, memorabilia from the great tournaments, and plenty of exhibits on the inductees, including lockers showcasing priceless material donated by the legends and their families. World Golf Village also boasts two outstanding golf courses -- the Slammer & Squire Course, which pays tribute to its consultants -- Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen -- and the King and Bear Course, named for designers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. There are dozens of other great golf options, too, including resorts like the Ponte Vedra Inn and the Ritz-Carlton and Omni Amelia Island.
2017 U.S. Open, Erin, Wis.June 15-18 | Tickets
It's rare that a new venue like Erin Hills Golf Course enters the U.S. Open rota, so that alone adds intrigue. The course is a brutal walk for players with so many elevated tees and greens, but all these hills and humps should provide prime viewing for spectators. First-round tickets in the gallery will cost $110. The rounds on Friday through Sunday will be $125.
Spectators should be warned that with any new tournament site, there's a greater chance of unforeseen logistical issues: parking, traffic, spectator flow on the course, where to stay, etc.. Let's hope the USGA will have things running smoothly for its biggest event.
Wisconsin might not have the vacation cache of California or Arizona, but it has the golf courses to compete with anybody. Four nationally ranked Pete Dye-designed courses -- notably the Straits Course at Whistling Straits -- reside at The American Club near Kohler, a quaint town nestled on Lake Michigan roughly 60 miles northeast of Erin Hills. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, a top 100-caliber Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, calls nearby Sheboygan Falls home. Roughly 60 miles south of Erin Hills are the 54-hole Geneva National Golf Club and 36-hole Grand Geneva Resort. Roughly 130 miles away in a remote region of the state -- a trek probably worth the effort -- is the new Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course at the blossoming Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa.