The term "stay & play" is popular in golf, but for many, it probably should be reversed. Buddy groups often focus primarily on the rounds they're going to be playing; where they stay tends to be an afterthought.
Sometimes this is by design - the group is not picky and would rather spend a few bucks more on the best courses and lay there heads more or less wherever's clean and well-lighted.
If you're of this persuasion, you'll probably roll your eyes at the remainder of this piece.
The reality is that golf resorts are sensing increasing demand for plush buddy group accommodations to compliment premium on-course experiences. One example: at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, an initial plan to build two four-bedroom cottages by the vaunted Ocean Course has recently increased to four. It's a pretty safe bet that those buildings will hew to a high standard. Over the coming years, expect more of the same from other notable properties.
So if you like to make the accommodations as good as - or even better than - the golf during your trips, check out this batch of opulent, over-the-top digs you can rent for your next getaway.
And if you bring the right-size group, you might actually be surprised at how (relatively) inexpensive some of these properties could be.
The Bandon Cottage - Bandon, Ore.
Yes, I know there's nothing like the convenience of staying on property - especially at Bandon Dunes - but if you've got a group of four or eight, this cottage just two miles from the resort is pretty ideal. In addition to the four master suites, the house has a putting green, pool table and five televisions. The owners of the cottage - a foursome from New York who stayed there on a trip in 2013 and jointly bought it from the previous owner soon after - will also arrange for a private chef to come in, in-room massage therapy and laundry and maid service. The base nightly rate tops out at $795, meaning a full house would pay less than $100 each. Pretty stunning value if you ask me.
Stewart Cabin at Tobacco Road Golf Club - Sanford, N.C.
Tobacco Road is one of a handful of golf courses that is a genre unto itself. Mike Strantz's enduring masterpiece is a thrill-ride through some heaving, sandy central North Carolina topography. And right behind the par-3 14th green sits a two-bedroom cabin that Strantz' himself stayed in during construction. Not only is it a well-appointed space, it has a unique history. This fall, you can book three rounds and two nights at the cabin for $615 per person.
Fairway One at The Lodge - Pebble Beach, Calif.
Barely a year old, this clutch of 30 rooms includes two cottages - named for Arnold Palmer and Clint Eastwood, respectively - that take the already upscale Lodge experience to a new level, created with buddy groups in mind. On top of the high standard of usual accommodations features, the opportunity to tumble out of bed and onto the first tee at Pebble Beach is pretty darn special. It makes the steep tariff - rates for a 4-bedroom cottage setup are just under $7,000 per night - easier to accept.
Massive rental houses at Reunion Resort - Orlando, Fla.
At one point, Reunion threatened to become a poster-child for pre-Recession real estate speculation excesses. But it has weathered the economy, and visiting groups are fortunate for that. There are hundreds of rentable houses on Reunion property, including a quartet of true mansions, each with 10 or more bedrooms. One, aptly named Legends Palace, has 13 bedrooms (one of which is Harry Potter themed), 15 bathrooms, a golf simulator, a home theater, bowling alley, game room and outdoor spa and pool. If you can pull together enough people to fill it for a few days or a week, the economics actually work out: the peak-season (5-night minimum) nightly rate of $3,540 comes out to $265 per bedroom. There's not a hotel room in America that you can rent for that little that comes attached to such an over-the-top set of amenities and sits on property with three fun golf courses, plus both Disney and Universal less than 20 miles away, each.
"Golfer/Boater Dream Home" - Hot Springs Village, Ark.
One of the largest golf developments in the world, Hot Springs Village is home to nine courses, with daily-fee play welcome on eight of them. This six-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom house on Lake Balboa sits at the heart of the development and sleeps up to 16 people. There's even a golf ball net set up for indoor full-swing practice. When you consider that it rents for between about $300 and $600 per night, depending on the time of year, the potential value is pretty staggering.
"The LakeHouse on Lake Austin" - Austin, Texas
This VRBO find looks straight out onto the 5th (tournament 14th) hole at Austin Country Club, site of the World Golf Championships - Dell Technologies Match Play. Unfortunately, staying there does not confer playing privileges at the super-private Pete Dye design, but whoever stays there the week of the tournament - late March, 2019 - will have one of the best views in golf. Sadly, March is blocked out on the house's calendar at the moment; it's unclear whether someone's already scooped it up or the owners haven't made the dates available. The 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom spread rents for an average of $770 per night.
"Golfer's Paradise" - Scottsdale, Ariz.
Another VRBO listing, this six-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath complex (main house and guest house) sleeps 20 and touts access to a nearby 27-hole private club - Gainey Ranch Golf Club, a ClubCorp facility. There is also a half basketball court on property, 12 flat-screen TVs, a pool table and a game room. Nightly rates fluctuate between about $750 per night and just under $2,000 per night for the coming months.
"Private 10-hole golf course" - Big Stone City, S.D.
Big Stone City and its nearby Big Stone Lake are not so much of a golf hotbed as they are a fishing spot (the lake is known for walleye pike fishing in particular), but there is a house with its own 10-hole golf course - mostly par threes but a par four that stretches to 380 yards - and 700 feet of lake frontage. It might not be a hardcore golf buddy group spot, but there's something fun about having your own golf course for a few days, isn't there? The nightly rate for the five-bedroom house: $900.
Luxury Caribbean villas at Casa de Campo
In the Dominican Republic, Casa De Campo's Teeth of the Dog ranks among the ultimate Caribbean golf experiences, and the resort matches the golf with its sprawling luxury villas ranging from three garden or golf view villas to 10 bedrooms on the ocean. They come complete with a private pool and butler service including breakfast prepared in the villa each morning and premium-stocked bar. You also get two, four-seater golf carts to get to the various amenities including the new beach club or any of the golf facilities. Villas start at about $600/nt.
If cottages strike you as too pedestrian...why not rent a castle?
The U.S. has its share of nice places to stay, sure, but one thing we're a little short on is castles. If you prefer to stow your clubs beind a drawbridge or moat or feet-thick stone walls, there are plenty of possibilities across the Atlantic.
In Scotland, you and as many as 13 others could divvy up Dairsie Castle, located just six miles and about a 15 minute drive outside St. Andrews. The structure dates back to the 12th century and was renovated in 1992 by its current owner, who mixed modern conveniences with medieval character in its revival. Dairsie has some royal history, too - King James VI hid out there after the Raid of Ruthven in 1583. Why not play The Old Course and then retire to even older lodgings? Weekly rates this summer topped out at £2,800, self-catered, a stunningly reasonable nightly rate of £33 per person per night, if a dozen golfers were to take up residence.
Castle accommodations are readily available in Ireland as well. For example, you and a few dozen golf buddies could rent out the whole of the 30-room, 16th-century Markree Castle in County Sligo, which would make a good jumping-off point to links like Strandhill Golf Club (20 minutes), County Sligo Golf Club (25 minutes) and Enniscrone Golf Club (50 minutes). Markree is a bit more upmarket: high-season rates are £9,000 per weeknight and £25,000 on weekends.
The world's most over-the-top golf rental property?
If money is truly no object, the most opulent golf rental property is probably Laucala Island in Fiji. Part of the Leading Hotels of the World brand, it's home to a scenic, immaculate 18-hole course designed by David McLay Kidd, and a compound that includes 25 villas and a large Plantation House, with a staff of caretakers (including a golf pro) on site to cater to your group's every whim. The daily cost to rent the whole island is comfortably into six figures.
Have you stayed in any particularly over-the-top private residences during a golf trip? Share your thoughts and experiences below!