That noise you hear is legions of business travelers scurrying to determine what the Marriott-Starwood Hotels mega-merger means for their war chest of loyalty points.
The $12.2 billion purchase of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. by Marriott International Inc., announced Monday, creates the world's largest hotel company, with 5,500 hotels and 1.1 million rooms. The two companies carry a dizzying amount of brands: 19 for Marriott; nine for Starwood. But both have sizeable footprints in golf.
This news, along with the fact that the holiday travel season is upon us and prime time to use the points you've accrued after a year on the road, we thought this was a good time to look at some of the top hotel brands when it comes to golf properties, along with some of my favorites. Plus, several other brands have golf-related news.
Starwood showcases 80 properties with a golf component, with most of their golf a part of the St. Regis, Westin and Sheraton brands. They are particularly big in Hawaii, and one of the best stay-and-plays in all of resort golf is Kauai's St. Regis Princeville Resort, complete with an incredible beach, butler service, sunset views, with the fabulous Makai Golf Club next door. Often times, courses at Starwood properties are managed by Troon Golf. Phoenix-Scottsdale is deep with Starwood golf: Westin Kierland, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass and Phoenician Resort, plus Tucson's Westin La Paloma.
Starwood's Preferred Guest program has many fiercely loyal followers, particularly among its top members, and SPG's flexibility in terms of transferring points to airlines and other services is a favorite perk. So we'll see what changes with the merger. They're already spinning the news positive, saying members will soon be able to use points at more properties than ever, though some travelers are nervous.
Unlike Starwood, which farms out their golf management, Marriott Golf operates many of the courses at their resorts (there are exceptions, like the Sawgrass Marriott and TPC Sawgrass for example). So it will be interesting to see what this acquisition means for the Troon/Starwood relationship moving forward.
The JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton brands carry the best golf properties, including Valero Texas Open host TPC San Antonio and former WGC Match Play host Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain. They have four properties in the Orlando, Fla. area (including Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes) and also recently assumed management of 36-hole Turnberry Isle Resort near Miami, which was formerly a Fairmont.
Marriott Rewards members can apply points to resort experiences, including shopping, spa and golf.
Hyatt Hotels has 10 different brands (but fortunately, nine have the Hyatt name in it; Andaz is the exception). Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and Park Hyatt are their go-tos for golf, and they have a really neat and diverse portfolio of 30 golf resort options.
I've had the chance to stay at quite a few. I was recently a guest at the Park Hyatt Aviara, home to an idyllic San Diego resort course. But I'm also a big fan of Hyatt Regency Lake tahoe at Incline Village (a rare domestic Hyatt with casino gaming). In Hawaii, Kauai's Poipu Bay is another fabulous pick for sun-seekers looking for PGA Tour-caliber golf and world class views, while in southwest Florida, you can't go wrong with Hyatt Coconut Point just north of Naples and next to Raptor Bay Golf Club.
Hyatt also hopes to open the Baha Mar property soon, which would be part of TPC Baha Mar on the Bahamian island of Nassau.
Hilton boasts more than 50 golf properties worldwide and 34 domestically, which includes their luxury Waldorf Astoria brand. Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, near Walt Disney World in Orlando, is one of Golf Advisor's top rated, while Scottsdale golfers an enjoy a sublime stay-and-play at 36-hole Boulders Resort. La Quinta Resort & Club is a similar casita village-style property and one of the Palm Springs, Calif. area's best stay-and-play spots.
Hilton also has a property next to Torrey Pines and offers stay-and-play packages, which can help avoid the rat race for tee times at this popular muni and U.S. Open host.
Their Hilton HHonors goes beyond room and dining rewards; you can also use it on green fees and academies.
Few brands do luxury around the world quite like Fairmont, which also manages their own golf product at many of 17 properties with golf offerings. Fairmont is particularly strong in Canada, and they are stewards of two marvelous Stanley Thompson designs in the Canadian Rockies, Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Jasper Park. In the winter, it's tough to go wrong with Rivera Maya's Fairmont Mayakoba (who manage the next door El Cameleon Golf Club), and a really unique hotel property with both beaches and small lagoons and underwater caves to explore.
Don't forget, Fairmont has one of the best digs in the home of golf: Fairmont St. Andrews, with 36 holes set on bluffs just outside the town. Also, they recently acquired management of San Diego's Grand Del Mar Resort, which is home to an 18-hole Tom Fazio course.
Another neat little feather in Fairmont's cap for golfers: their city properties offer free TaylorMade rental clubs to Fairmont President's Club members.
Wyndham hosts the Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour and their Wyndham Extra Holidays program boasts condominium-style properties with plenty of space and value in top destinations all over the world.
There are scores of properties with a golf component, particularly in Arizona, Florida and South Carolina, as well as in Puerto Rico at Wyndham Rio Mar, home to 36 holes of golf, the River Course and Ocean Course. Domestically, the Dye Villas at Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. put you at the doorstep of one of the Grand Strand's top high-end facilities.
Omni Hotels & Resorts
Omni made a particularly big push into golf in 2013, when they purchased five golf resort properties: 72-hole Barton Creek (Austin, Texas), 36-hole La Costa (Carlsbad, Calif.), Grove Park Inn, (Asheville, N.C.), The Homestead (Hot Springs, Va.) and Rancho Las Palmas (Rancho Mirage, Calif.).
They now have a dozen golf properties, including the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, home to 54 holes of golf, plus Florida's Omni Amelia Island and Championsgate Resort just south of Disney.
Four Seasons' biggest splash on the pro golf scene is the Four Seasons at TPC Las Colinas in Dallas, which has been home of the PGA Tour's Byron Nelson for many years. But Four Seasons isn't about north Texas as much as it's about secluded, exotic getaways: Punta Mita, several Hawaiian golf courses (including on the remote island of Lanai), and Nevis all make for secluded spots in balmy temps.
There are some other hotel companies, like Rosewood, Sandals, IHG, etc. with golf offerings around the world. I'm curious which chain you're most loyal to, or if there are any particular brands within a company, like St. Regis or Park Hyatt, you particularly enjoy spending your points with.