Golf resorts with only 18 holes have to work a little harder than mega-resorts with multiple courses that can entertain golfers for days.
Dozens of top single-course resorts populate golf destinations around the country. Golfers who stay at Wynn Las Vegas, Quail Lodge Resort & Golf Club in Carmel, Calif., and the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, S.C. -- and other premier properties in that ilk -- aren't forced to play the same course over and over. There are plenty of choices nearby.
It's a different story for 18-hole golf resorts isolated in remote locales. They must make up for their lack of extra playing options by emphasizing service, other recreational pursuits and an experience that feels like an intimate escape from reality.
These smaller lodges and inns might not be the biggest, but they are some of the best golf resorts in America. Getting lost on the back roads to find them is well worth the journey.
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, California
This remarkable retreat about 80 miles north of Los Angeles has a nice course in a lovely setting, but the 6,200-yard, par-70 layout probably isn't the top draw. Escaping the crush of the big city for a great meal or a relaxing day at the spa is the main attraction at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. The beautiful Shangri-La surroundings cater to outdoor pursuits such as swimming, tennis, geocaching, and hiking and biking the trails. A thriving art community adds to the appeal.
The Lodge at Primland in Meadows of Dan, Virginia
All told, The Lodge at Primland, The Fairway Cottages, the Mountain Homes and the Golden Eagle Tree House hold no more than 100 guests at a time. So few people means resort visitors are spoiled with 12,000 acres of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the North Carolina border virtually all to themselves. Outdoor lovers can hunt or shoot sporting clays, try fly-fishing or tennis, kayak, ride ATV trails, or go hiking, biking, geocaching and even tree climbing. Golf Digest ranked the Highland Course by Donald Steel no. 1 among public golf courses in Virginia and no. 21 nationally in 2013, thanks to soaring views of the surrounding countryside. By night reach for the stars with a "Tour of the Universe." The Primland Observatory, atop the silo of the Lodge, houses the largest telescope on the East Coast.
The Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande, Florida
It's rare to find a Florida golf resort not within a half-hour's drive of another good course, but The Gasparilla Inn & Club sits secluded on a tiny seven-mile-long barrier island south of Sarasota on the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors come away with the impression they've traveled back in time, even as the 142-room resort nears its 100th anniversary in 2013. There's a private beach club, award-winning spa, 220-slip marina, tennis and croquet courts and a 6,811-yard Pete Dye course that's playable and beautiful. It fits perfectly with the resort's relaxing vibe.
FarmLinks at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Alabama
FarmLinks at Pursell Farms, located 50 miles southeast of Birmingham in rural Alabama, is cool on so many levels. The golf course, designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry in 2003, is not only beautiful, but also a living laboratory for the country's superintendents, who come to study the multiple grasses on site. FarmLinks, ranked no. 9 in Alabama by Golf Digest in 2013, charges a flat rate for all the golf you can play, all you can drink (non-alcoholic beverages) and lunch. The cottages are perfect for buddy bonding weekends.
Samoset Resort in Rockland, Maine
Sandwiched halfway between Portland and Bangor, the 178-room Samoset Resort dates to 1889, but a $3 million room renovation in 2006 updated the place. Terrific views of the scenic Penobscot Bay and Rockland Breakwater wall come from all directions on its golf course, where seven holes border the water. Golf Digest ranks the 6,600-yard, par-70 layout no. 9 in Maine for 2013. A new 200,000-gallon, zero-entry pool complex was added several years ago for families.
Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa in Lajitas, Texas
Those looking to get away can go to the extreme by almost falling off the map at Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa, a 27,000-acre resort between Big Ben National Park and Big Bend State Park in southwest Texas. Adventures can be had by horseback, ATV, mountain bike, a whitewater raft, golf cart or by hiking on your own two feet. Lanny Watkins completely redid the outstanding Black Jack's Crossing Golf Course after a flood ravaged the original layout.
The Eseeola Lodge at Linville Golf Club in Linville, North Carolina
The 24-room Eseeola Lodge and classic Linville Golf Club bask in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain roughly 110 miles northwest of Charlotte and 55 miles from the Virginia border. The scenic Donald Ross course, rated no. 24 in the state by Golf Digest in 2013, dates to 1924. Old-world charms such as handmade quilts and authentic antiques decorate the rooms, which are also decked out with modern amenities like flat screens and wireless Internet. A new outdoors program launched in 2011.
Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine
Robert Trent Jones Jr. created memorable golf from the mountains in the heart of ski country at the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort. The blockbuster six-hole stretch along the Carrabassett River -- the "String of Pearls" -- gets camera shutters popping. A $1.7 million irrigation project will foster even better conditioning on a course ranked no. 1 in the state by Golf Digest in 2013. The 120-room Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel underwent significant renovations roughly five years ago, including new bathrooms in every guest room and a grand entrance.
The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, New York
The Sagamore Resort sits on the southern end of Green Island hugging the shores of Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The golf course is a Donald Ross gem, dating to 1928 and tastefully restored in 1985, ensuring its classic architecture will live on. The historic hotel, built in 1883, features 137 elegant guest rooms, including 54 suites.