Planning a great golf trip has a way of sending your mood soaring, no matter how much grief is being dished out at work or at home. As you consider where to play next, some destinations will be trendier than others in 2015.
We've compiled a list of the world's hottest golf destinations. These are the places, courses and resorts that will make your friends say, "Dang, bro. Why didn't you invite me?!"
I've had the week of June 15-21, 2015 penciled into my memory for more than five years, the first time I played Chambers Bay, the interesting Robert Trent Jones II muni owned by Pierce County on the shores of the Puget Sound. Do tournament and course officials have the speed of the fescue greens and several modified holes finally done right after much tinkering at the 2015 U.S. Open venue? Golfers can play Chambers Bay before mid-May and after June 24. There are plenty of other courses nearby worth considering as well: The Home Course in DuPont, Salish Cliffs Golf Club at the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton or the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton. The serious golf traveler can attempt to chase down Gamble Sands, the new David McLay Kidd project four hours away in Brewster.
There is no "hotter" destination this winter. Millions of sports fans -- many of whom are likely golfers -- will descend upon the Arizona desert for the Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 31) and the Cactus Bowl (Jan. 2), followed by the first NFL Pro Bowl in town (Jan. 25, 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale), the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the revamped Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale (Jan. 29-Feb. 1) and the grand finale, Super Bowl XLIX (Feb. 1, also in Glendale). There's plenty of new stuff to see besides Tom Weiskopf's work at the TPC. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa experienced a renovation. The new private Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club, located 85 miles northwest of Scottsdale, will open Feb. 7 and allow limited public access during its first season. Westin Kierland Resort -- home of the Mesquite, Ironwood and Acacia Courses -- has introduced golfboards and golf bikes to ride to make rounds more interesting.
Trump National Doral Miami
Donald Trump's $250 million investment into this iconic south Florida golf mecca will be on display March 5-8 at the 2015 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. He spared no expense on opulent enhancements to the clubhouse and its dining scene. Gil Hanse's major redesign of Doral's Blue Monster unveiled in 2014 received praised from the unlikeliest source, the always-critical PGA Tour pros. Major upgrades to the renamed Red Tiger, Silver Fox and Golden Palm courses will be unveiled in January. They include the planting of 5,000 trees and the addition of five acres of lakes. A new teaching facility for the Jim McLean Golf School and a TaylorMade Golf Performance Lab for custom fitting will open by February. All of the resort's all-new villas, home to the majority of the guest rooms, will be finished by then as well. Completing renovation work inside several ballrooms and re-imagining the spa are the last pieces of the Trump's pricey puzzle.
St. Andrews, Scotland
The "Home of Golf" is always a happening spot. The buzz about town skyrockets when the Open Championship visits the Old Course at St. Andrews. Getting tee times on the Old Course in an Open year is nearly impossible, but don't let that deter you from making the trek. Be aware that six of the courses in the Links Trust close for a period of time around the tournament, set for July 16-19. The Old Course shuts down the longest from June 20 through July 20. The New Course and Eden Course close July 11-19; Jubilee from July 6-23; Strathtyrum from July 7-23 and Balgove from July 7-21. Only the Castle Course stays open. Those closures push demand out to the Torrance Course and Kittocks Course at the Fairmont St. Andrews, Kingsbarns Golf Links and the Crail Golfing Society, home to the Balcomie Links and Craighead Links. Not bad options, right?
Los Cabos, Mexico
The excitement over neighboring new courses by Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, introduced in December 2014, should keep Cabo top of mind, despite the lingering damage last October from Hurricane Odile. While many of the hotel properties along the corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo remain in various states of repair, the Diamante development and the Pueblo Bonito resorts adjacent to the new Quivira course recovered relatively quickly last fall. Diamante is essentially a private club for members and property owners, although golfers can play the El Cardonal Course by Woods and the Dunes Course by Davis Love III once during a tour of the property. Quivira, a visual stunner by Nicklaus built atop oceanfront cliffs and towering sand dunes, only allows access to guests of the five Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas in Los Cabos and property owners in the Copala, Montecristo Estates Luxury Villas, and Novaispania Residences. Its $295 price tag (with discounts depending on where you stay and when you play) buys gorgeous views and stops at several all-inclusive comfort stations loaded with drinks, and fresh-cooked fish tacos and beef sliders.
It seems like the 72-hole American Club hosts a major event every other year. Blackwolf Run's courses completed a successful U.S. Women's Open in 2012, and now the PGA Championship returns to the Straits Course at Whistling Straits Aug. 13-16, followed by the Ryder Cup in 2020. Both previous PGA Championships at Whistling Straits ended in playoffs (Martin Kaymer won in 2010 and Vijay Singh in 2004), so there's bound to be plenty of excitement again. Playing the Pete Dye design along Lake Michigan ranks among my five favorite golf experiences of all time. It's that good. The Straits will close from Aug. 1-18, so plan accordingly. Plenty of other Top 100 material resides nearby as well: The Irish Course (closed Aug. 6-18); the River Course and Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run (limited availability Aug. 9-16); the Bull at Pinehurst Farms in Sheboygan Falls; and Erin Hills Golf Course, the site of the 2017 U.S. Open. The newly renovated SentryWorld in Stevens Point (two hours away) could be worth a side trip.
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada
Those golfers considering a trip to see the new Cabot Cliffs in Inverness should know that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's latest course isn't scheduled to open until July 15 at the earliest. Being one of the first golfers to play a new course can be exciting. The downside tends to be spotty conditioning, especially on the greens. Cabot Cliffs will be a unique routing of six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. Besides adding the original Cabot Links in Cape Breton to the schedule, don't forget to save a day for playing the celebrated Highland Links, a Stanley Thompson classic three hours away in Ingonish.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore.
It seems I get asked more about Bandon Dunes than any other golf resort. I think Bandon Dunes has become America's no. 1 golf destination for a handful of reasons. First, it is more affordable than Pebble Beach Resorts. Second, it offers links golf unlike anywhere else in America. Third, it's not regularly on TV like Pebble Beach is during the AT&T National Pro-Am. There's a mystique to the place because many diehard golfers who live east of the Rockies still haven't seen and experienced it -- me included.