Masters weekend signals the official start of the golf season for many golfers up north. Spring is officially in full bloom and courses from the Pacific Northwest to Midwest and New England are open for business.
With the excitement running high from another incredible Sunday at Augusta National, now may be a great time to prod your buddies to set up an epic golf trip this summer.
We've compiled a collection of top golf trips to take, from go-big international jaunts to centennials and brand new courses. We've provided options for a variety of budgets.
1. U.S. Open fever in Wisconsin
The ultimate summer golf package? That would be playing golf in Wisconsin before or after attending the U.S. at Erin Hills June 15-18.
The American Club, home to four nationally ranked golf courses including the Straits Course at Whistling Straits, is just 90 minutes or so north of Erin Hills. So what could be better than playing golf before or after the U.S. at a resort that has played host to its share of majors already and will be the site of the Ryder Cup in 2020? And it's not just the courses at the American Club; The American Club offers so much more, including great dining, the Sports Core club and one of the best spas in the country.
On one of its golf packages, you can get two nights at The American Club or Inn on Woodlake, three rounds of golf on either the Straits Course, The Irish Course at Whistling Straits, The River Course at Blackwolf Run or The Meadow Valley's at Blackwolf Run, and it comes with a half-hour lesson, $1,441 per person. It also includes forecaddie fee (not gratuity) cart fees, bag storage and spa discounts.
Another option, which is actually a little closer, is to stay Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, just north of Chicago in Lake Geneva, Wisc., 50 miles south of Erin Hills. Grand Geneva's ultimate package, "Fairways and Airways," includes helicopter rides to the U.S. Open, a three-bedroom villa (brand new and debuting this June), private dining experience and access to the resort's spa facilities and golf courses, of course, which include two terrific layouts – The Brute and The Highlands, the latter of which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye.. Oh, and it's just under $7,000. Of course, you could skip the helicopter rides and take the "Aim For the Hills" package, which also includes U.S. Open tickets and a two-night stay in a villa for $999.
Last but not least, Sand Valley's first course, designed by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw is officially open for its first full summer and is a 2.5-hour drive from Erin Hills.
2. Bandon Dunes to Bend, Oregon
Few states have such varied golf experiences as Oregon, where you can go from the ocean glory of the links courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort to the high and dry timberline in Bend five hours (and 260 miles) inland. The king of Bend remains Sunriver Resort, a 605-acre family playground of outdoor pools and courses between the Big Deschutes and Little Deschutes Rivers. The famed Crosswater course will host the 50th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA, in June for the fourth time. Golf packages at Sunriver start at $149 per night. The Tetherow Golf Club and Pronghorn Golf Club also end up on many Top 100 lists.
St. Andrews - the Home of Golf – is always the focal point, but there’s so much more than just the Old course at St. Andrews and Kingsbarns Golf Links. Since 2013, Jason Deegan has taken four separate trips to Scotland, exploring and loving the west coast of Ayrshire (home of the newly restored Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry Resort), the east coast of East Lothian (home to Muirfield), the Scottish Highlands (home to Castle Stuart Golf Links and Royal Dornoch) and Perthshire (home to Gleneagles). They’re all bucket-list worthy. With Brexit still hanging over the economy, deals abound. Check out this package at the Fairmont St. Andrews .
4. Ireland and Northern Ireland
Although you can’t beat a loop around the southwest of Ireland - hitting the Old course at Ballybunion, the Old course at Lahinch and Waterville Golf Links among others – the focus for 2017 lies north of Dublin in Northern Ireland. The county’s three best links are vying for attention like runway models. The Dunluce links at Royal Portrush is wrapping up an enhancement by architect Martin Ebert in preparation for the 2019 Open Championship, its first major since 1951. Royal County Down is basking in the spotlight of being ranked No. 1 in the world for the first time by Golf Digest. The Strand links at Portstewart Golf Club will host Rory McIlroy’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for the first time July 6-9. We've traveled north on group trips with both Justin Farrell of the Links of Ireland and John McLaughlin of the North & West Coast Links Golf Ireland. Neither tour operator will steer you wrong.
5. Alberta's Canadian Rockies
If you've never played golf in Canada, might we suggest a trip to the Canadian Rockies to stay at one of the world's greatest resorts and play golf on courses designed by Canada's greatest architect, Stanley Thompson? For this we recommend a package at Fairmont Banff Springs and/or Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge , which are about three hours apart, separated by a three-hour drive along the glacier-laden Icefields Parkway. Thompson built both courses in the 1920s, and they both offer breathtaking views of not only the mountains, buy wildlife, too, that includes Canada's majestic moose.
Banff Springs' chateau-style hotel sits above spectacular mountain golf that has one of the world's most famous par 3s, the "Devil's Cauldron." The course at Jasper Park Lodge, which isn't too far from Edmonton, is truly a work of art as Thompson managed to frame each hole with the mountain backdrops. If you book a package at either Fairmont resort, it comes with discounts on green fees.
6. French Lick Resort, Indiana
There aren't many golf courses you can play that are 100 years old, but add one more to the list at the French Lick Resort in southern Indiana. The Donald Ross Course, a venerable test that still hosts top PGA events, celebrates its centennial this summer. While the newer Pete Dye Course is a totally different beast, and you can save big money with the Hall of Fame package that offers unlimited golf on both courses and one night at the French Lick Springs hotel, starting at $559 per person.
7. Unlimited golf in Northern Michigan
Few if any destinations cater to the sunrise-to-sunset golf binge quite like Northern Michigan, when you can play well past 9 p.m. in the summer months. So this is where an unlimited golf package truly means something, especially at a multi-course resort. There's no bigger unlimited golf offering in Michigan than Boyne's ten courses, anchored by four-course Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs. The Unlimited Golf Package starts at $121/night and you can add such upgrades as playing nearby Bay Harbor Golf Club or adding a breakfast buffet.
8. Upgraded Virginia resorts
A couple of top Virginia resorts have upped their game in recent years. On July 1st, Colonial Williamsburg will debut a renovated Gold Course, originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and considered by some to have the one of the best collection of par 3s around. A $179 stay-and-play at the Golden Horseshoe can even include Ping rental clubs if you so desire.
On the other side of Richmond near Charlottesville, an even more luxurious stay-and-play is at Keswick Hall, which totally rebuilt its course in 2013 and now sports a top Pete Dye design. Packages start at $404 per night and include one round.
9. Upstate New York-Niagara Falls
Perhaps a little under the radar nationally, Turning Stone Casino Resort in upstate New York is a terrific summer treat with a world-class spa, restaurants (including the great T.S. Steakhouse), tennis and outstanding golf. This summer, the newly designed Shenendoah Course opens to rejoin the fabulous Tom Fazio-designed Atunyote Golf Course and the Kaluhyat Course, a difficult but beautiful Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design. The Champions package at Turning Stone includes two nights' accommodations at The Hotel, The Tower or The Lodge, a round at each of the resort's three courses, unlimited replays at two and a complimentary round at nearby Sandstone Hollow.
Another option is to head three hours west to Niagara Falls, where you can enjoy golf on both sides of the border as well as view the falls (the Canadian side is more spectacular). Packages are very affordable, starting at just $160, which includes accommodations from Niagara Parks Golf. Dramatically situated next to the mighty Niagara Whirlpool or bordering the historic grounds of the 1814 Battle of Chippawa, Niagara Parks Golf courses feature challenging designs by renowned golf architects. There are 45 holes at The Legends, designed by Douglas Carrick and Thomas McBroom, while the Whirlpool Course was designed by Stanley Thompson.
10. Vancouver Island, British Columbia
One of the best summer destinations in the world, period, is Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The ocean views and the weather are pretty much perfect in the summer, and the island offers some two dozen golf courses, many of which are breathtaking. We’d recommend you stay a week and there are several options. One is to check out Victoria, one of our favorite little cities in the world, and play a package that includes five golf courses, not the least of which are two at Bear Mountain – the Valley Course and the Mountain Course, which overlooks the city. Packages range from around $725 to over $1,000 for a five-star resort or hotel, which makes it one of the better values in North America. Of course, you can expand it to include the rest of the island, which isn't a bad idea.