World's best winter golf destinations

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The Tom Fazio-designed Corales course anchors the golf in the resort area of Punta Cana.

Nothing beats the sensation of boarding a plane in the snow and getting off it under balmy sunshine. Winter vacations are an essential escape for many residents living in northern cities where the snow piles up and the sun disappears for days.

Topgolf and indoor simulators only go so far. At some point - it could be December or it could be February - you're going to have a major golf itch. It's never too early to begin planning your next great winter golf escape.

Fortunately, there are a lot of different destinations with great golf that will more than satisfy your itch for golf swings and sunshine. Whether you're on the eastern seaboard looking for a direct flight to the Caribbean or want to venture into the Pacific, great golf resorts await in reliably warm climates.

In a follow up to our favorite continental US winter destinations, the Golf Advisor editorial staff has rounded up our favorite winter golf escapes around the world.

Some of these destinations have resorts or courses that we've partnered with to provide exclusive golf packages or an expert-led Golf Advisor Getaway. Whether you book with us or on your own, we hope your winter game calls for shorts and sunglasses.

Best winter golf destinations

  1. Hawaii
    Robert Trent Jones Jr. oversaw renovation and redesign of Makai Golf Club, his first course in Hawaii opened in 1971.

    The weather: Expect highs in the low-to-mid 70s with some trade-wind breezes. Note that Kauai, the northernmost island, is typically a little wetter.
    Great For: Couples, families

    You can't go wrong with a winter trip to Hawaii. The tough part is which island(s) do you choose? In terms of ease of getting around and the quality of golf, it's tough to beat Maui. Wailea, Kapalua and Ka'anapali are all multi-course resort areas that are all very different and within an hour or so drive. (You can also take a detour by ferry to the island of Lanai for Manele Golf Course).

    Kauai has lost some star power with the indefinite closure of the Prince Course, but there is still a solid trio of top-ranked resort courses: Makai Golf Club, Poipu Bay and the Ocean Course at Hokuala, as well as a handful of good value courses.

    Meanwhile the Big Island's Kohala coast dazzles with its black rocks and stellar layouts including Mauna Kea and Mauna Lani.

    Oahu, the most populous of the islands, shouldn't be forgotten. Turtle Bay Resort's 36 holes anchor the resort offerings while you can also find some bargain gems and military courses that are light on the wallet but feature plenty of scenery.

    Valid dates: February 05, 2019
    Experience the spectacular beaches, golf courses and resorts of Maui on our upcoming Golf Advisor Getaway hosted by Matt Ginella.

    The Ogio Alpha Convoy 522s

  2. Dominican Republic

    The weather: Hurricane season is an issue in the fall, but by December the storms have subsided and temps average the mid-80s.

    No Caribbean island runs as deep with must-play, seaside golf as the Dominican Republic. The Punta Cana resort area anchors the destination thanks to an abundance of resorts and golf minutes from the major airport. DR's headlining seaside trio of courses all come from different architects but deliver similarly exceptional experiences: Punta Espada, Corales and Teeth of the Dog. But others, such as La Cana, Dye Fore and Playa Grande all dazzle. You can choose from all-inclusive packages to pay-as-you-go resorts.

    FROM $257 (USD)
    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | Enjoy 4 nights' accommodations at Casa de Campo Resort & Villas and 3 rounds of golf at Teeth of The Dog, Dye Fore & The Links.

  3. Scottsdale
    No. 11 on the Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club is a long par 3 that plays gently downhill.

    What to know about the weather: There could be some frost delays or even a freak snow storm once in awhile. But cold fronts usually move out within a day or two.

    Great for: Buddies, couples

    Scottsdale rocks on so many levels besides the weather. There's an endless supply of hotels, resorts, courses and restaurants for all tastes and budgets. You can splurge on TPC Scottsdale's Stadium course or you can drive 45 minutes into the desert to discover places like Ak-Chin Southern Dunes or Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club.

    The sports calendar tends to be packed, adding energy and entertainment to your getaway. The Waste Management Phoenix Open on Super Bowl weekend is a spectacle unto itself. There's also multiple bowl games around the holidays and spring training baseball in the Cactus League from the end of February to the end of March, not to mention NFL, NBA and NHL franchises in Phoenix. There's always something going on. (More: Matt Ginella's Ultimate Itinerary to Scottsdale)

  4. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
    The third green on the Ocean nine kisses the shore at Palmilla Golf Club.

    What to know about the weather: Cabo gets very little rain year-round, so expect nothing but sunshine. Hurricanes can pop up in the fall, but are rare in peak season from January through April.
    Great for: Couples

    Explosive growth at the tip of Baja Peninsula continues to expand the region's resort and golf scene. By the end of this winter season, two new courses - Costa Palmas by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Rancho San Lucas by Greg Norman - should be hosting tee times. Jack Nicklaus designs at Quivira and Cabo Del Sol's Ocean course are two of the most scenic courses anywhere, although Cabo del Sol lost some seaside holes to redevelopment.

    Only a handful of courses are truly open to the public - mainly the 27-hole Palmilla Golf Club managed by Troon Golf and Cabo Real, Club Campestre San Jose and the 27-hole Puerto Los Cabos, all run by Questro Golf. Quivira (Pueblo Bonito), Twin Dolphin (Montage Los Cabos) and Diamante's Dunes and El Cardonal courses require a stay at onsite hotels for access. Diamante's Hard Rock and Nobu properties are Cabo's hottest new hotels, opening earlier this year.

    Valid dates: March 30, 2019
    Browse golf packages in Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas, one of the world's finest luxury winter golf destinations.

  5. Australian Sandbelt
    Golf Advisor Round Trip: Melbourne

    What to know about the weather: Average daily highs are above 70 from November through March, with January and February being both the warmest and driest months. You may catch a heat wave, as temperatures this time of year can spike above 100 degrees.
    Great for: Buddies, families

    When the Presidents Cup takes place in December, it will spotlight summer golf in the southern hemisphere in this legendary golf hotbed. It's a long haul for North American golfers, but the reward for the journey is the opportunity to play some of the greatest courses in the world, all in close proximity to one another.

    The stunning lineup begins with Royal Melbourne Golf Club, whose two courses - East and West - are masterpieces designed by Alister Mackenzie and built by Australian collaborator Alex Russell. Though the club is "private," international visitors are able to arrange to play the courses on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays after an introduction from the visitor's home course. Other Sandbelt clubs with similar arrangements include Kingston Heath Golf Club, Metropolitan Golf Club, Commonwealth Golf Club, Yarra Yarra Golf Club and Huntingdale Golf Club. All of them are ranked among the top courses in Australia, and feature the firm turf and ingenious design that makes golf Down Under special.

  6. Palm Springs
    Indian Wells Golf Resort's Celebrity Course is one of the top public courses in the Palm Springs area.

    What to know about the weather: The Coachella Valley is at a little lower elevation than Scottsdale, giving it slightly warmer winter temps and less risk in morning frost delays.
    Great for: Buddies, couples

    Palm Springs is an iconic winter spot thanks to the longstanding Bob Hope Classic that brought celebs and even presidents out to hobnob with top pro golfers. The collection of municipalities that make up the Coachella Valley all take golf rather seriously - all featuring combinations of upscale municipal, resort and private courses. The duo of PGA West and La Quinta Resort & Spa is an idyllic retreat. Indian Wells' Player and Celebrity courses are among the best public courses according to Golf Advisor reviews each year.

    FROM $167 (USD)
    PALM SPRINGS, CA | Enjoy 3 nights' accommodations at Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa and 3 rounds of golf at Indian Wells Celebrity and Players Courses, and PGA WEST Stadium Course.

  7. San Diego
    San Diego's Maderas Golf Club a top 100 pick by numerous magazine panels.

    What you need to know about the weather: Winters have been wet in recent years, but temps are pretty reliably comfortable with highs in the 60s and very little chance of frost delays compared to nearby deserts.
    Great for: Buddies, families

    With about 90-plus courses in the county, San Diego is versatile with courses and resorts for all budgets. The "A-List" includes Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Torrey Pines, La Costa, Barona Creek and Aviara. But you can name your price thanks to legendary values like Coronado. Buddies trips can select an ambitious itinerary that ventures from the city proper up the coast to Oceanside, followed by a wealth of area short courses for a fun evening loop (Mission Bay is even lighted). Some adventurous itineraries even include a day in Tijuana across the border.

    FROM $247 (USD)
    SAN DIEGO, CA | Enjoy 2 nights' accommodations at Courtyard San Diego Oceanside and 2 rounds of golf at Maderas Golf Club & Omni LaCosta Resort & Spa.

  8. Puerto Rico
    It's a solid three hours west of San Juan, where you'll probably fly into, but Royal Isabela delivers with a most unique course design and spectacular cliffside holes.

    What to know about the weather: Highs average in the low 80s, from 10-13 days per month can feature rain but they are generally in short spurts.
    Great for: Couples, families

    For east-coasters, Puerto Rico is the best winter island you can visit without a passport. Puerto Rico has rebuilt its resorts and courses in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. TPC Dorado Beach, Rio Mar and El Conquistador anchor the options closer to San Juan, while a more spectacular and remote experience can be found to the west at Royal Isabela.

    FROM $439 (USD)
    PUERTO RICO | Enjoy 3 nights' accommodations at Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort and 2 rounds of golf at Rio Mar Country Club - Ocean & River Courses.

  9. South Florida
    Part of the latest round of changes at The Biltmore: the restoration of the brilliantly mad 18th green.

    What to know about the weather: The winter months stay warm and relatively dry compared to the hot, humid summers. You may wake up to sweater weather on occasion, but you're unlikely to ever feel uncomfortably cold on the course.
    Great for: Buddies, couples

    Once the first cold snaps arrive up north, down come the "snowbirds" who call South Florida home for several months per year. Scores of traveling golfers accompany them, taking up temporary residence in destinations like Port St. Lucie, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and even portions of the Florida Keys.

    Options run the gamut from multi-course resorts like PGA Village in Port St Lucie, PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens and Doral in Miami to more couples- and family-oriented options like The Biltmore in Coral Gables or the Boca Raton Resort. Scores of public courses across the rate spectrum host their share of visitor golf, too.

  10. Bahamas
    Atlantis guests enjoy access to Tom Weiskopf's stunning Ocean Club layout

    What to know about the weather: Depending upon which island you choose and which month you go, the temperature can average between 75 and 85 degrees all winter long.

    Great for: Families, couples

    Hurricane Dorian decimated the island home to The Abaco Club, but all indications are the three largest golf resorts in the Bahamas escaped - Atlantis Bahamas on Paradise Island (home to an LPGA Tour event in January on The Ocean Club), Baha Mar on Nassau (home to Royal Blue) and Sandals Emerald Bay on Great Exuma (home to a stunning seaside Greg Norman course). Tiger Woods and others have pledged to raise money to help locals rebuild and will host his limited-field PGA Tour event, the Hero World Challenge, at the private Albany in December. The best way we can rally around the Bahamas is to visit and enjoy the islands, propping up the island economy.

    Valid dates: February 05, 2019
    Experience the Caribbean’s most elaborate and fun-filled resort, Atlantis, Paradise Island. Matt Ginella is hosting a trip here this winter and you can join! Learn more.

  11. Orlando
    One of the newest, most exclusive and service-oriented facilities in Orlando is Waldorf Astoria Golf Club.

    What to know about the weather: Winter highs are in the low-to-mid 70s. Precipitation figures taper off substantially in central Florida and while genuinely cool temperatures are possible in the mornings, cold fronts don't stick around very long. (More: The truly best time of year to visit Orlando for golf)

    Great for: Buddies, families

    Orlando is more than just theme parks. It has something for everyone, and that includes golfers as well. Yes, you can play golf at Walt Disney World while the kids sleep in before meeting Mickey and Minnie. You can also hunker down for a golf-intensive buddies trip at multi-course affairs like Reunion, Orange County National or ChampionsGate, not to mention Streamsong a little over an hour southwest of town. Family-owned Mission Inn, with two courses and a throwback-Spanish look, appeals to groups looking for a quieter retreat.

    One-off courses and resorts like the Waldorf Astoria, Shingle Creek, Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes are also appealing, and 18-hole daily fees are plentiful as well. You will never starve for stimulation in Orlando, but you will miss out on its charms as a hometown if you don't make the pilgrimage to the famous Winter Park 9.

    FROM $167 (USD)
    ORLANDO, FL | Enjoy 2 nights' accommodations at Mission Inn Resort & Club and 2 rounds of golf at Mission Inn Resort & Club - El Campeon & Las Colinas Courses.

  12. Riviera Maya, Mexico
    Jim Herman tees off on the 7th hole of El Cameleon during the 2017 Pro-Am at the OHL Mayakoba Golf Classic.

    What to know about the weather: Temperatures average in the 80s from December through the spring with overnight lows in the high 60s.

    Great for: Couples, families

    The beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula, stretching from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, including the island of Cozumel, are lined with resorts of all sizes and brands, many of them all-inclusives. Cancun attracts high school and college spring breakers, but there's plenty of luxury, too.

    The PGA Tour's original Mexican stop is Mayakoba, a sprawling eco-development with multiple high-end hotels and Greg Norman's challenging El Camaleon course that visits the beach a couple times. The 27 holes at Moon Palace Spa & Golf Club by Jack Nicklaus and Iberostar Playa Paraiso by P.B. Dye are other standouts.

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Don't forget the public course on Kauai, Wailua. Great conditioning and ocean views. Sometimes a bit hard to get on to but if you are paired up with a local, you will have a great time.

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