Travel

Golf trails becoming prevalent all over U.S.

Pronghorn's Nicklaus course.
Pronghorn's Nicklaus course. ( Courtesy of Pronghorn )

Monday, March 14, 2016

Editor's note: This story originally ran in the Feb. 22 issue of Golfweek.

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Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail probably is the game’s most famous trail, known for its abundance of value-priced, dependable golf. But you can find trails with ready-made golf packages in every state. What follows are a few of our favorites.

BEND, ORE.

visitcentraloregon.com/things-to-do/golf/

If Bend weren’t located in the same state as Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, it probably would be known as one of the nation’s best destinations for golf, and many other outdoor activities. The Central Oregon Golf Trail has four of the state’s top 10 public courses, and no doubt would have more on that list if not for the fact that Bandon Dunes’ four 18-hole layouts occupy the top four spots on the state list.

The region’s two best are Pronghorn (Nicklaus) and Tetherow, though Sunriver’s demanding Crosswater deserves mention. And Bend is a thriving, mid-sized city with good hotels and restaurants, and a thriving craft-beer scene (don’t miss 10 Barrel Brewing Co. – you’ll thank us later).

CENTRAL COAST CALIFORNIA

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We love golf. We also love wine. We’re especially fond of opportunities to combine golf and wine. For that, we give you California’s Central Coast Golf Trail. This region has been known for supplying grapes to more famous appellations to the north, Napa and Sonoma.

The Central Coast, which provided the backdrop for the movie “Sideways,” is an emerging region with hundreds of entrepreneurial winemakers. And the trail – roughly defined as the area between Lompoc to the south and Paso Robles to the north – has a broad variety of public golf and more affordable stay-and-play plans than Napa or Sonoma.

INDIANA

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A few years ago Indianans realized they were missing out on a golden opportunity to promote local legend Pete Dye. So they created a golf trail to honor the man and seven of his creations.

The best of the bunch is his eponymous, hilltop design at French Lick Resort. It is a steroidal presentation of the familiar design elements that have defined Dye’s work. Other must-plays are The Kampen Course at Purdue, The Fort on the northeast side of Indianapolis and, for sheer fun, Brickyard Crossing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NEW MEXICO

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A few years ago Golfweek ran a cover story proclaiming that New Mexico provided a bigger bang for your golf buck than any state in the nation. We haven’t seen anything to make us re-evaluate our opinion.

Paa-Ko Ridge and Black Mesa, the perennial 1-2 combination on the state’s public list, exemplify some of the best in high-desert design work. There are multiple opportunities to pair golf and gaming, most notably at Sandia, just north of Albuquerque. And Santa Fe is a walkable, artsy city with some outstanding restaurants.

NORTHERN MICHIGAN

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The name says it all: Summer golf capital. There probably is not another region of the country that has done a better job of marketing itself as a summer golf destination. It helps that Northern Michigan has an abundance of courses; in truth, it probably is overbuilt with courses and resorts, but that just means better deals for visitors.

The best of the bunch on this trail is Forest Dunes, ranked No. 3 on Golfweek’s state list and No. 85 nationally among Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses.

It will get some competition this summer with the opening of its sister course. Or should we say “courses”? Tom Doak’s reversible, 18-hole design at Forest Dunes, the most anticipated new course of the year, is really two courses in one. This trail’s dependable staples include Boyne’s properties, Treetops and Grand Traverse, and private LochenHeath, which accepts limited private play.

KAUAI

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The Garden Isle is so pretty that it’s easy to overlook the consistent excellence of its golf courses. The Kauai trail is anchored by Princeville Makai, which features some cliffside golf showcasing the remarkable North Shore. The Ocean Course at Hokuala (formerly Kauai Lagoons) in Lihue claims the longest oceanfront stretch of golf in the state. And don’t forget Wailua, a muni just north of the airport that has hosted three USGA championships.

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