My 2010 Travel Awards Part 2: Great golf resorts
Welcome back to my 2010 travel golf awards. Today’s story focuses on golf resorts.
I’ve never been a hotel snob … but this year could turn me into one. I rested my head at two hotels named to Conde Nast’s World’s Best list: The One&Only Palmilla in Mexico (No. 15) and the Hotel Murano (No. 72) in Tacoma, Wash. In my eyes, the remarkable Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta, Adare Manor in Ireland and West Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick, Ind., are just as impressive in stature. Each of these iconic hotels is like an ‘Eighth wonder of the world’ featuring marvelous architecture and old-world craftsmanship. Pictured above is a frontal view from the Fairmont Banff Springs, remarkably built in 1885.
My wife got to live her lifelong dream by staying at the lux Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World, while I was playing golf in the land of Mickey Mouse. Sorry, the Days Inn just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Best U.S. Golf Resort: French Lick Resort in Indiana.
It’s too bad French Lick is so hidden in rural Indiana southwest of Bloomington. If this place had a California zip code, it would be compared to Pebble Beach. The contrast between the two courses - the cruel Pete Dye course and the playable Donald Ross course - is stark. With its towering atrium (pictured above), the West Baden Springs hotel is a tribute to the human imagination. The casino in the equally refined French Lick Springs Hotel adds a nightlife component few golf resorts can match. Runners-up: Grand Floridian, Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., near Tucson. The Westin La Cantera in San Antonio.
Best International Golf Resort: One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico.
With nearly five staff members per guest, this swanky joint delivers customer service at its best. This intimate resort has real sex appeal for couples, too. The Market restaurant is one of the best in all of Mexico. Runners-up: Doonbeg in Ireland, Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Cananda. The Fairmont Banff Springs, known as the “Castle in the Rockies” is a sight to behold. The view from my room was a canvas of mountain scenery, a rollicking river in the shadows of towering peaks.
Biggest Surprise U.S. Resort: Grand Geneva Resort, Lake Geneva, Wis.
A multi-million dollar upgrade has added a touch of luxury to a resort known more as a family getaway. It has fun for all ages: from the indoor water park, to two excellent golf courses and the fabulous food at the Geneva Chophouse. Runner-up: The Marriott Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa is another spot that shines after a renovation. Golfers can enjoy the spoils of staying downtown while staying just minutes away from at the 36-hole Magnolia Grove Golf Club, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio suits all tastes, from romantic getaways to corporate and family outings.
Biggest Surprise International Resort: The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis in Alberta, Cananda.
The Fairmont brand - especially Banff Springs and Jasper Park Lodge - dominate the Canadian luxury scene. Yet Delta can compete, from the comfort of the rooms to the dining experiences, including the Seasons Steakhouse at Kananaskis. Pictured is the view from the walking trail around the resort. Runners-up: The Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort in Ireland and Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada.
Best Family Golf Resort in the World: Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Disney has four courses to match four theme parks. That means I can play golf every day while sending the kids off with mom and grandma to those crazy parks. Perfect. While they’re fighting crowds, I’m awash in the calming allure of nature. The real animal kingdom at Disney just might be the Magnolia and Palm golf courses across from the Grand Floridian. I saw deer, turkeys, a bald eagle and tons of other birds.
Best U.S. Family Resort (besides Disney): Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.
This amazing, mammoth indoor-outdoor waterpark resort that started the waterpark craze in 2000 owns the nearby 27-hole Trapper’s Turn Golf Club, designed by Andy North. Trapper’s Turn features its own watery thrills, with four holes of the Lakes nine set on 13-acre Mystic Lake. Runners-up: Boyne Mountain Resort and The Homestead Resort in Michigan, Grand Geneva Resort. Both Boyne and Grand Geneva have great indoor water parks as well. Boyne’s Avalanche Bay is one of the largest in the Midwest, but I was more smitten with the wonderful beachfront setting on Deer Lake, which I discovered for the first time this summer.
Best International Family Resort: The Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada.
The splendor of the Canadian Rockies is on full display. Children can swim and explore. Outdoor activities, from hiking to white-water rafting, abound. The luxury cabins provide privacy for families and plenty of room to roam and relax. Pictured above is the lodge lobby.
Best U.S. Hotel-Golf Course Partnership: Chambers Bay and Hotel Murano in Tacoma.
These two properties are linked only by their lofty standards. They’ve teamed up to form a unique golf package. Guests can stay in downtown Tacoma in an artsy, modern hotel with a glass-blowing motif (pictured above is glass-blown art of a boat hanging in the lobby) and play a links golf masterpiece on the edge of the Puget Sound that will host the 2015 U.S. Open. The two are transforming the way traveling golfers think about the Pacific Northwest. It used to be Bandon Dunes or bust. Not anymore.
Best International Hotel-Golf Course Partnership: Royal County Down and the Slieve Donard Hotel.
The two neighbors in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, both special. All hotel guests need to do is walk out the back door, through the club’s gates and they’re at the most revered links in the world. Following a $20 million renovation (U.S.), the iconic Victorian hotel, owned and operated by Hastings, now features one of the premier resort spas in Europe.
Best U.S. Spa: Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain.
The theme of the 17,000-foot spa is wood, earth, water and fire. The men’s portion is no afterthought. It’s comfortable enough to spend a couple hours lounging in the outdoor hot tub next to a fireplace or in the glass-enclosed outdoor sauna and steam rooms. Boulders marked with petroglyphs inscribed sometime between 300 B.C. and 1500 A.D. are easily visible at the cozy co-ed outdoor pool and hot tub. Pictured is the pool area at the resort. Runner-up: Castle Rock Health Club & Spa at the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio.
Best International Spa: Palmilla.
A golf yoga class - a new program at the resort - before my round at the resort course was followed by the ultimate surprise, a calming foot wash and massage in the intimate yoga garden. There are similar surprises around every corner of the spa’s outdoor courtyard. This spa has golf-specific treatments to heal injury or soothe sore muscles. It also features an excellent fitness center and free daily exercise classes for guests. Runner-up: Doonbeg. While visiting Jasper Park, the resort was just completing its renovated spa. I’m guessing it’s as good as the rest of the resort’s amenities.
Best non-golf activity at a Golf Resort: (tie) Ziplining at Boyne Mountain Resort and hiking at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain. Both are a thrill. The new zip lines at Boyne are just long enough to be scary, but short enough that most kids or tepid adults can handle them. They were a great addition to an already exceptional resort. Spectacular scenery accompanies a hike in a striking boulder-strewn desert canyon setting just outside the doors of the new Ritz outside of Tucson.
Best non-golf activity off-property: Most people would chose the Kananaskis Heli Tour over the Canadian Rockies. That was fun, but I loved white water rafting down the Kananaskis River with Inside Out Experience Outdoor Adventures. Unfortunately they didn’t let us bring cameras on the raft, so here’s a photo of my bird.
|« My 2010 Travel Awards Part 3: Golf Grub, the tasty final chapter||My 2010 Travel Awards Part 1: Where golf is grand »|
Jason...thanks for the kind words....here is a link to Conde Nast and West Baden. Cheers Brendan