SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. - The world is full of great golf resorts. What makes a resort particularly appealing to couples? It has to have some element of romance, something that sets it apart from all of the others.
While you don't have to have an occasion to book yourself a golf weekend with your honey, it's not a bad idea, eh?
Here are five that are sure not to disappoint:
When it comes to romance, the Grand Hotel tops the list. The world's largest summer hotel since 1887, it is a wonderful place to celebrate a special birthday, anniversary or even for a honeymoon.
Mackinac Island is special in itself. It is accessible only by ferry boat or plane. Located between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan, in the Straits of Mackinac, this island does not allow any vehicular traffic. So everyone gets about either in horse-drawn carriages or by bicycle. The movie "Somewhere in Time" was filmed here in 1980.
The golf here is fun and interesting. Called "The Jewel," the course consists of two drastically different nines. The Grand nine is fairly short, almost an executive course, but offers great views of the village, harbor, Fort Mackinac and the Straits and so is a favorite play of most visitors. It is located right next to the hotel. It was built in 1901 and redesigned in 1987, so you are playing a piece of history.
After finishing the front, you are transported by horse-drawn carriage through the Mackinac State Park to the aptly-named Woods nine. These holes were added in 1994 and were designed by Jerry Mathews. They feature bent grass tees, greens and fairways and nearly five acres of ponds. These holes are much longer and more challenging. They play through lovely hardwoods and pines and around the island's airport. The back nine offers views of the Mackinac Bridge, America's longest suspension bridge.
The hotel is open from May through October, but it is not too early to book for this season. The Grand Hotel follows a long tradition of including a full breakfast and five-course dinner in its rate. Dinner is always an elegant affair (coat and tie required) followed by dancing to a big band in the salon. How's that for romantic?
Jasper, Alberta, Canada: You may not think of Canada when romance comes to mind, but this lodge is not only unique but also a bargain, thanks to the exchange rate between the Canadian and U.S. dollars (currently 0.6451).
Just getting there can be fun. You could take a train from Vancouver or perhaps drive there on the famed Icefield Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper. Whichever, you are sure to find relaxation, serenity and seclusion and, unexpectedly, perhaps the finest golf in Canada.
First, the resort itself: It's a village of historic log cabins and cedar chalets where you are likely to have your own wood-burning fireplace, comfy sofas and great views of a sparkling lake. Two restaurants offer both a casual and a fine dining experience.no dressing-up required.
The golf here is no ordinary walk on the links: it's sure to be an unforgettable game. Designed in 1925 by renowned architect Stanley Thompson, the Jasper course features panoramic views of mountains and forests and frequently wildlife spectators like huge bull elk.
SCORE golf magazine rates this course as the best in Canada. Its design offers elevated tee boxes, bunkers patterned after the snow formation on the mountains and holes that are aligned with the dominant peaks. Indeed, the holes here are so famous they even have their own intriguing names, like Cleopatra, Bad Baby and The Maze, each with its own story. It plays 6,663 from the blue tees, 6,368 from the whites and 5,935 from the forward tees. It's a par 71 for gents and a par 75 for ladies.
Playing Jasper is pure pleasure and you'll want to fit it a couple of rounds if you can find time between hiking, horseback-riding and the many other adventures offered in Jasper National Park.
The resort is open year around, with the golf course open from May through October. For Americans, the prices are fabulous: Hotel guests pay between $65-$99 a round Canadian.or about $40-$63 U.S.
Southern Pines, N.C.: I personally prefer resorts that are not your standard hotels. I like small boutique places to stay, which is why I have to add these two sister resorts in North Carolina to this list.
Pine Needles and Mid Pines are just across the street from each other in Southern Pines and both are owned by Peggy Kirk Bell and her family. Pine Needles consists of a number of Swiss-style wood lodges around a central building while Mid Pines is a lovely, gracious Georgian-style inn. Whichever suits your taste, you are sure to enjoy the experience.
Golf here is superb. Each property features an 18-hole Donald Ross course, built in the 1920s. The Bell family maintains these in pristine condition. In fact, in recent years a number of the courses' original features have been restored. The course at Pine Needles is so well regarded that the LPGA played its championship here in 1996 and 2001 and will be returning in 2007. As for Mid Pines, of the seven courses in the Sandhills area designed by Ross, Mid Pines has the distinction of being the only one with every hole in the same place and with the same order in the round as when it opened. These resorts really do cater to couples in that they run several couples events each year, including the Couples Carousel of Golf each spring (April 16-20, 2003) at Mid Pines and the Couples Jamboree each fall (Nov. 12-16) at Pine Needles. These 54-hole tourneys for players of all levels are played on both courses and include a number of social events.
Ladies will particularly enjoy shopping in the villages of Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst while both men and women will enjoy a drive through the neighboring countryside, home to some of the most picturesque horse farms in the South. A number of excellent golf packages are offered and the courses are open year around.
Okay, so this is a large hotel - 560 rooms -but it is a large, elegant hotel with a long tradition and lots of panache. It is romantic largely for its dramatic design and knockout location on the Atlantic Ocean.
This five-star property just completed a ten-year revitalization that is bound to keep it in the forefront of Florida golf resorts. Situated on 140 acres on the island of Palm Beach, it is close to the gulf stream and thus enjoys year-around temperatures between 75-85 degrees.
Created in the Italian Renaissance-style, it oozes elegance. Any couple I know would find this atmosphere plenty romantic. Plus, you can loll at the Beach Club before, after or between rounds.
As for golf, the historic Ocean Course was laid out by Alexander Findlay in 1896, and completely redesigned by Brian Silva in 2000. It's regarded as the grande dame of Florida courses as the state's oldest 18-hole course. Because of its vintage, it is often compared to other classic courses such as Pinehurst No. 2 and Seminole Golf Club. This par-70 course plays 6,167 yards from the back tees and 5,254 from the front tees making it an excellent choice for couples play.
Its contemporary counterpart is the Breakers West course, located 10 miles west of the main hotel. It opened in 1968 and appeals to those who like to hit it hard and high.men, mostly.
After you play, be sure to enjoy the outstanding Breakers Ocean Clubhouse that features The Flagler Steakhouse. The resort also offers superior tennis facilities and a luxurious spa and fitness center. You surely won't be bored and your honey will be happy, too.
Of course, we all know that Hawaii is romantic just about anywhere you go, and it is loaded with great golf resorts. But my choice for couples is The Lodge at Koele on the seldom-visited island of Lanai.
Located on a plain at the foot of gentle mountains, the Lodge is laid out like a big plantation home. It has 105 rooms, located in two wings off a main building that features large porches (with wicker rockers) with lovely views of the front lawn and back pond.
The lodge is built where the tiny village of Koele used to be and an Hawaiian church still graces the front lawn. Also on the grounds are a number of statuesque banyan trees, an orchid house, a putting course, croquet courts, a swimming pool and a fitness center. The riding stables are just a half-mile from the front entrance.
Everything about the Lodge is toney and charming and it has won all kinds of awards including "Best Tropical Resort in the World" by Conde Nast Traveler.
Golfing couples will particularly enjoy the two courses on Lanai. The Experience at Koele was designed by Ted Robinson and refined by Greg Norman. On this par-72, there is quite a contrast between the front and back nines. The front holes are cut through former pineapple fields and offer views of Lanai City and the Pacific Ocean while the back is a mountain course at 2,000 feet that rolls through the highlands of what used to be the Koele Ranch.
If you like lots of nightlife, you might prefer the Lodge's sister property, the Manele Bay Hotel which sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Its golf course, called the Challenge at Manele, was designed by Jack Nicklaus and offers many stunning holes overlooking the ocean.
These courses are generally quiet with tee times beginning at 8 a.m. and you can request to go out just as a twosome. Because there are not that many players, you can actually dawdle a bit to take pictures and savor the views.just let those speedier players go on through.
You'll soon see why Bill Gates decided to be married here, on the No. 17 green, in the early 1990s.
The Grand Hotel
Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Winter: 2177 Commons Parkway
Okemos, MI 48864
Toll-free reservations: (800) 33-GRAND
Greens fees: $80, 18 holes for guests ($42.50 for nine)
$100, 18 holes for non-guests ($55 for nine)
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
P.O. Box 40, Old Lodge Road
Jasper, Alberta, Canada T0E 1E0
Toll-free reservations: (800) 441-1414
Tee times: (780) 852-6090
Greens fees: For hotel guests, $65 to $99 (Canadian) for 18 holes
Pine Needles & Mid Pines
P. O. Box 88
Southern Pines, NC 28388
Toll-free reservations for Pine Needles: (800) 747-7272
Toll-free reservations for Mid Pines: (800) 323-2114
Greens Fees: Pine Needles, $80-$130 for 18 holes for hotel guests
Mid Pines, $75-$115 for 18 holes for hotel guests
One South County Road
Palm Beach, FL 33480
Toll-free reservations: (888) BREAKERS
Greens fees: Both courses, $155 for 18 holes, $90 for nine holes
The Lodge at Koele
P.O. Box 630310
Lanai City, Hawaii 96763
Greens fees: $165 for 18 holes for resort guests, $70 for replay.
January 3, 2003