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There's still time to go out with a Great Fall Finish

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The PGA Tour has a Fall Finish, and so could you. The days of planning golf trips three months in advance are over, at least for now. We've become, for better or worse, a just-in-time society, feeding last-minute discounted airfares, hotel rooms and tee times.


So there's still plenty of time to have a no-holds-barred, weekend golf gorge signed, sealed and delivered to your inbox without breaking the bank. The first signs of winter are still weeks away, and September is prime time to hit some of the country's best stay and play golf resorts.

Here's one man's menu for a smooth, Fall Finish.

The Resort: Bandon Dunes, Florence, Ore. - Many consider Bandon Dunes and its sister course Pacific Dunes to be one of the best two-course combinations in the world. Nuff said? Hardly. The rugged, Oregon coast provides the setting for two of the most spectacular links layouts this side of Royal County Down and Muirfield. Bandon owner Mike Keiser spent three years searching for the perfect spot to build two of the world's most memorable (yet minimalist) golf courses.

To create the experience, he commissioned David McKlay Kidd - a young Scottish designer - and Tom Doak, his American counterpart, to drape Bandon and Pacific Dunes over the tumultuous terra forma of this Irish-esque property. Keiser recently announced the white-hot design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore had been retained to design Bandon's third course, which is slated to open in 2005.

The Deal - Both courses are open to the public, but don't expect to find a chain hotel around these parts. The only on-site lodging is provided at the Lodge, which features 21 rooms and 48 cottages. Golfers can celebrate the experience at Bandon's two restaurants and cozy pub. Adding to the authenticity of the resort, walking both courses is not only encouraged - it's required. For rates and reservations call (888) 345-6008 or log on to bandondunes.com.

The Resort: The American Club, Kohler, Wis. - The home of brats, beer and the (University of Wisconsin) Badgers does golf the same way it does tailgating - all or nothing at all. The American Club is case in point. All four Pete Dye designed golf courses - two at Blackwolf Run and two at Whistling Straits - are ranked among the best in the country by various publications. The Straits Course will host the PGA Championship next year, and millions of viewers will get their first glimpse of the windswept, manmade dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan that serve as the canvas for this stunning, linksy tapestry of holes. The American Club obliges with the Kohler Waters Spa, which Conde Nast Traveler ranks among the 40 best in the U.S. and Caribbean.

The Deal - The American Club - just a short drive north on I-43 from Milwaukee - is more accessible than it lets on. Guests can bed-down at the upscale American Club, or down the street at the lower key Inn on Woodlake. Diner is served at three establishments: The Immigrant Room and Winery, Wisconsin Room, and Horse and Plow. For rates and reservations call (800) 344-2838 or log on to destinationkohler.com.

The Resort: Kiawah Island Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C. - Before there was Bandon and Pacific Dunes, there was the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort.

When the famed Pete Dye design opened in 1991, it set the gold standard for American links style golf course design (and also hosted the Ryder Cup in the process). In doing so, it also overshadowed the resort's other three outstanding Lowcountry layouts. A young Tom Fazio designed the popular Osprey Course; Jack Nicklaus authored the resort's first course, Turtle Point; and the relatively new (1996) Cougar course comes courtesy of Gary Player's design firm. Kiawah recently added an off island track to it's lineup, Oak Point, which plays along the Haulover and Kiawah Rivers and touts itself as a blend of Scottish and American design principles.

The Deal - Thirty SPF sunscreen and mosquito repellant are necessary evils when visiting Kiawah in balmy September, but the 10,000 acre island manages to stay four to five degrees cooler than the inland due to its proximity to the Atlantic. A variety of accommodations are available, ranging from ocean front homes, beach villas to the AAA Four Diamond Kiawah Island Inn. The Inn is the ideal spot for a weekend getaway (can you say beach front), and is centrally located amid the resort's five golf courses. It houses four eateries, including the upscale Atlantic Room, and is a chip shot from the island's quaint shopping area. For rates and reservations, call (800) 576-1570 or log on to kiawahresort.com.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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