The clocks have all been turned back. Daylight is ever in shorter supply. Late in the year is the most horrible time for northern golfers, when memories of warm afternoons on the links grow dim, and the specter of winter lurks all too near. We may be able to squeeze in a local round here or there before courses close. Before long, your sticks will be relegated to the garage again, and the horrid thought of weekends without golf will become a tragic reality.
But not so fast. We have airplanes! And places in the southern parts of the U.S. that are all too eager to welcome northern folk desperate to extend their golf seasons. Whether you live in Maine or Minnesota or Montana, look straight south and you’ll find a smorgasbord of tasty courses and resorts where the golf season is far from over; for many, their busiest days are just beginning. And tee times there are yours for the asking.
Here are 10 great options for late-season golf getaways, listed from east to west. Your mission: pick one, find a partner (or three), and jet off to a place where they’re still wearing shorts and the greens still have flagsticks in them.
The Grand Strand—Myrtle Beach, S.C.
South Carolina’s Grand Strand is a perennial magnet for golfers, with dozens of enjoyable courses to choose from and a myriad of après-golf activities, as well. Myrtle Beach knows how to cater to the legions of golfers that flock to the area, especially in shoulder seasons. The hard part is deciding which courses to play. I’ll make it easy for you. Schedule rounds at any of the following and you’ll be guaranteed a great experience: the two Mike Strantz-designed courses (True Blue and Caledonia Golf & Fish Club), Tidewater Golf Club, TPC Myrtle Beach, or any of the four courses (layouts by Tom Fazio, Pete Dye, Davis Love III, and Greg Norman) at Barefoot Resort & Golf. If you can grab a tee time at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club, put that at the top of your list.
Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa—Palm Coast, Fla.
Beachfront luxury is the order of the day at Hammock Beach, where the sparkling Atlantic is just steps from your room and the list of guest activities seems as long as the beach itself. Located a short drive from historic St. Augustine, Hammock Beach is home to two strong courses, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course with six holes right on the water, and the Tom Watson-designed Conservatory Course whose rumpled landforms give it a more linksy feel. Want more golf? There’s a 9-hole putting course through the palms that’s perfect for contests with family or friends.
Streamsong Resort—Bowling Green, Fla.
As Streamsong has expanded over the years, it’s added things like bass fishing, sporting clays, tennis, and archery to its list of diversions for guests. It’s a little hard to understand why they were needed, since the three top-40 public courses in the U.S. on offer at this central Florida resort rank among the best golf trifectas in the world. You can argue all you want about which is best: the Red course from Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the Blue from Tom Doak, or the Black from Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner. But one thing that’s not up for debate is the superb quality of all the golf experiences at Streamsong, which also include the Roundabout short course and massive, 1.2-acre Gauntlet putting course. Plus, in December 2023, Streamsong will debut yet another Coore & Crenshaw course—a 3,000-yard track called The Chain, which will have holes stretching from 109 to 293 yards—along with a 2.5-acre putting course called The Bucket. You’ll want your long weekend to be extra-long if you visit Streamsong.
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail—Alabama
You’ll need way more than a long weekend to play all 26 courses of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022. Jones was coerced out of retirement to help create this statewide amenity, which annually attracts players from all 50 states and many countries. Eight of the state’s top 10 public courses are trail courses, with eight flagship hotels providing the accommodations and multiple course choices at or near each one. Among the favorites: Grand National’s Lake and Links courses; the Judge course at Capitol Hill; Ross Bridge near Hoover; the 27 holes at Cambrian Ridge; Oxmoor Valley’s Ridge course outside Birmingham; and the Falls and Crossings courses at Magnolia Grove. Best of all, green fees average under a hundred bucks a round—so you get great value any time of year.
TPC Louisiana—Avondale, La.
Down in Cajun country, just 20 minutes from Bourbon Street and the nonstop revelry of The Big Easy, TPC Louisiana is home of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic—so it’s a championship-caliber track all the way. A Pete Dye-designed stadium course with more than 100 Dye-abolical bunkers, it’s anything but a pushover. But it’s generally flat, and there are five sets of tees ranging from 5,100 to 7,400 yards, so good times are there to be had by golfers of all stripes. Water comes into play on many holes (beware the gators), and some of the relatively small greens have more movement to them than a Zydeco dancer. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Omni PGA Frisco—Frisco, Texas
Anaheim has Disneyland. Orlando has Disney World. Frisco has PGA Frisco—which is about as close to a golf theme park as you can hope to get. Home of the PGA of America, PGA Frisco was purpose-built on the northern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area to be a golf destination that you never have to (or want to) leave. Its two 18-hole courses, Fields Ranch East by Gil Hanse and Fields Ranch West by Beau Welling, are both stellar tests. Throw in a fun par-3 course and a two-acre putting course (both lighted for night play), plus a 30-acre practice facility and a PGA Coaching Center where you can hone your game with the help of a PGA professional, and you have the makings of a weekend golf bonanza. You’ll have 13 food and beverage outlets to choose from, too, along with accommodations options at the Omni PGA Frisco that range from rooms and suites to ranch houses. Texas golf doesn’t get much more fun than this.
Black Mesa Golf Club—La Mesilla, N.M.
The Albuquerque-Santa Fe region offers a host of commendable golf opportunities—none more enchanting than Black Mesa in the Española Valley. Baxter Spann did the design work on this Santa Clara Pueblo stunner, where gulches and sandstone ridges dictate the routing, and rock formations and desert vegetation lend the course color and character. The views of the nearby Santo de Christo and Jemez Mountains are with you throughout your round, which features lots of elevation change and imaginative golf holes galore that amaze and delight from beginning to end. It’s unconventional—and unforgettable.
We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort—Fort McDowell, Ariz.
Of all the courses in the Scottsdale area, the two at We-Ko-Pa may offer the best one-two punch of the lot. There, in the Sonoran Desert, the 7,225-yard Cholla course and slightly shorter Saguaro course play across desert washes and over ridges, with greens tucked in the outstretched arms of foothills and nestled up to the edges of arroyos. The Saguaro, from the Coore & Crenshaw team, is routinely rated Arizona’s top public course, and though it plays longer than the scorecard would suggest, walking is encouraged. Expect fast, undulating greens and views of the Superstition Mountains that will stay with you long after you’ve holed out. It’s a bonus that there’s no real estate impinging on the experience—and if you like to gamble on things other than golf, the nearby casino is open 24 hours a day.
The Resort at Pelican Hill—Newport Beach, Calif.
California is a coveted golf destination in any season, and Southern California’s Pelican Hill is a particularly nice place to enjoy the afterglow of autumn months. A sprawling resort with the feel of an Italian seaside village, Pelican Hill is renowned for its coliseum pool, extensive spa and wellness facilities, and epicurean experiences so indulgent they verge on the gluttonous. But it’s the resort’s 36 holes of Tom Fazio-designed golf that steal the spotlight here. True to their names, the Ocean North and Ocean South courses both offer panoramic views of the Pacific from just about everywhere as they flit to and fro, skirting clifftops bordered by wide swaths of sage and eucalyptus trees. Which course is better? Play them both and decide for yourself.
Pasatiempo Golf Club—Santa Cruz, Calif.
The Monterey-area courses to the north of Santa Cruz may get more ink, particularly the courses which the fortunate guests of the Pebble Beach Resorts (and the even more fortunate guests of club members at Cypress Point) have access to. But just down the road in Sant Cruz, there’s another Alister MacKenzie-designed course that’s well worth discovering if you haven’t already. Pasatiempo opened for play in 1929, with the foursome of Marion Hollins, Bobby Jones, Glena Collett-Vare, and Cyril Tolley doing the ceremonial opening-day honors. The course was Hollins’s vision, and as at Cypress Point, she had a hand in suggesting aspects of the design. You’ll play through fairway corridors lined by eucalyptus and cypress, across barrancas, up hills and down them, with a healthy dose of sidehill lies thrown in for good measure. The course really comes into its own on the back nine. Its 16th hole, a dogleg-left par four requiring an uphill second shot to a green with three dramatic tiers sloping from back to front, is one of the most challenging holes in California, in my opinion. (MacKenzie called it “the best two-shot hole I know.”) And the unique, par-three finisher, with bunkers spilling into a barranca at the front edge of the large, sloping green, must rank with the top par-three finishers anywhere.
While Pasatiempo is currently undergoing a restoration—led by Jim Urbina—of its greens and bunkers on the front nine, all 18 holes are scheduled to reopen on December 1 and remain playable through mid-April 2024, at which point the restoration will resume on the back nine.
What great late-season golf destinations would be a part of your list? Let us know in the comment section.