10 Top Golf and Beach Options for Summer

I’m often told that man does not live by golf alone (usually by non-golfers). And in the summertime, one of the chief non-golf activities that I and other golfers enjoy is spending time swimming and lounging by the sea. Lakes and ponds can have beaches—and some rivers do, too. But they can’t compare to going for a saltwater swim, then stretching out on a broad expanse of sand, looking out to the horizon, and contemplating eternity as the waves roll in.

If you’re the kind of golfer who likes to combine a round on the links with some beach time and swimming, you’ve got a lot of choices. I’ve paired some of America’s best summer swim spots (ones with water that’s warm enough to swim in) with a nearby publicly accessible golf course—places where one of your chief aims will be to avoid the beach.

Carmel Beach + Del Monte Golf Course (Monterey, Calif.)

Let’s kick things off with one of the best beach-golf combinations in the world. From the broad expanse of sand at Carmel Beach, located at the end of Ocean Avenue in picturesque Carmel-by-the Sea, Calif., you can wave at players taking on the 9th and 10th holes at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The ocean waves that roll in to this long and wide beach are often populated by surfers, and dogs are allowed on the beach, too. If you’re not ready to pony up for the privilege of taking on Pebble or Spanish Bay or Spyglass Hill (though each is worth every penny), you have other good golf options in the area, including the oldest course in continuous operation west of the Mississippi: Del Monte. The course, which is also owned and operated by Pebble Beach Resorts, hosted the 1916 Western Amateur, and its tree-lined fairways (many with doglegs) and small, sloping greens make for a great day before or after your swim with the area sea otters.

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Del Monte Golf Course, 16th hole (photo courtesy Pebble Beach Company)

Kirk Park Beach + Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course (Montauk, N.Y.)

An easy walk from downtown Montauk, N.Y., near the eastern tip of Long Island, Kirk Park Beach offers an expansive white-sand beach right on the Atlantic. You’ll need to walk, as there’s no public parking unless you’re a local resident. But the beach is worth it. Just up the road and only a mile from the sea, the course at Montauk Downs State Park dates to 1927. But we owe the design of today’s course to Robert Trent Jones Sr. and his son, Rees. The terrain is hilly, giving the holes a lot of variety, and there are some wonderful views from the higher spots. Playing 7,000 yards from the tips, with healthy rough and some deep bunkers, Montauk Downs is a good challenge—especially if the sea breezes are kicking up.

Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course

Coquina Beach + Nags Head Golf Links (Nags Head, N.C.)

North Carolina’s Outer Banks offer one of the more unspoiled beach experiences you could want, with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore located right in their midst. Coquina Beach, located close to the Bodie Island Lighthouse, is one of the Seashore’s most beautiful—with waves that are perfect for body-surfing and boogie-boarding. North of the beach, Nags Head Golf Links isn’t a long course—just a little over 6,100 yards. But when the wind blows in off Roanoke Sound, at least half of its links-style holes will require solid ball-striking to play well. Several holes run right along the sound, offering beachfront views that may tempt you into taking a mid-round dip.

Nags Head Golf Links
Nags Head Golf Links

Clam Pass Park Beach Park + Old Corkscrew Golf Club (Estero, Fla.)

Clam Pass Park Beach Park is one of the more popular beaches in the Naples, Fla., area with swimmers, birdwatchers, and nature lovers—and with good reason. To get to this wonderfully natural, white-sand beach, you first enjoy a half-mile stroll down a boardwalk where the Conservancy of Southwest Florida offers guided nature walks. Nearby, at Old Corkscrew, a Certified Audubon Silver Signature Sanctuary course designed by Jack Nicklaus, you’ll enjoy yet more nature. The course is routed through stands of oak, pine, and cypress trees, and is home to birds, turtles, raccoons, and the occasional alligator. Lakes, ponds, and wetlands factor into a dozen holes, and while the terrain is generally flat, the greens are not.

old corkscrew
Old Corkscrew (photo by Evan Schiller)

Coronado Central Beach + Torrey Pines Golf Course (San Diego, Calif.)

When you reach the apex of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, the view that awaits you of the idyllic oceanfront community of Coronado is one you won’t soon forget. Down below are the famous Coronado Hotel, made famous by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, all manner of shops and restaurants along Orange Avenue, and a series of beaches that each merit visits. At Coronado Central Beach, when you’re done with your swim you can search through the tide pools at low tide and even whip up s’mores at one of the provided firepits. Over at Torrey Pines, you’ll have two stellar tracks to choose from, the North and the South, both of which sit high above the Pacific on rolling, headland terrain. The South Course hosted the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Opens and stretches to over 7,800 yards from the tips. But the North is nearly its equal. Torrey Pines is one of the few municipal facilities to have hosted a major, so don’t miss the opportunity to play one or both if you’re in the area.

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Torrey Pines (photo courtesy Torrey Pines Golf Course)

Sunset Beach + Shore Gate Golf Club (Ocean View, N.J.)

New Jersey boasts over 140 miles of shoreline, with many famous (and typically crowded) beaches all along the way. For something a little less honky-tonk, head to Cape May’s Sunset Beach. In addition to swimming, you can hunt for Cape May diamonds and the occasional shark’s tooth. There’s no better place to relax on the strand and watch the summer sun go down. At Shore Gate, the 7,227-yard course extends over 245 acres of Jersey Shore pine forest, with seven water hazards, dozens of penal bunkers, several wetland areas, undulating fairways and greens, and reliably excellent playing conditions. It’s a challenging course, and often a busy one, but it’s got everything an upscale daily-fee course should have.

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Shore Gate Golf Club

Kiawah Beachwalker State Park + The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Kiawah Island, S.C.)

At Kiawah Island’s Beachwalker State Park, you can do a lot more than just stroll in the sand or on the park’s quaint boardwalk. The water is perfect for swimming, and you can also ride a bike, go surf fishing, have a picnic in the picnic area, and more. Just across the island, the Ocean Course stands as one of Pete Dye’s most celebrated designs. The course has hosted the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship and features 10 holes that run along the shoreline. Want more golf? The resort has four other stellar 18-hole courses to choose from.

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The Ocean Course (photo courtesy Kiawah Island Golf Resort)

Main Beach, East Hampton + Cherry Creek Links (Riverhead, N.Y.)

East Hampton Village is one of the tonier spots that any summer vacationer could hope to visit. But whether you’re old money, new money, or no money, you can swim at any of the town’s five beaches. Main Beach is the fairest of them all, and it’s also the site of the town’s annual fireworks show, slated for August 11th this year. Eastern Long Island is also home to several bucket-list private clubs, including Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links. If you can’t finagle a tee time at one of those, check out Cherry Creek Links in Riverhead on Long Island’s North Fork. Cherry Creek is an open, par-73 course known for its thick rough. And with water on eight holes and back tees that stretch to almost 7,200 yards, it’s a good test. Chery Creek is a pretty course, too, and is generally kept in commendable shape.

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Cherry Creek Links

Ka’anapali Beach + The Plantation Course at Kapalua Bay (Maui, Hawaii)

The Hawaiian Islands are blessed with an almost infinite number of prime swimming spots, some with white sand and some featuring the volcanic, black variety. I’m recommending Ka’anapali Beach on West Maui, with its more than six miles of shoreline, craggy volcanic rocks for scenery, and long list of things to do nearby. Also nearby is the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed Plantation Course at Kapalua Bay, which weaves its way up and down dramatic mountain slopes and annually challenges PGA Tour pros in the early-January Sentry event starring the previous season’s tour stop winners. For the pros, it can play over 7,500 yards, but its wide fairways and large greens make it an enjoyable course for golfers of all stripes.

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Plantation Course at Kapalua (photo by Dave Sansom Photography)

Race Point Beach + Highland Links (Truro, Mass.)

Race Point Beach, located near the eastern tip of Massachusetts’s Cape Cod in the Cape Cod National Seashore, is the epitome of an unspoiled beach—and the U.S. Park Service keeps it that way. Shorebirds get first dibs here, and there are plenty of them, both on the beach and in the tall sea grass bordering the beach. The swimming is superb—in waves that are often on the energetic side, making them perfect for bodysurfing. When you visit, you’ll be very close to downtown Provincetown and the Pilgrim Monument, and just a few miles from the outer Cape’s sole golf course, Highland Links in Truro. Dating back to 1892, this 9-hole links course is an absolute treasure. And it’s a true links, with dramatic headland views of the sea, especially from the 3rd and 6th tees, plus deep natural rough, Scotch broom, and small but pesky greens routed around historic Highland Light.

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Highland Links (photo by Highland Links)

Have you visited any of these golf and beach destinations? Tell us about your travels in the comment section.