For some people, the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without sleighbells, falling snow, and chestnuts roasting over an open fire. But if all you want for the holidays is to trade your usual winter wonderland for a few sun-splashed days of relaxation, including top-notch golf, Santa’s got some great options in his Santa-sack. Many of the world’s best golf destinations shine even brighter at holiday time, with special packages and holiday-themed events that are guaranteed to warm the hearts of even the Grinchiest of golfers.
Here are 10 can’t-miss recommendations for luxurious holiday getaways in golf destinations that specialize in them. Any one of them will turn a hectic holiday season into that most wonderful time of the year.
The Biltmore—Coral Gables, Fla.
The Donald Ross-designed golf course at the famed Biltmore Hotel near Miami has long been a favorite with amateur and professional players alike—and even more so since the extensive restoration it underwent in 2018. There’s a Jim McLean Golf School on site, too, just in case lessons are something you’d like to give yourself for a holiday present. They do everything right at The Biltmore, including the extravagant fireworks show you’ll enjoy with your glass of bubbly on New Year’s Eve.
Every January, Kapalua’s Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed Plantation course plays host to the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, but you can play it over the holidays and see what awaits the pros there: namely, a 7,500-yard masterpiece with one of the most striking finishing holes in golf, a downhill par five that’s been the site of major drama over the years. Choose from the award-winning accommodations at the Ritz-Carlton, Maui, Kapalua, the Montage Kapalua Bay, or the Kapalua Villas. Either way, you’ll be in an island paradise that also offers sailing, surfing, trophy deep-sea fishing, and fabulous options for your holiday luau.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve—Dorado, Puerto Rico
Laurance Rockefeller created this exclusive, 50-acre retreat in the 1950s, and Ritz-Carlton has made what was always a premier property even more luxurious—and even more well-suited for your holiday escape. Rockefeller called on Robert Trent Jones to route two world-class courses through the tall palm trees that dominate the landscape, and today, the East course at TPC Dorado Beach (updated by Jones’s son, RTJ II), hosts PGA Tour events and features one unforgettable hole after another—including the course’s signature hole, the double-dogleg par-five 4th.
Casa de Campo Resort & Villas—La Romana, Dominican Republic
There are three dazzling courses to experience at Casa de Campo, including Pete Dye’s Teeth of the Dog, the No. 1 ranked course in all the Caribbean, with seven dramatic holes hugging the craggy coral formations that border the sparkling sea. Casa de Campo goes all-in for the holidays with indulgent feasts, nightly entertainment, a tree lighting ceremony, and more. And when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, what better place could there be to pop open a bottle of vintage champagne than in your own private oceanfront villa?
Fairmont Mayakoba—Riviera Maya, Mexico
Cancun—and the Riviera Maya area, located an hour south—were popular getaway spots all through the Covid-19 pandemic, and this bustling destination goes all out for the holidays. The white-sand beach at the five-star Fairmont Mayakoba is large and uncrowded, as is its beautifully maintained Las Olas pool complex. The resort’s El Camaleón golf course is a Greg Norman design that’s annually the site of the PGA Tour’s WWT Championship at Mayakoba, which is part golf tournament and part no-holds-barred fiesta. If you want to be where the action is on New Year’s Eve, head to the lively seaside town of Playa del Carmen, which is just minutes away. People will be celebrating in the restaurants and clubs along 5th Avenue ’til dawn. And the best news? When the partying ends and you wake up in a new year, you’ll be in a bona fide tropical paradise.
Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas—Baja California Sur, Mexico
This Los Cabos resort hasn’t been open long, but it’s earned high praise from guests who gush about its sterling service and dazzling beachfront accommodations, most with their own plunge pools. The RTJ II-designed Costa Palmas Golf Club earns accolades, too, with its three distinct, six-hole movements: “Dunescape,” “Upland,” and “Marina.” Play this course and spend a few days indulging in the area’s other cultural and aquatic adventures and you’ll see that nobody celebrates the holiday season better than the fun-loving people of Los Cabos.
Mukul Beach, Golf, & Spa—Guacalito, Nicaragua
If getting away from it all is what you want this year, the Mukul resort on the southwest coast of Nicaragua offers the utmost in luxury and privacy—along with a David McLay Kidd-designed golf course that’s Central America’s best. Exotic flora surrounds you every minute of your round, and the closing hole is a sweet par three with a green just steps from the ocean blue. Book your holiday dinner in the La Mesa Dining Room at La Cocina NiKul and enjoy fresh local fare before retiring to your room. Or better yet, book the Casona Don Carlos, an oceanfront compound with five bedrooms, its own infinity pool, dedicated butler and chef, and the most expansive outdoor lounging areas you’ve ever seen.
SO/ Sotogrande—Costa del Sol, Spain
The SO/ Sotogrande Resort has a full calendar of Festive Season events, including a visit from Santa on Christmas Eve, a Christmas day feast, and a six-course New Year’s Eve dinner served in its rustic and spirited Cortijo restaurant. But the golf may be the brightest star around here. Right up the road from the resort you’ll find Real Club Valderrama, home of the 1997 Ryder Cup, and Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, which has hosted numerous European Tour events. Both courses wind their way through stands of pine, palm, and cork oak trees—along with numerous water hazards and brilliant, white-sand bunkers.
Kauri Cliffs—Matauri Bay, New Zealand
You’ll need to book at least a four-night stay to hole up in the luxe Residences at Kauri Cliffs between December 21 and January 6, but four nights may not be enough once you’ve experienced all they offer. And four rounds may not be enough once you’ve seen the stunning Kauri Cliffs course, which, as its name implies, has six cliffside holes and dramatic ocean views from a dozen others. While you’re in New Zealand, get to Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay if you can. Kiwi hospitality is legendary—and that goes double at holiday time.
The Sandbelt Courses—Melbourne, Australia
If you’re in the mood to really turn things upside down this holiday season, head to the Land Down Under, where the Sandbelt courses just outside Melbourne offer some of the best links golf on the planet. Alister MacKenzie’s world-top-10 West course at Royal Melbourne may be the main draw here, but also nearby are the sensational links at Kingston Heath, Metropolitan Golf Club, Victoria Golf Club, and Yarra Yarra Golf Club to name just a few. Stay at The Prince in St. Kilda, a 1920s art deco hotel with all the modern creature comforts that’s located right in the heart of the area’s New Year’s Eve action.
Where is your favorite place to stay and play golf during the holidays?