One of the most appealing aspects of golf is the environment in which the game is played. Most courses transport players to a tranquil, park-like setting, although some of those locales are a bit lusher and more idyllic than others. Every now and then, however, a course—and sometimes its affiliated hotel and resort—can do more than that; they can bring golf travelers to the edge (sometimes even inside) spectacular national parks.
Here, we look at four courses and their affiliated lodging that offer dramatic views of some of North America’s most revered national parks.
Cheyenne Mountain Colorado Springs—Colorado Springs, Colo.
Like many of America’s protected outdoor spaces, Rocky Mountain National Park attracts a wide-ranging group of visitors thanks to its diverse environments—alpine lakes, meadows teeming with wildlife, and towering mountain peaks. More than 300 miles of hiking trails traverse the park’s 415 square miles, though the park is no less enthralling when viewed from its edges; and that’s one of the many allures of Dolce Hotels and Resorts’ Cheyenne Mountain Colorado Springs.
Located in Colorado Springs, about 70 miles south of Denver, the 316-room resort delivers panoramas that will have guests feeling as though they’re surrounded by Colorado’s famous mountain range. Golfers are certain to feel similarly as they traverse the Pete Dye-designed Country Club of Colorado, where water comes into play a third of the time; however, angled doglegs and expansive bunkers represent the true challenge on this almost 7,000-yard layout.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge—Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Included within UNESCO’s Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, Jasper National Park covers a sprawling 4,335 square miles. That makes it the largest national park within the Canadian Rockies and also the world’s second largest dark sky preserve. The stars may shine brighter there each night, but the natural world is also boldly on display during the day. Better still, golfers who stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge can enjoy an up-close view of that splendor, both from the 442-room hotel and also along the fairways and greens of the Stanley Thompson-designed golf course.
On the topic of those 18 lakeside holes, the 6,663-yard course features elevated tee boxes—many of which provide dramatic mountain views—and wide fairways that are lined with stretches of densely wooded forest. Today, the course shines as one of Canada’s golfing gems, but a century ago, the project was a massive undertaking. Before Thompson began molding the land into dynamic playable corridors for golf, 50 teams of horses and 200 men worked for an entire year to clear the site of boulders and debris.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to avoid spending much time in and around the conifer trees when you have your golf clubs in tow, but those trees represent an ideal place to stay during the rest of your trip. The resort offers nine, stand-alone cabins that are nestled among the pines and can accommodate as few as two guests and as many as 20. The lodge’s main, chalet-style guest rooms and suites also offer views of the Rocky Mountains or the striking emerald-colored waters of Lac Beauvert.
Waynesville Inn & Golf Club—Waynesville, N.C.
Blanketing 816 square miles across eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains is America’s most visited national park. The mountain range itself is renowned for a diverse population of plant and animal life, while the park—established in 1926 and sitting upon a ridge of dense forest—is best known for its network of scenic trails, which includes the famous Appalachian Trail.
When it comes to golf in the region, the Waynesville Inn & Golf Club is home to 18 holes—9 of which were originally conceived by Donald Ross—recently renovated by Bobby Weed. Set at just under 3,000 feet in elevation, the course provides long, unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains as it trundles across 165 acres of captivating topography. The property is also home to a lighted putting green that was inspired by the Himalayas course in St. Andrews, though it’s easy to imagine that the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains were its actual muse.
Wawona Hotel—Yosemite, Calif.
The vast majority of the more than 3.6 million visitors who annually make the trek to Yosemite in eastern California aren’t venturing to the national park for golf. Instead, they’re heading deep into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to marvel at the park’s ancient sequoia trees and to take in many of the same landscape views that inspired photographer Ansel Adams during the first half of the 20th century.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that those travelers can’t still bring their clubs, and if they do, they’ll want to stay at the Wawona Hotel. The Victorian-era property still embraces many of the architecture and design aesthetics that made it sparkle at the turn of the 20th century. It also features a 9-hole course, circa 1918, which was designed by Walter G. Favarque and stands out for being the first regulation golf course built in Sierra Nevada. Because of its location inside the national park, the Wawona Golf Course is 100 percent organic (only reclaimed gray water is used to water the grounds and no pesticides are used). Still, the course’s most striking feature is its surroundings.
What other golf destinations do you know of next to national parks? Tell us about them in the comment section.