As in Europe, August is fast becoming national vacation month in America, and what better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a trip to one of the best golf and beach destinations
Amelia Island, Fla.
Located 30 miles northeast of Jacksonville near the Georgia state line, Amelia is the southernmost of the barrier islands strung along the Atlantic seaboard. It’s also one of the prettiest. The resort boasts 45 holes of golf by Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, and Bobby Weed, with fairways woven through tidal marsh, live oaks, and sand dunes.
Cape Cod, Mass.
Two hours south of Boston is a 70-mile dogleg left, a long sandy arm flexed into the sea known simply as “the Cape.” Chatham, a 300-year-old hamlet in the elbow of the Cape that exudes Yankee charm is home to the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club. In addition to easy access to a pair of exceptional beaches, at Pleasant Bay and the treasured (and lightly visited) National Seashore, the recently remodeled resort offers tees times at adjacent Cape Cod National Golf Club, a private club with a walker-friendly course marked by glacial landforms and cranberry bogs.
This skinny peninsula on Florida’s panhandle has the whitest, softest sand imaginable, which is actually Appalachian quartz. It not only stays cool in the heat, it also gives the water an emerald hue. The 2,400-acre Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort has four distinct resort areas, as well as four courses, including two superb tracks by the Jones brothers: RTJ II’s Raven course and Rees’s Burnt Pine, one of the best courses in the state with double bogey-soothing views of Choctawhatchee Bay.
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
With a maritime forest, large swaths of salt marsh, and miles of duney beaches, the beauty of this foot-shaped barrier island is undeniable. The perfect complement to a round on Pete Dye’s famed Harbour Town layout in Sea Pines or Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s namesake course in Palmetto Dunes, where the 10th green and 11th tee are just steps from the ocean, is a lazy afternoon on the sugary sands under an umbrella.
Kiawah Island, S.C.
This 10,000-acre barrier reef island anchored 20 miles south of Charleston, S.C., is revered for its Ocean Course, Dye’s moated sand castle that hosted the 2012 PGA Championship, but the island is first and foremost a wildlife habitat and sanctuary. The eponymous resort fronts a glorious 10-mile stretch of firm-packed sand ideal for walking or bike riding. If the Ocean Course is too big a tidal wave challenge-wise, take on one of the resort’s four other courses.
Huntington Beach, Calif.
Time magazine just named the state park here in “Surf City USA” the top beach in the country thanks to its combination of “good beach weather, summer water temperature, and accessibility.” The top golf destination around is the Resort at Pelican Hill, a glamorous Italian-themed property set on 500 acres high above the Pacific. The resort’s pair of Tom Fazio-designed courses circulates players from tawny bluffs above the beach to broad plateaus creased by ravines. The resort’s ocean and beach activities include kayaking, snorkeling, whale watching, and exploring the beautiful coastline in nearby Crystal Cove State Park.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Few destinations are as synonymous with our top 10 subject this week as the Grand Strand, a 60-mile string of beaches and courses. There are so many really good, reasonably priced courses that it’s hard to pick just a few, but Caledonia and True Blue on the South Strand, The Dunes in the Central Stand, and Tidewater in the North are the standouts. The selection and quality of beaches are just as good, but locals like Garden City Beach in the south for its low-key vibe while tourists like the one at the Boardwalk and Promenade right in the middle for all there is to do.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
With its perfect year-round climate and impressive mountain backdrop, Santa Barbara is rightfully known as the “American Riviera.” East End Beach at the foot of downtown is routinely ranked as one the best beaches in the country just up the sands from the region’s hotel matriarch, the recently updated Four Seasons Biltmore. The area’s best course is Sandpiper, known for its clifftop views and located right next to the posh Bacara Resort.
Located on the island’s western flank, this 1,500-acre resort complex is chockablock with top-class hotels, including the Four Seasons, Fairmont Kea Lani, and Grand Wailea. Each of these properties fronts a beautiful scalloped coastline inset with sandy coves ideal for sea-bathing and relaxing. Convenient to the hotels are a trio of superb courses: Gold and Emerald, both designed by Trent Jones Jr., and Blue. Native grasses, exposed lava, and papohaku (ancient stone walls) frame the Gold, while the Emerald feels like a lush tropical garden with golf holes dropped into it. Blue is an agreeable layout with wide fairways and gentle inclines that features fine views of Molokini, a submerged volcano with a crescent rim visible above the waves.