There are warm weather golf destinations (California, Florida, and Arizona), and then there are warm “enough” weather golf destinations. I call these semi-hotspots “The Tax Day Five” — five stellar golf venues that are perfect to visit around April 15, or earlier, with your tax refund in hand. I have been fortunate enough to experience all five around this time of year and they all get my “must-play” recommendation for your next golf trip.
Sand Hollow Golf Resort, Hurricane
Why It’s Worth the Trip: As you make the turn down a steeply graded, winding cart path between holes 11 and 12 you will have a hallelujah moment. If you don’t, please consult your doctor to have your pulse and other vital signs checked. High above, from the 12th tee box, the Virgin River bed will be revealed in all its glory set some 300 feet below cavernous cliffs and red rock outcroppings. This is Sand Hollow Golf Resort, the top golf facility in all of Utah. If you can focus after viewing these omnipresent distractions, you will also see a series of four stunning golf holes that are begging to be conquered. With the edge of the world bordering the entire left side of this fearsome foursome, it’s a safe bet you will beg for an emergency back nine once your initial journey is complete.
What Else You Should Know: Adam Jasperson, Sand Hollow’s director of golf, succinctly describes the property’s cache. “The Golf Course at Sand Hollow Resort is a destination,” he says. “We have 27 holes of golf, 20-plus acres of practice facilities, spectacular nightly lodging with course views, and a full-service restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We host events, weddings, and offer private catering for groups of four to 160. Sand Hollow Resort is a must for any golfer, avid or novice.” Holes 19 through 27 at Sand Hollow consist of the amazing nine-hole Links Course that intentionally mimics the origins of the game found on Scottish links layouts. You’ll be confronted with six-foot high rock ledges that obscure fairways and form flowing, windswept doglegs throughout. For more information, log on to sandhollowresorts.com
Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst
Why It’s Worth the Trip: The U.S. Open’s return in 2024 will mark the first time in over a century the USGA has awarded four Opens to a single site in a span of 25 years. It will also mark the 25th anniversary of the moment Payne Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open with a dramatic par putt to win by a stroke over Phil Mickelson. Prior to the 2024 U.S. Open, Pinehurst will host the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship. But Pinehurst, North Carolina and the surrounding Southern Pines and Aberdeen area is so much more than national championships — it is the “Home of Golf” in the United States and must-visit when compiling your golf bucket list.
What Else You Should Know: With 43 courses spread out over only 15 miles, including six designed by the legendary Donald Ross, this is a place you almost need a full week to enjoy. Of the 43 properties in the region, amazingly six courses reside on Golf Digest’s Top 100 Greatest Public Courses list. Half of the six are found at Pinehurst Resort, the only property in America to boast nine courses under one umbrella. The ninth course, appropriately named No. 9, is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design that was formally named National Golf Club and became part of the Pinehurst family in 2014. While the Nicklaus design may someday make Golf Digest’s prestigious list, courses No. 2, No. 4, and No. 8 are already there and getting better with age. For more information, log on to homeofgolf.com
Big Cedar Lodge, Branson
Why It’s Worth the Trip: Missouri’s upward climb as a golf power can be credited to Johnny Morris, the man who founded Bass Pro Shops and who has put golf on the map in Branson and nearby Ridgedale, Missouri. The southern Missouri hamlet is already known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and now, thanks to Morris’ vision, Branson is on course to become Missouri’s Golf Capital. By 2019, Big Cedar Lodge (Morris’ palatial resort founded originally in 1921) will feature four championship courses, the nation’s finest par-3 course, Top of The Rock, and the 13-hole, par-3 juggernaut Mountain Top Course designed by Gary Player.
The famed design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are putting the finishing touches on Ozark National as we speak, which will open fully to the public in late April. By the fall of 2019, Payne’s Valley Golf Course will be the first completed public-access course in the world designed by Tiger Woods’ design firm TGR Design. The course serves as a partnership between Morris, Woods, and the Payne Stewart family, and will showcase the region’s natural beauty through a 19-hole championship course, as well as a family-friendly par-3 short course.
What Else You Should Know: In my humble opinion, Big Cedar Lodge is more than a destination — it’s a lifestyle. Hunting, fishing, hiking, and nearly every outdoor activity known to man are available to explore and enjoy. And a few of their activities are one-of-a-kind, such as a golf cart cave tour that is free with your round at Top of The Rock, or the lighted driving range that is adjacent to the Nicklaus/Palmer/Watson-designed course that plays host to the Bass Pro Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge every April. For more information, log on to bigcedar.com
Old Waverly and Mossy Oak, West Point
Why It’s Worth the Trip: Old Waverly in West Point has a championship pedigree. As host of the 1999 U.S Women’s Open won by Julie Inkster, the semi-private club has more than 500 members from all corners of the world. The front nine is a tree-lined wonder, while five of the nine holes on the back wind around Lake Waverly. The 18th hole can be seen from Old Waverly’s elegant clubhouse, appropriately addressed on Magnolia Lane.
Less than a mile from Old Waverly resides a stunning sister venue, Mossy Oak. The Gil Hanse design has received countless accolades since opening in 2016. The 7,200-yard, par-72 masterpiece finished third on Golf Digest’s America’s Best New Courses list and currently sits as the second-best course in all of Mississippi. Gary Billington, Mossy Oak’s director of marketing, says it best when he calls the property “a true golf experience.” There is nothing pretentious about the 178-acre layout — no over-the-top amenities, just golf of the highest order.
What Else You Should Know: After a round at either Mossy Oak or Old Waverly, I recommend you visit Prairie Wildlife, a conservation-driven sporting estate that offers hunts, clay shoots, corporate outings, and more. The estate, complete with multiple lodging options, is located in the heart of The Black Prairie, a rich-soiled region that is found on less than 1 percent of the earth. For more information on where golf and nature intersect, visit oldwaverly.com
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Huntsville
Why It’s Worth the Trip: Huntsville, in northern Alabama, is home to two stunning Robert Trent Jones venues equaling 99 holes of pure golf bliss. Silver Lakes in nearby Gadsden is home to three nine-hole layouts that are beyond aptly named — The Backbreaker, Mindbreaker, and Heartbreaker Nines will leave that specific part of your anatomy aching as well as the rest of your body. Silver Lakes is a big-boy course that must be navigated from the correct tees (orange is highly recommended even if you fancy yourself a low single-digit player). I needed three hands to count the number of elevated greens on the property, as you will have to pause and triple check you have pulled the correct weapon.
Hampton Cove, a 54-hole masterpiece on the RTJ Golf Trail, is broken into three 18s — The River, The Highlands, and a Short Course. The championship 18s are divided by Old Hwy 431 and are completely opposite of each other. The River Course is the only one on the Trail with no bunkers, a refreshing way to play golf for a sand-challenged player such as myself. But, the 7,668-yard par-72 layout is not devoid of trouble, as 16 of the 18 holes are impacted by the Flint River. Intense natural beauty is present on every hole on The River Course — it is a true testament to the Trail!
What Else You Should Know: Make sure your group finds time to tour the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Two hours is the perfect amount of time to view historical artifacts of the U.S. Space Program presented in an extremely engaging manner. Highlights include the charred remains of Apollo 16’s Command Module, a collection of moon rocks, and their IMAX SpaceDome movies. The U.S. Space Program infiltrates every fabric of Huntsville, even their numerous city-wide breweries. Yellowhammer Brewery offers the T-Minus, a tangerine Klosch inspired by astronauts’ beverage of choice, Tang. For more information on the RTJ Trail, visit rtjgolf.com
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Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native who has been the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine since 2005. Glen’s ultimate golf goal is to play in all 50 states and currently he is more than two-thirds the way there. Glen and his wife have a rescue German Shepherd dog and are passionate supporters of their local humane society. Glen also enjoys participating in charity golf tournaments such as those benefitting Special Olympics. You can read all of Glen’s previous works at midwestgolfingmagazine.com by clicking on the “Past Issues” tab within the main menu.