10 best U.S. golf resorts to visit in the fall

Golfers might find some surprise selections they've never considered before.
It takes real gutt to fire at the back-right pin position of the 12th hole at Whistling Straits in match play.

My wife's sad that we officially became kid-free this fall, dropping off our daughter for her freshman year of college in August. Me? Well, let's just say I have visions of spectacular fall trips for decades to come. We've earned it, raising two kids to (mostly) adulthood.

Now it's everybody else's turn to worry about back-to-school, fall youth sports and band practices. We can enjoy the benefits of the retired life in September and October: trips that cost less in less crowded airplanes and tourist traps.

Early fall golf is the best golf. Most courses are still in good shape and less crowded. The leaves haven't fallen yet. If they are, they're starting to splash some color. We've written about great fall destinations before here and here, but we've never told you exactly where to go.

Maybe this story listing 10 of the best golf resorts to visit in the fall will help. I didn't include many of golf's most famous resorts - Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Big Cedar Lodge, Sea Pines, Bandon Dunes and Kiawah Island, for example - because they're great to visit any time, including fall. It's also hard to endorse any resorts in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, given the potential for weather issues during hurricane season. With this list, I wanted to spotlight some places you might not have previously considered.

  1. Destination Kohler
    The Baths of Blackwolf Run is a relaxed, fun-focused short course that brings a new energy to Destination Kohler.

    Fresh off an astounding Ryder Cup - during perfect weather last fall, might I add - it's easy to see why Kohler's American Club tops our list. Visitors get the full treatment of fall colors and four Pete Dye courses still in prime condition. You can choose from experiences old (the Kohler Waters Spa) and new (playing the Baths at Blackwolf Run short course that debuted in 2020).

    Golf Packages
    Kohler, Wisconsin
    FROM $617 (USD)
    Golf Packages
    Kohler, Wisconsin
    FROM $557 (USD)

    What's your favorite fall golf trip destination? Let us know in the comments below.

  2. The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo.
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    Colorado Trip Dispatch Part I: The Broadmoor

    All of Colorado works for stirring vistas and crisp mountain air in the fall, but I'm sending you to its pinnacle, The Broadmoor. Its East and West courses are good, but I'd argue the real reason to visit is everything else: the five-star dining in the Penrose Room, the vibe for drinks and fun at The Golden Bee, the hiking and fly-fishing outdoors or the relaxation in the spa.

  3. Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, Southern Pines, N.C.
    Pinehurst has a wonderful collection of historic courses, including U.S. Women's Open host Pine Needles.

    There's a reason I selected Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club over Pinehurst. It's less expensive, more intimate and the course is fresh off its fourth U.S. Women's Open. Plus, Pine Needles is also affiliated with two other Donald Ross classics: Mid Pines across the street and the evolving Southern Pines, which it purchased and renovated recently.

  4. Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Resort & Spa, Hoover, Ala.
    The par-5 7th at Ross Bridge plunges downhill.

    Anywhere along the RTJ Golf Trail is a good spot to be come fall, but the epicenter of the action takes place at Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Resort & Spa. The resort and course book out well in advance of home weekends for University of Alabama football games. I'm not even a fan of the Tide and I'd consider it a bucket-list weekend of the highest order to play Ross Bridge Friday and tailgate and attend a big SEC game Saturday. If you're just interested in the golf, there are 45 more RTJ holes at Oxmoor Valley, including a new short course called The Back Yard coming soon. Auburn counters with its own strong RTJ offering: stay at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National, play the spectacular Lakes, Links and Short courses.

    Golf Packages
    Birmingham, AL
    FROM $237 (USD)

  5. Silverado Resort, Napa, Calif.
    View of the 4th fairway and green from the North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa

    Fall is the best time to be in Napa. The summer swelter is disappearing, and, in the case of Silverado, the opportunity to attend the Fortinet Championship is a draw. It's one of the PGA Tour's fan-friendliest events with local food vendors and free concerts. The tournament host, the North course, and the South course are equally fun and challenging. Between the fine dining, spa and wine tasting, if you're not traveling as a couple, you're not doing it right.

    Golf Packages
    Napa, California
    FROM $277 (USD)
    Golf Packages
    San Diego, CA
    FROM $437 (USD)

  6. Barefoot Resort & Golf, North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
    Davis Love III had "ruins" built on the Barefoot Love Course to add a unique visual element.

    All of Myrtle Beach bustles in the fall. Why not soak it all in at the region's biggest golf resort, the 72-hole Barefoot? The accommodations and location near good restaurants and bars are ideal for buddies trips. So is the price, which is considerably less when compared to some other high-dollar resorts (Broadmoor, Kohler) on our list. If you only have time for two or three rounds, I'd prioritize them this way: Love, Fazio, Dye and Norman.

  7. Otesaga Golf Resort, Cooperstown, N.Y.
    What a grand finale at Leatherstocking in Cooperstown, N.Y.

    The home of the Baseball Hall of Fame can also be a field of dreams for golfers. The setting surrounding the lake is spectacular at Leatherstocking, a Devereux Emmet classic at Otesaga. The hordes of families and little leaguers are back to the school routine, leaving the hall and the charming town all to yourself. The only downside is a lack of other courses nearby, so you might have to find more golf on your drive in or out. Leatherstocking's so tricky and scenic, though, it's definitely worth playing 2-3 times.

  8. French Lick Resort, French Lick, Ind.
    The Ross Course at French Lick celebrated 100 years in 2017.

    If you've never been French Lick Resort, that's a shame. It's a really nice place in a very obscure location 100 miles south of Indianapolis. Being on the border between Big Ten and SEC country, its golf season is a little longer than some of my northern selections. The resort's domed West Baden Springs hotel took my breath away the first time I walked into its soaring lobby. The golf courses couldn't be more polar opposites: the playable and fun Donald Ross Course vs. the over-the-top difficulty of the Pete Dye Course. The recently purchased Sultan's Run, 30 minutes away in Jasper, offers 18 more reasons to swing away. A casino, spa and plenty of restaurants keep golfers busy off the course and after dark.

  9. Nemacolin, Farmington, Pa.
    The par-5 fourth at Shepherd's Rock plunges into a valley. If you can stay right, you can get a chance to reach the green in two.

    Nemacolin, located 90 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, might be the most interesting golf resort in the country. It's got the weird (a zoo) and wonderful (the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Falling Rock hotel with nightly milk and cookies delivered to your room by your butler) covered. The penal side of Pete Dye is mostly absent from Mystic Rock, a former PGA Tour host, and the recently redone Shepherd's Rock, leaving tons of fun shots to play. If you catch it at the right time, you can combine great weather with spectacular vistas of fall colors.

  10. Horseshoe Bay Resort, Horseshoe Bay, Texas
    Horseshoe Bay Resort's Ram Rock Course features an island green on hole no. 4.

    Now that summer's swelter is slowing down, it's ideal to visit Texas again. Horseshoe Bay, a mega-property in the Texas Hill Country on the outskirts of Austin, has wrapped up a $100-million-plus renovation over the past five years, leaving every amenity, all 400 hotels rooms and its four RTJ golf courses in tip-top shape. Ram Rock is as tough as it sounds, but equally scenic. If it's fun resort golf you seek, try Apple Rock or Slick Rock.

    FROM $217 (USD)
    AUSTIN, TX | Enjoy 3 nights' accommodations at Horseshoe Bay Resort and 3 rounds of golf on Horseshoe Bay's Apple Rock, Ram Rock, & Slick Rock Courses.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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10 best U.S. golf resorts to visit in the fall