Fall golf, when coupled with the changing of the leaves, is second to none on the East Coast and Midwest.
But let's not ignore the West Coast, either. You may not get the color from the evergreens and palm trees in the fall, but there's plenty of special places to tee it up. My 2019 list of the best fall golf trip destinations - Alabama, northern Michigan, New England, Pinehurst, northern California - was too East Coast-oriented for one golfer looking to travel farther west in the future.
With travel the second half of the year expected to be strong, wise golfers are already beginning to plan their fall getaway. We just received an inquiry in particular about great fall golf spots west of the Mississippi.
The tricky part is some of the courses in the West's best-known destinations like Phoenix-Scottsdale, Las Vegas and California's Coachella Valley could be in various stages of overseeding during the fall. Conditions can be hit or miss. There are safer choices, although fall weather can be dicey anywhere. Here goes:
St. George, Utah
The red rocks and national parks of southern Utah make for one epic trip. The weather finally starts cooling in October, averaging 79 degrees, and the back-to-school tourists are gone. The addition of the new Copper Rock Golf Course piggy-backs off of nearby Sand Hollow Resort in Hurricane nicely. Both are wildly scenic and fun. Coral Canyon is fresh off a bunker renovation and more TLC under new owners, and The Ledges closer to St. George proper delivers an enjoyable stay-and-play in its homes for rent. David McLay Kidd is spearheading a $7 million redesign of Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club, which is accessible through a stay and play at the Inn at Entrada. It should reopen this fall. There's also a new resort, Black Desert, and a Tom Weiskopf course, Lava Fields, in early stages of development across the street, according to the St. George Spectrum. Save at least one day for hiking and sightseeing at Zion National Park.
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Editor's Note: All weather information courtesy of WeatherSpark.com.
Choosing Bandon Dunes in any season makes sense to me. Nowhere else in America can you experience links golf in its truest sense. Fall rates for the five regulation courses start to kick in the month of October ($260 per round, down from the $295 summer rate). They drop even further starting Nov. 1 ($190 until Nov. 22 and $100 the rest of the year). Weather is a concern, but you could just as easily get lucky during a mild week. If the wind and cold kick up, move up a tee box, forget the scorecard and use match play to determine who buys post-round drinks. I got pummeled by bad weather in March once at Bandon, an experience my foursome recalls fondly like it was the most memorable round of our lives.
Big Cedar Lodge, Missouri
When summer's swelter in the Ozarks fades in the fall, golfers can savor the spoils of one of golf's hottest destinations: Big Cedar Lodge. Owner Johnny Morris does everything first class. New accommodations built this year specifically for golfers - the 94-room Angler's Lodge and the Buffalo Ridge cabins overlooking Payne's Valley - will greatly enhance the experience. The trio of regulation courses all offer their own surprises. Payne's Valley's 19th hole (photo) is already legendary. Ozarks National, the site of Phil Mickelson's first win on the PGA Tour Champions, gives out free hot dogs at its snack shack (you pass it twice!) and Buffalo Ridge Springs features buffaloes roaming along the first fairway. There are other more affordable golf offerings in Branson, too.
Being in Oregon's high desert does have its advantages for Bend, central Oregon's hub of golf resorts that includes Sunriver, Tetherow, Pronghorn and Black Butte Ranch. The region only averages three days of rain in September and October, although the temps vary widely between the average highs and lows in September (79-39) and October (62-33). It's best to schedule tee times no earlier than 11 a.m. to avoid the morning chill. The brewery scene is another major draw.
Texas Hill Country
San Antonio and Austin border the Texas Hill Country, which cools down in the fall and opens the door to endless possibilities for golf. Most courses don't overseed or only the tees and greens, while resorts like Horseshoe Bay feature cool-weather bentgrass greens. San Antonio's resort scene is bracketed by two 36-hole retreats, the JW Marriott San Antonio, a PGA Tour stop, and the former Tour stop, La Cantera. Fall in Austin delivers big-time college football (Hook 'em Horns!) that actually makes getting a tee time a little easier. Toss in live music and BBQ for a festive getaway. Much of its best resort golf resides on the outskirts of town, notably at Horseshoe Bay, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and Omni Barton Creek.