Summertime is here and what's a better day out of the office than 18 holes in the morning followed by an afternoon at the beach?
Golf and beaches go together, well, as long as our sport is known to have existed. In St. Andrews, West Sands Beach is a famously beautiful strip of sand beside the heart of town and within a pitching wedge of the Old Course's first tee box. It can be a festive place on a sunny day, full of college students, families and their dogs and tourists. On Sunday, the beach scene bleeds into the Old Course where it is closed to golf and a public park.
Then there is of course Pebble Beach, home to spectacular, dog-friendly beaches. Beachgoers walk right beneath the course along holes 9 and 10 anytime they want.
Neither St. Andrews nor Pebble Beach are the best choice for sunbathing and swimming; it's their mild climates that make each such a treat to play golf. Below, we've compiled some of the best beaches to relax on after a morning of golf. Almost all of these beach destinations - with the exception of North Carolina's Outer Banks and Cape Cod - are featured among the World Top 100 Golf Destinations.
But first, a few additional beach & golf travel tips:
Book your tee times before you go. It can be hard to get pulled away from the beach once you get settled and you're in full relaxation mode. It becomes tougher to come to a group consensus on when to play.
Keep sunscreen in your golf bag and in your hotel room. Skin cancer doesn't care about your excuses.
A koozie won't cut it. Bring your own Yeti or other insulated mug to the beach and golf course. When you order drinks from the beverage cart or at the beach on a hot day, pour it straight into the mug so it won't become lukewarm or watered down in five minutes.
If you are going with family and are hoping to sneak away for a quick round, try and get the first-off tee time. (Besides, if your kids are in the sun all day they will probably sleep in.)
Compartmentalized luggage can go a long way, especially if some of your gear gets sandy. You don't want sand to tarnish all your possessions, especially various electronics. Or bring sealable bags that allow you to zip up sandy and/or wet items.
Pack with versatility and light, airy clothing in mind. Board shorts and light polos you can wear on both the beach and course are ideal. Golf sandals with spikes in them? Ooof... Pack at least one pair of long pants should the mood strike for a nice dinner or two.
You may want to rent clubs or ship them rather than fly with them. Here's an article with some golf club travel options.
Here are the best golf and beach combinations: We've begun with the United States. Scroll down for the best Hawaiian, Caribbean and Mexican hotspots.
Great golf and beach destinations
It would be silly to start this list anywhere besides Hawaii. The islands contain the best concentration of great golf and beaches. One of the more dazzling picks is Kauai's north shore and the Hanalei beaches. It's a sublime setting, especially from the old St. Regis Princeville Resort that is currently being transformed into the new 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay or just a few steps away at the beach in the heart of town. The neighboring Prince Course is now closed, but Princeville Makai Golf Club is one of the most spectacular courses in Hawaii.
Maui is loaded as well. On the north shore, Kapalua's beach is rugged with huge waves and a surfer's paradise. Head down the road to Lahaina and it's a little more docile but no less spectacular. Sheraton Ka'anapali has a festive beach scene in its enclave surrounded by black rocks and with gorgeous sunset views. Royal Ka'anapali is the headliner but the Ka'anapali Kai course is fun for families and couples.
South Maui's weather and waters are more benign as Mt. Haleakala shields Wailea from the brunt of the trade winds. There are three great courses, including one of our favorite resort courses anywhere, the easy-on-the-eyes Emerald Course. There are scores of hotels from Makena to Kihei. Among the best is the Fairmont Kea Lani, but there are many more affordable choices with easy beach access as well.
A short ferry ride from Lahaina is the secluded and exclusive island of Lanai, home to the spectacular Four Seasons Resort Lanai and Manele Golf Course by Jack Nicklaus.
On the Big Island, steer your board shorts towards the entire dry Kohala Coast. It all started at Mauna Kea. Not only is it home to two excellent coastal courses (if you include Hapuna next door), but a beautiful beach is the main reason why Laurence Rockefeller chose to build his resort here more than 50 years ago. At Mauna Lani, Mauna Lani South sports more ocean views, but the North course might be a bit more strategic. The hotel was recently rebranded as Auberge and is an entirely modernized resort.
Closer to the Kona airport, the Waikoloa Resort (home to a Marriott and Hilton hotel) sports two courses, including Tom Weiskopf's Waikoloa Kings Course, as a more budget-friendly choice for the beach-and-golf life compared to the luxuries of the Four Seasons Hualalai and its Jack Nicklaus Course at Hualalai, the current host of a PGA Tour Champions event.
On Oahu, the main draw for golfers is Turtle Bay Golf & Beach Resort on the North Shore. There are 36 holes of golf along with a family-friendly beach cove sheltered from the legendary North Shore waves, which attract surfers from all around the world. The Prince Waikiki sits right on the famous beach in Honolulu and shuttles golfers to its 27-hole course a half-hour away.
Florida offers two types of beach and golf escapes - resorts on the Atlantic Ocean and those on the Gulf of Mexico, where the water tends to be warmer and the waves/currents potentially calmer.
On the gulf, Sandestin's powdery white sand beach stretches for seven miles. It's ideal for sunrise runs, sunset strolls and beach bonfires after dark. Tearing the kids away from the pool, Baytowne adventure zone, mini golf and laser maze won't be easy. Four courses will keep the golfers happily swinging away.
It is worth noting that the Gulf Shores stretching from the Florida Panhandle, Alabama and into Mississippi is a mecca of golf. It's one of the most affordable beach destinations in America, so give it a look for your next vacation, especially in spring shoulder season (March-June).
In southwest Florida, Naples reigns supreme as one of America's premier winter getaways. Perhaps only Arizona delivers better weather from January-May. Most of the courses are private in gated communities. The resort options include Naples Grande, La Playa Beach & Golf Resort and the Naples Ritz-Carlton -- all three with good beach and golf scenes. The Ritz has two hotels, one on the beach and one home to two Greg Norman courses at Tiburon. Farther south, the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort affords access to two private courses, The Rookery and Hammock Bay.
On the Atlantic side, there's lots of golf and beaches stretching from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. The best resort for both is the iconic Breakers Palm Beach, where one of the oldest courses in Florida, the Ocean course, reopened in 2018 after a renovation.
Hammock Beach, a Salamander Resort northwest of Orlando on the Palm Coast, can brag of the rare Florida course right on the Atlantic Ocean - the recently renovated Ocean Course by Jack Nicklaus. Surf lessons might be more popular than golf lessons at the resort.
Hugging the Georgia border, Amelia Island is another hub of sand - for beaches and bunkers. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation (Oak Marsh) and the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island (the private Golf Club of Amelia Island) both reside on the sand with courses worth playing. The fate of the Ocean Links at the Omni is still in doubt, although a judge has ordered it to eventually reopen after a sudden closure in 2018.
South Carolina (Hilton head Island, Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island)
South Carolina's trio of coastal destinations provide great beaches and golf for any budget and taste.
Myrtle Beach, epicenter of the Grand Strand, provides some of the best bargain beachfront accommodations in the world. I'll never forget the scene on July 4th when fireworks lit up the sky for miles up and down the coast. Accommodations are a little quieter and classier in Pawleys Island and Murrell's Inlet, while the scene is most festive in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.
If you want less action, head south to Hilton Head Island, where you can still find some bargain accommodations but the island, while full of family attractions, is far less developed than Myrtle Beach. The cream of the crop for golfers is Sea Pines Resort, which also recently unveiled a brand new beach club with full amenities and a restaurant.
The ultimate in S.C., however, is Kiawah Island. The Sanctuary, one of golf's great luxury hotels, is ideal for a couples splurge. It offers several excellent restaurants and a large, full-service beachfront. Families may want to opt for more economical villa accommodations, of which the island has many. It's popular to ride bikes along the beach or boogie board or stand-up paddleboard.
North Carolina's Outer Banks
Although Hurricane Florence gave the region a scare, all the OBX courses escaped without damage. The beaches are so beautiful that it might be hard to pull away to play. The Kilmarlic Golf Club has continued to expand lodging options, opening three new cottages (18 total are planned) in 2018. Nags Head and Currituck Club offer linksy golf near the shore.
Sea Island Resort features a five-mile private beachfront with full service, from an attendant to bottles of water and even phone chargers. Like its peer Kiawah Island, bike rentals are popular. For something more economical, head to St. Simons Island's King and Beach Golf Resort, where hotel guests can play the course (a favorite among Golf Advisor raters) for $79.
With thousands of miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean, it's not a stretch to call the left coast the best coast.
In NoCal, the best golf-and-beach getaway outside of the Monterey Peninsula has to be the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay an hour south of San Francisco. Both the Arnold Palmer's Old course and Arthur Hills' Ocean course use the coastal cliffs to their advantage. A microclimate of marine layer can leave the forecast looking more like Scotland than San Diego, but the beach is still worth visiting for its tide pools and beauty.
SoCal's Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point showcases the opulence of Orange County. The Monarch Beach Golf Links visits the ocean for only one hole, a moment good enough for a selfie to make friends jealous. Another Orange County enclave is the 36-hole Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach. Both the Ocean South and Ocean North courses are Tom Fazio treats that touch the ocean, and the Crystal Cove State Park across the street from the resort runs the gamut of ocean adventures - kayaking, swimming and finding starfish in tide pools.
The end-all, be-all to golf beaches is outside the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. The concierge at the "Del" can arrange rounds at a number of local courses. For budget seekers, it's Coronado Golf Course. For bucket listers, it's Torrey Pines in La Jolla.
South Lake Tahoe, toeing the state border between Nevada and California, now has a signature golf-and-beach resort with the 2017 debut of the Lodge at Edgewood adjacent to the scenic Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, a summer gathering place for celebrities and athletes competing in the American Century Championship televised by NBC every July. Once you see the chaos at the public beaches, you'll feel spoiled hanging out at Edgewood's private one.
The beaches along Lake Michigan are spotted with touristy beach towns. All have their golf options. Up North, Harbor Springs has the 72-hole Boyne Highlands nearby. The award for the best Boyne Golf beach/golf resort goes to the 27-hole Bay Harbor Golf Club and the Inn at Bay Harbor in Petoskey. The beach is small but it's great for hunting for Petoskey stones and skipping rocks. Traverse City has matured into a hub of wineries (in the Leelanau Peninsula), breweries, golf and beaches. The big draw is the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa with three courses and a private beach. Heading south, Ludington has a dunesy Ray Hearn design, The Hemlock, and is closest to Arcadia Bluffs, arguably Michigan's top resort course.
In southwest Michigan closer to Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo and a haven for Chicagoans looking to escape the city are the towns of South Haven (try HawksHead Links and The Beeches), Holland (Macatawa Golf Club) and St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (Harbor Shores, a Nicklaus that hosts the Senior PGA Championship every other year). The region's best beach might be at the Grand Haven State Park, where you can RV camp right in the sand. Golf has returned to town with the reopening of American Dunes after a Nicklaus redesign of the old Grand Haven Golf Club.
The Wisconsin side has its beaches too. Kohler-Andrae State Park is less than 10 miles from Destination Kohler and has a large beach.
For those in the northeast U.S. in search of something less exotic but high on convenience and value, take dead aim at Atlantic City. The golf in the area is abundant and earns high marks from GolfPass reviewers, earning three courses in the 2018 Golfers' Choice Top 50. The Atlantic City beaches and boardwalk dates back to the 19th century and is a lively place on warm summer days.
Many of Cape Cod's best golf courses are private. Wequassett Resort and Golf Club opens up the gates at the private Cape Cod National, while creating magical memories of summer days spent exploring some of America's most coveted beaches nearby.
Mexico, Caribbean and Bermuda
The beaches in Dominican Republic are sublime and the golf is world class. Casa De Campo leads the way in terms of excellent golf at Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore along with a sublime beach at the resort. You can book beachfront or golf-view villas for the whole family and enjoy butler service and cruise the resort in your own golf cart. A stylish new beachfront pool club serves up great seafood in a classy ambiance.
A no-brainer spot for families is the all-inclusive Club Med in Punta Cana. The lineup of kid activities is incredible; you may not see your children all vacation. Maybe the coolest hidden gem golf & beach combo, though, is La Cana Golf Club. Play 18 holes here and you get access to the beach club and pool. The beach here small, quiet, well-serviced and gorgeous.
Mountainous Cabo San Lucas has more spectacular scenery than the flatter Riviera Maya but the beaches on the west side are often times not swimmable due to high currents. That's not the case around Cancun and especially Mayakoba. All four of the resorts here cater to a slightly different clientele but all have dazzling beaches to go along with their mangrove interiors. I love the vibe in particular at the new Andaz resort, which is casual and stylish (it's also the least expensive of the brands at luxurious Mayakoba).
For golf, El Camaleon is the area star that has hosted the PGA Tour. While it winds mostly through the dense mangrove, there are spots on each nine that open out onto beachfront holes. Mishit an approach shot and you may very well find your ball on the beach.
There are scores of other courses within a whiff of the Caribbean sea breezes to choose from between Cancun and Tulum. Many even offer online tee times these days and some will even provide round-trip transportation.
For couples, it's tough to beat the combination of Sandals Emerald Bay and its Greg Norman Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course, which is full of oceanfront scenery. Book a suite with butler service and you quite literally don't lift a finger to get your beach gear set up or stripped down.
For more activity and family-friendly golf and beaches in the Bahamas, Paradise Island's Atlantis is your best bet with both beaches and a huge pool complex, casino and more attractions. Royal Blue Golf Club recently opened at the growing Baha Mar development, and you can also visit The Ocean Club, host of an annual LPGA Tour tournament at Atlantis.
Bermuda is known for its pink sand beaches. There's a foursome of signature golf experiences, too. The Mid Ocean Club is the best C.B. Macdonald open to the public, although only several times per week. Port Royal Golf Club, former host of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, delivers eye-candy galore. Golfers must select between staying at the Rosewood Bermuda (closer to The Mid-Ocean Club with the fine Tucker's Point Club) and the Fairmont Southampton (and its Turtle Hill Golf Club, a unique 18-hole par-3 course overlooking the ocean).