Gift of a lifetime: Five great golf destinations for Father's Day

Every year, the U.S. Open concludes on Father's Day, and inevitably, the champion almost always dedicates the win to his father. Most of us, of course, will never have that opportunity. So the next best thing for the golfing father in your life would be the golf trip of a lifetime that both of you could share. (Of course, if you're a father reading this, you might want to send this link to your golf-playing son or daughter.)

With that said, I came up with my wish list of where I'd want to spend time playing great golf and taking in other activities with my kids (if they ever take up the game). Here's a look at my top five picks.

1. St. Andrews, Scotland

Of course St. Andrews is no. 1. This is the holy pilgrimage of father-son, father-daughter golf. I've talked to dozens of father-offspring combinations who have made this trip, and they have memories that last them a lifetime.

From posing on the Swilcan Bridge to lifting a pint at the Dunvegan Hotel, it doesn't get any better than this. And it goes way beyond the Old Course (which is a must, even if you have to get into the ballot or go early and wait for an opening). There are seven golf courses in the St. Andrews Trust (including the Old Course), and the rest of the them -- such as the very old New Course and the newest, the Castle Course -- are special as well. And if you don't stay in town at the Old Course hotel or somewhere where Old Tom Morris sipped a little Scotch, then you can always opt for the luxury of the Fairmont St. Andrews, where, you guessed it, there are two more stellar golf courses.

Add in the stunning Kingsbarns Golf Links and Carnoustie Golf Links nearby, and you could easily spend two weeks there. Play in the summer, and you can go from 4:30 a.m. to midnight. This is simply the best golf experience a father can have with his adult children.

Off the course recommendation: Check out the British Golf Museum (which is currently being renovated) right across from the Royal & Ancient and Old Course.

2. Kohler, Wisconsin

Last summer, when I visited Kohler, I wound up checking in a local Holiday Inn the first night because there was no rooms available at the American Club resort that night. The lobby and restaurant were filled with golfers -- all with smiles on their faces. I even found a father-son combination, ironically enough, who had made the trip from my hometown of Houston.

When they told me they had played the Straits Course, Pete Dye's creation from the nothing of an abandoned airfield on the banks of Lake Michigan to a links-like, up-and-down adventure that looks like it's been there for centuries, I ask them what they thought. "Bucket-list course," they all told me. "An experience of a lifetime. It was incredible."

That's the impression Whistling Straits makes on golfers who make the journey, even those golfers who can't afford to get into the American Club, the historic dormitory the Kohlers restored to perfection. And, of course, it doesn't just include the Straits Course; Dye's Irish Course next door isn't too shabby either. And a few miles away you'll find the more traditional but perhaps no less stunning River Course at Blackwolf Run, also designed by Dye.

In fact, three of the four courses at the American Club and Resort are in the top 100, and for good measure, you can head down the road a little ways and play 2017 U.S. Open host Erin Hills Golf Course, another stunning venue. Add in Sand Valley (the project from Bandon Dunes' founder Mike Keiser) which could open in the next couple of years and include up to four courses, and you've got one incredible golf destination right in America's heartland.

Off the course recommendation: Even if you're not staying at the American Club, grab some lunch and a brew together at the beautiful and charming Horse & Plow, which used to be the tap room for the workers who lived there.

3. Bandon Dunes, Oregon

Like St. Andrews, Bandon Dunes has to be on this list. Five golf courses -- and America's only true links courses, at that -- put Bandon Dunes Resort near the head of the class when it comes to father-kid destinations. Of course, both of you need to love golf because there's not a whole lot else to do. But there's plenty of golf, starting with the original David McLay Kidd design in 1999, followed by Doak's highly lauded Pacific Dunes.

Next comes the Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw-designed Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald, which was designed behind the concept of "what would Charles Blair Macdonald have done at Bandon had he still been alive today?" Not to be overlooked is the Coore/Crenshaw-designed Bandon Preserve, one of the best par 3s in America, with views of the Pacific on all 13 holes. The best part is that Bandon is all walking with no homes and views of the Oregon coastline that rival most anything offered in Ireland or Scotland.

Off the course recommendation: You're probably going to want to stay at the resort because outside of Bandon Dunes, there's not a whole lot to do except a couple of art galleries. Fortunately, over the years, the resort has added a couple more restaurants and a couple of pubs, including the Bunker, where you can play pool late night over a cigar and Scotch.

4. Southwest Ireland: Lahinch to Old Head

Like St. Andrews, there are so many great courses in such a concentrated area, but this comes with the Irish coast and Irish hospitality. I'd start this trip by flying into Shannon, and if you have time, drive northwest to Lahinch Golf Links and start making your way south through Trump International Golf Club Doonbeg, 36-hole Ballybunion Golf Club, Tralee Golf Club, Waterville House & Golf Links and, finally, Old Head Golf Links.

Ballybunion, a Tom Watson favorite, is synonymous with golf in Ireland. Old Head of Kinsale, however, comes highly recommended by every father who has played it. Some say it's their favorite course in the world, over Pebble Beach and the Old Course. How good are the views at Old Head, which was built on a peninsula with its iconic lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic? "Words and pictures don't do justice to Old Head Golf Links," my colleague Jason Scott Deegan said. "The best advice is to just go experience it."

Off the course recommendation: Go to every local pub you can find. The Guinness flows freely and perfectly, and the atmosphere is always warm and welcoming.

5. Las Vegas

Vegas is the choice here, not so much because of the golf (which is well above average), but because it's Sin City. If Dad and offspring are sports and golf fans, this is the spot. I recommend a trip either in the fall or during March Madness.

My son and I went to Vegas a couple of years ago and had a blast playing golf and putting down a few dollars on football games over the weekend. The fact that many courses post football scores on the cart GPS while you're playing makes it that much more exciting. And there's no shortage of exceptional, and sometimes even value, golf. It ranges from the bucket-list variety of Shadow Creek Golf Creek, Wynn Golf Club and Cascata to the very enjoyable and reasonable Angel Park Golf Club, which among its three courses has a lighted par-3 course for night golf.

In between, there are many other good choices, too, including Bali Hai Golf Club, Royal Links Golf Club, Rio Secco, 36-hole Revere Golf Club, TPC Las Vegas and the newly reopened Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas, a top Jack Nicklaus design with its finishing holes right on the water.

Off the course recommendation: There's so much to do in Vegas besides golf and gambling, but if you're up for it, check out the Voodoo Lounge at the top of the Rio Hotel & Casino. Incredible views of the city, and if you've got a little daredevil in you, check out the new Voodoo Zipline that goes between the hotel's two towers.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
Commented on

WHat about Pebble Beach ? That is on my bucket List. Las Vegas ? Seriously ?

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Commented on

Hi Mike,

Really enjoyed your article and agree whole-hardheartedly - but if I may, I would also add the Phoenix / Scottsdale area to your list.  With great courses & hotels available at extremely discounted rates during Father's Day (and throughout the whole Summer), it would be hard pressed to find better deals for dad. 

Some of my favorites are: WeKoPa (both courses), Talking Stick North, Troon (both courses) and Grayhawk (both courses).

Vegas is tempting, but some moms might not be too receptive to a weekend in Vegas....

Thanks for all the great articles.


Commented on

There's no shortage of great father-son/daughter destinations and Phoenix/Scottsdale has a lot to offer. And if you can stand the heat, this is a great time of year to hit the courses there because you can play them cheap, stay there cheap and most of them are in pretty good shape. Just play early or late and bring the king-sized bottle of sunscreen.

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Gift of a lifetime: Five great golf destinations for Father's Day