Jason Scott Deegan's 2014 golf travel awards

If you look up my handicap index on the Web site for the Golf Association of Michigan, it shows I haven't played a single round of golf in 2014.

I'm not trying to sandbag. Truth is, I was so busy moving to California and traveling to several dozen premier golf destinations that posting scores was one of the many details that got ignored.

This past year was another dandy. If you're keeping track, Golf Digest style, I played three of America's Greatest 100 Courses, five of America's Greatest 100 Public Courses and five of the 100 Best Courses Outside the U.S. Needless to say, the competition to win any of my 2014 golf travel awards was as tough as ever. Even most of the honorable mentions are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Best U.S. golf course: Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, N.Y.

Bethpage Black wins top honors because I didn't have to sleep in my car to secure a tee time and I hadn't seen it before. Honorable mention: Getting on the famed East Course at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. was a treat, but it was just too hard to enjoy on club championship day.

Best international course: Teeth of the Dog, La Romana, Dominican Republic

I'd love another crack at Teeth of the Dog, Pete Dye's headliner at Casa de Campo, to redeem myself on a couple of fantastic seaside holes, the par-3 fifth and par-4 17th. Honorable mention: Old Course at Ballybunion Golf Club, Ballybunion, Ireland; Waterville Golf Links, Waterville, Ireland; Quivira Golf Club, Los Cabos, Mexico.

Most scenic course: Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Ireland

I never thought any course could reproduce the scenery of the oceanside cliffs at Old Head Golf Links until I played Quivira in December. They're both on another level. Honorable mention White Witch Golf Course, Rose Hall, Jamaica.

Best links: Old Course at Ballybunion Golf Club

Five years after darkness thwarted my first attempt to play Ballybunion Old, I returned to complete the task. Bucket list, baby. Honorable mention: Waterville.

Best Open Championship venue: Royal St. George's Golf Club, Sandwich, England

I snuck away from an eight-day family vacation in London and Paris to walk Royal St. George's Golf Club, a treasured links that hast hosted 14 Open Championships. Honorable mention: Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, Deal, England.

Best new course: Quivira Golf Club, Los Cabos, Mexico

Jack Nicklaus molded Quivira from mountain cliffs along the ocean, towering sand dunes and desert. Only guests of the five Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts & Spas and property owners have access to such a gorgeous setting and the course's all-inclusive comfort stations.

Most surprising course: Litibu, Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Litibu, a cool Greg Norman design, gets overshadowed by nearby Punta Mita, home to a Four Seasons, St. Regis and two oceanfront Jack Nicklaus courses. More golfers will discover it now that the on-site Iberostar Playa Mita has opened. Honorable mention: Hapuna Golf Course, Waimea, Hawaii Island.

Best value course: Wild Horse Golf Club, Gothenburg, Neb.

Wild Horse Golf Club, a top 100 public pick by Golf Magazine, costs just $66 without cart.

Best casino course: Shadow Creek Golf Club, North Las Vegas

Shadow Creek Golf Club, the top course in Las Vegas, wins for the second straight year, although the competition was much stiffer. Honorable mention: Cascata, Boulder City, Nev.; Barona Creek Golf Club, Lakeside, Calif.; Journey at Pechanga, Temecula, Calif.; Blue Top Ridge at the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, Riverside, Iowa.

Best municipal course (excluding Bethpage): Rochelle Ranch Golf Course, Rawlins, Wyo.

I discovered Rochelle Ranch Golf Course, a windswept muni with a fun routing, while driving along Interstate 80 from Michigan to California. Its peak rate is $48. Honorable mention: Park City Golf Club, Park City, Utah; Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course, Montauk, N.Y.

Best private club experience: Kohanaiki, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island

Rees Jones deserves praise for creating Kohanaiki, an enjoyable course on such an environmentally sensitive site near the shore. Golfers won't want to leave the three comfort stations. Honorable mention: Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, N.Y.; Southern Highlands Golf Club, Las Vegas; Sleepy Hollow Country Club, Scarborough, N.Y.

Best U.S. golf resort: Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

This swank SoCal hotspot came of age for golfers this year by forging relationships with nearby Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, and Palos Verdes Golf Club and adding a golf academy to accompany The Links at Terranea, its special nine-hole, par-3 course overlooking the ocean. Honorable mention: Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, Ga.; Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Amelia Island, Fla.; Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, Carlsbad, Calif.; Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Calif.; Shanty Creek Resorts, Bellaire, Mich.

Best U.S. island golf resort: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Waimea, Hawaii Island

This completely refreshed beachfront hotel shined during the 50th anniversary celebration of its oceanfront Mauna Kea golf course in December 2014. Honorable mention: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, Hawaii Island; Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku, Oahu; El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Best international resort: (tie) Rosewood Mayakoba, Mexico and Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

If we're talking accommodations, my suite at the Rosewood with a private plunge pool and outdoor shower was, literally, sweet. If we're talking golf, Casa de Campo's Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore Courses rule. Honorable mention: IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Rose Hall, Jamaica.

Best lodge: Kilauea Lodge, Volcano, Hawaii Island

This former YMCA camp feels both rustic and refined. Fireplaces might look out of place in Hawaii, yet they're necessary in such high elevations at the edge of a volcanic crater.

Best resort meal: The Chef's Table at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Amelia Island, Fla.

When the Sunrise Cafe, a popular stop for a breakfast buffet, transforms into the Chef's Table for dinner, you almost feel guilty eating such beautiful presentations created by the talented culinary team. My eight-course meal included soup served in a coconut and sassafras ice cream still smoking from the liquid nitrogen used to create it. Honorable mention: Brown's Beach House, Fairmont Orchid, Waimea, Hawaii Island.

Best meal outside a resort: Fishy Fishy, Kinsale, Ireland

This comfortable restaurant near the marina serves killer fresh seafood in Ireland's "foodie" capital. Honorable mention: Lava Lava Beach Club, Waikoloa Village, Hawaii Island.

Best resort activity: Paradise Helicopters, Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu

Riding in a replica of the "Magnum P.I." helicopter to tour the North Shore and the Sacred Falls (only visible by air) was an incredible rush. Honorable mention: A whale-watching/sunset tour with Ocean Sports from the beach at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Hawaii Island.

Best adventure activity: Richard Petty Driving Experience, Las Vegas

Racing 125 mph around the Las Vegas Speedway for the Ride-A-Long experience made me appreciate speed limit signs. Thank goodness I wasn't behind the wheel. Honorable mention: Ziplining with KapohoKine Adventures out of Hilo, Hawaii Island. Snorkeling Kealakekua Bay with Kona Boys.

Best tournament attended: Irish Open, Fota Island Resort, Cork, Ireland

I only went for a day, but that wasn't much shorter than world no. 1 Rory McIlroy, who surprisingly missed the cut.

Best pro-am: Irish Open

My round with Edoardo Molinari spurred the Italian on to greatness (can you smell the sarcasm?). He finished second in the tournament by a shot, which got him into the Open Championship, where he finished in a tie for seventh. Honorable mention: Playing with 2008 Reno-Tahoe Open champion Parker McLachlin at the Mauna Lani Hawaii State Open pro-am. The Jamaica Invitational Pro-Am, "Annie's Revenge, presented by Apple Rum Estates" was a super fun team event over three days.

Best spa: (tie) Mii amo spa at Enchantment Resort. The Spa at La Costa

I can't write enough good things about these two world-class spas. I'm zoning out just thinking about them. Honorable mention: The Spa at Terranea; the Spa at Casa de Campo; Armonia Spa at the Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort.

Best birdie: 17th hole, Jack Nicklaus Signature Hualalai Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

I smoked a 35-foot putt that rammed into the back of the cup, popped six inches in the air and then dropped on the oceanfront par 3 at Hualalai. What a dramatic way to turn the tide during a friendly match.

Jason Scott Deegan's golf travel awards from years past

2013 | 2012 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations 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 @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Jason Scott Deegan's 2014 golf travel awards