When Marriott acquired Starwood hotels in 2015 to become the largest operator of hotels in the world, the points game changed for all travelers.
Marriott became the gatekeeper to 30 different hotel brands, including four premium and luxury hotel brands that are very prominent in golf - Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Westin and JW Marriott. Suddenly, the decision where to cash in the Marriott Bonvoy reward points you've been hoarding for years got tougher.
By my count, there are at least 115 golf resorts around the world affiliated with Marriott's 30 different brands. America's Marriott golf resort supply nearly outnumbers the international market 2-to-1 (71 compared to 46). I've stayed or played at almost half of them, especially the U.S. options, so I've seen what you want to experience.
Where should you go? I could tell you how to find the best island getaways or the best winter escapes or the best choices based strictly on the golf courses.
Instead, I think it's probably best to break it down by brand. If you're used to the level of luxury afforded by the Ritz, you might not find a stay at a JW Marriott very exotic. The same applies in reverse: If a Westin feels extravagant enough for your lifestyle and budget, why spend all your points splurging on a St. Regis where you might feel out of your comfort zone?
The Points Guy tackles another key question in this story - Should you use Bonvoy points during peak or off-season travel? In summary, he notes some positive and negative news regarding the new system Marriott implemented in 2019 after a three-year reorganization following the Starwood purchase.
If you only ever travel during popular times and are accustomed to getting huge value from your points, you’re likely to be disappointed. However, the numbers we crunched below show that from a broad perspective, the implementation of peak and off-peak pricing has generally resulted in slightly lower award rates.
Lower award rates? That's ultimately good news for everyone.
Here's a quick primer on the best resorts from nine of the top Marriott brands that offer golf. I've listed them in the order of my favorites within each category, but you'll have fun traveling to find yours. I've added links to our resort pages, so you can learn more about the amenities and courses at each property.
Putting on the Ritz is every golfer's dream, especially staying and playing in an oceanfront paradise like Maui or California. Four of these resorts feature courses that have hosted the PGA Tour. Opportunities like these will cost you: A Friday night in November for two people at the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua requires 70,000 points.
Ritz-Carlton Mauai, Kapalua
Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay
Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain
Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe
Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch
Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach
Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples
Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Whereas Ritz hotels feel like they cater more to golf couples than golf buddies, the JW Marriotts of the world feel like they can swing either way. Families are very welcome as evident by the sprawling water park in San Antonio. Two resorts on this list also have connections to professional golf (San Antonio and Las Vegas). Eight of them offer between 27 to 36 holes, which means more variety for a long golf weekend. A Friday night in November for two in San Antonio costs 60,000 points.
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa
JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa
JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa
JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort
JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa
Westin would have been Starwood's equivalent to the JW brand before the takeover. They're nice hotels with all the bells and whistles - pools, spas, restaurants and good-to-great golf. Six of these properties are on islands, including Bear Mountain on Canada's intriguing Vancouver Island. Two of them - Princeville and Desert Willow - are villas only, adding more space and comfort. Again, the majority offer at least 27 holes. A Friday stay in November for two at the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif., costs 60,000 points.
Westin Resort, Costa Navarino, Greece
Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa
Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa, Victoria
Westin Desert Willow Villas, Palm Desert
Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali
Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
Westin Puntacana Resort & Club
Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa
Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa
Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa
The Autograph Collection is a group of 200 independent hotels that participate in the Bonvoy rewards program. That fact means each place is unique. You don't get that big-box, cookie-cutter hotel feel you might get with a Westin or JW. I have such fond memories of Mauna Kea (on the most beautiful beach in Hawaii), the Inn at Bay Harbor (overlooking Little Traverse Bay in northern Michigan) and Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (overlooking the Kananaskis river and Kananaskis Country Golf Course outside Calgary) that a few others I've yet to see are vaulting up my bucket list: Mount Juliet in Ireland, Algonquin Resort St. Andrews By-the-Sea in Canada and Williamsburg Lodge in Virginia. A Friday night in November for two at Mauna Kea costs 60,000 points.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Inn at Bay Harbor
Mount Juliet Estate
Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa
Kananaski Mountain Lodge
Algonquin Resort St. Andrews By-the-Sea
Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort, Panama
There is one Marriott that stands above all others when it comes to golf - the Sawgrass Marriott Resort, home to the PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Don't dismiss the international properties that might not normally be on your radar, either. The resorts, and their courses, in St. Kitts and Wales both surprised me for their quality and style. The St. Pierre Marriott in Wales, for example, looks like a castle and hosted the 1996 Solheim Cup. When it comes to value, this is when you points will start working hard for you. Many savvy travelers use this opportunity to get to Hawaii for the first time, either with a stay on the Big Island (Waikoloa) or Maui (Wailea). A Friday night for two in November at Waikoloa costs 60,000 points. The same date for Sawgrass for 30,000 points might be more tempting, though.
Sawgrass Marriott Resort
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
Wailea Beach Resort - Marriott, Maui
Marriott Hilton Head Resort & Spa
St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino
Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa
Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National
Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes
St. Pierre Marriott Hotel & Country Club
Lexington Griffin Gate Marriott Golf Resort & Spa
The Luxury Collection is an eclectic mix of properties, including the only Marriott-affiliated resort featuring links golf - Trump Turnberry along Scotland's Ayrshire Coast. Few links golf resorts in the United Kingdom can trump what Turnberry's Ailsa and King Robert The Bruce courses offer in terms of stunning scenery. The Phoenician's redesign of a quirky 27-hole course to 18 holes a few years ago has been well received. I was shocked to see that a Friday night next June for two at Trump Turnberry only costs 40,000 points, while The Phoenician in November jumps to 100,000 points.
Santa Maria, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Golf Resort, Panama City
The Ballantyne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte
The Renaissance brand is affiliated with four of the eight Marriott hotels on Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail with Ross Bridge being the nicest of the bunch. You can't go wrong with either Indian Wells or St. Augustine, two great places to stay with 36 holes of golf and lots to do afterward. This is another value category if you shop wisely. A Friday night for two in November in St. Augustine costs 30,000 points with Indian Wells doubling to 60,000 points.
World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine Resort
Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells
Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa
The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club
The Battle House Renaissance Hotel & Spa
The St. Regis brand has lost a couple key properties recently - Monarch Beach in California and Princeville in Kauai - but the four golf-related resorts left are still the best of the best. A stay includes a butler who will help unpack, book dinners, keep the room clean and generally just help you relax. The pampering is welcomed, if you can afford it. A Friday stay in November for two at Bahia Beach costs 85,000 points.
St. Regis Punta Mita
St. Regis Bahia Beach
St. Regis Bermuda
St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi
Three of these Sheratons aren't "true" golf resorts - the PGA Village, Panama City and Carlsbad locations are next to public facilities that aren't technically theirs (the 54-hole PGA Golf Club, Bay Point and The Crossings at Carlsbad) - but they're still good for golfers looking for winter rounds. The Wild Horse Pass development, owned by the Gila River Indian tribe, features the 36-hole Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., home to the Devil's Claw and Cattail courses. A Friday night in November for two at the Sheraton Grand costs 40,000 points, while both the Sheraton and Westin in Carlsbad are 50,000 points for the same date.
Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
Sheraton PGA Village Vacation Resort
Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort
Sheraton Steamboat Springs
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa