Don't let cost deter you from getting together with the buddies for a memorable golf weekend getaway. Great, affordable trips can be found all over the country.
At Golf Advisor, we've looked at ways to find ever-so-coveted "value" golf in a variety of ways. We've determined the 50 best U.S. courses under $50, plus the best value courses based on your reviews. Golf Channel's Matt Ginella also shared his ten best "budget buddies trips."
What constitutes "value" is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Pebble Beach, despite the fact it doesn't budge on its $500-plus green fee, can be considered a bargain when compared to its exclusive neighbor, Cypress Point. A value golf destination however is one in my opinion that has a small collection of courses that can be enjoyed by a golf group on just about any budget.
With that in mind, I've compiled the following ten destinations that provide the best bargains for a long-weekend golf trip and have a reasonable price that most golfers can afford. Generally speaking, a value golf trip should be in the neighborhood of $99-125 per person, per night in the peak season with golf (perhaps a little more on the west coast). More and more stay-and-play packages feature perks like a free meal or afternoon replays.
Some of these destinations have resorts with enough holes and amenities that a group never has to leave the premises. In other hotspots, a deep roster of area courses compete for business against one another by selling discount tee times and packages loaded with extras, even during the high season.
I'm basing this list below on peak season golf and lodging costs. That said, I'm a huge fan of the shoulder season (it's just about the only time I plan family vacations), and in the off season you can score deep value with packages like Kiawah Island's famous "Golf or Gourmet" deal or summertime on at top South Florida or Scottsdale courses. I've also done my best to find a bargain destination in all areas of the country, because there isn't much point in a value trip if it costs big money to get there in the first place.
Here then are ten great value golf trips and some examples of what you can expect to pay for each:
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What separates northern Michigan from the neighboring fairways in Minnesota and Wisconsin? It's the mega-golf resorts that offer exceptional unlimited golf packages at a great value. The biggest game in town, Boyne Resorts, specializes in this better than most, with unlimited golf packages as low as $116pp that combine golf at their Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain resorts, plus other standalone courses under their umbrella.
Elsewhere in the north, I've played 54 holes in one day on more than one occasion at secluded Garland Resort ($119pp, per night), which has four first tees within a wedge of one another and the mighty log cabin lodge (it's also a short drive to Forest Dunes). Additionally, both Shanty Creek Resorts and Treetops Resort dazzle with elevated tee shots and designs by top national architects.
Writer's note: The expensive, connecting flight can deter national audiences from flying into Traverse City, but on a recent trip from Austin this spring, I was surprised to find tickets were cheaper to TVC than to DTW (About $400 roundtrip).
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama
When the Retirement Systems of Alabama conceived the ambitious Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, their plan was to attract tourism and retirees to a state that was "drive-thru" country for too many golfers en route to Florida. Celebrating 25 years in 2017, few, if any golf developments have been such a massive success, and its brand is "bang-for-buck." The trail has eleven facilities scattered throughout the state, never more than a few minutes off a highway, and many are multi-course facilities with short courses. Fall unlimited golf stay-and-plays are about $111pp and one-night, two-round packages start at $138pp. Various Renaissance and Marriott partner properties are never far from the 18th hole.
Known luxury-brand resorts like Fairmont Grand Del Mar and Omni La Costa, along with the west's most famous muni, are the headliners in San Diego. But any budget can enjoy what can be considered the best combination of variety and year-round climate. Getaways with lodging onsite can be found at 54-hole Sycuan Resort ($249-279 for a double-occupancy unlimited golf stay-and-play that includes a spa treatment). Carlton Oaks has comfortable onsite accommodations with a pool and dining.
San Diego County has 90-plus courses, making it highly competitive among daily fee and semi-private clubs, meaning you can either book with a golf package company or instead go a la carte and consider for last-minute online specials. The recently revamped North Course at Torrey Pines is still over $100 for non-residents but is one of the most affordable current PGA Tour venues as well as one of the best Pacific oceanfront bargains. You can also try to score a tee time at popular Coronado Golf Course or play one of the great and affordable military courses around town like 36-hole Admiral Baker facility. Mt. Woodson and San Juan Oaks are other popular options for fun budget golf.(Browse San Diego tee times on GolfNow).
No surprises here, despite recent consolidations and mergers along the Grand Strand, you can still practically name your price for a Myrtle Beach golf vacation, which is regarded as the "birthplace of the golf package." Multi-round stay-and-play packages are still the way to go over a la cart green fees. As many as ten area courses flirt with various "Top 100" public lists and there is no place in the U.S. with such an abundance of affordable oceanfront lodging.
Peak golf season in Myrtle Beach is March-April (the best value for golf is between Thanksgiving and New Year's). The toughest part about a Myrtle trip is shopping around the scores of package providers and finding the right combination. The best packages have a combination of middle-tier courses and a couple standouts. Caledonia Golf Vacations has a 3-night package for $429 in primetime that include a four-round combination of Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue. Deeper value can be found on the North Strand with East Coast Golf Management's Golf Director package, which features 4 rounds and 4 nights on top courses like River's Edge and Brunswick Plantation, starting at $285/pp.
Myrtle Beach isn't your only bargain golf destination on the eastern seaboard. Ocean City is a relative newcomer to the golf mecca scene with a collection of courses by many top architects, most of which were built in the late-1990s and early 2000s. Pam's Ocean City packagers, for example, can put together plenty of 3-day, 2-night trips for $200-400. This package features rounds at Rum Pointe and Links at Lighthouse Sound, plus $50 Ruth's Chris gift certificate, starting at $185pp.
Phoenix's West Valley
Sticker shock hits everyone the first time they descend on North Scottsdale's glitzy golf clubs and resorts in the peak season, but savvy travelers point their compass to the northwest side of the valley. Wigwam Resort has invested big-time into the golf and accommodations in recent years, and you can find a stay-and-play with unlimited golf for as low as $169pp. Additionally, Quintero and Wickenburg Ranch are relative values in the $100-150 range during the peak season considering they rival top valley facilities that soar well north of $200. West side bargains on notable layouts can also be found at Air Force base's Falcon Dunes, Verrado Golf Club's new Victory or Founders courses. Los Caballeros made our Top 50 in 2016 best-of list.
Of course, green fees here sway up and down greater than just about anywhere on the planet. If you're willing to go in the summer, TPC Scottsdale and Troon North suddenly become a little more gettable.
As for the best time of year to go to Phoenix, click here to see what our review data tells us.
North Carolina Sandhills
The Village of Pinehurst is reminiscent of St. Andrews in many ways, and one of the main comparisons is that while the most famous courses are high-dollar, any buddies group can visit the Village of Pinehurst for a meal, memorabilia or a fun night out without dropping a ton of cash. The public can also visit the main clubhouse or the Thistle Dhu putting course.
There are scores of courses to choose from in the Aberdeen-Pinehurst-Southern Pines triangle. The ultra-unique Mike Strantz-designed Tobacco Road is relative value with a 3-round/2-night packages as low as $199). Other daily-fee bargains are Tot Hill Farm, Legacy Golf Links, 7 Lakes Golf & Country Club and Talamore Golf Club, which offer $50-80 green fees and hotel partners.
The Canadian side of the falls is a popular and versatile destination for natural attractions, kitchsy amusements, casinos and nightlife. It's a golf-saturated market to be sure, which makes green fees very competitive and especially so considering the favorable exchange rate for U.S. residents. There are no true "golf resorts" but the Niagara Parks has some of the best facilities, including the stellar 54-hole Legends on the Niagara facility that features championship courses from two top Canadian architects, Doug Carrick and Thomas McBroom. Stanley Thompson has a notable design here, Whirlpool. Two-night packages are as low as $309 CAN.
Additionally, you can also play the most historic course in North America, a scenic nine-holer on Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake. More bargain options include Royal Niagara and Thundering Waters. "Falls view" hotel rooms usually exacerbate nightly cost, so opt for a room without it. There is plenty of time to see the falls on the parkway during your visit.
Florida's First Coast
The home of the PGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Fame is abundant with resorts and golf courses to play that really make golf packages competitively priced. Each course at TPC Sawgrass is pricey, but Sawgrass invites any golf fan to come have lunch (where you'll almost surely see a tour pro or dignitary) and receive a free guided tour of the clubhouse. The historic town of St. Augustine is one of the neater places to stay on the eastern seaboard, and Jacksonville Beach is a lively spot for fun in the sun. World Golf Village has three-round, three-night packages starting around $400, and nearby Amelia Island has similarly affordable stay-and-plays.
Top value picks among the daily-fee set include LPGA International, St. John's Golf & Country Club, Golf Club of North Hampton and Golf Club of South Hampton.
Bring your fishing pole, Floater golf balls and a full iPod for the drive to Minnesota's north country, the home of Bob Dylan and Walleye-stocked lakes. From Brainerd, about a two-hour-drive north of the Twin Cities, to Biwabik you'll enjoy remote layouts and exceptional value. Cragun's, Deacon's Lodge, Grand View Lodge and The Wilderness at Fortune Bay offer great summer stay-and-play and unlimited golf specials. The Madden's on Gull Lake Classic Deluxe Package offers three rounds and lodging for $190/pp. A bit farther north is 36-hole Giant's Ridge, a regular on Top 100 lists.
Honorable mentions for value golf trips
I'd love to hear your favorite value golf trip destinations. Tell me on Twitter @brandontucker or in the comments below. Here are a few other options if you're not sold on my ten best:
You don't have to go all the way up north. Six-course Gull Lake View near Kalamazoo, plus great bargain public courses around Grand Rapids like Pilgrim's Run make the southwest side a popular pick for Chicago escapes.
Budget golf is possible here, just hear me out: scruffy-but-scenic Pacific Grove is one of the best oceanfront bargains in America ($50-60). Throw in a military course, Monterey Pines ($20-37) then two stellar championship layouts at Bayonet & BlackHorse ($75-125). Bunk up at one of many small motels around Pacific Grove, and a trip to exclusive Pebble Beach (cruise the sights of 17-mile Drive for $10.25 and stop off at Pebble Beach for lunch or a drink) is manageable.
Grand Bear is one of the top-rated Nicklaus designs on Golf Advisor, and is joined by other deep values like The Preserve and Shell Landing.
Reno-North Lake Tahoe, Nevada
It's tough to give Reno much attention when sparkling (and expensive) Lake Tahoe is tantalizingly close by. But the area courses have a longer season and are far more affordable but still designed by top architects (with more comfortable summer temps compared to Las Vegas).
Atlantic City, New Jersey
A favorite summer spot for the eastern seaboard, Atlantic City is seriously deep with a variety of layouts among its 19 courses.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Kiva Dunes made our Top 10 courses in 2016, and there are a handful of other value courses on the coast.
You can name your price for a tee time in golf-saturated Tampa, which features great golf in Brooksville at World Woods to the north and Sarasota to the south.
Tennessee Golf Trail
The state parks courses, a handful of which were designed by Jack Nicklaus, are crystal clear bargains in the Smoky Mountains.
Turning Stone, New York
There is little doubt as to upstate New York's best golf resort. The Champions Package is just $249 and includes golf at the Tom Fazio-designed Atunyote course, a former PGA Tour venue and one of the state's best public plays.
Hamilton County, Indiana
Indiana courses fare exceptionally well on Golf Advisor, and there is no better place to find affordable Pete Dye designs than his home state. Hamilton County features such Dye gems as The Fort and Brickyard Crossing.
Prince Edward Island
While Cape Breton's recently earned a lot of the maritime press clippings, PEI is chock full of more affordable and sublime golf in a storybook setting. Fresh PEI mussels are abundant and even free in some clubhouse 19th holes. The $420 "72 hours of golf package" gets you two nights and four rounds on the island's best courses like Links at Crowbush Cove and Dundarave, plus two nights.