Step back in time at these unsung historic golf resorts in North America

Researching the most historic resorts in golf led to some interesting discoveries.

There are dozens of grand old resorts with classic courses in North America that I've never heard of before. I found nearly 70 of them and profiled the top 25 in part 1 of this series.

To qualify, the resort's oldest hotel AND oldest golf course had to have been built before 1940, essentially pre-World War II.

Scanning the list of properties that were left out of the top 25, I realized I couldn't stop there. There are still a few headliners in here - Pennsylvania's Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort and New Jersey's Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club are past hosts of the PGA Championship; Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is as luxurious as it gets in California wine country and Cooperstown, N.Y., is one of the most charming, historic towns in America. Many of the others are smaller inns and nine-hole golf resorts still worth seeing. For history buffs, tracking down these historic hotspots would be the ultimate bucket-list pursuit.

Sure, some of these courses aren't top-flight tracks, and yes, a few of these hotels and lodges are probably past their prime. But all have a unique character and style. The phrase, they don't make 'em like they used to, certainly applies.

I didn't rank them this time. I merely separated them by region of the country (listing them by state within that region), so you can plan your next trip to a historic golf getaway.

East Coast

Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club educates guests about golf and the good life.

Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, Galloway, N.J.

History: You wouldn't know the 296-room, 670-acre resort on Reed's Bay is mere minutes from madness of Atlantic City. At 6,243 yards, the Bay course (1914), host of the 1942 PGA Championship, plays perfectly tough for ladies on the LPGA TOUR. Many members prefer the 6,700-yard Pines Course (1929).

Pocono Manor Resort & Spa, Pocono Manor, Pa.

History: The 240-room "Grand Lady of the Mountains”, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, has been welcoming guests since 1902. You can stay in one of its 65 original rooms, which have all been refinished. The 6,565-yard East course at Pocono Manor - with nine holes designed by Donald Ross in 1912 and completed in 1927 - celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. Golf legends Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Tommy Bolt, Gene Littler, Doug Ford, Jackie Burke and Jerry Barber have all played it. The resort's George Fazio-designed West course (1959) closed several years ago to make room for Kalahari Resort Poconos. America's largest indoor waterpark (220,000 square feet) debuted in March, 2017, with 977 rooms and suites and a retractable roof.

Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort, Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pa.

History: Dating to 1911, Shawnee's colorful past - hosting the 1938 PGA Championship won by Paul Runyan, hosting the 1967 NCAA Championship won by Hale Irwin, fostering Hollywood legend Jackie Gleason's love of the game - has almost been drowned by floodwaters from the raging Delaware River in 1996, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Such is life on the edge of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Shawnee Inn golf course by A.W. Tillighast crisscrosses the river twice to an island where 24 holes are located.

Skytop Lodge, Skytop, Pa.

History: The Poconos Mountains surround the Dutch Colonial-style manor house (1928) overlooking Skytop Lake. Guests can stay in the Lodge (124 refurbished rooms) or the Inn (18 rooms). There's so much to do - hiking on 30 miles of trails, swimming in two pools or the lake, shooting sporting clays, playing tennis and golf, fly-fishing, etc. The Skyview Spa was added in 2003. The 6,656-yard course (1929) flows through the natural terrain.

Water Gap Country Club & Hotel, Delaware Water Gap, Pa.

History: In 1922, the Wolf Hollow course was completed by Robert White, one of the founders and the first president of the PGA of America. Wolf Hollow hosted a nationally respected tournament from 1926-28 known as the Eastern Open. Some of golf’s greatest legends competed, including Gene Sarazen, Leo Diesel and Walter Hagen. The current owner of Water Gap believes the middle section of the 24-room hotel was likely built around that same time. Black-and-white pictures of the players adorn its walls.

Summitt Inn, Farmington, Pa.

History: The 94-room Summit Hotel (1907) attracted Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison at the same time to test their inventions in 1917. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The nine-hole Mount Summit Golf Course, built in 1930, delivers panoramic views of 60 miles or more. Its first golf pro, Sam Parks Jr., won the 1935 U.S. Open.

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, N.Y.

History: The 1869 origin of the Mountain House lies in a 10-room inn, Stokes Tavern, purchased by Albert Smiley along with 280 surrounding acres. Over the years, the small inn and tavern evolved into the grand house with 265 rooms. It is still in the Smiley family today. For all the recreational activities -- including ice skating, golf, tennis, horseback riding, horse-drawn carriage rides, rock climbing and 85 miles of trails for seasonal hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing - it was the opening of an award-winning spa in 2005 that has become most popular. The glacial-formed Lake Mohonk is ideal for boating, fishing and swimming. Dating to 1897, the nine-hole, 2,707-yard Mohonk Mountain House course is one of the oldest in America.

The Otesaga Hotel and Cooper Inn, Cooperstown, N.Y.

History: Baseball and golf share the spotlight on the shores of Lake Otsego in Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The hotel (1909) and Cooper Inn, built in 1813 as a four-bedroom private home but expanded to 15 rooms, are great for stay and plays at the adjacent Leatherstocking Golf Course (1909), a pure Devereux Emmet design that hugs the shores of the lake for its final holes.

Top of the World Golf Resort, Lake George, N.Y.

History: The original farmhouse is now a rustic Adirondack-style Inn with rooms built in the 1920s and 30s, each with their own sense of style. Some of the rooms require shared bathrooms. The 6,071-yard par-71 golf course was carved from the side of French Mountain in 1926.

Traditions at the Glen, Johnson City, N.Y.

History: A private residence dating to 1919, the mansion's 41 rooms and suites were once only for IBM employees. The likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bing Crosby, Ben Hogan, Patty Berg and Sam Snead still found a way to stay the night. Two courses merged into one, the 6,369-yard par-70 course (1937) is set on rolling hills along a wooded glen with views of the Susquehanna River.

Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort, Lenox, Mass.

History: This former 380-acre private estate lies in the Berkshire Mountains. The Tudor-style Wyndhyrst Mansion (1894) was constructed atop Blossom Hill overlooking the 6,031-yard, par-69 course (1926). The estate’s landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man responsible for New York's Central Park. The 35,000-quare-foot spa is one of the Northeast's largest. Over the years, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Vanderbilts and President William McKinley have stayed.

Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes, Vt.

History: This resort on Lake Champlain was a working farm when it was purchased in 1886 by Ardelia Beach. Her nephew began the transformation into a full resort in the 1920s. Today guests can choose between the 45 rooms in four guesthouses and 77 distinct cottages. Now a seasonal retreat, it hosts unique events such as Rocktoberfest (Bacon & Beer Festival), the Festival of Fidos, the Barbeque Bonanza, American Girl Teas and Harborween. The 6,500-yard course of the Basin Harbor Club dates to 1927.

Lake Morey Resort, Fairlee, Vt.

History: The beginnings of the center portion of the inn's main building at this 130-room resort dates to 1905. Nine holes of the Lake Morey Country Club took shape around 1915 with the back nine added in 1929. In 1989, everything was completely rerouted and updated into its current 6,024-yard par-70 routing.

Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club, Jackson Village, N.H.

History: Opening in 1889, the original 12-room Eagle Mountain House burned down in 1915. Rebuilt in less than a year in 1916, the new inn eventually expanded to two buildings, boasting a 280-foot veranda and 125 rooms. Today, the inn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features 96 rooms in the White Mountains. It has been featured on the local TV series, "Haunted in New England". The resort's cow pasture, literally where the livestock would graze and feed in the 1920s, was transformed into a par-32, nine-hole course in 1931.

Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa, Whitefield, N.H.

History: For almost a century - from the first guests in a farmhouse in 1865 to 1966 - the 141-room resort continued to expand in the White Mountains. A steady decline led to closure in 1986. Millions of dollars later led to a grand reopening in 2002. The nine-hole 2,955-yard Mountain View Grand course dates to 1908.

Wentworth by the Sea, A Marriott Hotel & Spa, New Castle, N.H.

History: Staying at the "Grand Dame of the Sea" unlocks the Wentworth By The Sea Country Club (1897), a private Ross course (1921 revamp) only booked through the hotel concierge. When it opened in 1874, the 161-room Wentworth was the largest wooden structure on the state’s coast, a hub for social, business and political luminaries from around the world. Preservationists saved it from disrepair during dark times in the 1980s. Don't confuse this with the historic 61-room Wentworth Inn (1869) and its Wentworth Golf Club (1895) in the White Mountains of Jackson, N.H.

Colony Hotel, Kennebunkport, Maine

History: Guests love to sit on the wraparound porch at the Colony for the views of the ocean and river. Its attractions harken back to simpler times ... afternoon tea, fresh-cut flowers, white wicker chairs and lawn games. Although it's short, golfers adore the 5,881-yard Cape Arundel Golf Course, a Walter Travis design almost as old as the hotel (1896 to 1872). Both Bush presidents have played the course hundreds of times.

Poland Springs Resort, Poland, Maine

History: The Presidential Inn, located a short walk from the newer and more centrally located Maine Inn (1963), is a refurbished Victorian classic built in 1913 stocked with rooms, a mini-movie theater, children's playroom, gym and game rooms. The 6,178-yard Links at Poland Spring (1895) - touted as one of the oldest resort golf courses in America by the resort website - has ties to Arthur Fenn (the first American-born professional golfer and course architect), Ross and Walter Travis. Signs throughout the course celebrate its history, including rounds by Babe Ruth, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones and a plane landing by Charles Lindbergh.

West Coast

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Sonoma, Calif.

History: Nobody does sipping and chipping better than this Fairmont (1927), which affords golfers access to the private Sonoma Golf Club (1928). Try the state-of-the-art Willow Stream Spa and Michelin award-winning Santé Restaurant on for size.

Imperial Palms Hotel & Resort at Barbara Worth, Holtville, Calif.

History: While the hotel (1926) and the Barbara Worth Golf Course (1928) qualify as 'historic' in our definition, there's not much of a nod to the past with either. The 6,580-yard course has gotten mixed reviews on Golf Advisor, although none recently. It is located 125 miles east of San Diego and just miles from the border with Mexico.

Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco, Calif.

History: This National Historic Landmark features the restoration of Georgian Revival-style Pershing Hall, an Army Bachelors Quarters built in 1903. The Golden Gate Bridge is within view from the top floor of the three-story brick building. The 1,491-acre Presidio was a military post for two centuries, first occupied by the Spanish, then Mexico before America took over from 1846 until 1994. Despite being near the excellent 6,449-yard Presidio Golf Course, the 22-room Inn doesn't offer golf packages. The course opened in 1895, expanded to 18 holes in 1910 and opened to the public when the entire Presidio became a national park in 1994.


The Grand Hotel sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Huron, where it has stood since 1887.

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Mich.

History: This 393-room Michigan icon sits on a bluff overlooking the island, where automobiles are banned. Visitors arriving by ferry must walk, ride bikes or take a horse and carriage wherever they go. Relaxing on its grand porch and dining in a jacket and tie are among the hotel's traditions, which date to 1887. The Jewel Golf Course's front nine was staked out by Tom Bendelow in the early 1900s, although it was Jerry Matthews who updated it in 1987. A new back nine by Mathews in 1994 completed the experience by adding a horse and buggy ride into the woods to reach the final loop. (More: Brandon Tucker visits The Grand and historic golf on Mackinac Island)

Alpine Resort & Golf, Egg Harbor, Wis.

History: Brothers Paul and John Bertschinger built their own little slice of heaven on the shores of Egg Harbor in Door County, opening for business in 1922 and tripling the size of their main lodge in 1927. Then came the cottages. Three of the four nines at the 36-hole resort date to 1925 (red, white and blue). The black was added in 2002. At one time, the ninth hole on the blue nine was named "The Most Scenic Hole in the State of Wisconsin" by the Milwaukee Journal.

Lake Lawn Resort, Delavan, Wis.

History: A modest guesthouse on Lake Delavan led to the construction of a main lodge in 1883. It boomed into a series of wings, all connected by winding indoor walkways. The 6,201-yard Majestic Oaks course dates to Bendelow (1921), but really the credit goes to Dick Nugent for his upgrades in 1990. Facing stiff competition in the Lake Geneva area, the resort closed briefly in 2010 before being rescued and revived by new owners a year later.

Maxwelton Braes Lodge, Baileys Harbor, Wis.

History: The 11-room lodge, dating to the 1930s, sits near the shores of Lake Michigan in Door County. The 12 rustic cabin rooms built in the 1950s are adjacent to the 16th fairway of the Maxwelton Braes Golf Course. New owners (2015) have taken good care of the 6,041-yard, par-70 course (first nine dates to 1929 and second from 1931).

Stouts Island Lodge and Tagalong Golf Resort, Birchwood, Wis.

History: Although Frank D. Stout built the lodge (1912) and the original nine holes (1916) of the Tagalong Golf Resort, they are operated separately today. Golfers staying on a 27-acre island in Red Cedar Lake can take a 10-minute ferry ride to the 6,386-yard course. Each of the rooms in the main lodge sports a different theme.

Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minn.

History: With 285 rooms comfortably accommodating 600-plus guests, Madden's has grown into one of the Midwest's largest resorts and a staple of lake life three hours north of the Twin Cities. The original 42-room Pine Beach Hotel dates to 1930, four years after the 6,101-yard Pine Beach East course opened in 1926. Today, the Classic at Madden's - a modern Top 100 experience - is the centerpiece of the 63 holes on property.

Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge, Deerwood, Minn.

History: The main lodge dates to 1898, Ruby's dining room to 1920 and many of the cabins were built between 1900 and 1945. In 1921, Ruttger's became the first resort in the state with golf. The course began humbly as a 5-hole course with sand tee boxes and fairways "mowed" by cattle and sheep. Within a few years it became a proper nine-hole par 33 called the Alec's Nine at Ruttger's, named after Alec Ruttger, who, along with Hans "Zig" Ziegler, saw the potential of golf in what is now Brainerd, one of the Midwest's best golf destinations. In the years since, Ruttger's has added the Lakes Course.


One of the toughest holes at Renaissance Vinoy Golf Club is the par-4 ninth with water left and OB right.

Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, St. Petersburg, Fla.

History: The salmon-colored, Mediterranean-Revival-inspired Vinoy (1925) has led many lives. Its latest reincarnation involves major work being done to the resort's 361 guest rooms, a new parking garage with tennis facilities on top, a new spa in 2018 and improvements to the Vinoy Club course, a 1927 design significantly altered by Ron Garl in 1992.

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Ponte Vedra, Fla.

History: The Inn (1937) has been restored to its original grandeur. Featuring the finest in stylish décor, the 18 luxurious rooms provide especially convenient access to the hotel’s dining and shopping venues. Herbert Bertram Strong used 100 mules dragging slip pans to dredge lagoons, shape 99 bunkers and build up the earthen mounds that dot the fairways of the Ocean Course (1928). The onset of war cancelled the Ryder Cup Matches scheduled on the course. RTJ Sr. (1947) and Bobby Weed (1998) have also worked on it. The shorter Lagoon course opened a front nine by RTJ Sr. in 1961 followed by a back nine by Joe Lee in 1977.

Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa and Hot Springs Country Club, Hot Springs, Ark.

History: The 560-room Arlington (1924) is the third version of the hotel - the second was blazed by fire in 1923. All three had the iconic twin towers. The in-house bath house features open but separate accommodations for men and women, and 50 rooms had thermal mineral waters piped in. Guests of the resort gain access to the country club private's 6,713-yard Arlington Course (1927) and the 6,852-yard Park Course (1898 by Willie Park Jr.).

Lambuth Inn, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

History: Built in 1921, the Classic Revival-style inn located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a non-profit known for its ties to Christian churches, but is open to all vacationers. The 5,034-yard, par-68 Lake Junaluska Golf Course, done by Bendelow in 1919, never costs more than $15 to play.

Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa, Waynesville, N.C.

History: The 111-room inn (1926) nestled near the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in close proximity to the towns of Maggie Valley, Cherokee and Asheville. Ross created the Carolina nine in a valley beneath the surrounding Balsam Mountains in 1926. The Dogwood nine, full of risk-reward short par 4s and par 5s, was added in 1929. Tom Jackson built a third loop, the Blue Ridge, in 1986.

Capon Springs Resort, Capon Springs, W.V.

History: This all-inclusive resort offers a unique experience to those staying in some of the 22 rooms of the Main House, which dates to 1887. Only eight have full baths. The 14 rooms on the third and fourth floors share community bathrooms and showers. Fourteen other cottages offer more privacy and space. The nine-hole, par-34 Capon Springs Golf Course (1936) is complemented by a short course (holes 30-85 yards) that offers fling golf.


Though temperatures can get to 120 degrees, Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley is open all year long.

The Oasis at Death Valley, Death Valley, Calif.

History: The resort's owner, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, has changed the name and is spending plenty on capital improvements in 2017. It closed the AAA-rated four-diamond Inn for a revival this summer. Over the course of the year, both the 66-room Inn (1927) and 244-room Ranch (1933) properties will undergo major improvements and enhancements in accommodations, public spaces and facilities, accessibility, landscaping, energy and conservation. The Furnace Creek Golf Course, dating to 1927 and redesigned by Perry Dye in 1997, has already received a major renovation, reclamation and environmentally and golfer-friendly evolution mostly focused on reducing water consumption while at the same time enhancing the fun and challenging course with more natural “waste” bunkers and natural landscaping and “hazards.” The 6,236-yard, par-70 course is playable now, but should be ready for prime time in spring 2018. The 19th hole drive-in for golf carts is still there serving refreshing drinks and a menu to whet the appetite after golf on the lowest course on the planet (214 feet below sea level).

Crowne Plaza Phoenix Chandler Golf Resort, Chandler, Ariz.

History: Built in 1912, the 249-room hotel is an anchor of Chandler's historic downtown district. The San Marcos Golf Course (1928) was the state's first grass golf course. The course is fresh off a multi-million-dollar renovation, including an all-new state-of-the-art irrigation system that provides year-round playing conditions and an upgraded clubhouse facility.

The Lodge Resort & Spa, Cloudcroft, N.M.

History: The original lodge (1899) was destroyed by fire in 1909, but a new one was rebuilt on a more scenic spot by 1911. The 59-room lodge is reportedly haunted. Built at 9,000 feet in elevation in 1899, the nine-hole course (1899) is one of the highest and oldest in America.

Pacific Northwest

Trail Creek's 16th hole.

Sun Valley Resort, Sun Valley, Idaho

History: The Sun Valley Lodge (1936), the country's first destination ski lodge, reopened in June after an extensive upgrade that enlarged all 108 guestrooms and added a 20,000-square-foot destination spa with a fitness center and yoga studio, a glass enclosed outdoor pool and pool café, and all new re-imagined and re-appointed restaurants, lounges, lobbies and event space. Guests now check in at the Sun Mountain Inn (1937), which has its own decorated history. The resort's oldest course, Trail Creek, has a lineage to 1937, although Robert Trent Jones Jr. modernized it in 1980. The Elkhorn Golf Course (1974) by RTJII and his father was acquired in 2011.


The dining room at the gorgeous Fairmont Le Ch̢teau Montebello is all set for the breakfast rush.

Fairmont Le Château Montebello, Montebello, Quebec, Canada

History: Craftsmen used 10,000 red-cedar logs to build the resort's three main buildings, all cut and set by hand, for the grand opening in 1930. For four decades, the lodge served as a private club for the Canadian elite until it opened as a resort in 1970. Set on the banks of the Ottawa River, the Fairmont stands as the world's largest log-cabin hotel. Presidents Bush and Reagan have visited for key international summits. Riding some rugged terrain, Stanley Thompson's 6,308 yards par-70 Montebello course (1929) remains one of the toughest courses, yard for yard, in North America.

Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa, Nova Scotia, Canada

History: The original three-story Pines Hotel (1903) near the Bay of Fundy was replaced by a new Norman-style Chateau with 85 rooms in 1929, the same year that Stanley Thompson started construction on his 6,283-yard, par-71 Digby Pines Golf Course that opened in 1931. Babe Ruth teed it up in 1936.

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Golf Club, Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada

History: It's interesting that U.S. President William Taft, who spent his summers in the region of Pointe-au-Pic, inaugurated Le Manoir Richelieu's course on June 18, 1925, and not a Canadian Prime Minister. Parts of the 27-hole course overlook the St. Lawrence Seaway. After the original 405-room hotel was destroyed by fire, a new luxurious one rose from the ashes just a year later in 1929.

BC Heritage Hotel on Harrison Lake, British Columbia, Canada

History: For nearly a century, vacationers have sought the timeless comfort of the Main Hotel (1926). The heritage guestrooms and mini-suites remain adorned in classic wood trim and moldings, as well as décor and furnishings that harken back to generations past. The nine-hole Harrison Resort Golf Course (1930) spans 3,375 yards.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries 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 @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Commented on

Played Lake Lawn back in the day as a teenager. Shot my lowest round to date at that time--74--so I have fond memories of that Bendelow design. Lot of Scottish design elements as I remember.

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Commented on

Sun Valley and Elkhorn are wonderful!

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Step back in time at these unsung historic golf resorts in North America