The best golf destinations to visit over the holidays

You know Santa would rather be playing golf over the holidays.

If your dreams of a white Christmas faded years ago and you yearn of something a little warmer and outdoorsy, maybe what you need are 18 cups on the greens, not cups of eggnog.

If that's what you dream of (and who wouldn't?), you're in luck, because believe it or not, many golf resorts, even in warm climates, are clamoring for business during the holidays.

Better yet, just in case you feel guilty about eschewing holiday traditions, they might even be throwing in a few holiday touches to remind you that you're still celebrating the yuletide. Personally, I love the satisfaction of posting a Twitter picture of myself in shorts on the first tee in December (which I plan to do) while much of the country is in the deep freeze. It makes me feel like I got away with something.

If you'd like to get away with something, too, here are a few ideas:

Christmas golf in Florida

I'm not sure how many deals you're going to find here since Orlando is hopping this time of year with all the families that visit Disney World and Universal Orlando, but if golf is on your agenda, the Orlando area has more options than most, and some are offering holiday promotions.

The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, for example, is offering holiday festive touches in addition to its 36 holes of Greg Norman-designed golf (National and International). One is something called Gingerbread University, where guests (and yes, kids) can assemble and decorate gingerbread houses with a little help from the resort's chefs. There's also a weekend breakfast with Santa at Trevi's Restaurant, elf tuck-ins for the little ones (which include hot cocoa and cookies), nightly s'mores at the fire pit and a Christmas movie showing.

At the Orlando World Center Marriott, there's something called the "Weekend Winter-Vention," which might be more appropriate for folks who are simply looking to soothe their winter blues. There are no Santa promotions here, just some special holiday rates ($250 a night with $25 resort credit), a well-maintained golf course on site, great dining and something called the Icon Slide Tower, one of the fastest and tallest resort water slides in Florida.

Or you could head about 70 miles west to St. Petersburg and check out the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Club. I really like this resort because of its history and location. St. Pete is one of most relaxing and prettiest small cities in America, and the Vinoy Renaissance is one of Florida's most storied hotels, magnificently restored to its former glory and then some. The Sunday brunch at this AAA four-diamond resort is one you won't soon forget with unlimited bloody marys, mimosas, fresh seafood, prime rib and an extravagant breakfast menu. The hotel, which overlooks Tampa Bay, originally opened on New Year's Eve in 1925 and blends modern elegance with its Mediterranean Revival architecture and custom-made artwork from Dale Chihuly and Renee Dinauer. Of course, there's the Renaissance Vinoy Resort golf course, a fine track that sits on the water.

Or if a spa experience is what you're after, all the above excel in that department, but in Palm Beach Gardens a little farther south, PGA National is offering its special Holiday Spice Spa treatments. For around $100, there are a variety of 50-minute treatments available, starting with the Vanilla Caramel Spice Massage. Oh, and there's also five golf courses, including the recently renovated Champion Course at PGA National, home of the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour. Play that one and you'll need a spa treatment.

Play the PGA Tour (sort of) over Christmas

This might be one of the better times to play a PGA Tour course from your bucket list. For example, if you make it to the Monterey, Calif. area, check out Pebble Beach. Even if you don't stay at the resort, chances are good that you can get a tee time one day out (the earliest you can book a tee time without staying there) at Pebble Beach Golf Links. I've been told on more than one occasion that holidays can be some of the slowest times of the year at Pebble Beach.

You might also want to check out the 33 courses in the TPC Network. Many of them host PGA Tour events, like the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship. Right now, the TPC Network is offering its "Tee the Season to be Jolly," with rates up to 48 percent off on golf, to highly discounted decadent dining at the clubhouses.

At the high end of the spectrum is the TPC Players Stadium Stay and Play Gift Package ($475), which includes one night stay at the Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, a round on The Players Stadium Course, Nike golf shirt and TPC Sawgrass photo frame.

TPC Scottsdale in Arizona has packages that range from $150 (on the Champions Course) to $299; TPC Las Vegas has packages for as little as $99 for non-residents, and the TPC Louisiana is offering deals on its Dye-designed course for as little as $150.

Another TPC property that might be worth checking out is the TPC San Antonio, which has two golf courses, one designed by Norman (the AT&T Oaks Course), the other designed by Dye (the AT&T Canyons Course), as well as the largest JW Marriott in the U.S.

Speaking of San Antonio, the Alamo City is an underrated golf destination, and you might be surprised at the weather this time of year. It's not uncommon to have temperatures near 80 degrees in December, and the resort courses are all overseeded. Plus, there's plenty of great Tex-Mex on or off the world-famous Riverwalk. In addition to the TPC San Antonio, I'd recommend checking into the Westin La Cantera (former home of the Valero Texas Open), Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Tapatio Springs.

How about a blue Christmas?

While time is certainly running short, I can't think of anything better than heading to Hawaii for the holidays. Of course, airfares to Hawaii over Christmas aren't exactly cheap, but they're not ridiculous. For example, I found fares from New York for as little as $1,000. Who knows? If you wait until the last minute and are willing to fly on Christmas Day, you might find a bargain both in airfare and a resort stay. It might be worth rolling the dice.

With that said, no matter which island you choose, the weather is almost guaranteed to be perfect and the golf is spectacular. I just got back from Kauai, which only has eight courses, but half of them are of the bucket list variety.

And yes, there are holiday promotions in the Aloha State as well. For example, Grand Wailea on Maui has all kinds of stuff going on for the whole family (I'm betting the kids won't mind missing out on the snow for this) in addition to the three spectacular golf courses at Wailea, the Gold, Emerald and Old Blue.

A sampling of the activities finds Santa arriving via canoe on the morning of Christmas Eve, surfboard giveaways, a gingerbread village in the resort lobby, ornament making and a New Year's Eve bash and fireworks show on Wailea Beach. What a great and warm welcome to 2015.

Mike Bailey is a 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. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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The best golf destinations to visit over the holidays
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