Top 10 retirement destinations for golfers

Enjoy golden hour on the golf course in your golden years.

If you're a golfer, you can't help but think about retirement. After all, that's the time when you're going to get to play every day (if you wish), so you need to be in a spot that offers a variety of quality golf in a climate conducive to playing year-round.

So after a little research, we came up with our top 10 retirement spots for golfers. All of them offer golf year-round, though some offer better winter golf than others. They also come at a variety of price points, from very affordable to very exclusive.

Here are our top selections for riding your golf cart into the sunset.

1. Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida

With a diverse selection of private and public golf courses, moderate cost of living, terrific weather and perhaps the best beach in the United States, what's not to love about Sarasota/Bradenton? And if you like to play tennis as well as golf, you've really hit the jackpot with many clubs offering both golf and Har-Tru (green clay) tennis, which is much easier on the knees. The ultimate would be to have a membership at either the Tom Fazio-designed Ritz-Carlton Members Club Sarasota or Sara Bay Country Club, a classic Donald Ross course with a great history in Bradenton. And if you're lucky enough to get a condo near the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club, you can spend the rest of your days walking Lido Beach's sugary white sand, which contrasts some of the bluest and clearest ocean water you'll ever see, and dining by the sea at Sarasota's fabulous selection of eateries.

2. Monterey Peninsula, California

If money were no object, the Monterey Peninsula would be no. 1. But alas, you'll need a substantial nest egg to retire here. Still, the selection and number of golf courses laid out along what might be the most stunning scenery on earth makes the Monterey Peninsula, with Pebble Beach, Carmel and the Carmel Valley, the bucket list of retirement spots. Ideally, you'd love to have a membership at Cypress Point Club, but the two courses at Monterey Peninsula Country Club aren't exactly slouches with their great ocean views and service. Or you could get a membership at Tehama Golf Club, The Preserve Golf Club or CordeValle Golf Club in nearby San Martin. For good measure, there's plenty of great public golf, too, like Bayonet/Blackhorse and one of my personal favorites a few miles up the coast, Pasatiempo Golf Club. My choice would be to live in Carmel, get a trusty hound and take daily walks on Carmel Beach, either before or after golf.

3. St. George, Utah

The seventh-largest city in Utah has become one of the most popular retirement communities in the country. With spectacular red rock bluffs overlooking this town of 75,000, it offers terrific golf, which is year-round due to its mild winters. There are also plenty of other recreational activities, such as hiking in nearby Zion National Park. St. George is also more religiously diverse than the rest of the state with plenty of faiths joining the strong Mormon presence. With mountain views, pristine water features and some of the best designers in the business, the sampling of the area's outstanding golf includes private Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club as well as public facilities such as Coral Canyon Golf Course, The Ledges Golf Club, SunRiver Golf Club, Sunbrook Golf Club, Sky Mountain Golf Course and the spectacular Sand Hollow Golf Resort, a John Fought design that includes a nine-hole links course. Of course, St. George is just 40 minutes from Mesquite, Nev., which also offers quite a few exceptional golf experiences.

4. Bend, Oregon

Our northernmost retirement spot is also a lot more temperate than you might think, offering golf year-round. And although there are certainly cold days in the winter, the scenery, the variety of courses and the quality of golf and life, for that matter, are too good to leave this location off the list. Bend is in central Oregon, ranked among the top 50 golf destinations in the world by Golf Digest. The area has long been known as an outdoor recreation paradise, offering activities such as skiing, rafting, fishing, hiking and cycling. Bend has more than 300 days of sunshine per year and a much drier climate than people think of when they picture Oregon. The courses run the gamut, from the very affordable Eagle Crest Resort and Aspen Lakes Golf Course to the 36 holes of renovated golf at Black Butte Ranch to Pronghorn, which offers two spectacular options: the Nicklaus Course and the Fazio Course. Sunriver Resort and Tetherow, both special in their own rights, are also close.

5. Tucson, Arizona

Possibly a little more "authentic" than Scottsdale, Tucson is also a little more affordable, especially if you don't live in one of the more exclusive communities. Ranked among Forbes Magazine's top 25 places to retire, "The Old Pueblo" has a cost of living 4 percent below the national average with the typical home price of less than $200,000. Also a great biking location, the weather is a bit milder than it is in Phoenix because of the higher elevation. Tucson also has one of the best municipal golf course systems in the country and plenty of quality daily-fee and private club offerings, including The Gallery Golf Club, The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Omni Tucson National Resort and the new Sewailo Golf Club.

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6. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale is a little like the Monterey Peninsula in the sense that if you're set financially, this is a great option. More expensive than Tucson, there's a great selection of condos and homes in the Scottsdale area, as well as more than 200 golf courses from which to choose. That means you can almost play a different course every day of the year, especially if you take weekends off. The list of terrific venues goes on and on, from Troon North's Pinnacle and Monument Courses to Grayhawk Golf Club to The Phoenician to We-Ko-Pa Golf Club. Ideally, you'll want a membership somewhere to avoid paying the triple-digit green fees of the resort courses during peak season, but if you live there year-round and can take the heat, summertime is a bargain. Exceptional modern shopping and dining also make Scottsdale an ideal choice for your golden years.

7. Bluffton, South Carolina

Also on Forbes' top 25 list, Bluffton is between Hilton Head, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., which means you get the golf, dining and recreational opportunities of the entire region. While Bluffton, which sits on a river bluff near the Atlantic Ocean, isn't exactly cheap, it's still a little more affordable than Hilton Head. The average cost of a home in Bluffton is right around $200,000, the climate is warm most of the year and there are plenty of other things to do -- namely fishing, boating, biking and hiking. Bluffton's most notable private clubs include Berkley Hall, Colleton River Plantation Club and Belfair Plantation, while daily fees like May River Golf Club, Old South Golf Links, Hilton Head National Golf Club, Crescent Pointe Golf Club and Eagle's Pointe Golf Club offer plenty of other quality options.

8. Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

With nine golf courses, it doesn't get any better than Hot Springs Villages for golf retirees. It's also a true retirement community, meaning this is where golfers drive off into the sunset. Hot Springs Village has a temperate climate, low cost of living, gorgeous scenery and a variety of sports clubs that also offer boating, kayaking, tennis and other activities. The courses are senior friendly, but will test good players, and the Troon Member Advantage Program keeps rates affordable. Plus, the community has teamed with other area courses in the Ouachita region as part of the Ouachita Sports Trail to offer more options.

9. Georgetown (Sun City), Texas

With 54 holes of high-end championship golf (which is also open to the public) a master-planned community, large activity centers, tennis, walking trails and beautiful scenery, Sun City in Georgetown might be the most complete of the Del Webb communities across the United States. Plus, it's close to the capital city of Austin, one of the most progressive and bustling cities in Texas, offering arts, culture and the University of Texas. The three courses at Sun City include the original Legacy Hills Golf Club, newer Cowan Creek Golf Club and Billy Casper-designed White Wing Golf Club. The only drawback is that Sun City (as well as many retirement communities) doesn't offer a par-3 or executive course, which might be much better suited for many of the community's older residents.

10. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Often overlooked, Gulf Shores has some of the finest beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, terrific dining, affordable housing right on the ocean and a collection of fine golf courses, which also includes the Pensacola area. Here you can get very affordable condos right on the beach, eat some of the finest seafood in the country and enjoy a cost of living that's well below the national average. The area offers everything from coastal links to hillier courses with elevated tees and greens. Featuring some of the best names in the business -- Arnold Palmer Design, Jerry Pate and Earl Stone, for example -- there are more than a dozen courses to choose from in the area, and it's hard to go wrong with any of them. Among the best are Pate's Kiva Dunes, Palmer's Craft Farms and Stone's TimberCreek. And for the young at heart, there's the famous Flora-Bama Lounge located on the Alabama/Florida state line, touted as being America's "Last Great Roadhouse."

9 Min Read
December 10, 2020
Young families in particular sought a safe haven in club memberships in 2020, creating a new dilemma for private golf clubs: Can they find more space on their tee sheets?

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor 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. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

I may be a little prejudice, but I was really shocked to see my retirement golf community was not listed in the top 10 ! I have no idea how many courses we have to choose from, most are even included in the monthly amenity fee without any additional cost, and those not included are very reasonable with summer rates going very low. However, probably nearly 50 courses with no additional charge to chose from. When I looked, even as far a Arizona, N.&S. Carolina, Tenn., etc. etc. I could not find such a variety or a reasonable monthly fee that included the golf !

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Where is your golf community?

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So, Ann, where is your community?

How can Myrtle Beach area not be on your lists?

I agree, as I commented, neither was my community called The Villages of Florida. I have not found any I visited with more golf courses and choices, many with no additional charge other than the regular amenity fee you pay everywhere I looked and only got one or two pools, one or two golf courses, and a recreation center ! ? Some of the places also charged ADDITIONAL to use the golf course(s). I really looked, that's for sure, but never did find anything comparable ! ? I did hear a LOT of negatives about all the courses and low (or no) fees, saying also very difficult to get t-times. I have never found that to be true, but I do admit that I am (probably) a lot more flexible than some who simply can not tolerate NOT getting their preferred day, time and course. I always put in for several courses and get an acceptable time on one of them almost every day !

I would like to find a wonderful golf community to retire in

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Georgetown Texas needs to be taken off your list. The courses are not in good shape at all. If you like to top it off the tee and roll 200 yards this is the place for you

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Interested in finding a nice golf retirement community. I've looked at The Villages in Florida and like it. But I want to visit any similar resorts that have multiple courses to play. Any suggestions?

See my posts above Joe. I am not a plant or employee, just an ordinary person from the midwest who did a LOT of looking, I mean a LOT in a number of states. For me (and it is an individual thing for sure), nothing compared. Probably more than 50 golf courses (?), most with no extra charges over the regular activity fee monthly for all things like tennis, all kinds of lessons, classes, and clubs, swimming pools in nearly every cluster of homes, and all kinds of larger Olympic and recreational pools also. If is perfect, no, traffic can get annoying as EVERY single area (village) has automatic gates at EVERY entrance. We all KNOW they don't actually keep out anyone who really wants to enter, but they can certainly make a mess (at times) with lines of people just trying to turn into your own street or area (but you learn how to avoid this usually....LOL.. once you settle in). Kind of silly, but gives people this idea they are perfectly "safe".... LOL .. when everyone knows there is no such place as "perfectly safe". But to find something comparable, taxes, homestead exemption, no state income tax, no extra fees for golf (or VERY reasonable for a select few Championship courses), could not find a reasonable place comparable !

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Have you considered Myrtle Beach? Has everything that you could ever want. There are many communities with multiple courses, obviously none with as many as The Villages, most top out at around 4. But that's not really an issue as we have close to 100 here in the area along the grand strand. While most are not private (a few of those are options too), If you are like myself who enjoys playing multiple courses there are cards that you can purchase, usually for a couple hundred bucks a year that will allow you to play at huge discounts at most of the courses around the area. Let me know if you would like to talk about information in this area.

Hi Scott,
I heard there are large groups (24-72) that regularly play different courses in Myrtle every Tuesday or every Thursday. are you aware of those by any chance ?

I have lived in the Denver metro area the last 30 plus years, 20 of those a member of a club. The average club in Colorado is 10k plus initiation (many triple that) with $500/dues with at least 3 months of those unplayable due to weather. A year ago, I moved my company to Santee, South Carolina. Commercial real estate is a third of Denver costs. Housing cost are the same. And to top this off I found a a true gem....Santee is the capital of "cost effective" golf. We are 50 minutes either way to Charleston or Columbia airports, with a gated golf community located on one of the largest, best fishing lakes in the country:
Annual household golf fee: $1,300/annually (2 great courses)+ $750 trail fee
Annual boat slip: $275/annually (yes, this is not a typo!)

I have looked at Sun City(AZ), the Villages(FL), and there is no comparison. Great golf, nice community, friendly people, short drive to nice cities. All at a price that I haven't seen since the 1970's. And I just finish playing 36 holes on a 68 degree day in Janauary. I usually don't endorse anything, but I am glad I'm here!

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I just bought in Pinehurst NC. 700+ holes of golf, more golf courses than stoplights! Yet within 75 minutes of an airport with non-stops to Europe, and great college sports in Raleigh-Durham. Beaches, Myrtle, Charleston, Appalachians, Charlotte all within 3 hours. Top regional hospital and heart center. Real estate still a bargain. Oh, I didn't even mention the value of Pinehurst Country Club is (9 courses!); or the USGA events that come through near-annually (upcoming over next few years: US Amateur, US Senior Womens Open, US Open.

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these are the best spot for the retirements that I want to visit for more about retirement plans you can <a href="">visit here</a>

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Mike ... how could you ignore ... Las Vegas?!??I know, I know: people think of Vegas in terms of "The Strip".But the reality is that there's a "real world" outside of the several blocks that constitute The Strip.Within 15 minutes of The Strip are at least 50 (FIFTY!!) golf courses, ranging from the course at which Tiger won his first PGA championship to the iconic Shadow Creek to courses like Bear's Best (a collection of 'famous' holes designed by Jack Nicklaus), from courses that cost $500/round to beautiful, challenging courses that, as a resident, you can get on for as little as $20 (on a Sunday morning, to boot!), from "desert" courses to traditional and "old school" courses, from courses currently part of the PGA tour to ... well, you get the idea.You can play in the desert, you can play in lush grass next to beautiful lakes, on courses designed by everyone from Fazio to Dye to the Golden Bear ....And let's not forget all the other courses that are an hour or less away, such as Wolf Creek in Mesquite or Coyote Springs (between Vegas and Mesquite) and Primm (on the border of Nevada and California).If you're feeling like a travel day, it's only two hours from Vegas to St. George, Utah.

And living in Vegas gives you "locals" pricing for almost everything (including golf), to say nothing of all the world-class, world-famous chefs, restaurants and entertainment (where else, on any given evening, can you have the choice to see the new movie about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys ... or to go see Brian Wilson, himself, performing ... or pop in to see Rod Stewart or Brittany Spears or Katy Perry or John Legend or Elton John or Celine Dion or any of the several Cirque de Soleil shows or go to local music places to catch great entertainers, including many famous ones who just pop in to sing or play for a bit or ....And of course, there's hiking in the nearby mountains and on paths (about 18 minutes from the strip) or going boating or water skiing or snow skiing (yep, in the winter, you can do both on same day in Vegas, since the mountains get snow even when it's 80 degrees in the valley!).And housing prices are remarkably low, with new construction in abundance, to say nothing of all the homes in literally every price range available everywhere.And, since we're focusing on retirement, let's not forget that there are several gorgeous planned residential retirement-type communities in Vegas (e.g., Sun City).

Oh, by the way, did I mention that, of course, you can play golf pretty much 365 days of every year?

Yes, I think Las Vegas should be included in the top 10.

Just my two-cents.;-)

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Mike you missed some of the great private courses that we have here in Scottsdale, AZ. Desert Mountain, Mirabel, Whisper Rock, and DC Ranch are at the top of the list. As well we are a first class medical destination city with the Mayo clinic and hospital as our anchors. We have world class museums,  fabulous restaurants and many year round cost effective attractions to keep a person busy. Adult education and volunteer opportunities are abundant. So Mike any time you wish to come on over glad to show you around.All my best,Don

Thanks, Don... No doubt, great private clubs in Scottsdale. So much to list there.

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Top 10 retirement destinations for golfers