Fall can bring out the best of golf travel.
Families are gone with the kids back in school. Hotels and tee sheets are generally a little more accessible, and that means discounts to lure you to visit. Plus, if you time it right, the changing of the leaves can be a sight to behold.
But there are risks. The weather can turn on you in an instant. Hurricanes are a concern from the Gulf Coast in Texas all the way up the East Coast. Aeration and overseed schedules in popular vacation stops like California's Coachella Valley and Las Vegas can impact conditions. Shorter days leave fewer tee times.
Using our story on the World Top 100 Golf Destinations as a guide, we can steer you in the right direction. The pandemic has created unique challenges this fall for certain destinations that we might normally recommend:
- California's Monterey Peninsula would normally be a perfect choice, but Pebble Beach Resorts are booked solid until Christmas.
- Hawaii's governor has asked tourists to stay away through October.
- The Ryder Cup's 2020 postponement means Whistling Straits will be busy hosting golf's grandest stage this fall, likely taking Kohler and Milwaukee out of consideration for many travelers.
- Delta variant outbreaks are happening in various areas of the Sun Belt.
So with the unique dynamics of travel in 2021 in mind, here are 10 worthy places across America, all from our list:
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Once summer's heat has faded, Pinehurst transitions into the ideal escape. There are probably 20 must-see courses, so you really can't go wrong where you play. These courses and the charming, walkable downtown add up to a winning combination. In downtown Pinehurst, golfers split their time between a brewery; the Pine Crest Inn, where you can chip shots into a fireplace; and boutique shopping for trinkets of the game.
What are some of your favorite fall golf destinations? Let us know in the comments below.
San Diego, California
San Diego's weather is never out of season. If it's guaranteed sun you seek, this is the place. You will pay a premium for resort courses like Torrey Pines, where the South Course is fresh off a fantastic 2021 U.S. Open, and the 36 holes at Omni La Costa, but there are plenty of other gems like Maderas to mix things up.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Fall is prime time in Myrtle Beach, sometimes to the point where double teeing happens on each nine. Conditions should be elite. I'd recommend hitting one or two bucket-list choices (like Tidewater or Barefoot Resort's four courses), while mixing in other mid-tier-priced courses to keep the trip within a reasonable budget. You can always come back.
Charleston & Kiawah Island, South Carolina
It's been a good year for Lowcountry golf. Phil Mickelson won a memorable PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Both Kiawah Island and Wild Dunes, Charleston's best golf resort, have added new accommodations to wow new and returning guests.
San Francisco Bay Area, California
The San Francisco Bay Area offers all sorts of different styles of golf and micro-climates. The headliners are the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, where Collin Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship, and CordeValle, a former host of a Tour event and a U.S. Women's Open in San Martin. Napa Valley's Silverado Resort hosts a fall Tour event that features free concerts. East Bay (Wente Vineyards in Livermore) and South Bay (Cinnabar Hills in San Jose) are sunnier than the peninsula (Presidio and Half Moon Bay) and Santa Cruz (Pasatiempo).
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
On island or off? That is the question that must be answered during the planning stages. Sure, the island has all the beaches and fun hangout spots, plus the iconic Harbour Town Golf Links. The mainland counters with a strong collection of courses in Bluffton. If you can't afford staying at the Montage Palmetto Bluff to play May River, that's okay. Old South might be the poor man's version at one-third the price but still quite scenic and enjoyable.
The Big Cedar Lodge has been building toward this moment, adding Payne's Valley by Tiger Woods last fall and new accommodations (a revamped hotel and cottages) this spring. Don't forget that Branson has other more affordable courses, too. This is a great drive-in market for many in the Midwest whose golf seasons end too early for their liking.
Blue Ridge Mountains
Although Asheville is perhaps the most well-known hub, the Blue Ridge Mountains extend from Virginia down to northern Georgia. The season is shorter at elevation, so don't delay if you're interested in teeing it up. But the reward could be jaw-dropping fall colors. Anchor resorts include the North Carolina's Omni Grove Park Inn and Virginia's Primland and Omni Homestead.
Texas Hill Country
Located between San Antonio and Austin, Texas Hill Country might be perfect for any sort of buddies trips - groups who love college football (Austin), want to check off tourist traps (the Alamo and River Walk in San Antonio) or golf until they drop (72 holes at Omni Barton Creek, 36 at La Cantera and JW Marriott San Antonio).
Really, all of New England provides the opportunity for spectacular fall golf when the leaves are changing, but Maine was the only regional state to make our World Top 100 list. Coastal courses (think Samoset) and mountain courses (Sugarloaf) deliver the yin and yang for a nice long weekend if you're willing to drive a bit between courses. If not, pick one experience or the other to have a good time.