Best Winter Golf Trips: 11 underrated trips we’re booking now | courses
There’s something so appealing about being “in the know.” Whether it’s a local food stop, or in our case, a must-play hidden gem, we love to find the lesser-known establishments—and hope others don’t catch on.
In terms of winter golf trip destinations, you can hardly go wrong with one of the many popular choices, including Orlando, Scottsdale, Palm Springs and Myrtle Beach. But if you’re looking to beat the crowds and find a more under-the-radar destination, we’re here to help with this collection of the best underrated golf trips you should take this winter.
Though you’ll be familiar with some of these destinations, they’re often overlooked as golfers opt for bigger-name locals. There are others in this collection that you might never have considered for a winter golf getaway, but their quality courses and warm weather should absolutely have them on your short list.
As the golf season winds down and you start planning your winter escapes, consider these underrated trips. Click around to learn more about each course and read reviews from our course-ranking panelists. We hope you enjoy our searchable course database, Places to Play, our new hub for course reviews, experts’ opinions and star ratings.
Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has many stops worth a trip, but for the colder months, we’d opt to head to the southernmost courses on the Trail, in and around Mobile, where there are two 36-hole facilities.
Avid golfers will recognize Reynolds Lake Oconee, likely for its Great Waters course, which is ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list. Though it might be overshadowed by Sea Island, anyone who has been to Reynolds Lake Oconee and played any of its five courses knows it’s a tough-to-beat destination.
Of course, the golf in Tucson is no hidden secret. That said, it’s often overlooked as golfers flock to Scottsdale, perhaps the premier warm-weather golf destination. If you’re looking to beat the crowds around the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, consider Tucson and its many must-play desert courses.
Amelia Island, Fla.
Given its proximity to Jacksonville, Amelia Island is a convenient option if you’re looking for a Sunshine State alternative to the popular Orlando and Tampa trips that many take. Here’s where you should play on the Northeast Florida coast.
Note: For it’s intriguing design, we’d typically recommend The Golf Club at North Hampton for an Amelia Island trip. In recent years, however, the condition has slipped, so if you head to North Hampton to play, be aware the conditions can be spotty.
Sure, it can get a little cool in Birmingham in the winter, but if you prefer milder temps to the suffocating heat, this might be the trip for you. Birmingham and the surrounding area have no shortage of great golf, including a top RTJ Trail stop, a downtown public gem and scenic resort layout in the foothills of the Appalachians.
Pensacola, Fla./Gulf Shores, Ala.
Between Pensacola and Gulf Shores, there are some fantastic public options that play among the coastal wetlands on the Gulf Coast. Kiva Dunes, in particular, is a must-play on a trip to the area, as it’s ranked on our Best in Alabama list and provides a challenging test on the exposed Fort Morgan Peninsula.
West Point, Miss.
Time will tell how long West Point will remain an underrated destination, but with two courses ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list, it’s tough to find a better one-two punch than Mossy Oak and Old Waverly. Round out your trip at Mississippi State University’s course, a quality college layout that has newly resurfaced greens.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
If you’re willing to drive a little on your golf trip, consider heading to Santa Barbara, where under an hour away you’ll find a Gil Hanse-renovated track and a scenic old-school layout. Throw in Sandpiper Golf Club, which has some of the best Pacific Ocean views around. (Be aware, though, that conditioning at Sandpiper is something the facility is addressing—it has been hit or miss in recent years.)
Note: Although we’d typically recommend Sandpiper Golf Club for any golf trip to Santa Barbara, it’s condition has slipped in recent years. That said, it is worth considering if you’re in the area, given the terrific views of the Pacific Ocean.
Savannah might not have the most compelling golf of all of the destinations on this list, but given its historic downtown and abundance of things to do away from the course, it’s worth considering for your next trip.
Lake Charles, La.
Known for its casinos, Lake Charles offers some quality golf as well, including the recently-opened Mallard Golf Club, inspired by the links courses in Scotland. While in Lake Charles, consider driving north to Koasati Pines, which has long been ranked on our Best in Louisiana list.
Though it’s a 45-minute drive from Lake Charles, we recommend heading up to Koasati Pines, one of our top-ranked courses in Louisiana.
As you can see by now, there are numerous underrated destinations along the Gulf Coast, and Coastal Mississippi may top them all. Around Biloxi, you’ll find a 100 Greatest Public member and a couple other Best in State courses that make this trip a fantastic option, provided you’re up for a little driving.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort offers four layouts that play along the Choctawhatchee Bay, making it a perfect option for a golfer traveling with more beach-minded friends and family. There are several other worthy layouts in and around Destin that should complete your trip to the Florida Panhandle.
Though it’s about a 40-minute drive from Destin, Windswept Dunes is a hidden gem that shouldn’t be overlooked on a trip to Northwest Florida. If you’re able to make the drive, we recommend a round at this serene layout that plays through white sand dunes.