9 places you should play golf this spring

pinehurst resort

Pinehurst Resort, anyone?

Chip Henderson

Ready for a spring golf trip? Of course you are, and our spring trips package has you covered. Through the next week, our experts will name their top destinations, value spots, favorite resorts and more for spring getaways, all with the goal to educate — and motivate — you for your next trip. So read up, grab your family, tell your friends and book your next unforgettable golf trip right now.

MORE: 8 budget-friendly spring destinations | 10 golf resorts you should visit this spring

What’s your favorite/go-to spring golf location, and why?

Josh Sens, GOLF senior writer, course panelist: Springtime in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area is hard to beat. Ideal weather. Primo course conditions. A zillion places to stay and play. And if you time it right in April, you can double it up with the Coachella Music Festival. My favorite public-access course is probably the Stadium Course at PGA West (if you like Pete Dye, you’ll love it), but there are many others, including Shadow Ridge (a sneaky good course attached to a Marriott); and Terra Lago (36 holes in Indio; used to host the Skins Game in that innocent, pre-Twitter age when that event was a fixture of Thanksgiving weekend). The Mountain Course at La Quinta is another fun option. Core golf in a scenic setting, right up against the mountains. Food-wise, you could spend a fortune at all sorts of mediocre surf-and-turf chains. I’d steer clear of anything with a branded big-name on it and stick to local taco stands and diners. There are plenty of those. Oh, and Indian Wells Golf Resort is another solid option. Another former Skins venue with 36 holes and a nice hotel on the grounds.

The 17th at the Stadium Course at PGA West. Getty Images

Hal Phillips, course panelist: If air travel isn’t in the cards, the only choice for my Northeasterners and me is Cape Cod, with its sandy soils and the warm, winter-tempering Gulf Stream lapping its southern shore 24/7/365. The snow doesn’t stick much on the Cape, so one can technically play strategically/episodically all winter long. But come March and April, most every course is open and even some privates are accessible to those with the will to play, a knit cap and maybe a flask. Last time my golf mates and I made a Cape run, however, we didn’t even pass over the Cape Cod Canal. Instead, we found a lovely Airbnb/house in Plymouth, some 10 miles from the bridges. America’s Home Town and its bustling downtown aren’t so nakedly touristy; they never close down for the season, and there are half a dozen superb public course options nearby: Waverly Oaks, Pinehills, Crosswinds, Atlantic Country Club and the semi-private Plymouth CC. You like live music? Check out the New World Tavern on the main drag. For old-world Italian fare, check out Mamma Mia’s on the Waterfront.

Josh Berhow, GOLF managing editor: Hilton Head Island. I went there for the first time back in 2015 and have raved about it since. It was in the spring, so the weather was great (and the prices are cheaper that time of year). What I loved was the combination of great golf and awesome restaurants. There’s a ton of shopping too, so if it’s more of a family or couples trip than a buddies trip, there’s plenty to do beyond play golf. But don’t take it from me, take it from Jon Rahm, who said this a couple of weeks ago when talking about the RBC Heritage, played annually on Hilton Head. “I think my wife Kelley loved that event more than I did,” Rahm said. “She had such a good time in Hilton Head Island. I didn’t play bad, but I think I have some unfinished business on that golf course. Again, unbelievable quality golf course with a lot of history.” But besides the good food, shops and beaches, there’s a lot of lodging options, whether you want something fancy like Sea Pines Resort (which is the home of Harbour Town, where the RBC Heritage is played) or more affordable Airbnbs in the area. There’s both. As for the golf, Harbour Town is expensive, but I put it among a small group of pricy courses where it’s worth to knock it out once. It’s a classic with tree-lined fairways and small greens, and its finishing stretch — particularly Nos. 13-18 — is one of the best I’ve played. The 17th is one of coolest par-3s around and the 18th is one of the most iconic holes in golf. I also enjoyed playing Heron Point, and Atlantic Dunes, which I haven’t seen yet, looks as good or better. The Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes is a great option, and the Bear Creek Golf Club is another solid choice, and one that won’t hurt your wallet quite as much. There are about two dozen courses on the island alone — plus several more within driving distance in a golf-rich state — so there’s a ton of options for all kinds of price ranges.

The 16th green and 17th hole at Harbour Town. The Sea Pines Resort/Rob Tipton

Jessica Marksbury, GOLF senior editor: As a full-time resident, I’m a little biased, but it’s tough to beat Phoenix/Scottsdale in the spring. The weather is almost always perfect — 80s and even 90s starting in April — and there’s so much to do for the whole family. Hiking, swimming, parks, and of course, Spring Training for baseball fans. On the golf front, you have great options like Troon North, TPC Scottsdale, Talking Stick, We-Ko-Pa, the Phoenician, Camelback, Papago … the list goes on! It can be pricey during the high season, so I also have some local daily-fee favorites like Scottsdale Silverado, Lookout Mountain and the super-fun par-3 course at Mountain Shadows. Honestly though, when you’re escaping a cold climate for the sunshine of Arizona, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong.

Steve Lapper, course panelist: In a vacuum, Pinehurst, N.C., or Streamsong, in Fla., would share the top spot for a spring golf buddies’ trip. Easy in-and-out airports with less than 90-minute drives, good food and lodging and a choice of top-notch courses. Just one caveat, and it’s a big one, especially on short notice: bookings can be scarce. Last-minute cancelations do happen, though, so it’s worth a shot. Pinehurst offers better value so long as you aren’t looking only for rounds on the two marquee courses, Nos. 2 and 4. Beyond Pinehurst Resort, Pine Needles, Mid Pines or Southern Pines are worth every cent and should absolutely be paired with a go-round on the Cradle and Thistle Du (free!). Throw in a round at Tobacco Road or Pinehurst 3 or 8, and you have yourself the closest thing to a Bandon experience east of Oregon. Lodging options are plentiful. Be sure to visit the Pinehurst Brew Pub and squeeze in with the locals at the Track Restaurant or Village Cafe. In a few years, the World Golf Hall of Fame and USGA adjunct museum along with a Tom Doak original design will make this N.C. area even more compelling.

The 16th at The Teeth of the Dog. Courtesy Photo

Bill Hogan, course panelist: My favorite place to visit in the spring is the Dominican Republic. I like to tell people it’s Hawaii at half the price, and the golf is really terrific. I like the all-inclusive nature at Casa de Campo and the Punta Cana Resort, and there’s nothing better than the fantastic Tortuga Bay Hotel. Golf at Corales, Punta Espada, and Teeth of the Dog is as good as it gets. The weather is always in the 80s and it’s much easier to get to than many tropical destinations thanks to lots of non-stop flights to Punta Cana.

Luke Reese, course panelist: This may seem strange to be classified as a spring golf trip, but hear me out — Wales. Yes, Wales. Pennard. Tenby. Southerndown. Royal Porthcawl. St. Davids. These courses would be raved about and in the regular tourist rotation if they were near St. Andrews. Flights to London are easy and Wales is about a three-hour drive from Heathrow. Maybe stop in London and try to play one of the greats your first day. The golf tourists haven’t even thought about going there yet. Courses will be empty and the price is right. The average high temperature in March in Wales is about 52 degrees and it will rain every third day. Bring a rain jacket and rain suit, some rain gloves and some bright yellow golf balls. You’ll be set. World class golf all to yourself. So, yes, go to Wales, play 36 a day, eat shepard’s pie and drink beers in a local pub. I’m calling United already.

The South Course at Torrey Pines. USGA/Kirk H. Owens

James Colgan, GOLF assistant editor: Pinehurst is a wonderful location — particularly in the spring — and earns my vote for the travelers seeking an all-inclusive vibe. But for the adventurer, why not take a gander around my favorite area to visit in these continental United States: SoCal! The San Diego area is light on the kind of must-play classics the architecture hardos on this list adore, but it’s heavy on the beachy, vacation vibe (and delicious food) that makes for happy visitors. Those with a rental car can venture out to Los Verdes, Pelican Hill, Oak Quarry and Soule Park within a few hours, while the crown jewel of them all — Torrey Pines — lives just a few minutes away.

Will Davenport, course panelist: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, is quickly becoming one of my favorite golf getaways. While Casa de Campo gets all the attention, Punta Cana has great courses, food, beach, fishing and more. Not to mention, you are about 500 yards from the PUJ airport to the Puntacana Resort & Club, which houses PGA Tour venue Corales Golf Course, as well as the indulgent Tortuga Bay Hotel. If you are going with a group of 5-plus, there are also some fantastic Airbnbs/villa rentals at the resort, many of which include a full-time chef and housekeeper (all for much less than you might think). While there is plenty to do within the resort, heading down the road to play Punta Espada is well worth it, with some of the most picturesque holes in the Caribbean. And if Teeth of the Dog is on the bucket list, a day trip to Casa de Campo is comfortably within reach.

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