Dear Joe: I turn 50 in March, and I’d like to play a nice course or two outside Texas. I prefer warm climates and a memorable location. What say you? — G. Mark Bowen, Midland, Tex.
Get out of dry, dusty West Texas and go east, young man — to Charleston, S.C. Few destinations combine authentic Southern charm, a double dose of American history (Revolutionary and Civil War battles raged here), and must-play trophy courses in one handsome package. March temperatures average 62 to 72 degrees for highs and 48 to 55 for lows, so go late in the month. I suggest you make your birthday round special and play it at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort ($270-$370; 843-266-4670, kiawahresort.com). The Pete Dye masterpiece, ranked No. 5 in our Top 100 Courses You Can Play, was the brawny, beautiful host of the unforgettable “War by the Shore” 1991 Ryder Cup. Dye has since softened the layout several times, and it witnessed Rory McIlroy’s eight-shot win at the 2012 PGA Championship. Tidal marshland carries, grass- and scrub-topped coastal dunes and a finishing stretch along the Atlantic will all reel you in. Unwind at the resort’s superb Sanctuary Hotel, a Platinum Medal winner in our 2014-15 Premier Resorts Awards. Kiawah’s four other courses are also worthy, but do make time for downtown Charleston. The architectural, culinary, aesthetic and cultural attractions there are a perfect fit for a special occasion.
Hey Travelin’ Joe: I’ll be in College Station, Texas, for a few days and would like to know the best couple of places to play. — Vince Colace, Naples, Fla.
You’ll no longer run into former Texas A&M great “Johnny Football,” a single-digit stick, now that Mr. Manziel has taken his talents to Cleveland. What you will find are several worthy layouts not far from the university. Start with the Traditions Club ($80-$127; 979-779-1007, traditionsclub.com) in nearby Bryan, the home course for the Aggies. Technically, this Jack Nicklaus/Jack Nicklaus II Signature design, which rolls through the hardwoods of the Brazos Valley, is private. However, stay-and-play packages in the on-site cottages and casitas provide tee-time access as well as private-club facility-use privileges. Even closer to game-day action is the Campus Course at Texas A&M ($24-$49; 979-845-1723, tamucampuscourse.com). In 2013, architect Jeff Blume, Class of ′89, redesigned a flat, tired 1950 Ralph Plummer creation into a walkable, 7,008-yard, par-71 test that overflows with character, bunkers and value.
PLAY NEAR THE PROS
Who says the season doesn’t truly start until the Masters? March is packed with great golf, as six PGA Tour events start or finish this very month. If you want to tee it up near the Tour stop you’re visiting, here’s where you can go to play hooky.
PGA Tour Event: The Honda Classic (Feb. 26-March 1), PGA National (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Best Bet Nearby: North Palm Beach Country Club, North Palm Beach. Once a Golden Age great, this muni saw a Jack Nicklaus makeover in 2006 that yielded roller-coaster greens and handsome holes on the Intracoastal Waterway. ($35-$115; 561-691-3433, npbcc.org)
PGA Tour Event: Puerto Rico Open (March 5-8), Trump International (Championship), Rio Grande, P.R.
Best Bet Nearby: Dorado Beach (East), Dorado. The Robert Trent Jones Sr. classic was restored by Jones’s eldest son, Bobby, in 2011. The double-dogleg par-5 fourth, with its Atlantic Ocean backdrop, is an outstanding risk/reward test. ($105-$255; 787-626-1010, doradobeachclub.com)
PGA Tour Event: WGC-Cadillac Championships (March 5-8), Trump National Doral Miami, Miami, Fla.
Best Bet Nearby: Turnberry Isle (Soffer), Aventura. This rugged, lake-drenched Raymond Floyd redesign is best known for its par-5 18th island green. You have to stay here to play here, but it’s worth the price. ($100-$295; 305-933-6929, turnberryislemiami.com)
PGA Tour Event: Valspar Championship (March 12-15), Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), Palm Harbor, Fla.
Best Bet Nearby: TPC Tampa Bay, Lutz. Bobby Weed’s creation has been praised by the likes of stalwart designers Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf. Lakes, wetlands and speedy, elevated greens add to the challenge. ($75-$165; 813-949-0090, tpctampabay.com)
PGA Tour Event: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard (March 19-22), Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Fla.
Best Bet Nearby: Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World, Orlando. Yes, the name is a mouthful, but the course is a handful—in a good way. A Tom Fazio redesign of his old Osprey Ridge course (a popular Disney track), the layout features handsome yet treacherous water hazards, undulating terrain and dense, ball-stealing shrubbery. ($75-$195; 407-313-7777, fourseasons.com/orlando)
PGA Tour Event: Valero Texas Open (March 26-29), TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks), San Antonio, Tex.
Best Bet Nearby: The Hill Country Golf Club at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio. This 27-hole Arthur Hills design once known as Hyatt Hill Country is a delightful journey through an oak-studded acreage crisscrossed by streams and lakes. ($69-$150; 210-520-4040, hyatthillcountrygolf.com)