Bill Hogan, Senior Vice President of Sales for bespoke golf travel company Garmany Golf, who has played in over 60 countries during his career, and is one of the foremost authorities in the world when it comes to golf and travel, has picked out the top destinations for travelling golfers to put on their bucket list for 2019.
Vietnam takes your breath away with its beauty, history, culture, and a growing list of great golf courses. There are few places anywhere, especially in Asia, where all those assets sit so closely together. Courses like Hoiana Shores and Greg Norman’s newly opened Kam Ranh are special and there are a number of other great ones. Visitors have to balance their time among jungle resorts, beach resorts, and the cities, north and south, with good golf in all three environs. Plus, the amazing food and value: Vietnam is about a third the price of many international destinations.
Not as well-known as the other golf-rich regions of the Emerald Isle, the Northwest offers at least a week’s worth of fantastic courses separated by magnificent vistas and all wrapped in the unique experience that is Ireland. There’s little in the world to match the rumpled topography of Ballyliffin, with two courses that you’ll think have been there forever but are surprisingly recent. Plus, County Sligo, Carne, Enniscrone – unforgettable courses like those run all along the Wild Atlantic Way from Shannon to the country’s northern tip. Time seems to move a little slower and quality of life is the most important measure. Locals will warmly invite you to join them for a pint – and many still speak Gaelic, adding to the authenticity of the experience.
The land of cheeseheads and bratwurst has emerged as a golf destination, which is not surprising when considering its pedigree. Golfers can play courses that have hosted the Ryder Cup, US Open Championship, PGA Championship and US Women’s Open. Erin Hills, just 45 minutes from the Milwaukee Airport, is the starting point. From there, take in Sand Valley, with a magnificent Coore-Crenshaw layout, only to be surpassed by its sister property and one of the most fun courses to emerge in years, David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes. And no Wisconsin pilgrimage is complete without a stop in Kohler, with luxury accommodations at the American Club, as well as Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, courses sure to be on any ‘must play’ list, as is a frosty mug or two of Spotted Cow beer.
From catacombs to battlegrounds to vineyards, France is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world and has the golf experiences to complement the setting. The 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National is just the beginning. With Paris as the epicenter of international culture (museums, cuisine, shopping) and luxury lodging, it’s hard to fathom that also there are six world-caliber golf courses within driving distance – and they are only the start. From Provence and its stunning Terre Blanche Resort, to Burgundy, Normandy, and Champagne, France offers an abundance of riches for the golf traveler.
There is nothing like the combination of great golf and unforgettable safari parks, and nowhere better to enjoy them than South Africa, concentrating around Cape Town and along the East Cape’s beautiful Garden Route. Courses like the Links at Fancourt, Leopard Creek, St Francis Links, and Pearl Valley Golf Estate (one of Jack Nicklaus’ best) show off the highlights of this country’s proud golf traditions. When it comes time to see the animals, smaller private parks like Shamwari and Royal Malewane are luxurious and intimate. South Africa is also breathtakingly beautiful, from mountains to valleys and expansive seascapes, while famous for its farm-to-table cuisine and local wines. Every visit is a feast for all the senses.
Golf has a long history in New Zealand, but it’s become a bucket list destination for travelers in just the past few decades, thanks to a handful of unbelievably luxurious yet comfortable golf lodges. No doubt you’ve seen photographs of heart-stopping Kauri Cliffs near the top of the North Island, plus Tom Doak’s brilliant cliff-top Cape Kidnappers: Both are must-play courses adjacent to outstanding accommodations that also feature the best native cuisine and world-famous local wines. Other extraordinary lodges—like Matakauri and Huka Lodge, both with great golf nearby—are further reason to make this once-in-a-lifetime journey. And if there’s a more beautiful country on earth, we want to know about it.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Nothing in these neighboring Middle Eastern emirates is modest or understated, but the sheer audacity is a big reason for going. This is the land of superlatives, with the world’s biggest building, longest hotel, and often the most expensive … everything. They brag about having “six-star” hotels and they’re right, with priceless art and artifacts, price-is-no-object shopping, and such over-the-top amenities as a vending machine that dispenses gold ingots. It has to be seen to believed, which is also true of the golf courses – oases carved out of the desert and immaculately maintained, thanks to limitless budgets (and desalination plants). Many of the courses are really quite good, including the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where the European Tour plays every year, and Yaz Links, which looks and plays like a Scottish links (think Kingsbarns without the water) and just might be the best golf experience between the UK and Australia.
Australia (Melbourne & Tasmania)
Quite simply, there may not be a better concentration of great golf courses anywhere in the world than on Australia’s Sand Belt around Melbourne. Their names are legendary: Royal Melbourne (2019 Presidents Cup venue), Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria, Yarra Yarra, Huntingdale, and on and on. The land is ideal for golf and legendary designers like Alister MacKenzie have left a healthy handful of monuments to architectural greatness. If you’re already making the trip, don’t miss one of the world’s newest and most exciting golf attractions, Tasmania, a short flight away to Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farm, and Cape Wickham. This is golf at its best, purest, and surprisingly accessible, further enriched by food, wine, and the friendly, easy-going Aussies.
When people talk about golf in Asia, they usually refer to China and Japan, both of which offer interesting, exciting experiences. But to truly understand and enjoy lush and lavish, the place to go is Korea. It will blow you away with the most elaborate and no-cost-spared clubhouses, attentive service, and have-to-be-seen-to-be-believed courses built on mountains and islands and furnished with everything from outdoor art collections to working teahouses and bottomless wine cellars. The courses are incredible: From Nine Bridges on Jeju Island (as well as its sister course outside of Seoul), to Whistling Rock in the mountainous resort region of Chuncheon, and South Cape along the country’s southern coast, no expense was spared. Korea offers much more than golf, notably beautiful scenery, exotic dining, and history both ancient and modern. Seoul is one of the most vibrant, technologically-advanced cities in the world, and very close to the fascinating DMZ, which should not be missed.
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