8. Myrtle Beach (South Carolina)
Courses: Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, Dunes Golf & Beach Club, True Blue, Barefoot Resort (Love), Wild Dunes, TPC Myrtle Beach
Best Kept Secret: Crow Creek in Calabash
Full disclosure, I’ve NEVER been to Myrtle Beach. I’ve had two big golf trips set up that got cancelled last minute, one by a hurricane that never hit and another because the group organizing the FAM essentially vanished off the face of the earth. So, I have to take the word of fellow travel experts who tell me there are literally 50 courses in the Myrtle Beach area worth playing. Now, just because I’ve never been there doesn’t mean I don’t have a Myrtle Beach Bucket List. Being a huge Mike Strantz fan, I’ve always wanted to play Caledonia (and True Blue) and anything with the word “Dunes” in it usually is a course I’d love (Bandon Dunes, Mammoth Dunes, Chocolate Dunes). Is it fair for me to have Myrtle Beach in my top 10 never having been there? Sure. Can you imagine the credibility of this list if Myrtle Beach WASN’T on it? So, while I wait for my next invite to (hopefully) get out and cover the best resorts/courses of Myrtle Beach, I encourage you to look into making your own GolfGetaway there. Look, you’re on the Atlantic Ocean. There are hundreds of golf courses in the area and tons of great resorts beyond the Top of the Line ones I mentioned here. I’m convinced I could build a Top 10 Group Golf Getaway out of Myrtle Beach and so could you.
7. Birmingham (Alabama)
Courses: RTJ Golf Trail (Ross Bridge, The Judge, Grand National Links, Grand National Lakes & Silver Lakes), Farmlinks
Best Kept Secret: The Short 9 at Silver Lakes
Birmingham is the HEART of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail — the “Single Best Golf Value on Earth.” If you’ve never been to Alabama or played a course on the RTJ Golf Trail you’re likely in the crowd that asks, “A Trail of 20-plus courses spread over 11 sites all across the state, how good can it really be?” I’ve been there. I was one of those. And then my son and I went on a two-week trip through Alabama where we played all but 90 of the 468 holes on the RTJ Golf Trail. (Only five of the 26 courses left to play.)
Here’s what I can tell you in a paragraph: Most of The Trail can EASILY be accessed by flying into Birmingham or Montgomery. Most of the Trail sites are just off interstates. Most of them are connected to hotels and resorts. In my opinion the best course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is in Birmingham at Ross Bridge, and the Renaissance Hotel there is also my favorite hotel on the Trail. From Ross Bridge you’re just a few miles from the great Ridge Course at Oxmoor Valley, and easy car rides from the three incredible Trail sites at Grand National, Capitol Hill and Silver Lakes. So much finely maintained golf in such a finely connected web — the Trail is truly an unbelievable value and experience for ALL Golf Groups (and is reportedly open for business an average of 363 days a year). It’s so good it deserves to be featured twice on this list, and it is (both times in the Top 10). Birmingham stands out as a getaway base because of a couple of other rounds, Farmlinks at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga and Limestone Springs — two rounds you should be adding to any group itinerary. If there’s any way you can spend a night or two at Farmlinks, do it. The villas are great, the food even better and that par-3 fifth hole will stay locked in your mind for years after your visit.
6. Traverse City (Northern Michigan)
Courses: Forest Dunes, The Loop (Red & Black), Arcadia Bluffs, Bay Harbor (Links/Quarry), Boyne Highlands (Ross, Heather & Hills)
Best Kept Secret: Black Lake
It’s too bad True North went completely private, or this destination would be even more valuable to golf groups. Thanks to “The Loop,” Forest Dunes now has three great championship rounds (they just need a short course!). If it weren’t for the incredible Midwest destination that is Sand Valley, Forest Dunes would be a lot more on the getaway map! Arcadia Bluffs has one of the top two courses in Michigan AND is opening a brand new course this summer. Many call Arcadia Bluffs the “Whistling Straits” of Michigan. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a spectacularly beautiful lakeside piece of land and a true bucket-list play. Beyond Arcadia and Forest Dunes there’s Boyne Resorts trio of properties: Boyne Mountain (with the water park and cool ski village setup), Boyne Highlands (with three stellar courses) and Bay Harbor with the amazing Inn at Bay Harbor and 27 holes of Arthur Hills golf (and 18 more at Crooked Tree across the street). The Links nine is easily the best nine — I’d pay for 27 and play The Links all three times if I could — but The Quarry nine is a visual stunner, too. If you stay/play at Bay Harbor eat at least one meal at Cormack’s Deli (down the street) and try the donuts at Johan’s Pastry Shop. You’ll write me and thank me for both! (Black Lake at the UAW is a little ways away, but it’s a unique and extremely enjoyable Stay & Play if you’re ever up there. With all the remarkable golf I’ve already covered, it’s hard to believe there’s so much more: Belvedere, Pilgrim’s Run (with a great putting course), The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Shanty Creek Resort offer some that should certainly be considered if you’re looking for more high quality options. Fly into Traverse City and I’d recommend staying at Boyne Resorts as much as you can.