We travel for golf — obviously that’s our No. 1 objective. But golf is only a small portion of any travel day, so where we stay is almost as important as where we play. And in some ways, it might even be more important. Without a doubt, excellent overnight accommodations make any golf getaway more memorable — and over the past year, “Talking GolfGetaways” hosts Darin Bunch and Mitch Laurance experienced their share of exceptional places to stay on journeys across North America and beyond.
In Episode 125 , the hosts try to narrow down the year’s “best of the best” to a Top 9 (which, ultimately, ends up as a Top 11) in the second of our three-part Year in Review series, sponsored by 2UNDR Apparel (use the promo code “GNN20” for 20 percent off your next purchase).
‘A FEW OLD FAVORITES’ — A few of the entries on this Favorite Places to Stay list are well known to “Talking GolfGetaways” listeners — the Stewart Cabin at Tobacco Road in North Carolina, the intricately detailed rooms at Cabot Links on Cape Breton Island and the stylish Mountain Shadows resort in Arizona have all been well-chronicled in previous installments (episodes 105, 81 and 111 respectively). As has Mitch’s summertime trip to Michigan’s Boyne Resort golf empire (Episode 115) where both the Donald Ross Cottages at Boyne Highlands and the Tower Suite at the Inn at Bay Harbor made his list of unforgettable lodging experiences.
‘EL PRESIDENTE’ — One exceptionally high-end lodging option that topped Bunch’s list was the Presidential Suite in The Towers at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort in Cabo San Lucas, complete with butler service, ocean-view VIP Lounge access and room balconies (with two jacuzzi hot tubs) overlooking the pools and the beach stretching all the way up to the dramatically beautiful Quivira Golf Club. From the cherry mojitos upon arrival to the personalized service and accommodations that cater to every detail and desire you can imagine, the Presidential Suite is an ultimate golf-travel experience (albeit quite pricey) that would rank at or near the top of any list of favorites.
‘OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS’ — A completely different, and incredibly unique, overnight experience in the mountains of Montana, just near Glacier National Park, also made this year’s list of the best places Darin stayed — the Izaak Walton Inn. But it wasn’t the historic Inn itself, built next to the railroad yard back in 1939, that caught his attention. Instead, it was the use of railroad train cars as additional lodging that attracted he and his wife to stay in a Great Northern Red Caboose that had been redesigned into tiny-house-style lodging, complete with full bathroom and kitchen, tucked into the alpine setting. Other train cars are also available for overnight rentals, including the GN 441 Locomotive, which can sleep two couples or a small family.
‘TWO TOUCHES O’ SCOTLAND’ — From his September trip criss-crossing Scotland and all its golfing glory, Bunch spotlights two notable overnight destinations, each with a completely different vibe. At the Ballathie House Hotel & Estate, proper country lifestyle is on full display with classic architecture, unique rooms throughout the main house, views of the River Tay (and the salmon fishermen casting about for a fresh catch) and the quality meals (both breakfast and dinner) a traveler would expect from a distinguished property such as this. Add in the close proximity to Blairgowrie Golf Club, with its 36 holes of championship golf plus a par-32 Wee Course, and you have an inland destination that perhaps doesn’t get the headlines of Scotland’s ocean links yet deserves the attention of travelers in search of a different side of Scottish hospitality.
Speaking of the links, Carnoustie is one of the Scotland’s biggest golf draws thanks to its Open rota history. But many travelers don’t realize how much more there is to the resort than just the famed Championship Course. Both the Burnside Course and Buddon Links are fun to play — and are great reasons to book a room at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel. “There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning to the sounds of golfers teeing off on the first hole, listening to the wind whistle and the ocean in the distance,” Bunch says of his room. “If you’re going to do Carnoustie correctly, don’t skimp on the price — book a night at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel, and request that you’re overlooking the golf course.”
‘SPECTACULAR ST. GEORGE’ — A return trip to Utah in 2018 revealed a growing golf resort that is on the verge of achieving bucket-list status. Sand Hollow in spectacular St. George (just down the mountain from picturesque Zion National Park) continues to evolve every year. The 18-hole Championship Course features a dramatic back-nine stretch atop the Virgin River Gorge that often finds golfers spending as much time shooting photos as hitting golf shots. And the nine-hole Links Course brings touches of classic architecture from Scotland and Ireland to the high desert, including stone walls and an emphasis on the fun firm-and-fast ground game. And now with a new clubhouse and variety of lodging, Sand Hollow has jumped to the next level of golf hospitality, especially if you stay in one of the Championship Suites they’ve built, which can sleep anywhere from a foursome to up to 10 if you’re looking to house a big golfing group. “Golfers are finding out about Sand Hollow and how much great golf there is here in St. George,” says Brian Oar, who owns the Utah-based GolfPackagePros.com golf-concierge service (and also regularly experiences great golf courses around the world as a photographer for GolfNewsNet.com and other media outlets across the country). “The golf, the landscape, the adventure opportunities — St. George never disappoints.”
‘LAKESIDE LIVING WITH A GOLF TWIST’ — And, finally, on Darin Bunch’s list of favorite places he stayed in 2018 comes Port Cunnington Lodge in the Muskoka region of Ontario, Canada. The history of this old-school resort dates back to 1890, making it one of the oldest resorts operating under its original name. What brought Darin and his buddies, Eric and Dylan Hart, to Port Cunnington Lodge? Access to Bigwin Island Golf Club in the heart of the Lake of Bays. The private Doug Carrick design is only accessible by boat (you can take a “water taxi” from the lodge), and pretty much the only way to play Bigwin Island Golf Club is by staying at Port Cunnington Lodge and nabbing one of the handful of tee times they are provided during certain times of the year. The resort itself is pure relaxation — swimming, boating, kayaking, trampolining in the lake, game rooms and unforgettable buffet breakfasts and casual fine-dining dinners, all run by a friendly team dedicated to making your lakeside vacation (in one of the many houses or cozy cottages) both soothing and memorable.