With autumn around the corner and Christmas just over four months off, timeshare owners lucky enough to get away for the holidays this December will most likely be heading to the world’s top winter sun destinations.
In Europe, Turkey, the Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands are a sure bet for winter golf but for long-haul holidays, America’s varied golf offering is second to none. From the breezy championship course at Pebble Beach in northern California to the palm-lined, parchment-dry courses around Las Vegas, there are world class courses on offer at all the major US timeshare destinations. These are some of our top picks in the US and Canada:
Pebble Beach, California
Links courses are rare and one of the best in the world is the Pebble Beach Golf Links in northern California. Set on the California coast at beautiful Monterey Bay south of San Francisco, Pebble Beach is a top class golf-and-spa destination resort with a variety of good golf courses. Jack Nicklaus famously quipped that if he had one last round of golf to play, he’d play Pebble Beach. Monterey Bay also has an impressive aquarium, and whale watching and wine tours are popular attractions, too.
San Diego, California
While Los Angeles is famous for its beaches and celebrity culture – but not golf – San Diego is one of the US’s most upmarket golf destinations. The sunny beachside city is the sixth largest in the US and offers an unbeatable year-round climate. Not too hot in summer, never too cold or wet in winter, it’s pretty much the perfect golf destination 365 days a year.
Taking into account all the surrounding coastal and inland resorts, San Diego has around 90 courses in all. Its East County (inland) clubs are more “desert” style, because of the topography, and its coastal courses are spectacular. Near Coronado Golf Course, the beach at Coronado is famous for being the location where Marilyn Monroe starred in Some Like It Hot while further north, near Del Mar, Torrey Pines is the only other course that borders the Pacific Ocean, making a round there exhilarating and sometimes a little tricky because of the sea breezes.
A superb choice for a timeshare holiday, as well as golf, downtown San Diego is a charming, surprisingly walkable city in parts. There’s plenty of history and cosmopolitan dining, but its parks and beaches tend to be the real draw for families.
North San Diego is home to one of the area’s most exclusive courses: The Four Seasons Residence Club – Aviara. Designed by Arnold Palmer, the 18-hole, 7,007-yard, par-72 course is sculpted around the natural coastal topography – with water hazards positioned as visual extensions of the nearby lagoon. The club includes a lavish two-storey Spanish-colonial clubhouse with the Argyle Steakhouse and a golf shop. The resort really flies the flag for luxury ownership. It’s set in a stunning green oasis and is arguably one of the most beautiful private residence clubs in the United States.
Las Vegas, Nevada
More than 60 golf courses dot the Las Vegas landscape, and they’re not all championship level, which makes this is a good destination for all skill levels. Jack Nicklaus has stamped his signature on this golf destination, too – Bear’s Best includes a collection of the “best holes” from the courses he has designed all over the world. Desert Pines, as the name suggests, is lined with thousands of pine trees, the water features and palm trees at Rhodes Ranch make it a picturesque course, while The Falls Golf Club offers incredible city views.
Las Vegas is one of the top timeshare destinations in the US, so the choice of accommodation is excellent and available all year round. Hilton Grand Vacations Club has no less than four hotels here, including the Hilton Grand Vacations Club at the Flamingo, a stunning and serene property set in 15-acres close to all the action of the legendary Las Vegas Strip.
Although the climate is pleasantly dry, the mercury just soars in summer, so Las Vegas and Palm Springs are traditionally blue sky escapes for the winter months. This the perfect place to spend a glamorous Christmas Day by the pool.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
It’s known as the "seaside golf capital of the world" for good reason. There are 60 miles of beautiful beaches along the coastline of mid-Atlantic city Myrtle Beach and over 100 courses. It makes a good family holiday base too because of its long “urban” beach, Grand Strand. 14 million visitors head to the area every year, the nightlife and shopping are very good, and there’s always the chance of catching a good show at one of its numerous theatres and entertainment venues.
The Arizona Desert’s glowing orange rocks and dry blue-sky setting makes it a heavenly destination for winter golf. The scenery and wide open breathing spaces are big draws and it’s popular with more mature golfers. Unlike Las Vegas, which combines the excitement of a glittering night-time playground with the awe-inspiring scenery of the Nevada desert, Arizona golf resorts tend to be more low key.
The big five-star vacation clubs have a strong presence in Arizona’s main tourist destinations, including Scottsdale and scenic Sedona. Among the best known hotel brands here include the Four Seasons, Marriott, the Wyndham at Flagstaff, Ritz-Carlton, Diamond Resorts® Scottsdale Villa Mirage and Hyatt.
The golf experience is as varied as the scenery. You could play a round against the backdrop of Sedona’s famous red rocks (they really do glow red-orange at sunrise and sunset) or spend the day on the fairways among the ridges and canyons of the McDowell Mountains’ foothills. Like Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico, the area has a very special serenity about it.
Nobody should leave without experiencing the sheer vastness and scale of one of the world’s most famous natural wonders, The Grand Canyon. Other natural attractions include the Petrified Forest, Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the Painted Desert. There’s nothing better than knowing you have a week or two in which to soak up all that desert sunshine while other parts of the world are knee deep in snow.
A lot of courses have mushroomed over the past decade all over Orlando, bringing the region’s total up to about 160 courses. Some of the best known include Disney’s Osprey Ridge course, PGA tour venue Lake Buena Vista, Jack Nicklaus’s four course Grand Cypress Resort, and the Greg Norman International course at Champions Gate.
Orlando is home to virtually all the major timeshare brands including Florida favourite Disney. Club La Costa Resorts and Hotels also has two properties in the area, Encantada and Regal Oaks.
Top Orlando attractions include Walt Disney World, Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and SeaWorld but there are dozens more. There’s Gatorland, where you can glide across a zip line as you dangle over 130 alligators, or spend an afternoon at the interactive theme park WonderWorks where you’ll be blown away by 71mph hurricane winds and can even design your own roller-coaster.
Greater Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida
Golf Digest magazine named this the third best urban city for golf back in 2002, and the golf offering continues to attract visitors year in, year out. Top courses include Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, the Bobby Jones Golf Complex, the Arnold Palmer designed Legacy Golf Club, Stoneybrook Golf Club designed by Arthur Hills, and dozens more. It also happens to have 100 public courses and is conveniently within easy reach of many of Florida’s top attractions.
Whistler, British Columbia
Heading over to Canada and the ski resort of Whistler in British Columbia, there are three beautiful courses which include Arnold Palmer’s first ever Canadian design project, the Whistler Golf Club as well as the Chateau Whistler Golf Club at the base of Whistler and the Blackcomb Mountains with its fantastic views, and the Jack Nicklaus North Golf Course.