Golf has long remained a classic sport, especially in American culture. While playing the major courses is certainly on every golf aficionado’s bucket list, there are plenty of spots worth playing that aren’t as well known. To help you navigate the unfamiliar terrain, here are four courses around the U.S. where you can practice your swing.
Crystal Springs Resort, New Jersey
Few outside of the New York City metro area — and surprisingly few Big Apple residents —know that Crystal Springs is the nation’s second largest golf resort, and that’s a real pity. It’s also ironic. New York is often derided in golf circles for its lack of public courses and golf access, and yet an hour from the Hudson River (and two hours from Philadelphia) sits this collection of 117-holes (four 18-hole, one 27-hole, and two 9-hole courses), which includes Ballyowen, ranked No. 1 in the state by Golfweek, NJ Golf, and Jersey Golfer magazines. Crystal Springs also boasts three hotels, rental condos, a full-service spa, waterpark, huge sports center, village core, and more than a dozen bars and restaurants. This mega-resort — with high quality golf — is within easy driving distance of more than 30 million people, yet you hardly ever hear of it.
Turning Stone, New York
The same is true for New York state’s largest golf resort, Turning Stone — even though it hosted a PGA tournament for four years, won by Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson, plus a charity tournament won by Tiger Woods. The property boasts three impressive 18-hole golf courses by Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones II and Rick Smith, two more 9-holers and a year-round high-tech indoor golf facility with simulators and a golf academy. On top of that, Turning Stone has a fantastic boutique hotel, The Lodge, two large casino hotels, a hunting reserve and 10 restaurants. Located in the middle of the Empire State, Turning Stone is less than a mile from the NY State Thruway, halfway between Albany and Rochester, easily accessible from both airports and just a four-hour drive from New York City. One of the oldest, full-service Indian casino resorts in the nation — and the one with the most golf — Turning Stone also pumped in more than $350 million in improvements a few years ago, so everything feels fresh and up-to-date.
Reynolds Plantation, Georgia
Perhaps the easiest to reach and most luxurious of the hidden gem golf resorts is Georgia’s Reynolds Plantation, just an hour and a half from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. How this fabulous resort stays off the radar of folks outside the South is a bit of a mystery. Reynolds spans 10,000 acres around beautiful Lake Oconee, and all of its five public courses (four 18s and a 27) afford lake frontage, especially the two marquee layouts, Great Waters by Jack Nicklaus and Oconee by Rees Jones — ranked 43 and 62 in the country respectively by Golf Magazine’s Top 100 You Can Play. The other courses are no slouches, either, and the place as a whole holds a long list of big names in golf architecture such as Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp. Besides the golf, the best-kept secret here is the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, a boutique-style resort property that also offers a huge slate of condos, cottages and the seven-room Landings Inn.
Streamsong Resort, Florida
The reason you probably haven’t heard of Streamsong, located in central Florida between Tampa and Orlando, is because it’s brand new — the 216-room full service resort hotel won’t fully open until February 2014. However, there are a dozen very well appointed guest rooms in the Clubhouse, a steak restaurant and two phenomenal golf courses for you to enjoy now. Opened late last year, the Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue courses were ranked first and second among new courses in 2012 by Golf Magazine, and virtually overnight have become the two best public courses in Florida — the state with the most golf courses (1,200-plus). If you’ve heard of Bandon Dunes, the nation’s most acclaimed golf resort, expect something very similar at Streamsong. The terrain here offers a sandy, dunes setting more like the British Isles than anything else in the Sunshine State (complete with caddies), and the courses were designed by Bandon Dunes architects Tom Doak and the duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. But be forewarned, this will not be a hidden gem for long, so make your plans soon.
Photos Courtesy of Larry Lambrecht, The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company LLC and Turning Stone Resort Casino LLC