May 20, 2022
10 budget-friendly golf trips you should take this spring | Courses

Is there a better activity as a golfer in the winter months than plotting your next golf trip? If you’re like us, you’re dreaming of booking a trip for the spring right now. Though many courses and resorts are booking up, there are still plenty of great options worth considering.

We’ve compiled this list, curated with help from our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR specifically for golfers on a budget—identifying destinations with a plethora of options for every level of player.

Myrtle Beach is the Holy Grail of budget golf trips. Your dollar will go far in terms of lodging and nightlife—but the golf is endless and really good (one report states 120 courses open for operation on the Grand Strand … but it’s more if you include surrounding North Carolina courses).

Though courses like Caledonia and True Blue, or all four at Barefoot Resort, are priorities if they fit into your itinerary, golfers on a budget might build their trips around these Myrtle Beach spots:

The Legends Golf Resort is a popular destination for anyone looking for a stay-and-play option. On-site, two- or three-bedroom “villas” provide access to three courses—Heathland, Moorland and Parkland—which all made Golf Digest’s “Sixty Best” in Myrtle Beach ranking in 2010. Staying at the Legends also provides access to The Heritage Club, a semi-private Dan Maples design in Pawleys Island, and Oyster Bay Golf Links, which is just over the border in North Carolina (and also a member of our 2010 ranking of Myrtle’s best). If you’re looking to make planning easy, the Legends is a solid option. Another benefit of doing the stay-and-play at Legends: You can enjoy the on-site Ailsa Pub, which Golf Digest ranked one of its best 19th hole bars. If you’re looking for a couple of other close courses, Myrtle Beach National has three courses just around the corner from Legends.

If proximity to Myrtle’s nightlife is a factor, we recommend the Myrtlewood Villas & Golf Resort, located across the road from Broadway on the Beach (where many bars, restaurants are). Myrtlewood has two courses on-site, Pine Hills and Palmetto (above). Pine Hills was renovated by Arthur Hills in 1993 and demands precision on tee shots and approaches with rolling terrain and good movement to each hole. The Palmetto course is a bit more benign tee to green but features a challenging 18th hole, with the Intracoastal Waterway all up the left side.

Staying in a central location in Myrtle makes it easy to get to courses on both ends of town (it’s about an hour drive from North Myrtle down to Pawleys Island). Check out our list of the best courses in South Carolina to help plan.

For decent options closeby to Myrtlewood, Pine Lakes Country Club (above), aka the Granddaddy, is a must. Pine Lakes is the oldest course in Myrtle Beach, built in 1927 by the first PGA of America president Robert White, and is a fun layout with some good design variety.

Any serious spring-golf articles should highlight one of the most golf-rich meccas in the U.S. The courses at Pinehurst are already on your radar, but in terms of budget golf, there are some of the best options on the East Coast.

Southern Pines is one of the best recent public golf restorations after Kyle Franz’s work was completed last year. One of the first Donald Ross original designs, Franz examined Ross blueprints to restore his signature greens, reconfiguring some for the game’s modern green speeds. Again, for less than $200 at peak on weekends, Southern Pines should be on every golfer’s list visiting the area.

Another recent Franz renovation is Mid Pines Golf Club, another Ross original, which sits at No. 93 on Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public. Franz worked on the crew in revitalizing Pinehurst No. 2 under Coore and Crenshaw and adapted those motifs into his 2013 renovation. Mid Pines is a must-play, as is Pine Needles, which is ranked even higher on our 100 Greatest Public (73rd). Pine Needles—which also underwent a recent renovation by John Fought—will host the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open, so a trip in the spring will allow you to play the course the pros play in the summer.

And of course, one of our favorites in the area is Tobacco Road, the quirky but invigorating Mike Strantz design that sits at No. 49 on our 100 Greatest Public list. Though blind shots and unorthodox hole designs puzzle first-timers (and regulars), it’s one of the most fun courses if you embrace the unique challenge. As our Architecture Emeritus Ron Whitten once wrote: “Each hole looks intimidating from the tee but reveals plenty of elbow room for tee shots and approaches, as well as spin-outs and crash landings.” Go see it for yourself.

Florida is an automatic in terms of cold-weather golf destinations. The only question is where to head to in the Sunshine State?

If you’re talking about budget trips, Orlando should be near the top of your list. There are few places in the state with such an abundance of solid golf. Some of it is more expensive than others (Streamsong, though closer to Tampa, is the highest-ranked option with three layouts on our Second 100 Greatest list, but might be out of the budget of value-seekers). We have done some work to find the most cost-effective places for your Florida trips.

The Mission Inn Resort and Club is one of Orlando’s best, under-the-radar spots. The Campeón and Las Colinas courses are regularly under $100 and are two challenging but fair designs. The PGA Tour Latinoamerica Q-school was hosted at Mission Inn in the fall, and both courses have hosted a litany of other events. The resort at Mission Inn offers Spanish-style villas and decors—adding nice variety compared to typical golf lodging options.

One of those more typical lodging options would be the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando. You’re centrally located in Orlando here, making it easy to get to any of Orlando’s good golf options. Right on site is Shingle Creek (above), which was renovated in 2017 by Thad Layton, lead designer of the Arnold Palmer group. Shingle Creek is a fun but challenging layout (tipping out at 7,200 yards) with thoughtful green designs and bunkering with some reachable par 4s and par 5s.

A natural for any Orlando trip is getting to the Disney area, and even if the theme parks aren’t a part of your itinerary, all the golf at Disney is worth playing. The Magnolia Course (above) was the host of a PGA Tour event for decades.

One more lodging option worth mentioning: Golfbreaks has curated homes and villas in the Orlando area with close proximity to a couple other Orlando options worth playing. Both Greg Norman courses at the Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate—including the International course, the National and the par-3 Champions course—were all renovated in the past five years. Hawk’s Landing, located at the Marriott Orlando World Center, has been a go-to for Orlando goers for years. And there are dozens of other options worth trying to play, including the courses at Orange County National, also a longtime host of Q-schools, and of course Bay Hill, which wouldn’t be included in a “budget” type of itinerary, but a necessary mention in Orlando golf articles.

South Beach and ‘budget’ are usually not in the same sentence. But when it comes to golf, you can put together an affordable trip that’s worth taking.

A favorite of many Miami goers is the Shula’s Hotel and Golf Club, located about 25 minutes from downtown, which provides access to the Senator course (above). Any NFL fan will appreciate the nods to Shula’s 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only perfect team in football history. Another course worth tacking onto an itinerary is the International Links Melreese Country Club. Located minutes away from the airport, it’s the perfect course to tack onto the first or last day of your trip.

On the upper-end of golf vacations you can take, we’re here to provide some alternative ways to visit one of the nation’s best golf destinations.

The villas at Kiawah are a cheaper way to do Kiawah, rather than the five-star Sanctuary Hotel (which, of course, we’d recommend for those who can afford it). Staying at the villas allows you to build some of Kiawah’s other courses into your itinerary, and there are always decent stay-and-play options to explore. (Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR has done the work for you, contact them for more.)

Of course, you know the Ocean Course, which hosted last year’s PGA Championship in addition to the 2011 PGA and 1991 Ryder Cup. One of Pete Dye’s best designs is worth trying to build into your trip, though there are four other great courses worth playing, too.

In a soon-to-be-released Best Places You Can Play in South Carolina, three of the remaining four courses appear in our top 25.

Osprey Point ​​underwent a renovation in 2014 by Tom Fazio. Several holes at Osprey Point run parallel to water hazards and deep bunkers provide ample defense against greens of varying sizes.

Cougar Point was also renovated recently, by Gary Player’s team in 2017, and it reopened as a brand-new marshland course design at Kiawah Island Resort. Generous fairways and vast greens coupled with risk-reward par 5s and abundant water hazards make this golf course extremely playable.

The Turtle Point course at Kiawah Island was regrassed in 2016 and underwent a Jack Nicklaus renovation, with all bunkers reconstructed.

Oak Point is the fifth course on the resort and worth playing while you’re staying at Kiawah Island. It underwent a renovation in 2015 and more on the affordable end.

Though Kiawah Island will be on the minds of anyone heading to Charleston, there is worthwhile golf closer to the city that is worth playing.

We highly recommend trying to get to Charleston Municipal, which reopened in October 2020 after an extensive renovation by designer Troy Miller, who completely rebuilt the 1929 J.M. Whitsett municipal course. Miller accented the design with Seth Raynor template greens and steep bunkers and shaping, a reference to Raynor’s work at nearby C.C. of Charleston and Yeamans Hall.

We recommend the Wild Dunes Resort (above), which is about 30 minutes from downtown Charleston in Isle of Palms. For golfers, it’s a great hub to your Charleston golf trip, featuring two 18-hole courses designed by Tom Fazio—the Links and the Harbor.

The Links (above) was one of Fazio’s first solo designs, and though a storm forced the rerouting of some holes on the back, it now ends on the picturesque par 3 right on the water.

The Harbor Course is not long, tipping out at just under 6,400 yards, but can challenge better players with a number of tight driving corridors and approach shots. A number of holes right on the Intracoastal Waterway provide a worthwhile second course at Wild Dunes.

For other worthwhile Charleston options, Charleston National is a popular addition to most itineraries. This Rees Jones semi-private course, located about 20 minutes from downtown, is carved through natural wetlands, lagoons, pine and oak-tree forests.

Just a few turns away in Mount Pleasant is another worthwhile addition, RiverTowne Country Club, is an Arnold Palmer Signature design that has hosted LPGA Tour events in the past.

If we’re writing about Charleston and Kiawah, we need to include Sea Island, one of golf’s most relaxing getaways. The recently constructed Inn at Sea Island provides a more cost-effective option with access to Sea Island’s three award-winning courses.

Scottsdale is a perfect destination throughout the year but especially in the winter. Scottsdale’s plethora of good golf makes it a perfect haven for golfers of every level—and value-seeking golfers can find some affordable options in the desert.

Just 15 minutes from the airport and right in the heart of the city, Hyatt House Scottsdale/Old Town is a convenient and budget-friendly option that will be a favorite for trip-goers who will be enjoying downtown Scottsdale’s nightlife.

For those wanting a taste of the TPC Scottsdale treatment at a reduced price, the Champions Course at TPC Scottsdale (above), built in 2007, is playable for higher-handicappers but still a challenge for better players. A creek runs through the course, providing a rare water hazard in the desert, while the McDowell Mountains offer a scenic backdrop for shots hit Eastward.

Another popular value recommendation by Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR is Ocotillo Golf Club, in Chandler, Ariz., which is worth the quick 25-minute drive for some solid golf at a discounted price. Mature trees and water hazards transplant golfers from the typical desert scapes of Scottsdale—and three nines make it a great one-stop shop for a full day of golf. If there’s a game on, the Ocotillo Grille is a good hang before or after your round.

Another option south of Scottsdale that differs a bit from typical desert golf is Raven Golf Club. Host to many college golf tournaments, Raven’s fairways roll with the natural terrain of the valley. Mature pines are a staple all over the course. Just seven miles from the airport, this is the perfect option for play on the day of arrival or departure.

One of our favorites, too, is Papago, a muny in Phoenix that has been a popular spot for locals through the years. Arizona State’s golf teams signed a deal a few years ago with Papago, reenergizing it with better turf conditions—and it remains one of the best value courses in the area. In addition, the ASU teams’ practice facilities might be the coolest among any college team—they are a must-see.

Of course, if your budget accommodates a round or two at Scottsdale’s top public courses, the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, both courses at We-Ko-Pa, Troon North and Grayhawk are all outstanding options. They don’t exactly fit as “budget options” but are must-plays, if feasible.

For decades golfers have escaped to Palm Springs for a seemingly endless amount of golf—with a different course on every corner. The only question is, where to play?

For lodging, an easy option is the Hilton Garden Inn Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage, which is centrally located to some of the best courses in the area. It’s also conveniently located right in the Coachella Valley, right next to the The River, a premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination. Of course, PGA West, La Quinta, Mission Hills and Indian Wells are all on people’s radars for Palm Springs options … but here are some affordable options to consider.

SilverRock Golf Resort co-hosted the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic for four years starting in 2008 after it opened 2005. Set in the Santa Rosa Mountains, it can still be found in tour-level condition. This Arnold Palmer design (above) features incredible mountain vistas, tight fairways, fast greens and challenging but beautiful water hazards. Particularly for competitive golfers, this is a great test.

One of the most underrated courses in the desert is the Firecliff course at Desert Willow (above). Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry designed 36 holes (including the Mountain course) on this flat desert floor in the Coachella Valley and moved enough earth to create some interesting holes that frame the surrounding mountains. Playability for all handicap ranges is strong, but even for the better players, the Firecliff course is an intriguing and fair test.

The Classic Club is another Arnold Palmer design that has also hosted the Bob Hope Classic. As one would expect from a course that’s hosted a tour event, Classic Club (above) boasts state-of-the-art practice facilities, including a clubhouse with a great restaurant. Famous for its elevated tee boxes which offer panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, this course is populated with more than 5,000 pine, pepper and olive trees, 30 acres of water features and 14 stone bridges.

Like we said, the abundance of golf in the desert is astounding. Woodhaven Country Club might get overshadowed based on its proximity to other really good courses (there are FIVE other courses consecutively on the same block, all next to each other). But for an affordable price tag compared to others in the area, you get the same pristine backdrops.

Another option with 36 holes set among the mountains is Tahquitz Creek. The Legend Course (above) is the more forgiving of the two, tipping out at just over 6,800 yards. Wide fairways will help keep golfers in play, but elevated, undulating greens will only accept precise approach shots. The Resort Course (below) is shorter, but players must contend with an island fairway, several water hazards and strategic bunkering and waste areas. The final three holes play across the Tahquitz Canyon—not quite the finish over the quarry holes at Merion, but spectacular nonetheless.

Any trip to Las Vegas can be expensive for a number of reasons. Just as a hypothetical, you’ve chosen to do most of your spending elsewhere but still want to hit the links. Our friends at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR have identified the most budget-friendly golf courses worth booking.

The Luxor is one of the most iconic hotels on the strip, known for its pyramid shape. As one would expect from such a hotel, the Luxor has a casino, full-service spa, pool complex and a variety of restaurants.

Las Vegas National (above), affectionately known by the locals as “The National,” is the scene of Tiger Woods’ first professional win. It’s also famous for being home in the 1960s to The Rat Pack; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis Jr. were all avid golfers and frequently entertained guests with songs and stories in the clubhouse. The aptly named Rat Pack Bar & Grill is a great place to pay homage to all the greats that have come through over the years.

A little farther outside the city, the Legacy Golf Club (above) lends itself to a bit of peace and quiet away from the bustle of the strip. Designed by the late Arthur Hills, Legacy is a traditional desert golf course; target golf is the norm as a premium is placed on accuracy.

Open since 1996, Desert Pines Golf Club (above) is just 15 minutes from the strip. Though it’s close in proximity, the pine-tree-lined fairways and white sand bunkers don’t exactly scream “Las Vegas.” It’s not a particularly long course, at just 6,222 yards from the back tees, but the par 71 tests a golfer with tight, narrow fairways and several water hazards.

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