Business and Golf

My favorite courses for sneaking in an emergency 18 on a work trip


As Equipment Editor for Golf Digest, I spend a fair amount of time traveling. Regular visits with manufacturers and their R&D teams are requisite for keeping up on the latest technologies and innovations. My traveling partner on these trips, Senior Editor, Equipment Mike Stachura and I have a pretty non-negotiable rule for these travels: We don’t get on an airplane unless golf is involved.

Of course, Golf Digest isn’t paying us to play golf so that means we need to exercise time management in order to squeeze in a round either when we arrive (the most frequent solution) or before we depart (dependent on getting a late flight out). We realize many of you are business travelers like us seeking a bonus 18 or two along the way. 

The key to sneaking in a quick round of golf—when the pressure of family and work are beckoning—is finding the most convenient course that doesn't sacrifice quality. Many of the courses on my list are very close to a major city's airport, making it easy to add a few extra hours onto a work itinerary.

Here are 11 of our favorite courses to get in an emergency 18 on work trips.

Be sure to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography and reviews from our course panelists. We also encourage you to leave your own reviews on the courses you’ve played … so you can weigh in on why they belong on one's bucket list.

Orlando

Evermore Orlando Resort: Links
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Evermore Orlando Resort: Links
Orlando, FL

I’ve probably spent more than a year of my life in Orlando and, honestly, while there’s a fair amount of good golf, there’s not a ton of great. One exception is the Links Course at Evermore Orlando Resort (formerly Grand Cypress). This Jack Nicklaus take on re-creating the Old Course at St. Andrews works on several levels. For starters you can hit the ball all over creation and find it. The greens (seven, of them massive double greens) offer an ego boost for iron play and putting frustration due to their size but are intriguing nonetheless. The $250 sticker price is a bit steep, but it’s less than going to Scotland.

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Dubsdread Golf Course
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Dubsdread Golf Course
Orlando, FL

Don’t want to pony up that much? Another option is Dubsdread G.C. where green fees typically run between $40 and $55 during the week. Designed in 1924 and renovated in 2008, the fairways can be scraggly at times, but the greens are pure and bones of an outstanding layout are there. Plus it has one of the best eateries around on site.

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Phoenix

Talking Stick Golf Club: O'Odham Course
3.5
114 Panelists

Looming near the hotel/casino, the two Coore/Crenshaw courses at Talking Stick C.G. are perfect when traveling to Phoenix. The O’odham Course is my personal favorite of the two as it provides options galore and often the opportunity to run approach shots up. That’s not to say the Piipash Course should be ignored. It’s tighter off the tee and has several raised greens that have you thinking on the approach. I just prefer to think less after getting up at Zero Dark Thirty for an early flight.

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Talking Stick Golf Club: Piipaash Course
The Piipaash Course, which like its sister O'odham course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is slightly easier and a bit more straightforward than the O’odham. Here, the fairways are tree-lined and the greens are elevated. There’s some water that comes into play, too, if golfers aren’t careful. Like its sister, the lack of real estate provides great vistas of the Sonoran Desert.
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Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
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Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
Maricopa, AZ
4.1
91 Panelists

A little further away from Sky Harbor Airport is the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes G.C. in Maricopa. A former Indian Reservation, the Brian Curley/Fred Couples design was originally a private club but is now one of the best daily-fee facilities in the area. The course is more reminiscent of Australian Sandbelt golf than desert golf, which makes it a very cool venue. As a test of golf, it has served as a U.S. Open qualifying site and has an excellent range as well.

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Atlanta

Bear's Best Atlanta
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Bear's Best Atlanta
Suwanee, GA

I’m usually not fan of knockoff courses, but Jack Nicklaus makes it work at Bear’s Best Atlanta, where 18 of his signature hole designs are on display on one course. You’re probably never going to get to play courses such as Shoal Creek, Castle Pines, PGA National’s Champion or Muirfield Village but memorable holes from each of those venues make up key parts of this fun-filled 18.

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Chicago

Harborside International Golf Center: Port
3.9
23 Panelists

Chicago is littered with some of the best courses in the United States. Unfortunately, most of them are strictly private. No worries. The two courses of Harborside International (Port and Starboard) offer more than a viable alternative. The Port provides a linksy feel and ends strong with the signature “Anchor Hole” 15th followed by three holes along Lake Calumet. The Starboard is perhaps not quite as dramatic but is a pleasure to play while taking in the views of the Chicago skyline.

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Harborside International Golf Center: Starboard
3.8
13 Panelists
One of two links-style courses at Harborside International, the Starboard course is an open, rugged layout just south of Chicago. Given how exposed the property is, wind can often play a factor. The course has a strong finishing three-hole stretch that plays along Lake Calumet, highlighted by the signature par-3 17th, where water lurks short and right of the hourglass-shaped green.
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Los Angeles

Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club
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Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club
Mission Viejo, CA

Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, is the R&D capital of U.S. golf equipment. That said, we tend to fly in to LAX as it offers more flights and Cleveland/Srixon/XXIO are based in nearby Huntington Beach, making for a convenient first or last meeting. One of our go-to courses is Arroyo Trabuco in Mission Viejo. You may recognize the name as the home club of PGA club pro Michael Block, who finished 15th in the 2023 PGA Championship. Having played the course, it’s no wonder he has game. Trabuco Creek plays as a lateral hazard on seven holes and on-course lakes come into play on three holes but worry not: five sets of tees allow you to play anywhere from 5,045 yards to just over 7,000 from the tips.

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Pelican Hill Golf Club: Ocean North
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Pelican Hill Golf Club: Ocean North
Newport Coast, CA
4.1
151 Panelists

For the money-is-no-object crowd (as in $500+ green fees), the Ocean South and Ocean North courses at Pelican Hill provide the kind of views of the Pacific Ocean that almost make it worth the cost. A high-end resort course in every way, it’s a pamper-myself kind of experience whether on the day of arrival or the culmination of your trip.

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Pelican Hill Golf Club: Ocean South
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Pelican Hill Golf Club: Ocean South
Newport Coast, CA
4.3
144 Panelists
The first of the two Tom Fazio designs at Pelican Hill, The Ocean South course opened in 1991 and boasts striking Pacific Ocean vistas. Wide fairways, large undulating greens and fantastic conditions make for an enjoyable round on this coastal track.
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