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Best Winter Golf Trips: 11 underrated trips we're booking now

November 19, 2022

There’s something so appealing about being “in the know.” Whether it’s a local food stop, or in our case, a must-play hidden gem, we love to find the lesser-known establishments—and hope others don’t catch on. 

In terms of winter golf trip destinations, you can hardly go wrong with one of the many popular choices, including Orlando, Scottsdale, Palm Springs and Myrtle Beach. But if you’re looking to beat the crowds and find a more under-the-radar destination, we’re here to help with this collection of the best underrated golf trips you should take this winter. 

Though you’ll be familiar with some of these destinations, they’re often overlooked as golfers opt for bigger-name locales. There are others in this collection that you might never have considered for a winter golf getaway, but their quality courses and warm weather should absolutely have them on your short list.

As the golf season winds down and you start planning your winter escapes, consider these underrated trips. Click around to learn more about each course and read reviews from our course-ranking panelists. We hope you enjoy our searchable course database, Places to Play, our new hub for course reviews, experts’ opinions and star ratings.

Mobile, Ala.

Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has many stops worthy of a trip, but for the colder months, we'd opt to head to the southernmost courses on the Trail, in and around Mobile, where there are two 36-hole facilities.      

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Magnolia Grove: Crossings
The Crossings course hosted an LPGA event from 1999 through 2014, boasting notable champions such as Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer. A relatively flat parkland design, the course offers wide landing areas and large, subtly undulating greens. Wooden bulkheads and impressively large bunkers enhance the course’s aesthetics and serve to both visually intimidate and punish wayward shots. More recently, the Crossings hosted the LPGA Q-Series in 2021 and will do so again in 2022.
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Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Magnolia Grove: Falls
Situated in the southern tip of the state near Mobile Bay, the Falls course at Magnolia Grove underwent an extensive renovation in 2010. The dogleg left par-4 opener gives an indication of what is in store—as many holes turn from right to left. It's a relatively hilly layout for the Mobile area with generous landing areas and subtle greens. The bunkers are generally large, none more so than the one short of the green at the par-3 sixth, where a poorly-struck shot may leave a 60-yard blast.
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The Lakewood Club: Dogwood
The Lakewood Club: Dogwood
Point Clear, AL
The southernmost stop on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, The Lakewood Club offers 36 holes for members, guests of the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa and RTJ Trail cardholders. Acclaimed course architect Perry Maxwell designed the original Dogwood course, which opened in 1947 and was renovated in 2018. Weaving through pine and magnolia trees, the Dogwood has plenty of water in play, including on three of the four par 3s. The Lakewood Club hosted the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in 1974, 1986 and 2021.
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The Lakewood Club: Azalea
The Lakewood Club: Azalea
Point Clear, AL

Situated on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, the Azalea course is a relatively flat, tree-lined layout. Azalea bushes line many holes, making the course especially scenic during the spring bloom. A couple of the par 3s—Nos. 4 and 15—have two greens on each, making them play quite differently depending on which ones are in use.

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Rock Creek Golf Club
Public
Rock Creek Golf Club
Fairhope, AL

While on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, make sure to play Rock Creek. As is typical of many Alabama layouts, tall pines line the fairways, which often camber back towards the center, making them play wider than they appear. There are significant elevation changes, including at the par-4 second hole, which drops 70 feet from tee to fairway. Ravines and wetlands are also commonplace at Rock Creek, which despite all the intriguing features is a playable track.

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Reynolds Lake Oconee

Avid golfers will recognize Reynolds Lake Oconee, likely for its Great Waters course, which is ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list. Though it might be overshadowed by Sea Island, anyone who has been to Reynolds Lake Oconee and played any of its five courses knows it's a tough-to-beat destination.

Reynolds Lake Oconee: Great Waters
Early in his design career, Jack Nicklaus said he would design resort courses differently than championship ones. Great Waters is a vivid example of that intent. With a routing that features 10 holes on Lake Oconee, Jack and his associate Jim Lipe worked hard to vary the encounters with water. On one hole it's a carry off a tee, on another, it's beside a green, while on a couple, it's a cove in front of a green. Every encounter features a generous bailout option. Another concession to resort golfers: The greens are big but simple, with few complex contours.
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Reynolds Lake Oconee: The National (Ridge/Bluff/Cove)
The National features 27 holes designed by Tom Fazio that traverse the rolling terrain, providing plenty of elevation changes. There are over 100 bunkers on the layout—most moderately sized—which frame the fairways that are often set well below the tees. Though water comes into play throughout, there’s often ample room to bail out away from the trouble. The course can tip out at over 7,000 yards (depending on which nines you play), providing a stern test. Yet, with the resort guest in mind, there are seven sets of tees available.
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Reynolds Lake Oconee: The Preserve
Public
Reynolds Lake Oconee: The Preserve
Greensboro, GA
Opened in 1988, The Preserve was designed by Bob Cupp, along with player consultants and former U.S. Open champions Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green. The course is defined by subtlety, with slight doglegs, gentle undulations and false fronts making The Preserve an intriguing, though immensely playable layout. Interestingly, the course features a six-hole short course—dubbed the Quick Six—within the 18-hole track. Opened in 2016, this short course can be played in about an hour as each hole is less than 130 yards.
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Reynolds Lake Oconee: The Oconee
Public
Reynolds Lake Oconee: The Oconee
Greensboro, GA
Ranked 8th for Golf Digest’s Best New Upscale Public Course of 2002, the Oconee course is known for its risk-reward shot options and views of the serene Lake Oconee on five holes. Forced carries over water inlets and opportunities to cut corners on tree-lined doglegs make this Rees Jones design a pleasure to play.
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The Landing At Reynolds Lake Oconee: Landing Course
Originally known as Port Armor Golf Club, this Bob Cupp design opened in 1986, the first golf course on Lake Oconee. Acquired by Reynolds in 2005 and renovated in 2013, the Landing is a Scottish-style resort course set within a naturally wooded landscape.
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Harbor Club on Lake Oconee
Public
Harbor Club on Lake Oconee
Greensboro, GA
A Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish design, Harbor Club is a serene lakeside layout just an hour from both Augusta and Atlanta. The 15th hole is a Weiskopf special, a short par 4 with a number of obstacles, including sand on each side of the fairway, plus water lurking behind the green to catch long approaches. Winding creeks come into play on many holes, including the all-carry short par-3 17th and the home hole, where water's in play on the tee shot and approach.
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Tucson, Ariz.

Of course, the golf in Tucson is no hidden secret. That said, it's often overlooked as golfers flock to Scottsdale, perhaps the premier warm-weather golf destination. If you're looking to beat the crowds around the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, consider Tucson and its many must-play desert courses.

Golf Club At Dove Mountain: Saguaro/Tortolita/Wild Burro
93 Panelists
Formerly home to the PGA Tour’s WGC match-play event, the Saguaro and Tortolita nines feature guarded greens and small targets. The Saguaro side lines a vast cactus forest, while the Tortolita sneaks through a secluded canyon. A natural stadium-like bowl surrounds the final green of the Tortolita, the perfect setting for matches that come down to the wire.
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Ventana Canyon: Mountain
Public
Ventana Canyon: Mountain
Tucson, AZ
48 Panelists
The short par-3 third hole, just a wedge even from tbe back tees, features a tiny target between rock outcroppings. But the remaining par 3s are stout, all aesthetically strong as well. The fairways are wide and fast, and the putting surfaces are pretty benign as far as Fazio greens go.
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Ventana Canyon: Canyon
Public
Ventana Canyon: Canyon
Tucson, AZ
One of two 18-hole layouts designed by Tom Fazio on property, the Canyon course incorporates the natural terrain, including the rock formation known as Whaleback Rock. Its signature hole is the 18th, which features a partial island green.
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Sewailo Golf Club at Casino Del Sol
Sewailo differs from most Arizona courses in that it features more of an open, links golf feel, with ample forced carries and lots of water and sand to negotiate. Opened in 2013 and designed by former PGA Tour player Notah Begay III, Sewailo features multiple tee options for players of differing playing abilities.
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Omni Tucson National Resort: Catalina
The Catalina course at Omni Tucson National was a longtime host of the PGA Tour’s Tucson Open and currently hosts a PGA Tour Champions event. It also hosted the 1966 U.S. Senior Amateur. It is a traditional parkland layout with strategically placed bunkers and lakes that tighten the landing areas. The par-4 18th is a uniquely difficult hole with two lakes guarding both sides of the fairway, requiring a precise tee shot. The University of Arizona men’s golf team annually hosts a collegiate event in the spring on the Catalina course, attracting some of the top programs in the country.
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Amelia Island, Fla.

Given its proximity to Jacksonville, Amelia Island is a convenient option if you’re looking for a Sunshine State alternative to the popular Orlando and Tampa trips that many take. Here's where you should play on the Northeast Florida coast.

The Golf Club of Amelia Island
The Golf Club of Amelia Island
Amelia Island, FL
Resort guests of the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island enjoy access to this layout with two distinct nines, designed by PGA Tour veteran Mark McCumber and World Golf Hall of Famer Gene Littler. The front nine plays through sprawling oak trees while the back side plays around marshes and other water hazards.
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Omni Amelia Island Resort: Oak Marsh
Set within vast salt marsh creeks and lined with moss-draped heritage oak trees, the Oak Marsh Golf Course is a classic Pete Dye design. Built around the same time as Dye’s renowned Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head, Oak Marsh is a challenging but enjoyable wetland course. The layout hosted the 1988 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur.
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Amelia River Club
Public
Amelia River Club
Amelia Island, FL
The Amelia River Club, bordering the Intracoastal about a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, presents a variety of holes, some quite narrow and tree-lined and others more forgiving. The Tom Jackson design is highlighted by the island-green par-3 17th, which is a more generous take on the TPC Sawgrass original.
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Fernandina Beach Golf Club: North/South/West
Public
Fernandina Beach Golf Club: North/South/West
Fernandina Beach, FL
Fernandina Beach Golf Club is a 27-hole municipal facility less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. The three nines are quite flat and meander through stands of oaks and pines. Though the conditioning may not be what you’d find at the nearby premier resorts, this Amelia Island muny provides a fun and accessible round.
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Note: For it's intriguing design, we'd typically recommend The Golf Club at North Hampton for an Amelia Island trip. In recent years, however, the condition has slipped, so if you head to North Hampton to play, be aware the conditions can be spotty.

The Golf Club at North Hampton
Public
The Golf Club at North Hampton
Fernandina Beach, FL
There’s plenty of design variety at The Golf Club of North Hampton, situated about six miles inland near Amelia Island. The Arnold Palmer design has risk/reward elements on nearly every hole, with a variety of hazards in play. The greens are quite large and have a fair amount of undulation, creating some difficult lag putts. It’s a course that gives the golfer options on how to approach each hole, making it an enjoyable track to play.
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Birmingham, Ala.

Sure, it can get a little cool in Birmingham in the winter, but if you prefer milder temps to the suffocating heat, this might be the trip for you. Birmingham and the surrounding area have no shortage of great golf, including a top RTJ Trail stop, a downtown public gem and scenic resort layout in the foothills of the Appalachians.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Oxmoor Valley: Valley
The 54 holes at Oxmoor Valley were built on former mining land owned by U.S. Steel. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Valley course is a tree-lined layout with rolling fairways and modest elevation changes. The first tee is perched high on a bluff, offering scenic views of the surrounding hills. The course extends two miles down a narrow valley before returning to the clubhouse. Large bunkers and several imposing lakes demand precise shot placement.
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Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Oxmoor Valley: Ridge
Standing on the first tee looking down at the fairway below, golfers will get a sense of the dramatic elevation changes and undulating fairways in store for their round. The “roller-coaster” fairways are aesthetically appealing and create many shots from uneven lies. A heavily wooded track flanked by imposing pines, the Ridge course features several dramatic elevation changes, including at the downhill par-3 eighth. Given the topography, taking a cart is recommended.
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Highland Park Golf Course
Public
Highland Park Golf Course
Birmingham, AL
Centrally located in Birmingham, Highland Park is a quality public course with terrific views of downtown. Unlike some of the nearby wide, “big ballpark” layouts, Highland Park more closely resembles a New England-style course with short, narrow holes that demand precision. If you’re looking to dial in your short irons and wedges, this 5,800-yard par 70 is the spot. The bunkers and greens were renovated in 2019, modernizing this compelling design.
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Limestone Springs Golf Course
Public
Limestone Springs Golf Course
Oneonta, AL
Designed by 1976 U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate, this layout just 30 miles north of Birmingham is relatively demanding off the tee with natural creeks and streams, limestone outcroppings and lakes guarding the fairways. There are many elevated tees, which provide beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding ridges and valleys. Limestone Springs was a member of our 100 Greatest Public list from 2003-2006.
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FarmLinks Golf Club
Public
FarmLinks Golf Club
Sylacauga, AL
31 Panelists
Situated between Birmingham and Montgomery, FarmLinks is a Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry layout at Pursell Farms, a Golf Digest Editors’ Choice resort at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. FarmLinks offers a wide variety of holes with generous landing areas, large greens and up to 50 feet of elevation change, making it an enjoyable, player-friendly layout. All four of the par 3s play downhill, including the fifth and 17th holes, which feature severe drops and impressive views. The layout is currently ranked among our top 10 courses in Alabama.
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Pensacola, Fla./Gulf Shores, Ala.

Between Pensacola and Gulf Shores, there are some fantastic public options that play among the coastal wetlands on the Gulf Coast. Kiva Dunes, in particular, is a must-play on a trip to the area, as it's ranked on our Best in Alabama list and provides a challenging test on the exposed Fort Morgan Peninsula.

Lost Key Golf Club
Public
Lost Key Golf Club
Pensacola, FL
Situated on the Perdido Key, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, Lost Key is a challenging Arnold Palmer design. Recognized by Audubon International, Lost Key is a scenic layout playing among the coastal wetlands. The fairways are tree-lined and narrow, requiring quality ball-striking. It’s a demanding track further boldened by the often-strong winds off the ocean.
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Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club: Marsh/Lakes/Cypress
There are 27 holes at Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club, spread over 800 acres on the Fort Morgan Peninsula. Sitting adjacent to the Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve, the layout has a secluded feel, playing among live oaks, cypress trees and marshlands. Though the course can stretch to over 7,000 yards from the tips (depending on which nines you play), it’s a playable layout that generally offers wide landing areas. The course recently completed a multi-million-dollar renovation that included tree removal, bunker renovations and cart path maintenance.
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Kiva Dunes Golf Course
Public
Kiva Dunes Golf Course
Gulf Shores, AL
49 Panelists
Currently ranked among our top 10 best courses in Alabama, Kiva Dunes was designed by 1976 U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate. Perched on the exposed Fort Morgan Peninsula in Gulf Shores, this links-style course has an ever-present wind, numerous deep-faced bunkers and undulating greens. This longtime Q school host lost many trees in a storm a few years back, which has only enhanced its links qualities.
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Craft Farms: Cotton Creek
Public
Craft Farms: Cotton Creek
Gulf Shores, AL
Craft Farms offers two playable Arnold Palmer designs about five miles inland in Gulf Shores. Though water comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes on the Cotton Creek course, there is plenty of room on the generous landing areas to bail out. As is true of many resort courses, Cotton Creek is a scenic layout that is playable for all handicaps.
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Craft Farms: Cypress Bend
Public
Craft Farms: Cypress Bend
Gulf Shores, AL
Craft Farms offers two playable Arnold Palmer designs about five miles inland in Gulf Shores. Much like the Cotton Creek course, Cypress Bend presents wide landing areas and large greens that make it immensely playable. Water comes into play on nearly every hole, but it serves an aesthetic purpose just as much as it does a strategic one. The generous fairways leave plenty of room to avoid the hazards.
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West Point, Miss.

Time will tell how long West Point will remain an underrated destination, but with two courses ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list, it's tough to find a better one-two punch than Mossy Oak and Old Waverly. Round out your trip at Mississippi State University's course, a quality college layout that has newly resurfaced greens.

Mossy Oak Golf Club
Public
Mossy Oak Golf Club
West Point, MS

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: Back in mid-1980s, George Bryan, who ran Bryan Foods, now part of Sara Lee Corp., created Old Waverly Golf Club in tiny West Point, Miss., a Bob Cupp/Jerry Pate design and former U.S. Women’s Open host that to me is a bit underrated. In the early 2000s, Bryan bought an old dairy farm (Knob Hill Dairy) across the highway and hired Gil Hanse to give him an Old School public golf course. George named it Mossy Oak, after a West Point company of the same name that supplies outdoor camouflage gear. (The company has a 10-percent interest in the course.) He was going to call it Howlin' Wolf after a legendary blues singer born in West Point, but his heirs wanted too much money.

 

For our architecture editor's complete review, click here

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Old Waverly Golf Club
Old Waverly Golf Club
West Point, MS

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: I've always admired Jerry Pate's work in golf architecture. He was one of the few PGA Tour pros who really got down and dirty in golf design, and I especially liked the few courses he did with architect Bob Cupp. Their second collaboration was Old Waverly in tiny West Point, Miss., a dream project of West Point native George Bryan, who at the time was chairman of the meat division of the Sara Lee Corporation based in the tri-city area (West Point, Starkville and Columbus) known as Mississippi's Golden Triangle.

 

For our architecture editor's complete review, click here

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Mississippi State University Golf Course
Mississippi State University Golf Course, home to the Bulldogs’ men’s and women’s teams, is an affordable public track with rates around $30. The layout is not overly challenging and largely consists of subtle doglegs that give the player ample room to get the ball in play. In the summer of 2022, the greens were resurfaced with TifEagle Bermuda grass.
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Santa Barbara, Calif.

If you’re willing to drive a little on your golf trip, consider heading to Santa Barbara, where under an hour away you’ll find a Gil Hanse-renovated track and a scenic old-school layout. Throw in Sandpiper Golf Club, which has some of the best Pacific Ocean views around. (Be aware, though, that conditioning at Sandpiper is something the facility is addressing—it has been hit or miss in recent years.)

Soule Park Golf Course
Public
Soule Park Golf Course
Ojai, CA
Some of the best architecture you can play for the price ($40!). Gil Hanse renovated this William F. Bell (architect of Torrey Pines, among others), giving public golfers a chance to play a course with invigorating, strategic options. The greens are interesting—and depending on where the pin is on the day—force the player to focus on shot placement from tee to green.
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La Purisima Golf Course
Public
La Purisima Golf Course
Lompoc, CA
Designed by Robert Muir Graves, this old-school style oak-tree lined course is tucked away 30 miles north of Santa Barbara. With rolling fairways and frequent windy conditions, La Purisima is an aesthetically beautiful and enjoyable track that will challenge golfers of all levels.
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Note: Though we'd typically recommend Sandpiper Golf Club for any golf trip to Santa Barbara, it's condition has slipped in recent years. That said, it is worth considering if you're in the area, given the terrific views of the Pacific Ocean.

Sandpiper Golf Club
Public
Sandpiper Golf Club
Santa Barbara, CA
Lining the breathtaking Santa Barbara cliffside, Sandpiper provides spectacular Pacific Ocean and beach views on most of its holes. This William F. Bell design has hosted several professional events, including the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Q-School and the LPGA Tour’s Santa Barbara Women’s Open. Sandpiper also has a unique history: The property was a site for ARCO crude oil production from 1938 to 1954.
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Savannah, Ga.

Savannah might not have the most compelling golf of all of the destinations on this list, but given its historic downtown and abundance of things to do away from the course, it’s worth considering for your next trip.

The Club at Savannah Harbor
Public
The Club at Savannah Harbor
Savannah, GA
Built on an island that sits between Savannah and the South Carolina border, Bob Cupp and Sam Snead weaved their design at the Club at Savannah Harbor in between marshlands, native vegetation and tidal wetlands of the Back River. The layout, which boasts a number of short par 4s but tips out over 7,200 yards, hosted the PGA Tour Champions' Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf Championship for about 10 years.
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Crosswinds Golf Club
Public
Crosswinds Golf Club
Savannah, GA
About a mile from the Savannah airport, Crosswinds Golf Club is a par-72 with five par 3s and five par 5s, providing plenty of variety. Given the proximity to the airport, low-flying planes are commonplace—just another unique element of this public track. In addition to the 18-hole course, there is a 9-hole par-3 layout with holes ranging from 90 to 160 yards from the tips.
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Henderson Golf Club
Public
Henderson Golf Club
Savannah, GA
A short drive from downtown Savannah, Henderson Golf Club is a par-71 public track with two distinct nines. The front nine plays over open, rolling terrain while the back nine is more tree lined. Live oaks, magnolias and wetlands are all present throughout. At just under 6,600 yards from the tips, it’s a relatively short course that rewards accuracy over distance.
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Lake Charles, La.

Known for its casinos, Lake Charles offers some quality golf as well, including the recently-opened Mallard Golf Club, inspired by the links courses in Scotland. While in Lake Charles, consider driving north to Koasati Pines, which has long been ranked on our Best in Louisiana list.

Mallard Golf Club
Public
Mallard Golf Club
Lake Charles, LA
In 2021, a new, Jeff Blume-designed layout opened after the land on which the original course was built was transferred back to the Chennault International Airport. Inspired by the Scottish links, the new, treeless course boasts wide fairways, firm and fast playing conditions, and a complex landscape making it the first of its kind in the state of Louisiana.
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Contraband Bayou Golf Club
Public
Contraband Bayou Golf Club
Lake Charles, LA
A Tom Fazio-designed layout connected to the L'Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles challenges golfers of all skill levels with strategically placed bunkers, multiple tee boxes on each hole and wide fairways alongside scenic lakes and wetlands. It ranked inside Golf Digest's top 10 in state in 2017-2018.
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Though it's a 45-minute drive from Lake Charles, we recommend heading up to Koasati Pines, one of our top-ranked courses in Louisiana.

Koasati Pines Golf Course At Coushatta
11 Panelists
Koasati Pines has ranked inside Golf Digest's top five in Louisiana since 2017 and earned a Best New Upscale Public honor in 2003 when it opened. Tipping out at over 7,616 yards, Koasati Pines has hosted the Louisiana Amateur on a number of occassions, presenting a stout test to the state's best players. A bonus 19th hole with an island green is another draw to this top public venue.
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Coastal Mississippi

As you can see by now, there are numerous underrated destinations along the Gulf Coast, and Coastal Mississippi may top them all. Around Biloxi, you’ll find a 100 Greatest Public member and a couple other Best in State courses that make this trip a fantastic option, provided you’re up for a little driving.

Fallen Oak
Fallen Oak
Saucier, MS
Although it didn't get built for another 15 years, Fallen Oak was first conceived in the early 1990s by Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn soon after Tom Fazio had completed Shadow Creek. Wynn wanted Fazio to design a similar course for his Beau Rivage casino hotel on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Wynn's empire got swallowed by MGM Grand, which ultimately had Fazio create Fallen Oak. Unlike Shadow Creek, it's built on rolling forest and wetlands, with no need for mammoth earth-moving.
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Shell Landing Golf Club
Public
Shell Landing Golf Club
Gautier, MS
27 Panelists
Currently ranked in the top 10 on our Best in Mississippi ranking, Shell Landing is a Davis Love III design just outside Biloxi. The course fits nicely into the natural terrain, playing among rolling marshlands. The fairways are generous, guarded periodically by large fairway bunkers. The greens are vast and undulating, allowing for a variety of possible pin locations.
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The Preserve Golf Club
Public
The Preserve Golf Club
Vancleave, MS
30 Panelists
This Jerry Pate design, recognized by Audubon International, makes compelling use of the natural terrain, with native fescues, bunkers and marshlands framing many holes. Currently ranked on our Best in Mississippi list, The Preserve has many forced carries over wetlands and bogs, requiring quality ball-striking off the tee. The Preserve’s natural aesthetic makes it a must-play on a trip to the Mississippi Coast.
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The Bridges Golf Club
Public
The Bridges Golf Club
Bay Saint Louis, MS
A past Best in State member, The Bridges is an Arnold Palmer design situated near the Saint Louis Bay on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The course—aptly named for the 21 bridges found across the layout—is a demanding ball-striking test, with trees and bunkers closely guarding many fairways and numerous forced carries over marshlands required.
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The Oaks Golf Club
Public
The Oaks Golf Club
Pass Christian, MS
Just off I-10, The Oaks meanders through forests and plays among native wetlands. Though there are doglegs that move both ways, many holes work from right to left, favoring a tee shot that turns over to the left. Water is in play on less than half the holes, as dense trees and thick, native grasses are the primary defense.
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Destin, Fla.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort offers four layouts that play along the Choctawhatchee Bay, making it a perfect option for a golfer traveling with more beach-minded friends and family. There are several other worthy layouts in and around Destin that should complete your trip to the Florida Panhandle.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort: Burnt Pine
After routing players through the pine forests and wetlands of the Emerald Coast, Rees Jones wows golfers on the back nine with views of the Choctawhatchee Bay. Much like the differing scenery on each nine, players will be required to hit a different type of approach shot into each green. Unlike the other three courses at Sandestin, which are open to the non-resort guests, Burnt Pine is only open to members and resort guests.
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Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort: The Links
There’s plenty of variety at The Links course at Sandestin—sharp doglegs, split fairways and crossing water hazards abound on this risk/reward Tom Jackson design. Five holes play along Choctawhatchee Bay, offering terrific views. As is often the case in the area, strong winds off the Gulf are common.
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Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort: Raven
Public
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort: Raven
Miramar Beach, FL
The Raven Golf Club at Sandestin is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that hosted a PGA Tour Champions event in the mid-2000s. Both the fairways and the greens have a fair amount of undulation, creating some uneven lies on approaches and testing lag putts. The course is highlighted by the par-3 sixth, which plays to a generous island green. There are bunkers on each side of the green, saving errant shots from finding the surrounding water.
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Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort: Baytowne
One of four 18-hole layouts at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the Baytowne course extends from the Choctawhatchee Bay to near the Gulf of Mexico. There are more elevation changes on Baytowne compared to the other three Sandestin layouts. The course offers five sets of tees, including one that plays just 3,000 yards, perfect for kids and beginners.
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Kelly Plantation Golf Club
Public
Kelly Plantation Golf Club
Destin, FL
Situated on the Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin, Kelly Plantation is built on the site of a former turpentine plantation. Designers Fred Couples and Gene Bates delivered on their goal to make it a playable course for higher handicaps, as there are hardly any forced carries from the forward tees. It’s a stout challenge from the tips, though, which play 7,100 yards and to a rating of just under 75. The waterfront holes offer some tremendous views of the bay.
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Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club
Public
Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club
Destin, FL
Though some holes at Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club are lined with houses, the course traverses through the coastal landscape, with the marshlands and pines giving it a secluded feel. This semi-private facility is open to the public and offers a variety of designs, including some stout par 3s. In 2019, the course competed a $2.25 million course enhancement project that included green and bunker renovations.
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Though it's about a 40-minute drive from Destin, Windswept Dunes is a hidden gem that shouldn't be overlooked on a trip to Northwest Florida. If you're able to make the drive, we recommend a round at this serene layout that plays through white sand dunes.

Windswept Dunes
Public
Windswept Dunes
Freeport, FL
About 30 miles northeast of Destin, Windswept Dunes plays through white sand dunes that give this Northwest Florida track a unique feel. Windswept Dunes is second-shot golf course, as the fairways are extremely wide, while the approaches can be a little more demanding. The layout plays over 750 acres and has a more rural feel than many of the resort courses along the Gulf Coast.
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