Thriving golf resorts continue to come up with ways to innovate. Often, it’s not good enough to simply offer quality golf and amenities—it requires differentiating your product by offering unique experiences. Alternative forms of 18 holes continue to prove successful.
Based off the success of Bandon Preserve’s 13-hole par-3 course in Oregon, other resorts have built similar offerings. In North Carolina, Pinehurst Resort’s nine-hole short course, The Cradle, designed by Gil Hanse, opened in 2017. Hanse’s reconstruction of Pinehurst No. 4, transforming it into the sandy motif of the famed Pinehurst No. 2 next door, opened in 2018.
Also in 2018, an unorthodox 17-hole par-3 course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw opened in Wisconsin alongside David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes and Coore and Crenshaw’s Sand Valley, which was honored as Golf Digest’s Best New Course in 2017. Tom Doak earned the design of the resort’s soon-to-be built fourth course, Sedge Valley, inspired by one of England’s oldest courses, Swinley Forest, as a par 69 and 6,400 yards.
In terms of innovation, The Loop at Forest Dunes, designed by Doak and opened in 2016, adds to the golf offerings in Northern Michigan. Joining Forest Dunes and The Inn at Bay Harbor in Northern Michigan is Arcadia Bluffs, where the South course designed by Dana Fry (opened at the end of 2018) is an ode to old-school architecture, using geometric angles and C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor-designed templates.
Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo., also continues to add to its impressive offerings, with its Coore and Crenshaw-designed Ozarks National course also opened at the end of 2018. It includes a 13-hole short course designed by Gary Player, a 6,000-square-foot putting complex designed by Tom Watson, and Top of the Rock, home to a nine-hole par-3 course designed by Jack Nicklaus and a unique practice facility designed by Arnold Palmer (made most notable by sinkholes being designed into the framework of the range). Big Cedar Lodge will also have its Tiger Woods and Beau Welling-designed Payne’s Valley course, scheduled to open this year.
Another unique resort opening in 2018 was Silvies Valley Ranch in remote southeastern Oregon. You might’ve heard about the resort’s goat caddies, equipped with custom leather backpacks to hold enough clubs, balls and tees for a loop around the resort’s seven-hole short course, McVeigh’s Gauntlet. Also innovative are the resort’s reversible 18-hole courses, the Craddock and Hankins, designed by Dan Hixson. The luxurious wilderness retreat, sitting on 140,000 acres, is unlike any other golf resort in North America.
• NORTHEAST/NEW ENGLAND
• PACIFIC NORTHWEST
• ROCKIES/GREAT PLAINS
• MEXICO/CENTRAL AMERICA