If you've ever been to the Hawaiian Islands, you can understand why golfers rarely say, "I'm going to play in Hawaii." Instead, they say, "I'm playing in Kauai or Maui or on the Big Island." While golf may be a central theme of island life, the type of golf associated with each island differs substantially.
On Kauai, the tropical vegetation and steep-sloped mountains are key golf-course features. On the Big Island, huge chunks of hardened lava come into play. Maui offers cliffside views and windswept fairways. The island of Oahu and the capital city of Honolulu are the starting points for most visits to Hawaii. But golfers know it's only the gateway to paradise, with a climate and lifestyle conducive to relaxation. Indeed, Hawaii leads our research in overall climate and number of days suitable for playing golf--a whopping 360!
One of the best things about the state is that since a large portion of its economy is based on tourism, most of its golf courses are open to the public. For example, anyone can play the Prince Course on Kauai, the No. 1 course in the state, as ranked by Golf Digest. It's the same with the Mauna Kea Golf Course on the Big Island. The par-3 third hole, which plays over an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, is one of golf's most famous holes. Overall, nine of Hawaii's top 10 courses are open to all comers.
CALIFORNIA DREAM. Not since the Gold Rush days of the mid-1800s has America's most populous state seen what a tiny spherical object could do for the economy. California's passion for the game can be seen in the quality of its golf courses and the people who play the game.
Celebrities such as Clint Eastwood, Bill Murray, and the late Jack Lemmon helped popularize the sport, and now it seems ingrained in the state's normal day-to-day activities. Ten of America's 100 Greatest Courses, as ranked by Golf Digest, are in California.
Palm Springs, the Monterey Peninsula, and San Diego owe quite a bit of their existence and recent growth to golf. True, the areas differ vastly in temperature. Nevertheless, each region has its own benefits.
While Palm Springs rivals the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for great desert courses with mountain views, Monterey and San Diego take advantage of their proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The Monterey Peninsula is home to Pebble Beach, America's No. 1 golf course, and other well-known courses such as Spyglass Hill and the Links at Spanish Bay.
Meanwhile, San Diego may have the best year-round weather in the country and is blessed with such well-known public courses as the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines. It's so sunny in San Diego that rain can startle area residents. In fact, our research shows it's second only to Hawaii in the number of days the weather is favorable for playing golf.
GOLF AROUND BEND. When people think of the Pacific Northwest, rainy days and the TV sitcom Frasier quickly come to mind. But the small town of Bend, in Deschutes County, Ore., may soon give people a new thought--golf. Thanks to cool, but not overly cold, temperatures and a relatively dry climate, Bend is ideal as a golf destination. It also still has that small-town USA feel many big-city residents envy.
Golf in this area is relatively new, with several courses having been built only in the last decade. It certainly wasn't an afterthought, however. Some of the courses, like Crosswater Country Club in Sunriver, are drop-dead gorgeous. Other outdoor activities to be enjoyed in the area include skiing in the nearby Cascade Mountain range.