I'm not a very good golfer. Yet, I probably spend more time on the links than just about any professional golfer in the world...because of the fact that I spend so much time in the rough, searching for my ball!
Nonetheless, I've been to some of the most beautiful - and "exotic" - golf courses in the world. And here's my list of the Top 10...
No. 10) OITAVOS DUNES, CASCAIS, PORTUGAL - The Algarve region gets more publicity. But the scenic village of Cascais, a lesser-known fishing village fast becoming a hideout for the International Set, also offers great golf. And plenty of natural beauty, too. Oitavos Dunes, a hotel/golf club, is in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, with stunning vistas anywhere you look. And you're close to both Lisbon, and to the scenic coastline, dotted with timeless villages.
No. 9) LOS SUENOS MARRIOTT OCEAN & GOLF RESORT, COSTA RICA - At the edge of a lush rainforest with several micro-climates, the La Iguana Course at the Marriott offers plenty of side-shows...among them monkeys, macaws, and, yes, iguanas. The par-72 course has a challenging Ted Robinson-designed layout, with panoramic views of the Pacific, along with stands of banana trees, orchids, and other exotic native plants. The Marriott itself is designed in Spanish-Colonial style. It offers six restaurants, and a very-cool network of pools connected by canals, bridges, islands...and swim-up bars.
No. 8)PUNTA ESPADA GOLF COURSE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - If you stay at the luxurious Sanctuary Capcana you'll have easy access to Punta Espada Golf Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course right on the ocean. In fact, part of it is right in the ocean! One of the holes requires a 250-yard shot over the water...to a narrow green sticking out into the Caribbean! And if you like this course, stick around for a while - the Sanctuary Capcana's building another Jack Nicklaus Signature Course.
No. 7) THE PORT ROYAL GOLF CLUB, HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, USA - Hilton Head is a slice of Old South Carolina...a lush, tree-filled island where the natural beauty is everywhere, and sophisticated elegance is the standard. The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is renowned for its Port Royal Golf Club, and it's been named to the list of "Top 75 U.S. Golf Resorts" by Golf magazine. One of three 18-hole courses, the Robber's Row Course is set atop Civil War battlefields on the marsh side of this former plantation, and dotted with historical markers. For example, the embankments between holes No. 2 and No. 3 and No. 13 were dug as fortifications by Southern soldiers. (They didn't do much good, though, as Union troops captured Hilton Head Island in just a few hours.)
No. 6) THE LINKS AT FANCOURT, SOUTH AFRICA - This golf resort is reminiscent of an old Victorian cottage - a very large old Victorian cottage - sticking out in the middle of the South African veldt and mountains. Its setting is breathtaking - there's no other word to describe it. Once an airfield, The Links is located along South Africa's Garden Route, and its grounds reflect that designation. One of three courses at the resort, The Links was designed by South African native son Gary Player...who still refers to this course as his greatest design achievement.
No. 5) KAURI CLIFFS-MATAURI BAY, NEW ZEALAND - Designed by David Harman, this par-72 championship course includes five sets of tees, which makes it extremely challenging even for the pros. Fifteen holes overlook the Pacific Ocean...six of which are played alongside cliffs plunging sharply into a turbulent sea below. And the three inland holes wind through farmland, marsh, and forest...making it even more difficult to concentrate on the course when there's so much natural beauty around!
No. 4) CABO DEL SOL GOLF COURSE, HILTON LOS CABOS BEACH & GOLF RESORT, CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO - The Cabo San Lucas peninsula, sticking out from the bottom of California, is a different side of Mexico, filled with scenic villages, seaside underground caves, and enormous, striking rock structures buttressing the sea. Guests at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, alongside the Sea of Cortez, have access to Cabo Del Sol Golf Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design carved into 1.5 miles of craggy rock outcroppings on the coast. The course features mountainous terrain, tees atop mesas, and holes right along the beach, and two holes - the 5th and 17th - are considered among the world's best. Jack Nicklaus himself has called Cabo Del Sol Golf Course the best course he's ever seen.
No. 3) THE COEUR D'ALENE RESORT, COEUR D'ALENE, IDAHO, USA - When you play here, you're playing on a challenging, 6,800-yard course with views of beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene - and the forested mountains climbing up from its shores - from every hole. And you're also playing the most unusual golf hole in America. The 14th hole at the Coeur d'Alene Resort is the only floating green in the world. That's right - it sits right in the lake! Not only that, but it can actually be moved, and it can also be made larger or smaller...all by computer. You'll approach it in a classic mahogany boat called "Putter." And, after you leave the course and it shuts down for the evening, some divers will approach the 14th hole, too, to attempt to retrieve some of the 35,000 balls that end up in the lake very year!
No. 2)BAHIA BEACH GOLF CLUB, ST. REGIS BAHIA BEACH RESORT, PUERTO RICO - It's hard to think of a lusher topical setting than this one. The Bahia Beach Golf Club is situated on a former coconut plantation at the foot of El Yunque rainforest. It boasts a scenic 7,014-yard layout enveloping 80 acres of saltwater lagoons, with the mountainous Rainforest in the background. Fifteen of the 18 holes have water features, and the course weaves around lagoons before emerging onto the coast for holes 16-18. The course is recognized as a certified Silver Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International. And the resort offers hiking trails through a 483-acre nature reserve. Oh, and one other tidbit - the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.
And now, my personal favorite for the Top "Exotic" Golf Course on Earth (What's yours?)...
No. 1)THE BROADMOOR RESORT, COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO, USA - The Broadmoor is one of America's greatest resorts, surrounded by the magnificent peaks of the Colorado Rockies. Sitting at an altitude of 6,230 feet, it's this year's winner of Golf magazine's award of "No. 1 Golf Resort in North America." And its Mountain Course - one of three championship courses here - was designed by two of the immortals, originally by Arnold Palmer, and re-designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2006. It's considered one of the most scenic - and challenging - in the world. On this course, you'll have close-up views of 10,000' Cheyenne Mountain, and of the legendary Pike's Peak (14,110', and the inspiration for the song "America the Beautiful"), on which - if you'd like a closer look - you can take a ride on the cog railway to the top, for some hot donuts, and a 360-degree panorama offering views into seven states!
I know golf is a very-personal game (even if, like me, you spend most of your time searching for your ball!). And everyone has his/her own favorite course. So let the debate begin! We welcome your comments!