By David DeSmith
No matter how much you love golf, there are going to be days when the sticks stay in the trunk. Golf venue owners know this, and they’ve responded with amenities and activities that rank right up there with the best 18-hole tracks. Thanks to their bigger budgets, private clubs and resorts have spearheaded this trend. But public courses have gotten in on the act, too, offering off-course options like fitness facilities, farm-to-table culinary experiences, indoor golf, bocce, and more.
Here are 10 examples of off-course amenities that’ll tempt even the most diehard golfers.
This private club community near Houston boasts the U.S.’s first Tiger Woods-designed course. But its members don’t live by golf alone. The club created a hip gathering place called The Fort, where families can hang by the pool (or zip down a 150-foot waterslide), play wiffle ball at a miniature version of Fenway Park, take in a movie, go bowling, grab some pizza, or even get creative with ceramics in the pottery room. It’s enough to make even dedicated golfers celebrate rainy days.
Golf has seen its share of battles at Bighorn, including multiple nationally televised Skins Games and The Battle at Bighorn itself. But many of this Palm Desert, Calif., club’s members are as passionate about cars as they are about golf. The Vault celebrates that passion with a 24,000-square-foot gallery in which the exotic cars of club members are garaged, a virtual GT racing simulator, and the Red Line Lounge—a racing-themed hangout that’s a sweet place to make a pit stop.
One of the best things about golf is that it gets you out in nature. At Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, Calif., club members can opt out of riding in a cart and spend the day on horseback instead. The club’s equestrian center has three barns, several arenas, and 100 miles of riding trails that meander through the California hills.
This oceanfront resort near Montego Bay in Jamaica has long been a favorite of sun-seeking golfers. But true to its pedigree as a destination resort, you can also go fishing, sailing, snorkeling, ride horses, play tennis or squash—or even become a PADI open water-certified diver. Four sessions with their expert instructors is all it takes.
There are more wine lockers than golf lockers at this Sonoma, Calif., club. The club membership includes a number of area vintners, and there are monthly wine tastings and an annual Vintner’s Wine Party. Underground wine vaults lead out to the club’s wine grotto, where enjoying California’s finest is a daily occurrence.
You might make your best shot of the day here. This fabled golf resort in the Dominican Republic offers world-class shooting facilities, with over 200 stations for trap, skeet, sporting clays, and pigeons. Its sporting clays tower is over 100 feet tall.
You’ll find two excellent golf courses at this Big Island resort, one from Robert Trent Jones II and one from the team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. But between rounds, don’t miss the chance to experience an up-close encounter with dolphins. Guided by marine mammal specialists, your encounter will support marine mammal conservation, education, and scientific studies.
Romance will definitely be in the air when you book a private dinner for two by the lake at this beautiful Greensboro, Ga., resort hotel. They’ll build you a bonfire, chill the champagne, and top off your meal with truffles and chocolate-covered strawberries—all overlooking scenic Lake Oconee.
Scotland is famed for its golf, but at Gleneagles in Perthshire, the falconry experience is not to be missed. There, you can learn the ancient sport of hunting with majestic birds of prey, including Harris Hawks, from expert instructors.
Taking to the water has never been more fun. Clubs and resorts from Tahoe Donner in California to Skytop in the Poconos to The Abaco Club in The Bahamas are installing Wibit watersports parks, indoors and out—much to the delight of swimmers of all ages.