There are thought to be at least 60 million people around the globe who can be classed as regular golfers, so there’s no wonder it ranks just behind sports like football, soccer, basketball and cricket in the popularity leagues.
Where golf differs from some other sports is in the wide variety of venue types where it can be played. Some courses are open, while others restrict access to members or resort/hotel guests. They also differ in length, with the standard 18 holes being most common, but shorter, 9-hole or executive courses remaining popular for those with less time to spare.
The final method for categorizing golf courses is the setting, which ranges from beach and desert to parkland, although many don’t fit comfortably into one exact niche.
Identifying Luxury Golf Courses
The term ‘luxury’ is classed as being equal to words such as opulence, grandeur, expensive and lavish, but how does this translate when defining a golf course? Although ultimately such a term is applied based on personal preferences and tastes, Richard Holtzman, managing director and vice president of the Montage Kapalua Bay, in Maui, Hawaii claims: “It’s a form of indulgence rather than necessity... having the opportunity to choose is a luxury.”
Here, luxury in relation to golf courses is applied to those which offer an outstanding overall experience. This encompasses the course itself, which should have an impeccable teeing ground, fairway, and green along with enough roughs, hazards and course lengths to satisfy players of all abilities, to the facilities, at least semi-exclusive access, transport options and unique, useful or upmarket extras. A generous sprinkling of prestige derived from either the events the course hosts or the famous names which have walked it at some point doesn’t hurt either.
Does Exclusive Always Mean Luxury?
When it comes to classifying golf courses, no. There are plenty which can confidently carry both labels, but few true luxury courses, if any, would offer open access to the public, and there are plenty of outrageously expensive and/or invitation only golf courses which do not fit the definition of luxury as it has been outlined here.
Courses such as that at the Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas are a good example of a high-end course which is focused ultimately on celebrity over the game. To reserve a spot on the tee you must be a guest at any MGM resort, and then pay $500 for each round each person plays and a return limo ride to and from your hotel. Even then, your game is not guaranteed as if a star rolls into town and wants to play you could well lose your slot. This negates any chance of being considered a luxury here as it is an unpredictable option which removes the golfer’s right to choose where he or she plays.
Something for Everyone
The great news is that there are amazing golf courses which manage to provide all or most of these things all around the world, with the major variants probably largely being the changing scenery and weather.
Sandy Lane, St James, Barbados
Boasting three fabulous courses, a welcoming clubhouse, a rental option for both shoes and clubs, and top-end locker facilities, this is a worthy entrant in the ‘luxury golf course’ category. There’s no fear of anyone getting lost on the greens either, as the golf carts are equipped with modern GPS systems which can also identify the closest hazards, offer tips on how to play the next hole, and even order a drink or snack should you need refreshments while playing.
The three courses, known as The Old Nine, the Country Club and the Green Monkey, all showcase different aspects of the amazing Barbados scenery. The latter, designed by Tom Fazio and carved out of a disused limestone quarry, is reserved for the exclusive use of resort guests.
Fazio also designed the Country Club course, which sports five lakes and lots of vibrant greenery on its said to be challenging, 72 par course. In 2006 this was the venue for the World Golf Championships Barbados World Cup.
The Old Nine, which has been around since the early 1960s offers a tempting challenge to players who wish to try navigating some smaller than expected spaces during play.
Experienced caddies add an extra element of luxury, as does the stock on offer at the pr-shop, which includes some lines exclusive to Green Monkey players. A light lunch, afternoon coffee or cocktails at sunset are all on offer at the exclusive clubhouse.
Four Seasons Resort, Anahita, Mauritius
It’s no hardship that free and unlimited access to the beautiful golf course, plus a GPS equipped golf cart is granted to resort guests. Designed by Ernie Els, this championship course –which was once a sugar plantation - offers over 7000 meters of immaculate fairways with 18, suitably challenging holes to play.
Players can enjoy views of mountain ranges and the ocean, and expect to come across various tropical plants, trees and flowers.
On offer, should guests desire them, are a driving range, putting green, private lessons by very experienced teachers, a free shuttle bus to the course, shoes/clubs rental option, a restaurant and a pro-shop.
Leopard Creek, South Africa
Often referred to as the best golf course in South Africa, Leopard Creek can be found in Mpumalanga Province, right next to the Kruger National Park. Don’t be surprised to find wildlife making itself at home on the greens and fairways, this is all part of the charm and an amazing experience you will probably never have again.
Getting there involves either a short plane hop or a four hour drive from Johannesburg, and it’s the perfect destination for either a completely golf focused experience, or those who wish to combine golf with a safari or two to gaze at and photograph the magnificent wild animals that share this space with visitors.
Even experienced players may feel the thrill of a water hazard that houses predators like crocodiles. If that’s not a huge incentive to up your game, nothing is. The par-5 14th hole is well known amongst those who know the course as it sits on the very edge of the river the crocodiles call home, albeit 32 meters above the water. This may be the time to unpack your most forgiving irons.
Verdura Resort, Sicily
The venue for the 2017 Rocco Forte Open, Verdura Resort offers two stand-out courses designed by Kyle Phillips [Kingsbarns] to make the most of the existing flora and fauna. Players can enjoy unlimited views of the nearby water in this temperate climate which is a perfect balance of warm sun and sea breeze.
The East Course is an intriguing mix of challenging short pars. Water hazards guarantee interesting play, delivering stunning panoramic views to those at the 18th hole, while the West Course focuses on the scenery angle from the get-go. A 9-hole practice course, putting greens, a driving range and opportunities for personal tuition make up the outstanding additional facilities available here.
All holes on both main courses offer five tee positions, with tee time staggered with 12 minute gaps to avoid hold ups. Electric carts are freely available, along with hand pulled trolleys for those who prefer them. A nicely designed clubhouse stocks designer golf brand items, top class changing facilities, refreshments and some nice extras akin to the ‘private club’ image they are cultivating.
Aphrodite Hills, Cyprus
Those looking to take the family along on a luxury golf break will especially enjoy a stay at the Aphrodite Hills, which boasts an array of activities to keep family members occupied if they are not enjoying the stunning golf facilities, which are comprised of an 18-hole championship golf course, 3-hole Golf Academy and a superb clubhouse. This resort caters for players of all ages and levels – so it’s a good place to introduce youngsters to this exciting sport.
Designed by the respected architect Cabell Robinson, Aphrodite Hills opened in 2002. Robinson has created an unforgettable course which incorporated original carob and olive trees, along with a 130 meter ravine and two plateaus. As you can imagine, this comes together to offer a challenging course to experienced players – adding an edge to every game.
The golf academy is staffed by experienced instructors, and offers lessons ranging from 1-1 to large groups. It’s no surprise that in the first Annual World Golf Award (2014), Aphrodite Hills won the Best Golf Course in Cyprus trophy.
Golf is a popular sport because it offers players a complex set of rich rewards, including exercise, healthy competition- with others or yourself -, trophies and the consequent recognition of hard earned skills, fresh air, companionship and enough challenges to remain interesting. If all of this is on offer at a top class golf course alongside state of the art equipment, coaching, sumptuous food and amazing scenery, chances are around 60 million people would agree that this truly is the definition of luxury.