Altitude Shift

Altitude Shift

Written by: , May 15th, 2024

Golf is having a moment. The golf industry touted 2020 as the “year of resurgence,” with the National Golf Foundation reporting 24.8 million golfers in the U.S. in 2020—the largest net increase in 17 years, as well as the highest number of new players (6.2 million) on record. The surge in interest hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, and the sport’s renaissance includes younger players and more women.

The top courses in America are taking note and upping their offerings both on and off the greens. Here are the golf getaways any novice or pro should have on their bucket list. With courses below sea level, at sea level, and perched at 6,800 feet, your game will literally reach new heights.

The Oasis at Death Valley

The Course: If you want golf bragging rights, book a tee time at The Furnace Creek Golf Course. Designed at more than 200 feet below sea level, it’s the world’s lowest golf course in elevation and set within the desert oasis that is Death Valley National Park. Golf Digest ranks the 18-hole, par-70 course among the 50 toughest in America.

Some unique challenges include the low barometric pressure that prevents golf balls from traveling as far as they would at sea level, as well as wily coyotes who are known to dart onto the course and steal golf balls.

The remote course goes back to 1927, when Murray Miller, a date-palm caretaker at Furnace Creek, set up a three-hole golf course for the local miners. In 1931, a nine-hole course—the first grass course in the California desert—was created. Oasis water was used to irrigate the fairways and the ranch’s nearby sheep kept them mowed. Noted course designer William F. Bell expanded the course to a full 18 holes in 1968, and a state-of-the-art irrigation system allows it to remain open year-round.

The resort’s recent renaissance included eco-updates that have made the course water neutral and incorporate native plantings. A PGA Golf Pro is on site for lessons and to share tips for navigating this deceptively difficult course.

The Rooms: The Oasis at Death Valley offers five choices of accommodations, ranging from a campground anchored by a natural spring-fed swimming pool to the historic Inn that has hosted Hollywood stars like Marlon Brando and Clark Gable. A recent multi-million-dollar restoration has added 22 casitas scattered around date palms and gardens, as well as 80 modern cottages that are walking distance to The Furnace Creek Golf Course.

Don’t miss the creative cocktails inspired by the local bounty at The Inn at Death Valley Dining Room. The Date & Thyme, a mix of date-infused vodka, thyme honey, St. Germain, and prosecco, is a favorite.

On a hot summer day, cool off with a famous date shake or root beer float from the Ice Cream Parlor, an old-timey soda fountain that will make you nostalgic for your childhood.

Personal Pampering: Check in to one of the new spa rooms at The Wellness Sanctuary at Death Valley. A Trigger Point Foot Wrap offers relief after being on your feet for 18 holes, and sports-specific massages can be enhanced with pain-relieving arnica cream or magnesium oil and percussion guns that knead away stubborn knots.

The Broadmoor

The Courses: Nestled at the foothills of the Cheyenne Mountains, The Broadmoor Golf Club’s two courses are considered Colorado golf’s most coveted crown jewels. When classic architect Donald Ross designed the original 18-hole course in 1916, he declared it “his best work,” says Russ Miller, The Broadmoor’s director of golf. That’s an impressive statement, considering his last project had been another classic layout now named Pinehurst No. 2.

When Broadmoor East opened in 1918, it was the highest golf course in the U.S. at 6,400 feet in elevation. In 1948, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. was hired to design an additional nine-hole course that joined with nine of Ross’ original holes, opening in 1952 as the new East Course. The first nine holes of the original Ross 18 became known as the “Back Nine.” In 1964, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. returned to design nine new holes in addition to redesigning nine holes of the original course, forming The Broadmoor West Course.

The latter plays tightly off the tee and features steeply angled greens set at 6,800 feet with rolling fairways and demanding hazards.

The East Course, known for its wide, tree-lined fairways and expansive greens, ranks among the top courses in the country and has been home to major tournaments, including the 1959 U.S. Amateur (Jack Nicklaus’ first major win!) and the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open, which was Annika Sorenstam’s first major title. The famous course recently hosted the 2008 U.S. Senior Open, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, and the 2018 U.S. Senior Open. The 2025 U.S. Senior Open will be hosted again on the East Course, making it the ninth USGA championship dating back to 1959. According to Miller, the front nine provides the most scoring opportunities. The long par-35 back nine should be approached strategically.

The Rooms: The historic mountain resort’s 784 accommodations include rooms, suites, cottages, brownstones, and the lavish Estate House. If you’re after the best golf course views, opt for the West Junior Suites or West Tower Patio Suites.

However, the cottages bordering the 18th fairway of the East Course have the largest guest rooms at the resort, with luxe features like natural stone fireplaces, five-fixture baths, and elegant French doors that open to expansive verandas.

Where to Eat: You’ll want to work up an appetite to indulge in The Broadmoor’s many restaurants, cafés, and lounges. Located at the Golf Club, The Grille serves Colorado classics such as a Signature Open Face Short Rib Sandwich and The Broadmoor Golf Club Chili. At the same time, Ristorante del Lago channels Italy with dishes such as Dayboat Black Cod Peperonata and Cacio e Pepe paired with an exclusively Italian wine list.

Personal Pampering: The deep tissue massage at The Broadmoor’s Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Spa was designed with golfers in mind. Between treatments, unwind in the Himalayan salt-infused dry saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen lounge. Post treatment, you can study the greens (and peaks)
from the Mountain View relaxation room.

Sea Island

The Course: At Sea Island, Touring Professional Davis Love III learned how to play golf from his father, practiced with his brother, and introduced the game to his son. His story could easily be the story of any Sea Island member or guest, because where else can you get the world’s best Golf Performance Center with top instructors, oceanfront driving range, and three championship golf courses—all in one place?

The first of the resort’s three championship courses, Seaside Course, combines beautiful oceanfront views and natural settings into a course that is both challenging and fun. The manicured fairways and greens are bordered by sweeping dunes mixed with native grasses, wildflowers, and bunkers—and the sea breeze creates a different golf experience, daily. Seaside is routinely ranked among the top 100 courses in the United States and, along with Plantation Course, is the home of the PGA TOUR’s RSM Classic.

Plantation Course offers a mix of forest and ocean views. Inspired by Walter Travis’ 1928 original nine-hole course, it reopened in 2019 after a complete redesign by Davis Love III and his brother, Mark, of Love Golf Design.

Finally, Retreat Course was redesigned in 2001 by Love Golf Design and offers a variety of green shapes and fairway widths, extensive bunkering, and six sets of tees, including family tees.

The Rooms: Centerpiece to Sea Island Golf Club, as well as its Seaside and Plantation golf courses, is The Forbes Five-Star Lodge at Sea Island. Opened in 2001, The Lodge provides an intimate 58-room setting for couples and golfers. Overlooking the beach joining St. Simons Sound with the Atlantic Ocean, The Lodge boasts seven golf-in golf-out cottages— including the King Cottage with a private hitting bay—an oceanfront pool and pool house, and an 18-hole putting course called Speedway.

Where to Eat: The Oak Room offers a relaxed, tavern-style setting that transports guests to Scotland with a selection of fine single-malt Scotch and a bagpiper playing classic tunes such as “Scotland the Brave.”

Beloved by guests since 1928, The Forbes Five-Star Cloister at Sea Island is set on 50 lush acres and is nestled between five miles of private beach and largest salt marsh on the eastern seaboard. The Cloister encompasses a vast range of world-class amenities, including the Sea Island Beach Club with Sea Strike & Pub, The Spa at Sea Island, Sea Island Yacht Club, Sea Island Shooting School, and
Rainbow Island.

River Bar and Lounge, located with The Cloister at Sea Island, is simple elegance with beers on tap, an extensive wine list, single-malt scotch, and a fine selection of bourbon and whiskey. The menu features casual and creative cuisine with French and European twists, like our signature Sea Island Seafood Gumbo—perfect for sharing as guests take in panoramic views of the Black Banks River.

Personal Pampering: With towering palms above and smooth stones below, The Forbes Five-Star Spa at Sea Island captures the very essence of nature, with cascading waterfall showers, mineral pool baths, a peaceful grass labyrinth, and sun-filled garden atrium. From the moment of arrival, the gentle flow of waters leads to a renewed sense of spirit. This 65,000-square foot facility is a haven for guests and members seeking a sanctuary of unparalleled elegance and serenity. Cryotherapy treatments, as well as hands- and arms-specific massages, were developed with golfers in mind.


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