Luxury hotels and resorts with significant golf obviously have big feathers in their caps. The gal does not play golf – she did try, had oodles of lessons and hit only her ankle until an instructor aboard a cruise ship finally managed to put her club in direct contact with a ball. But here, for those addicted to hitting a tiny white ball with the end of a long heavy club, are some golf courses she has seen at close quarters. First off is the TPC Stadium Course at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morris. For non-golfers, there is a stunning three-floor spa, and at last sighting I was offered a bento box lunch, a delicate recompense for massage pummelling but hardly enough to satisfy anyone who survived the golf course with its par-5 15th hole where water surrounds its bunkers.
At Four Seasons Punta Mita Resort I was introduced to champion-dwarf Bermuda grass, ideal for this 19-hole Jack Nicklaus beauty, said the pro. The course, right next to the 140-room resort on the Bill Gates-owned 1,500-acre Punta Mita peninsula, does actually have 19 holes, and I do not mean the club house bar at the end. No, there are two ‘third holes’. Hole 3-B is unique in the Americas in that it is all by itself on a natural island, a whopping 194 yards away from the mainland. To be on the safe side, choose hole 3-A. To show your courage, take 3-B.
At Dromoland, in Co Clare, the par-72, 6,845-yard course was designed by Ron Kirby and J.B. Carr. It has to compete for your attention with archery, cycling, falconry, fishing on Lough Dromoland, pony-and-trap driving, paddle board, tennis, riding and clay pigeon shooting. All this sounds so exhausting you might simply want to retreat to the golf course, knowing at the end of the round you can recover in the Fig Tree clubhouse, or go back to the mediaeval hostelry for Mrs White’s famous afternoon tea. Do not forget to admire the Waterford crystal chandeliers overhead as you sip – they have to be cleaned professionally every six months.
The Gleneagles, Auchterarder, should be getting in a tizz but of course being professionals the entire team, led by CEO Patrick Elsmie, is marvellously calm. Gleneagles hosts the 2014 Ryder Cup, September 26-28, and on July 30th, 2014, Patrick Elsmie said what fun it is watching the stands and tented structures being built. For years they have planned, rebuilding the Jack Nicklaus PGA Centenary Course, and tweaking the King’s and Queen’s Courses, and moving trees left right and centre. In between all this excitement, those lucky enough to have rooms at the 258-room historic hotel can use the indoor pools – lap, and fun-curvilinear – and try some of the activities that well compete with those at Dromoland, with the addition here of off-road driving.
Conrad Pezula, in Knysna, shows South Africa’s rolling countryside at its best. The Ron Fream course runs down to the sea, where there is the divinely private two-bedroom Castle, which Nelson Mandela used to love (see his photos and other memorabilia there). Also on the rambling 8,000-acre estate is a professional football pitch, used for practice by some teams before the 2010 World Cup. When I was there, it sadly rained, so I did not get a chance to canoe down the river from the main, 78-room, hotel, down to the coast at Noetzie Beach, but I was taken to the farmyard to meet some much-loved animals.
There are no animals at the only golf course in the Maldives, on Villingili Island right in the south of this sprawling nation of islands, in a chain 600 miles long. It has nine holes, and includes the nation’s tallest mountain, as shown. Stay at the luxury Shangri-La’s Villingili Island Resort and Spa and learn the history of the adjacent Gan island, its past as a crucial staging post in Cold War days and, today, its importance to Chinese investing in Africa…