TOP 10 FAMILY-FRIENDLY GOLF RESORTS

Looking for a golf vacation that has something for even non-golfers in the family?  We know exactly where to go!

Why go?

Let’s not kid ourselves:  golf is a difficult game.  But if you don’t take yourselves too seriously, it can be a great game to enjoy as a family.  Golf teaches patience and humility; it provides an excuse to enjoy the great outdoors.  Plus, if your kids are like mine, a chance to drive the golf cart is usually incentive enough to hit the links.

This top 10 list is made up of two kinds of golf resorts.  First, we have the resorts with courses that have a high degree of playability, meaning they’re not too hard.  These courses often offer extra incentives for families like special clinics or reduced greens fees.  Other resorts recommended on this list are home to true golfers’ courses that present a greater challenge.  However, these resorts also offer other family-friendly amenities to satisfy non-golfers while you’re on the greens.  In addition, all of the recommended resorts boast top-notch accommodations and dining to round out your vacation experience.

1/Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Kiawah Island has to be one of the most idyllic settings of any golf resort in the country.  Situated on a private, barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, Kiawah Island Golf Resort boasts five championship courses, including the world-renown and difficult Ocean Course. The resort offers private and group clinics for every golfer in the family.  It even has a family tee program, where you can golf together from the family tees at four of the five courses; kids (17 and under) play for free with a paying adult; the Ocean Course is not included.  The Sanctuary is the seaside hotel on the property and the epitome of southern hospitality.  The resort also has luxurious villas and homes to rent.  The list of family-friendly activities is endless:  swimming, tennis, biking, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, nature hikes (say “hi” to the resident alligator, Charlie), and the Kamp Kiawah kids’ club, just to name a few. 

2/The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Scottsdale, Arizona

The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa is your best family choice in the golf mecca of Phoenix-Scottsdale.  The golf club encourages kids’ participation through discounted green fees, junior club rentals, and new family golf carts that accommodate four people and four golf bags.    Or hop on a golf Segway, golf bike or Golfboard that carries your clubs!  How cool is that?!  The resort also has an Adventure Water Park with a 110-foot water slide, lazy river, and FlowRider simulator.  Little kids love the pop-jet water fountains in the small pool, just for them.  The shaded OK Corral has more outdoor fun, including lawn chess, basketball, ping pong, and organized games.  In addition, there are lots of extra programs for kids:  Kids Club (ages 4-12), Digital Kids Club (ages 8-13), and Kids in the Kitchen (ages 4-12, summer and holiday weekends) where kids pull on chef hats and work with the resort’s culinary team to make chocolate chip cookies. 

3/The Omni Homestead Resort
Hot Springs, Virginia

Perched in the Allegheny Mountains of western Virginia, The Omni Homestead is the perfect setting for a family getaway.  Famed golfer Sam Snead caddied here and later launched his career on the resort’s acclaimed Cascades Course.  Both the Cascades and Old Course are very challenging with difficult up-and-down approaches and blind shots; I would only take older, confident kids on the Old Course and would not play Cascades with children.  Rentals are available, but no kid-sized clubs.  Alternatively, there’s an on-site Kids Club (ages 3-12), if you need child care while you play a round.  The Homestead makes the list because of all the additional family experiences:  archery, canoeing, kayaking, carriage rides, hayrides falconry, fly fishing, guided hikes, mountain biking, horse backing riding, tennis, paintball, Segway tours, and my family’s favorite, skeet shooting.  Plus the resort has a fabulous pool area, called Allegheny Springs, with a large family pool, lazy river, slides, splash pad, and sand beach. 

4/Hershey Resorts
Hershey, Pennsylvania

In addition to Hersheypark theme park, water park, and enough chocolate to give you a sugar high of a lifetime, Hershey Resorts offers a very affordable Golf Fore Family experience at 9-hole, Spring Creek Golf Course.  The package includes 9 holes of golf, club rentals, ball sleeves, and snacks for a family of four.  Cost:  $100; make sure to reserve a tee time in advance.  The Hershey Country Club boasts three more difficult, award-winning courses for the exclusive use of members or guests of Hershey Resorts (The Hershey Hotel, Hershey Lodge, and Hersheypark Camping Resort).  While you’re here, try the new FootGolf course at Spring Creek.  Think soccer + golf.  My boys love it! 

5/Black Butte Ranch
Black Butte, Oregon

Situated in Central Oregon and ringed by Cascade mountain peaks, you’ll find Black Butte Ranch.  The resort boasts a long list of activities that connect families with nature, in addition to its two, very playable courses.  Big Meadow Golf Course stretches over 7,000 yards through towering Ponderosa pines and shimmering stands of Aspen trees.  The fairways are expansive, challenging younger golfers without the frustration.  In fact, after finishing nine holes, my 13-year-old son wanted to continue to play, which typically is not the case.  On the south side of the Ranch, you’ll find the Glaze Meadow Golf Course, the beneficiary of a $3.75-million renovation in 2012.  It plays 7,007 yards from the back tees and includes five sets of tees on every hole, allowing golfers of all skill levels to enjoy the game.

KidTripster Tip: You can rent a GolfBoard (like a surfboard with wheels) to liven up your round, but you do need to be 18 years old.

KidTripster Tip: Playing golf at Black Butte Ranch is incredible affordable.  After 4 p.m., a family of four can play 18 holes (or fewer) for $60; there’s an extra fee for carts.  There are also reduced rates for juniors (17 and under) in the afternoons and evenings.

While these mountain courses are stunning, what’s really special about golf at Black Butte Ranch is the commitment to engage younger players.  Golf director Jeff Fought runs kids’ clinics, camps, and fun junior putting challenges (with prizes!) throughout the summer.  He also offers free, 90-minute snag golf sessions at Big Meadows.  Snag golf is designed to make golf fun with oversized equipment and contests that introduce basic skills.  If you’re looking to get your kids excited about the game of golf, you can’t beat the Ranch’s programs. 

6/Copper Mountain Resort
Copper Mountain, Colorado

Hit from the highest tee box in North America (9,863 feet) and watch your ball soar!  A round of golf here not only features breathtaking views of the 10-Mile Range in the Rocky Mountains, it also features golf bikes!  That’s right, strap your bag onto your very own golf bike and ride down the fairway.  And all this fun won’t break the bank, as a round of golf at Copper Mountain is surprisingly affordable.  In addition, your kids will love all the other activities offered:  bungy bouncing, zipline, go karts, hydrobikes,  bumper boats, climbing wall, and summer snow tubing.  After your round, reward yourself with some of the mini donuts, baked fresh everyday at Sugar Lips. 

7/Grand Hotel
Mackinac Island, Michigan

For golfers, the course at the exquisite Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island may be one of the most unique 18 holes of your life.  The Jewel Course is broken up into two different areas. The Grand Nine is played near the hotel with views of Lake Huron and Round Island.  After you complete the first half, you’ll be taken by horse-drawn carriage (no motorized golf carts on the Island) to the Woods Nine in the interior of Mackinac with views of Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula.  The 15-minute ride also treats you to views not normally seen by visitors.  For the kids, there’s a Grand Kids Golf Academy (Mondays through Thursdays), where a course pro offers 1-1/2-hours of instruction for just $20/child.  Not a golfer?  No worries, grab a soccer ball for a game of FootGolf (soccer + golf).

8/Palmetto Dunes
Hilton Head, South Carolina

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is located in the heart of Hilton Head island.  An award-winning family destination, the resort really has it all: three miles of Atlantic coastline, a multitude of water sports, dolphin tours and fishing charters, surfing camp, biking, tennis, and of course, golf.  Die-hard golfers hit the trifecta here with the Robert Trent Jones Course (one of the best courses in the Southeast), the George Fazio Course, and the Arthur Hills Course.  For families, I’d recommend teeing it up for nine holes at either the George Fazio or Arthur Hills courses.  Junior programs are available through the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy.

KidTripster Tip: Book online in advance to save up to 30-percent on greens fees.

9/Amelia Plantation
Amelia Island, Florida

Nestled on 1,350 acres at the tip of a barrier island just off the northeast coast of Florida, you’ll find Amelia Plantation.  A vacation mecca, this resort offers more than 400 oceanfront rooms and suites.  But your kids likely won’t care about the views as they’ll be focused on the huge family pool, splash park, and hot tubs.  (Don’t tell them about the adult-only, infinity pool!)  Kids also will love Camp Amelia, the Gamers teen lounge, plus kayaking, paddle boarding, tennis, biking and more!  And then there’s the golf:  Oak Marsh, Ocean Links, and Long Point Courses that incorporate the magnificent marshes, thick pine and oak forests, and scenic sand dunes in their designs.  Juniors (ages 8-17) can sign up for one of the Golf Academy sessions.  For those kids not quite ready for the links, head to Heron’s Cove mini golf course, located underneath a canopy of beautiful Live oaks.

10/JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
Palm Desert, California

Palm Desert is known as a golfer’s paradise.  The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa boasts two, 18-hole championship courses; the Palm Course is the more family-friendly of the two.  Rental carts are equipped with GPS systems to make play quicker.  Each guest can participate in one complimentary, daily golf clinic.  And to encourage family play, kids (15 and under) golf for free with a paying adult after 3 p.m.  My son’s favorite hole?  Picturesque number 17 which is actually an island with its own waterfall!  In addition to golf, your family will enjoy three outdoor pools and a world-class tennis center.  For a full review, click here.

KidTripster Tip:  Desert Springs participates in Marriott’s Family Golf Festival, a one-day event held worldwide with free instruction, clinics, interactive golf games, and prizes.  Check with the pro shop for the next event date.