The trend is unmistakable, travel industry members say. Once mainly the province of men, the annual golf getaway is changing fast. These days more and more women are loading up their clubs and hitting the road, experiencing the singular joy of a multiday golf vacation.
“It’s fantastic to see,” says Teresa Zamboni, co-owner of Nancy Lopez Golf Adventures, a Florida-based company that specializes in women’s group trips. “It’s time for women to enjoy the same things guys have been doing for years.”
Zamboni’s company, which she cofounded in 2014 with fellow LPGA professional Sue Powers, runs about a dozen trips a year (and Nancy Lopez comes along). This year’s trip to the Solheim Cup had 150 women—“and I could have brought 200 if we had the hotel space for them,” Zamboni says.
Women’s golf excursions tend to be a little different from the typical guys’ trip. They’re generally more well-rounded, for one, with time set aside for activities other than golf. They often are less about competition and more about companionship. It’s not unusual to find the players wearing matching outfits.
The important thing is, one size doesn’t fit all. Below, we’ll share stories of seven successful women’s golf trips, advice from participants on how to make the most of a golf vacation and our new list of the 33 best U.S. destinations for women’s golf getaways—a list that was created by surveying female golfers nationwide.
Aviara G.C., San Diego. Hugging the Pacific, this resort features a variety of wellness options. Plus, it’s within 30 minutes of museums, food and shopping.
Bandon (Ore.) Dunes G. Resort. It lacks the luxurious appointments and nongolf diversions of some resorts but more than makes up for it with six world-class courses and an all-are-welcome vibe.
The Boulders, Scottsdale. Visually stunning desert resort offers a pair of 18s with multiple women’s tees and plentiful restrooms. Off-course activities include rock climbing lessons, horses, hot-air ballooning.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo. Elegant hotel has two courses and a spa overlooking the Rockies. It’s also popular for women’s fly-fishing getaways.
Edgewood Tahoe, Stateline, Nev. Dramatic finishing holes feature gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe with the Sierra Mountains as a backdrop.
Half Moon Bay (Calif.) G. Links. Just 30 miles from the San Francisco airport, two seaside courses are framed by cliffs and wildflowers. Admire all from the five-star hotel’s Adirondack chairs and fire pits.
Hualalai G. Cse., The Big Island, Hawaii. Rooms look over the ocean, one of seven pools or the course. Off-course activities include ukulele lessons, sea kayaking and volcano hikes.
Kapalua Golf, Maui, Hawaii. There are two incredibly scenic courses with a history of women’s golf and all the activities that make Maui great, from beaches and hiking to shopping and fine dining.
Ojai (Calif.) Valley Inn. Its secluded course has tested pros and celebrities—but it’s the spa, artist cottage and apothecary that make this destination stand out.
Pebble Beach (Calif.) Resorts. This legendary resort has a history of women’s golf, starting with the 1940 Women’s U.S. Amateur. Soon: the ’23 U.S. Women’s Open.
The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach, Calif. Magnificent views abound at this coastal resort with two 18s, luxurious locker rooms and a five-star spa.
Pronghorn Resort, Bend, Ore. From spa to upscale dining, every detail is designed to enhance the high-desert landscape. Home to two beautiful courses, one by Jack Nicklaus, the other by Tom Fazio.
Sunriver Resort, Bend, Ore. Set among lush woodlands, meadows and wetlands, four courses change with the seasons, just like the innovative menus at the on-site restaurants.
Troon North G.C., Scottsdale. Navigate elevation changes, tricky bunkers and challenging greens on your own or with help from a caddie/forecaddie. You won’t find many better golf shops for women’s merchandise.
Wailea G.C., Maui, Hawaii. Enjoy breathtaking ocean views on almost every hole of the resort’s three courses and unwind at gorgeous, gold-sand beaches, the luxurious spa and dozens of restaurants and lounges.
Boyne Resorts, Boyne Falls, Mich. With extra daylight on the edge of EST, visitors can pack days with 10 courses, lakeside bike rides and carriage rides on old-timey Mackinac Island.
Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville, Mich. The Mountain Ridge course offers panoramic views and high elevations; Betsie Valley presents narrow fairways and protected greens. Forward tees take out any forced carries.
Forest Dunes, Roscommon, Mich. This woodsy getaway has two top courses, one of them the “reversible” Loop, and a welcoming attitude. Women get discounted green fees midweek.
French Lick (Ind.) Resort. Midwestern gem has LPGA ties dating to the 1960s. There are weekly women’s clinics, a Legends Tour Hall of Fame, two undulating courses and a nonsmoking casino.
Grand Traverse Resort, Acme, Mich. The Bear is demanding, with 11 forced carries, but two other 18s ensure variety. Afterward, try the spa, axe-throwing, casino, Wine Coast or Traverse City lights.
Sand Valley G. Resort, Nekoosa, Wis. Unpretentious lodging and food combine with two courses on our Second 100 Greatest (Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes) and one of the best par-3 courses in the country. On the two 18-holers, five of the six tees are rated for women.
Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire, Mich. Northern Michigan aesthetic is unmatched with five distinct courses, a small-yet-cosmopolitan village and upscale dining—all at a nice price.
Whistling Straits/Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wis. These are tough courses—forced carries abound, even from forward tees. World-renowned spa, luxurious rooms and excellent dining offer a soothing antidote.
The Breakers, Palm Beach. This upscale spot appeals to group trips and family getaways with golf academies, indoor-outdoor spa, kids-activity center and dining options for any palette.
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Come for the iconic Dorothy Draper decor, expansive locker room and spa; stay for three scenic, playable courses and more than 55 indoor/outdoor activities.
Kiawah Island (S.C.) G. Resort. The Ocean Course is famously difficult, but there are four other fine 18s, and the Sanctuary hotel (above) lives up to its name. Proximity to lively Charleston is another plus.
Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort. Multiple female PGA pros help set the women-friendly tone at sprawling resort. Bonus: Rolling sandhills courses don’t demand many forced carries.
Pine Needles Lodge & G.C. Southern Pines, N.C. Perfect your game and enjoy complimentary cocktails as part of the women’s “Golfari”—all on the course that’s home to the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open.
Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Ga. There are five courses, with multiple sets of tees, and an equally wide variety of lodging choices—from cottages to condos to hotel suites.
Ritz Carlton Naples (Fla.). Year-round destination is home to three tour events, but don’t let that intimidate you. The Black course has tees less than 4,000 yards—great for beginners.
Ross Bridge, RTJ G. Trail, Hoover, Ala. It’s among the world’s longest courses, at 8,191 yards. Ignore that and pick shorter tees that let you focus on the lakes, waterfall and stunning par 3s.
Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island. Perfect for groups looking to relax with daily bike rides around the idyllic Lowcountry. This resort offers weekly women’s clinics and a two-day school.
Streamsong Resort, Bowling Green, Fla. This resort has three acclaimed 18s, a two-acre putting course and a seven-hole short course to accommodate most skill levels and trip lengths.
Everyone calls Sue Pels “Boss” on their trips because of her knack for organizing and her fearlessness in ensuring things run smoothly. Heading to a course for the first time, she’ll call ahead to let them know she’s bringing a group of 16 women in their 60s. But make no mistake, these women can play.
“We may look like little old ladies, but we are good at golf,” says Pels, who lives in The Villages, Florida’s sprawling retirement community. “We’re not slow like everyone wants to think. We’re usually the ones complaining about slow play ahead of us.”
Like most women in golf, they are used to the looks and eye rolls they get when arriving at the course. Pels says those eyes stop rolling as soon as onlookers hear the ball come off the club, which is usually followed by “And that’s how it’s done, boys!” from at least one of the women in the group.
She credits her age and experience for her ability to let any prejudgments slide off her shoulders. The group can focus more on fun and less on what others think of them. They’ll wear their wacky outfits or matching shirts proudly as they smash their drives straight down the fairway and measure closest-to-the-pin contests in inches.
All 5- to 15-handicappers, members of Pels’ group want to play golf, have a good meal and enjoy a nightcap at the hotel’s patio or hot tub. “We typically don’t do things like going to the spa, sightseeing or shopping,” she says. “We like to play golf, talk about our golf and drink.”
On one trip to Vail, Colo., there was some bad weather, so the group went to check out the town and lasted less than an hour before they were itching to get back to the golf course.
The women usually pay roughly $2,000 to $3,500 per person for six nights (double occupancy) and five days of golf.
As we were preparing this article, Pels was planning her ninth trip to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama—one of her favorites for its good value in golf and dining. Although they prefer trips that are drivable from central Florida—such as Alabama, Hilton Head Island, Reynolds Plantation and Amelia Island— they have a few more distant trips in the works. Pels took a small group to Pebble Beach in the past and is returning with 12 players next year.
“We were planning a trip to Spain in 2020 that was canceled by COVID, but we are working to reschedule,” Pels says. “Another one of the golfers in our group is from Iceland, so we’d like to go there, too, sometime.”
Even with 30- and 40-handicappers in the pairings, the name “Power Hitters” still applies to the group of women Leela Narang and Cynthia Howard traveled with earlier this year. The 12 women who came together for a one-night, two-round golf trip at New Jersey’s Hidden Creek Golf Club were powerful executives in the corporate world.
Avid golfers who work in the golf industry, Narang and Howard invited women who were familiar with the game, but none had been on a women-only golf trip. They advertised the trip as a party with the opportunity to network with other powerful women.
“We had matches just like the guys, we boozed just like the guys. We basically took the guys’ golf trip and copied it for women,” Narang says.
Ranging in age from 26 to 52, the women stayed in the cottages on property, ate all meals together and enjoyed lots of cocktails. The starter had a drink ready for each woman, and each had a chance to fill her cup at every hole. The competition was still fierce, but it was important to Narang and Howard that everyone felt welcomed and accepted. “I think women naturally try and make sure everyone is having a good time, and it worked,” Narang says. “One woman who said she’d been on a trip to the Masters said this was the most fun she’d ever had on a golf trip.”
It wasn’t easy coordinating a large group of busy women to attend this trip, which cost $1,000 per person. Almost a year in advance, they invited 25 women, and as the trip neared, more and more dropped out. “The hurdle is getting women to commit to something like this when they might not be as good of a golfer and might not be willing to take that kind of time off from their families,” Narang says. “Guys never cancel on these trips because it’s their escape.”
When it comes to planning golf trips for women, Narang and Howard say it’s important to give everyone a lot of lead time and to find a golf course that’s not too far away and offers on-site lodging. “The cottages were really the glue to the trip,” Howard says. “Being able to wake up and have coffee in your pajamas together before the round, that’s a big difference-maker.”
EVERYONE SHOWS UP READY TO PARTY
Haley Hillesland and her friends have cloudy skies to thank for getting them into golf. During a beach excursion to Cape Cod in 2016, the weather failed to cooperate so, in search of a group activity, they booked a tee time. The foursome raced to a department store for something to wear, but the closest thing to golfwear were tennis skirts. Dressed for the courts rather than the greens, they sprinted back, arriving late and skipping the first hole. “We played only eight holes and probably took 300 swings each,” Hillesland says. “We were running around like idiots. But we loved it.”
They’ve been working on their game—and making it a central theme of their girls’ weekends—ever since. They take an annual trip upstate to Lake George, N.Y., where one of them, Kiki Grueter, has a family home. “We always end up being very active up there—golf, tennis, boating, water skiing, swimming, drinking games, you name it,” Hillesland says. “It’s a true summer camp experience.”
There, they frequent Skene Valley, a public course and rumored home to Bigfoot. With wide-open fairways, it’s ideal for beginners. Their favorite course, if you can call it that, is Glenburnie. At only five holes, the layout was built on a resort property but was left unfinished after the hotel burned down. They play in jean shorts and bare feet. “That’s very much our vibe when it comes to golf,” Hillesland says. “I wish it wasn’t this way, but anytime you step on the golf course with more than two women it seems like you’re making a scene. But it’s fun that way.”
Hillesland and her friends have turned their passion into a side hustle, though they’re working to make it more than that. After setting up Grueter with an eponymous golf Instagram as a joke, “Grueter Golf,” their events company, was born. Grueter Golf hosts day and weekend trips, both co-ed and women-only, with the mission to make golf “cool and fun” for all. Expect to see cartwheels, “Happy Gilmore” imitations, shotgunned beers, and lots of cheering—for bad and good shots alike.
Trips are themed, so they might show up in Hawaiian shirts or, for their “Candy Corn Classic” in October, Halloween costumes. “We’re new to golf ourselves, so that was always the pitch to non-golfers: Come out and have a good time—you just happen to be swinging a golf club,” Hillesland says.
The settings for their events aren’t “particularly golfy,” but that’s part of the attraction. Beginners—especially their female clientele—enjoy deviating from the Hilton Heads and the “Wine and Nines.” One example is a recent girls’ weekend to the Seaview Golf Club in New Jersey. They played two rounds and shuffled to Atlantic City for craps at The Borgata. Says Hillesland, “Everyone shows up ready to party and have a good time.”
Five years ago, seven Michiganders were brought together by two things: golf and the fact that they knew the “Winter Bird,” a friend of a friend who owned a house in Naples, Fla.
“Now we’re all great friends,” says Wendy Turner-Miller. “After that, we went every year. This group is a mainstay.”
The ritual has grown to include as many as 20 women who gather every year to play golf by day and “hang out all night,” Turner-Miller says. She estimates the trips cost her $3,000 to $4,000 for flights, four nights in a hotel, food, course reservations and her share of the party bus they rent to chauffeur them.
“It’s a whole situation,” Turner-Miller says with a laugh. “It’s great because you’re in a city where you don’t know anybody and don’t know where you’re going, so it really becomes an experience of the city and of the sisterhood that you’re creating with these ladies.”
Hot wheels aside, the Winter Birds have a few other traditions. First, they always make sure to switch up the pairings. “That way you get to really cultivate those relationships and just talk,” Turner-Miller says. “Eighteen holes of golf gives you four hours to really speak about your whole life experience. You can figure a lot out about a person.”
A second tradition involves shopping. Although not a mandate—there are only two required meeting times: tee-off and dinner—the flock likes to fit in shopping whenever they can. They explore local stores for new clothes to model on the course during the trip.
Turner-Miller’s favorite moment happened after the group changed out of their golf attire. On this Naples eve, they threw on summery dresses, hopped in their party bus and headed to a beachside restaurant. “We had the best time,” she recalls. “We had two tables, lots of ladies. The weather was perfect, the water was glistening, the wine was fabulous. That was one of my best memories of this trip.”
Over the years, the group has played at Quail Creek Country Club, The Classics Country Club, The Mustang at Lely Resort, Naples Beach Hotel Golf Club and the Naples Grande Golf Club. They’ve never had anything other than a blissful experience, but Turner-Miller says the trip’s success comes down to planning the details and soliciting recommendations from friends, the Internet and even travel professionals.
If you’re looking to plan a trip yourself, Turner-Miller recommends selecting a place near the water to ensure there are a variety of activities for every level of golf enthusiast. She and her friends enjoy drinking cocktails by the pool, sunning at the beach, sightseeing and boating. For a Florida trip last year, they even rented a yacht—they’re pretty into alternative modes of transportation.
Depending on how golf-centric the group is, Turner-Miller and a friend even fly down early to make sure they can enjoy the beach. “That’s how this kind of morphs into more than your golf buddies,” she says. “These are your friends, people you share your life with, and golf is the piece of the puzzle that creates the magic.”
It was the most heated golf matchup in modern history. No, not the Ryder Cup—this was bridesmaids versus groomsmen, and the anticipation reached an all-time high as we pulled into the golf club’s parking lot.
The dudes were going down.
The occasion was Michelle Wie’s 2019 wedding to Jonnie West. Everyone in the wedding party flew in a day or two early for the rehearsal dinner and the match at L.A.’s Riviera Country Club. Each team was decked out in matching swag. Our fearless leader, the bride, wore all white and opted not to play. Instead, she watched from a golf cart and chirped at our opponents.
I’ve been to a few weddings since, but one thing is for sure: This one took the three-tiered vanilla cake.
It’s worth noting that half the bridesmaids were LPGA Tour players like Marina Alex and Alison Walshe. Given that a few of the groomsmen were NBA players, including Warriors stars Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala, it might have helped their cause if the activity had been a game of horse, but the women had the upper hand on the grass.
A few of the matches were close, mine included. A memorable moment was on 16 when I drained a 20-foot birdie putt. I fist-pumped like I had won the U.S. Women’s Open, only to have the groom drain his 15-footer on top of me. Dagger.
I believe I won. Or maybe we tied. Either way it didn’t matter because ultimately the women came out on top. We now had bragging rights for the rest of the weekend and would make sure that every guest knew we had taken down the boys.
Getting into golf can be intimidating—especially for a woman. However, it’s a little easier if you don’t have to brave it alone. That’s how this group of women met, and it’s what inspired them to start going on their golf trips.
In 2007, Ann Gallagher joined a program at Castlebar Golf Club in Ireland called “Get into Golf,” which was created by Golf Ireland to make golf more accessible. Every week their group would practice together, and as their skills improved, they started to talk about going on a trip to Spain once they completed the two-year program.
By the time they were booking flights and tee times, 40 women had signed up. Gallagher admits that she was among a few who were nervous about the trip. However, once they got there, she says, all of her fears were gone. “It helps to have someone with you. Sometimes, two people are braver than one,” Gallagher says.
Since their first trip in 2009, the group has gone on five, each time taking 40. “Everyone comments on the group’s size,” Gallagher says. “They all ask, ‘How did you do it?’ ”
There’s no secret formula, though it helps that the trip is reasonably priced. They travel in the spring, during the off-peak season, so the cost is relatively low—about $750 a person for three rounds, carts, rental clubs, five nights, bus transfers, a gala dinner, prizes and goody bags, Gallagher says.
They’ve gone to La Cala Resort in Spain, and Monte Rei, Castro Marim, Vilamoura and Portimao in Portugal.
The format is always fun and designed to get participants playing with new people every day. Day 1 is a Stableford. They pair up with the women they usually play with at the club to get things going. Day 2 is best ball, played with their regular fourball partner and two new competitors. Only the best 15 scores on each team count, so there’s not a ton of pressure on newer golfers.
After a day off to explore the local shops and beaches, their final round is a team competition. It’s red robins versus pink panthers, and the players go all out with their outfits to represent their teams. This friendly rivalry has been such a success for them that it’s even made its way into their club competitions. “It gives the ladies who didn’t make the trip a chance to play in it,” Gallagher says.
These outings have increased her confidence on the course, she says. “During the first trip, I remember I played with more experienced players, and I saw good players hit bad shots and less experienced players hit good shots, and it made me realize that golf has its ups and downs.”
Her best advice for golfers looking to book something similar? Plan ahead and fully commit!
THEIR CLUB CLOSED, SO THEY HIT THE ROAD
Earlier this year, Summit Chase Country Club outside Atlanta closed its golf course after selling the land to a home developer. Among many of the disappointed members were Maura Jacob and her playing partners. Before the course was shut down, the eight women would play together four times a week, but now that their standing tee times had come to an end, they needed to find a way to play together again. Their solution: a golf trip.
A friend suggested they check out the courses at Fairfield Glade in Crossville, Tenn., which is about a four-hour drive from their homes. They found several companies offering stay-and-play packages. The one they chose, Tennessee Mountain Golf, had rounds of golf on three courses, plus four nights in nearby villas for $566 a person.
This trip was special from the start. “After our club closed in May, we really wanted to be able to play together again,” Jacob says, “and this was also our first opportunity to travel since the pandemic hit in 2020.”
After the first few holes, it felt like things were back to normal. Jacob and her friends played their usual games of skins, catfight (a Stableford-type points game) and low putts while sharing shots of “swing juice.”
After three rounds of stroke play, the women headed home with some incredible memories along with personalized towels to commemorate their trip.
Jacob suggests putting a single person in charge of booking hotels and tee times. She also recommends finding resorts that offer golf packages. “In this day and age, anyone can feel comfortable putting together a golf trip,” she says. “I do think it is better to go with a package deal and resort-style courses. After all, traveling golfers are their specialty, so you can expect a great experience.” As for the actual golf, she says to mix up foursomes, so everyone has a chance to play together.
If you’re worried about pace of play or keeping up as a beginner, Jacob suggests having a maximum score for every hole. The course also featured women’s senior tees, which were almost 1,000 yards shorter than its women’s tees. The higher handicap players found this to be helpful and welcoming.
Although it might seem like you have to be a certain handicap to book a golf trip as a woman, Jacob says this is no longer the case. “The golf industry has progressed enough that women shouldn’t feel intimidated to book a trip.”
WHAT IF YOU WANT TO COMPETE BUT SOME MEMBERS DON’T HAVE HANDICAPS?
Sarah Forrest, a U.K.-based trip planner who goes by the “Travelling Lady Golfer,” has organized trips around the globe, from Argentina to Portugal. Her thoughts on handicaps:
“If the ladies are a relaxed group who just want to have fun on the golf course, I wouldn’t worry too much about handicaps and maybe assign the highest she can get. Ladies are usually pretty honest with this kind of thing, so she’d tell me if I gave her too many shots. After all, it’s important that they have fun and don’t stress over the game.
“They’re more serious? Then I’d assign an appropriate handicap to make sure she can take part without being pressured, but also not walk away with the prizes, as that wouldn’t be good for the other ladies.
“On a trip with multiple golf days with the same group, the winners get shots deducted, and the ones at the bottom of the field get shots added so that the same people aren’t winning the prizes every day. It evens out the field better—and it’s more fun that way.”
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