Because of its temperate weather and beautiful natural settings, the South is a coveted year-round golf destination. The number of world-class, professionally designed courses in the Southern states is astounding, from oceanfront locales to mountainous regions.
Here are some of the South’s best resorts and destinations for meeting groups that love to golf when they gather.
Beau Rivage Resort and Casino and Fallen Oak Golf Course
Owned by MGM Resorts, the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino is the largest meeting hotel in Mississippi with 1,740 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of space. Perched on a white sand beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the resort, known for its large casino, is also a premier golf destination with its own 18-hole golf course, Fallen Oak. The course, designed by Tom Fazio, is a 30-minute drive away in a woodlands area bordering a national forest.
“When you drive up, it gives you an impression of exclusivity,” said Randy Whiteside, executive director of sales at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino. “It has a beautiful clubhouse and all the amenities, from people taking your golf clubs from the car to a first-class locker room and a restaurant that overlooks the 18th hole.”
The best part about Fallen Oak is you don’t have to be a professional golfer to play there. Golfers of every level are welcome. If you don’t have your own clubs, the resort will provide them for you. Many groups that host meetings at the resort will incorporate a golf tournament as part of their planning.
Pinehurst Resort and Country Club
Pinehurst, North Carolina
More than half of the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club’s business comes from group meetings, conferences and golf. The 125-year-old resort was founded by the Tufts family of Boston. They hired Donald Ross, a golf course architect from Scotland to develop Pinehurst, North Carolina’s most revered golf course: No. 2. That course became one of the most desired golf courses in America, leading to the resort’s hosting many professional golf tournaments.
And though No. 2 is still the favorite course, Pinehurst has eight and a half other courses. The game changer for Pinehurst was the addition of the Cradle, a nine-hole, par-3 course. The course “was probably the most transformational project we’ve done because golf had this perception that it was too expensive to play golf on a championship golf course,” said Eric Kuester, vice president of sales and marketing for the resort.
The resort can handle groups of up to 1,000 people, but its bread-and-butter is groups of 25 to 50 people based on the number of lodge rooms and meeting spaces. The resort has 18 outdoor event venues and five lodge options, including the Carolina, a 100-year-old hotel with 230 rooms, and the Manor lodge, which was built in 1926 and just underwent a complete makeover.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is not only a beachfront paradise but also a golfer’s dream, with more than 90 golf courses along the Grand Strand, a 60-mile-long swath of beach that comprises 14 communities and stretches to the North Carolina border. The area hosts meeting groups of all sizes, many of which incorporate golf into their events.
The area caters to the golf traveler, and its numerous courses can accommodate golf groups of as many as 500 people. The area has 150,000 lodging units, from hotels and condos to timeshares and vacation rentals and sees 21 million visitors a year. Most of the area’s resorts do meetings and conferences and have a golf planner on-site who can arrange tee times for meeting attendees. Among its most famous golf courses are the TPC Myrtle Beach, the Dunes Golf and Beach Club and the Barefoot Resort and Golf, which has four championship-level golf courses.
Myrtle Beach offers many golf packages that allow meeting attendees to get in a round or two at some of the spectacular professional golf courses, as well as at lesser-known courses. If a full round of golf isn’t your scene, the area recently welcomed a Top Golf recreational facility.
A famous entertainment mecca, Branson, Missouri, is also one of the fastest-growing golf destinations in North America. In the past five years, the area has added five golf courses, including one designed by Tiger Woods, bringing its total number of courses to 10.
The Big Cedar Lodge developed by Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, is partly responsible for Branson’s golf boom. Big Cedar has five courses, each designed by a famous golf course architect, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed Top of the Rock Par-3, nine-hole golf course. Mountain Top is Big Cedar’s 13-hole course and is suitable for golfers who want to experience golf there but don’t want to play 18 holes.
“The momentum gains with each course,” said Dan Shepherd, who promotes golf for the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are starting to command people’s attention, and they are starting to remember names.”
Branson is a meeting planner’s dream. Along with its many theaters and restaurant scene, the city has a new 220,000-square-foot convention center and aquarium. With Branson’s 16,500 rooms, planners can take their pick of four-star resorts and brand-name chain hotels, many with their own meeting spaces.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Whether you are a beachgoer or a golf aficionado, the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are prime destinations. With 15 golf courses, white sugar sand beaches, 18,000 lodging units and plenty of meeting spaces, the area is great for small to mid-size meetings and conferences that want to include golf and other outdoor activities. The Lodge at Gulf State Park has 350 guest rooms and 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Perdido Beach Resort has 300 guest rooms and 44,000 square feet of meeting space. Both properties are on the beachfront.
The three main courses in the area are Kiva Dunes, which is right on the water and was designed by Jerry Pate; the Craft Farms Golf Resort, which has two 18-hole courses designed by Arnold Palmer; and the Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club, which has a 27-hole course designed by Earl Stone. The Peninsula is a great group golf destination because its golf course can easily accommodate larger groups. Its Mediterranean-style clubhouse has a full-service restaurant, a bar and lounge, two reception rooms and an outdoor patio that can be rented out for events.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island is a bucket-list destination for most golfers because it was built to be a resort and it has 24 golf courses. If visitors cross the bridge to the mainland, there are 40 more from which to choose. The Harbour Town Golf Links is the most famous course in Hilton Head because it is on the PGA Tour. When teeing up on the 18th hole, golfers have a direct line of sight to the iconic red-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse.
“Hilton Head is a really unintimidating place to learn the game of golf when it comes to meetings and groups,” said Charlie Clark, vice president of communications for Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Visitor and Convention Bureau. “We have found that when people come in groups, if they intend to play, our courses get it. They make it fun no matter what level of golfer you are.”
There are 3,000 hotel rooms, 6,000 villas and 150,000 square feet of meeting space on the island. The most prestigious resort is the Inn and Club at Harbour Town, which sits on the first tee box of the Harbour Town Golf Links. It has more than 20,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and unlimited outdoor venues.