The top 10 golf destinations to visit in 2016



It's a big year for Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, and many other top golf destinations. (Courtesy of Golf Channel)
No. 10: Playa Grande, a revamped Rees Jones design, makes Dominican Republic a top destination in 2016. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor)
No. 9: The Ryder Cup is coming to the land of 10,000 lakes: Minnesota's Hazeltine National in the Twin Cities. (Gary Kellner/Getty Images)
No. 8: San Diego County boasts courses from the coast out towards the hills, including spectacular Maderas Golf Club. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor)
No. 7: The World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play helped showcase the great golf scene in Austin and the Texas Hill Country. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
No. 6: Near Sacramento, Yocha Dehe was the top-rated course on Golf Advisor in 2015. (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor)

If you haven't yet finished sorting out your 2016 travel calendar, perhaps this listing of Golf Advisor's top 10 golf destinations of the year can help.

To determine the top 10 destinations to visit this year, we looked at several key criteria; new and renovated courses, plus marquee events that make for exciting centerpieces to a golf vacation. We've also looked at our Golf Advisor best-of lists for 2015, as well as reviews from early 2016, to determine which courses continue to gain momentum.

You'll find that these vacation spots run the gamut from well known and established destinations, to the more exotic or lesser known and value oriented. There's a destination here for every budget.

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We've tabled a few potentially worthy golf trips for now, like northern Michigan (where Forest Dunes' new reversible "Loop" course is scheduled to have a soft opening in the fall), and Brazil (where the new Olympic golf course will open to the public following the summer games).

No. 10: Dominican Republic

The big news in the Dominican Republic is the reopening of Playa Grande on the North Shore. Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., son Rees Jones completely redesigned the back nine on a course that boasts ocean views from almost every hole. As it stands, more than half the holes are on cliffs, reminiscent of Pebble Beach, but playing there will cost you. Green fees are $350, and technically you have to be staying at the new exclusive Amanera Resort. But if you're staying at one of the DR's other high end resorts, like Casa de Campo, for example, it wouldn't hurt to make a phone call to see if you can get on. After all, Playa Grande, a resort/private club, is looking for new members.

Speaking of Casa de Campo, the DR is certainly known for Pete Dye's famous Teeth of the Dog Course, and if you've never played it, that alone would be worth the trip.

Teeth of the Dog is also the site of the new Latin America Amateur Championship, which was played in January and won by 16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica. The best part? By winning, Chaplet earned an invitation to play in this year's Masters.

There's more: In recent years, Dye himself integrated a new nine holes into the Dye Fore Course at Casa de Campo, and it's more than an adequate complement to Teeth of the Dog.

What they're saying: "There are 'seven holes created by God,' said Dye, indicating he only created the other 11." -- EdStone40 on Teeth of the Dog.

Don't miss: If you get a chance, explore the capital city of Santa Domingo, the oldest city in the New World and the largest city in the Caribbean at 1.5 million. Founded in 1496, Santa Domingo offers plenty of history through its Zona Colonial district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, as well as shops, dining and plenty of culture.

Stay and play: Casa de Campo is still the standard when it comes to golf vacations in the Dominican Republic with three courses, luxury accommodations and plenty of other activities besides golf. But for real exclusive luxury vacation, the new Amanera Resort on the North Shore is as exclusive as it gets. As one of only 30 Aman Resorts around the world, guests should expect unparalleled service, spectacular meals and accommodations with private dip pools and their own piece of the beach.

No. 9: Twin Cities, Minnesota

The last time a major golf tournament came to Minnesota, Tiger Woods was practically unbeatable. Then, an unheralded golfer named Y.E. Yang took him down during the back nine of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Woods hasn't won a major since.

The Americans -- another major underdog -- hope the song remains the same against the dominant European team at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in September. Hazeltine, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1962 and remodeled by Rees Jones in 1987, has impeccable pedigree, even if the pros bemoan its lack of charisma. The course hosted the 1970 and 1991 U.S. Opens, the 1983 U.S. Senior Open, the 1966 and 1977 U.S. Women's Opens, the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and the 2006 U.S. Amateur.

The return of a major event to such a golf-mad state is long overdue. Good public golf rings the Twin Cities. Mississippi Dunes Golf Links (no. 5) in Cottage Grove, Hidden Greens Golf Course in Hastings and Eagle Valley Golf Course (no. 10) in Woodbury all finished among the top 10 courses in Minnesota in 2015 according to reviewers at Golf Advisor. Legends Club in Prior Lake, Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove and Willingers Golf Club in Northfield are all highly ranked by Golf Magazine.

What they're saying: "Possibly the most beautiful course of its kind, in the world. Designed to be challenging, it lives up to its intent. Staff was friendly and helpful. Menu limited for the end of the season but the pulled pork is to die for. Mississippi Dunes should not be missed." -- pmixhau on Mississippi Dunes.

Don't miss: The Mall of America in Bloomington is so large that it has an indoor roller-coaster.

Stay and play: All of the state's best golf resorts are three hours north of the Twin Cities in the Brainerd area: Madden's on Gull Lake, Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake, the Grand View Lodge Golf Resort & Spa, and Breezy Point Resort.

No. 8: San Diego County

El Nino has brought much needed water to San Diego's golf courses, many of which have struggled to keep golfers happy with their course conditions during the prolonged dry period. No one is saying California is out of the water woods quite yet, but superintendents have certainly welcomed the recent moisture. The continued tapering of El Nino through spring should prime the courses for a great summer and fall season.

Three courses in the country fared exceptionally well on Golf Advisor in 2015: Rams Hill, Aviara Golf Club and Maderas Golf Club were all in the U.S. top 50. Maderas, also named to the Golf Digest Top 100 public, recently added a fleet of GolfBoards. Rams Hill, while remote, has delivered exceptional ratings thus far in 2016, with a relatively bargain green fee making it well worth the drive.

What they're saying: "I played Rams Hill in spring 2015 and had such a great time that I returned in March 2016. Once again I was extremely impressed with all aspects of the experience; the golf course was in pristine condition, perfect tee boxes, fairways, roughs and greens, pace of play was quick, great layout with plenty of challenge for players of all skill levels." -- greggleslie123 on Maderas Golf Club.

Don't miss: The golf resorts are all mostly in the hills, so be sure to head into beach towns like La Jolla or Del Mar to watch seals and sunsets.

Stay and play: Where do we begin? Loads of wonderful luxury resorts with fine dining and spas are at your doorstep. Park Hyatt Aviara, La Costa Resort and Fairmont Grand Del Mar all do golf and wellness exceptionally. If you want preferred access to the North Course and South Course at Torrey Pines, stay at the Hilton Torrey Pines or Lodge at Torrey Pines.

What they're saying: "We did the obligatory round at Torrey Pines, but we all agreed that this was our favorite." -- ctscully on Maderas Golf Club.

No. 7: Austin, Texas Hill Country

The World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club helped bring the game's best players to Austin for the first time. With them came superlatives for the town's music scene, restaurants and strong golf pedigree that dates back to 1899 with the original Austin Country Club. Golf icons such as Penick, Crenshaw, Kite and later Spieth all came of age in the Austin area.

A.C.C. is a prestigious private club with the best location in town. But jostling with it for top-rated status is Barton Creek, a private club as well, but the Omni resort on site includes playing privileges. The resort's four courses include two designs by Tom Fazio --- Fazio Canyons and Fazio Foothills -- that are often candidates for top 100 public lists.

Two area courses fared very well in our top 50 in 2014 rankings. Delaware Springs, an incredible bargain in rural Burnet, and Wolfdancer Golf Club, part of the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort, located east of town.

San Antonio, about an hour south of Austin, has seen updates to its golf scene as well. Tapatio Springs, a more affordable resort course compared to La Cantera and TPC San Antonio, recently entirely re-did its scenic Hill Country layout. La Cantera (whose Palmer Course was no. 2 in 2015 on Golf Advisor), is also adding a brand new on-site spa this spring.

What they're saying: "I absolutely love this layout. Beautiful, green, scenic and plenty of wildlife to keep you entertained." -- Lenny32, on Wolfdancer Golf Club.

Don't miss: You probably saw the boaters on Lake Austin watching the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play action. Boat and pontoon rentals are available by the hour at Lake Austin as well as Lake Travis a little further west of Austin -- both are great ways to spend a sunny post-round afternoon in the Hill Country.

Stay and play: Staying at Omni Barton Creek is the only way you can gain access to the four private courses there, and it's the closest golf resort to downtown Austin, where there's plenty of barbecue, live music and more for off-course fun.

No. 6: Northern California's Bay Area

Northern California is always in the golf spotlight, it seems. Last year, it hosted the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park near San Francisco. This year it's the 2016 U.S. Women's Open from July 7-10 at CordeValle, the gorgeous Robert Trent Jones II layout tucked in the hills of San Martin just south of Silicon Valley. It is the highlight of an already crowded tournament schedule: the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club near San Francisco in April, the Frys.com Open on the North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa in October, the Web.com Tour's Stonebrae Classic at TPC Stonebrae near San Francisco in July and the three pro events at Pebble Beach Resorts (the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach and the TaylorMade Pebble Beach Invitational Presented by EMC).

Many local public courses fared extremely well in Golf Advisor's rankings for top courses in 2015. Yocha Dehe Golf Club at the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks finished no. 1 in the nation, a big victory for a relatively undiscovered Troon Golf property northeast of San Francisco. The Bayonet and Blackhorse Courses in Seaside on the Monterey Peninsula finished 2015 45th nationally and 18th in the state, respectively.

Also of note, a Rees Jones renovation of the South Course at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex in Alameda near Oakland International Airport will be completed later this year. The project includes a full redesign of tees, greens and fairways, a re-contouring of all holes and improved drainage, irrigation and cart paths.

What they're saying: "A must play for all those heading to Pebble Beach. Excellent layout, several elevation changes - and the VIEWS are fantastic!" -- Pete1444216 on the Bayonet Course at Bayonet/Blackhorse.

Don't miss: Arrive early to find parking to hike the oceanfront trails along the cliffs of the Point Lobos State Reserve on the Monterey Peninsula.

Stay and play: What a tough decision. Besides the obvious five-star stops at Pebble Beach and CordeValle, the Monterey Peninsula offers the totally refurbished Quail Lodge & Club and Carmel Valley Ranch. Wine lovers can head north of San Francisco to Napa to sip away the day at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, or the Silverado Resort and Spa, owned by Johnny Miller.

Click here to view the top five golf destinations to play in 2016.

Mar 31, 2016

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