Golfweek’s Best Resort list: More than just golf

Oregon's Pacific Dunes is the state's No. 1 public access course as ranked by Golfweek.

You don’t go to London for the beaches, New York for the calm, Paris for the hamburgers, or Rome for the efficiency. Likewise, you’re visiting Golfweek’s Best Resorts Courses for the golf, the golf, the golf. Yet you miss out on so much fun if all you do is make a beeline from your room to the first tee to the 18th (or 19th) hole and back again. Leave that stuff to the Tour pros – and, remember, even they like to go hunting and fishing every so often.

Great golf is a prerequisite to making Golfweek’s Best Resort Courses, but exhilarating, mind-expanding, pulse-quickening off-course activities might as well be, too, because they’re just about everywhere on offer. Combined with superb rounds on the course, they will round out your stay and make a memorable trip all the more so. Here is a sampling of some of the most interesting offerings.

Surfing at at Pelican Hill resort (Newport Beach, Calif.)

It’s quite possible the stunning ocean views of Pelican Hill’s two Tom Fazio courses will get you thinking how fun it might be to surf. (Especially if you’ve just sliced your approach into the Pacific on the North Course’s spectacular 17th hole.) Well, you’re in luck, dude. Pelican Hill’s three-hour, $190 Private Surf Camp immerses you in the sport at downtown Laguna’s Thalia Beach, one of the prettiest places you could wish to catch waves.

Geocaching at Barton Creek Resort & Spa (Austin, Texas)

It sounds like fiddling with your computer’s memory atop a rock pile, but “geocaching” is a hot new high-tech treasure-hunting game – and there are few more beautiful places to play it than here in the Texas Hill Country. The game has many variations, all of which begin with players equipped with GPS devices; Barton Creek’s involves a list of locations around its Nature Trail.

Whitewater rafting at The Greenbrier (White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.)

Many things have already changed for the better under Jim Justice’s ownership at the historic Greenbrier, but one thing that has stayed constant as a river’s flow: the flow of the Lower New River. It encompasses more than 25 Class I to Class V rapids, meaning that adventurers of all adrenaline-seeking levels can find a ride they’ll enjoy – though Mickelsonian-type thrill-riders will take on the Gauley River instead.

Mountain biking at French Lick Resort (French Lick, Ind.)

French Lick’s Buffalo Trace mountain bike trail debuted last fall, and recently three miles were added to stretch it to eight miles. This single-track loop is the first phase of a trail system across the resort’s 3,000 acres. It’s a user-friendly run built to International Mountain Biking Association standards that takes full advantage of the landscape’s features, including elevation changes, rock outcroppings, whet stone quarries and caves. (Be thankful Pete Dye hasn’t incorporated caves into his designs – yet.)

Birding at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Kiawah Island, S.C.)

With its five golf courses and five-star seaside hotel, Kiawah Island Golf Resort has more assets than a hedge-fund manager during a bull market – so much so that it’s easy to overlook some of its lesser-known activities. For example, avian enthusiasts might want to take advantage of Kiawah’s Back Island Birding program, in which birding experts lead guests around the remote parts of the island to study many of the more than 220 species that live there. The 2 1/2-hour program costs just $25.

Zip-lining at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (Farmington, Pa.)

Nemacolin Woodlands’ “Adventure Center” encompasses everything from indoor and outdoor climbing walls to miniature and disc golf, an off-road driving academy to ropes courses to paintball. Its latest offering is the new Fatbird Flyer Zip Line. Measuring slightly more than 1,000 feet – think of it as a particularly thrilling risk/reward drivable par 4 – this thrill ride can send you hurtling at speeds up to 60 mph at an elevation of 300 feet. It’s as close as you can come to what a ball struck by a 3-wood feels like, for just $30 (or, at frequent-flier rates, $120 for five rides).

Stargazing at Primland (Meadows of Dan, Va.)

Primland’s Blue Ridge Mountain setting was heaven-sent for its dramatic Donald Steel golf course; paired with the unusual clarity of its night sky, it is also ideal for the Observatory Dome atop its swanky boutique lodge. One of this unique amenity’s star-studded offerings: its Celestron CGE Pro 1400 auto-focus telescope with a 70x zoom. You might even find your putting stroke in a far-off galaxy 27 million light-years away.

Designing at the American Club Resort (Kohler, Wis.)

Among the many advantages of visiting the site of this year’s PGA Championship is this: You can plan your interior decorating while also playing the resort’s four boffo golf courses and relaxing at the five-star American Club. The three-story, 36,000-square-foot Kohler Design Center is a showcase for the company’s signature products – both the classic and the state-of-the-art. Think of it as a toy store for adults.

Fly fishing at The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

For most of us, “a river runs through it” connotes a hole with a water hazard. Yet the zen, or at least potential zen, of fly fishing makes for a natural pairing with golf, as does its northern Great Britain origins and the needed hand-eye coordination to produce distance and accuracy.

Rock climbing at The Boulders resort (Carefree, Ariz.)

Is there a more apropos activity than rock climbing at The Boulders? Doubtful. With expert guides to teach the fundamentals and provide all the gear, guests can scale the 75-foot face of a crystalline granite and metamorphic rock estimated to be approximately 12 million years old. It’s $205 (plus 20 percent gratuity) for three hours, and one of many outdoor adventures that take advantage of the stunning Sonoran Desert landscape. For starters, there is also hot air ballooning, gliding, biplane flights, horseback rides, desert jeep tours and even moonlight bicycling.

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