Only Game In Town: The Most Remote Golf Courses You Can Play
An interesting trend has arisen in the construction of new golf resorts in recent years.
Seclusion. Privacy. The sense of being surrounded by wilderness.
That’s the feeling that Mike Keiser capitalized on when he built the first course at Bandon Dunes. Keiser took the middle of nowhere and he put it on the map for all passionate golfers.
Some years later, he did it again, with Cabot
But he was neither the first nor the last to take the risk of building golf where there previously was none for many miles around.
If you like to wander to the most isolated places to play golf, you’ve got to check out some of these super-remote golf courses and resorts:
Lofoten Links – Gimsøysand, Norway
There’s scenic golf, and then there’s Lofoten. (Jacob Sjoman)
Located 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Lofoten is one of the hardest-to-get-to golf courses on the planet. But the Jeremy Turner design manages to draw visitors from all over the world because of its utterly spectacular setting, with half a dozen holes perched on cliffs overlooking the Norwegian Sea. The course’s extreme northerly location enables summer golfers to play at all hours, and at other times, the Northern Lights dance across the sky.
Cape Breton Highlands Links Golf Course – Ingonish, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia’s northern Cape Breton Island has become famous in the golf world lately because of two courses built on the aforementioned Mike Keiser’s if-you-build-it-they-will-come philosophy: Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs. But the new presence of these layouts doesn’t make the classic Stanley Thompson layout much less remote, as it’s located a little over two hours northeast of Cabot and more than an hour from the nearest golf course of note.
Whalsay Golf Club – Skaw, Scotland, United Kingdom
(Whalsay Golf Club)
If you think Aberdeen and Dornoch are far north in Scotland, then Skaw, on the Shetland Islands, is on another level altogether. The rugged, beautiful Shetlands lie some 600 miles north of London and nearly 300 miles north of St. Andrews. Bottom line: it’s not a part of the world you get to by accident, but rather by plane, ferry or both. But if your wanderlust takes your to Whalsay, the northernmost golf course in the British Isles, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing scenery – the North Sea surrounds the course on three sides – and the opportunity to play unlimited golf for a week for a mere £70.
Laucala Island – Fiji
(Laucala Island Resort)
On the other side of the coin – and the world – is Laucala, which, in addition to being one of the most remote golf courses in the world is also part of one of the highest-end resorts in the world. Its parent Laucala Resort is part of the Leading Hotels of the World network, with nights at the tropical paradise reportedly costing thousands of dollars a night. The course is an environmentally sensitive David McLay Kidd design which, according to a Luxury Travel Magazine piece from 2015, can be rented out, along with the rest of the island, for $150,000 per night.
The United States
The Rock Golf Course at Drummond Island Resort – Drummond Island, Mich.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a gorgeous, sparsely populated place, marked with tiny towns rather than big cities. At its extreme eastern end lies Drummond Island, surrounded by Lake Huron, with the town of Drummond Island’s population just topping 1,000. There’s no bridge to the island from the mainland UP, but there is car ferry service from nearby De Tour Village. There is also a small airport, so small that the paths on the island’s rudimentary nine-hole course cross the runway twice.
Drummond Island is quiet, but it is home to a small, rustic resort whose long list of activities includes golf: The Rock Golf Course, designed by Harry Bowers, a disciple of Robert Trent Jones. With the resort recently under new ownership, extra attention and work is being put into the golf course with an eye on raising its profile. The out-of-the-way setting certainly has our attention.
Black Jack’s Crossing Golf Course at Lajitas Golf Resort – Lajitas, Texas.
There are all types of wilderness in the United States, and some of the most spectacular wilderness scenery is found in deep southwestern Texas at Big Bend National Park. Just west of the park, cozy with the Mexican border is the town of Lajitas, home to Lajitas Golf Resort and Black Jack’s Crossing Golf Course, a Lanny Wadkins design that opened in 2012 and ranks among the top accessible courses in the vast Lone Star State. The course’s pro shop operates out of the historic Lajitas Trading Post, which dates back to the 19th century. That there are no other golf courses around for dozens of miles is not a bother; Black Jack’s Crossing is engaging enough to enjoy multiple times consecutively.
Isle Dauphine Golf Club – Dauphin Island, Ala.
This aerial was taken while Isle Dauphine was closed, but it’s open again under new ownership. It’s easy to see the potential inherent to the site. (Google Maps)
The northern Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi is a popular winter hangout for thousands of golfers. Dauphin Island is centrally located relative to the region, but is a little tough to get to, about 40 miles south of Mobile across a long causeway. Ferry access is also available from Fort Morgan at the western end of the Gulf Shores area.
Isle Dauphine Golf Club was built in the 1960s, and was at one point a top-100 course. It fell by the wayside over the ensuing decades, ultimately closing down in 2012. But it is open again under new ownership, who have been marketing the course more aggressively in order to attract visitors to the beachside layout on a spit of land that calls itself the “Sunset Capital of the World.” If you want inexpensive golf and awesome water views, Isle Dauphine is right up your alley.
Madeline Island Golf Club – La Pointe, Wisc.
Madeline Island lies among the Apostle Islands just off part of Wisconsin’s slim Lake Superior shoreline. Like Drummond Island, Madeline is accessible by car ferry or plane. The golf course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and opened in 1967. In addition to its sylvan setting, it is noteworthy for the way Jones routed it, using of seven double greens and a number of shared tee areas in order to place an 18-hole course onto a smaller than usual piece of land.
The course is nominally private, but it does take outside play through a direct call to its pro shop or via advance tee-time bookings on its website, madelineislandgolf.com.
Just down the street is the quaint Inn on Madeline Island, which serves as a wonderful jumping-off point for a vacation in this secluded, scenic northerly corner of the Midwest.
Sea Ranch Golf Links – Gualala, Calif.
The California coast sports hundreds of miles of wonderful scenery, with the more northern windswept cliffs regarded as some of America’s most beautiful places. This is the area where Sea Ranch Golf Links lies, at the extreme northwestern corner of Sonoma County, more than an hour from the next nearest course. The master-planned Sea Ranch community is famous for some environmental battles between the original ten-mile site’s developers and the state of California, which ultimately led to the creation of the California Coastal Commission.
For its part, the golf course lies close to the sea, but mostly stays away from the clifftops, with only a few holes offering water views. Nevertheless, the cool breezes give the Robert Muir Graves-designed course, built in stages (nine holes opened in 1974 and the other nine opened in 1995) something of a linksy feel. Building architecture buffs are drawn to the area by the interesting look of the homes and other structures that dot the property.
The Prairie Club – Valentine, Neb.
Likely the most famous name on this list, the Prairie Club was built under the aforementioned that the quality of golf and the intrigue of journey will inspire visitors to visit. And things have gone well since the 2010 opening of the facility, which functions partially as a members’ club and partially as a resort, with two 18-hole courses and the charming, 10-hole Gil Hanse-designed short “Horse Course.” The newest golf amenity is a rollicking putting course called “Old Wagon.”
As with the private Sand Hills and Dismal River clubs that have put Nebraska on the map as a special golf destination, beyond the excellent courses themselves, the Prairie Club charms its members and guests with seemingly endless rolling natural beauty and an ocean of long grass swaying in the wind. It’s an all-golf, all-the-time retreat in the middle of nowhere.