Maybe you’re planning an entire golf vacation. Maybe you simply want to break away for 18 holes this weekend. Either way, golf course proprietors around the U.S. have been meticulously planning to meet you — whether you want to relax, brush up on your game, or test your skills. In 2005, more than 120 new courses opened. And golfers of all abilities can find a course to fit their needs and skills. Additionally, nationwide promotions and new technology can enhance your golf experience while on vacation.

Customer Approved Golf Courses

Each year, the National Golf Foundation (NGF), an original golf-business research, information, and consulting company based in Jupiter, Florida, presents Customer Loyalty Awards to golf courses that continuously receive high approval from the golfers who use them. The courses are rated on customers’ satisfaction with facilities, course conditions, service, and value. In 2005, three courses were awarded the Customer Loyalty Award.

In the foundation’s Premium Daily Fee Facility category, FarmLinks Golf Club in Sylacauga, Alabama, took home top honors. This 18-hole golf club sports a Hurdzan-Fry Golf Course Design, which incorporates the natural elements of the 3,500 surrounding acres. In fact, Pursell Technologies Inc., which owns and operates the course, refers to it as a “living laboratory” of innovative product research plots and the most current maintenance, hospitality, fertility, irrigation, and plant protection programs and equipment. From the back tees, the course measures 7,444 yards and has a reputation for being a challenging and enjoyable course. It also offers multiple tees for golfers of all skill levels. A round at FarmLinks Golf Club will cost $100, which includes your green and cart fees, range balls, snacks and beverages, and lunch at FarmLinks Grill.

The winner of the NGF’s Customer Loyalty Award in the Daily Fee Facility category not only boasts a challenging course, but also the amazing scenery and location of the Wild West. The Golf Club at Devils Tower in Hulette, Wyoming, is a great option for golfers who are traveling to the national parks or monuments in the area. The course is located near Devils Tower, the nation’s first national monument, as well as the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, and other national parks and monuments. This 7,111-yard, par 72 course offers tee shots over ravines and challenging greens. It was designed by Phelps-Atkinson Golf Course Design and offers enjoyment for players of every skill level. While this club is owned by its members, it continues to be open to the public for a limited time. Current visitor green fees range from $30 to $60.

The final winner of the Customer Loyalty Award, The Vineyard Golf Course in Cincinnati, Ohio, was recently named one of Ohio’s Top 10 Golf Courses. The Vineyard took home the Customer Loyalty Award in the Municipal Facility category. This par 71 course offers a less expensive alternative to semi-private clubs. For $27, you can play 18 holes on the tree-lined course. In addition to three lakes, the course has 45 white sand bunkers making it a challenging course for golfers at all skill levels.

In addition to the top three courses, the Foundation recognized nine runners-up in each category. These other courses are located in a variety of states including Maryland, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, and more. For a complete listing of courses recognized by customers as being top courses in the nation, visit the Foundation’s website at www.ngf.org.

Golf Vacation Destinations

If your goal for this year’s vacation is to spend as much time on the golf course as possible, consider a destination geared toward the serious golfer. Places such as Florida and California offer golfers a wide range of courses to play and activities to participate in.

Florida has long been known as a golfer’s paradise. Unlike many areas in the United States, Florida boasts year-round golfing and courses tailored to each golfer’s needs and wants. Whether you want to play alongside the ocean, or further inland, you are destined to find courses to make your stay enjoyable. One shining star of Florida’s golf economy is the PGA Village, located in Port St. Lucie. This Village offers three distinctly different courses. The Village is the only public golf club in the United States that is owned and operated by the Professional Golf Association. The three courses offer a variety of tee locations, making them perfect and enjoyable for the entire family. However, if you don’t think your skills are up to par with the course, you can enroll in PGA Golf School at the Village. Also, serious golfers will enjoy the PGA Historical Center, which offers the history of the game.

But even if you aren’t staying near the PGA Village, rest assured that there will be an award-winning golf course near your Florida destination.

California, another locale that offers year-round golf, is home to a great number of courses played by the PGA legends. In fact, Pebble Beach Golf Links was recently named the top course in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Golf Courses. Head on down to Palm Springs to continue your California vacation at Cimarrón Golf Resort, an upscale golf facility, may be the highlight of your stay in Palm Springs. This private, 36-hole golf facility offers two championship layouts, impeccable playing conditions, and is available to the public on a daily basis. It has been labeled “Contemporary European” and features Old World elements throughout the clubhouse and course. However, if you are looking for a public course with great views, check out Desert Dunes Golf Course while you are in Palm Springs. This course has been voted a favorite in Southern California and has a Scottish links flavor. It is a challenging course with narrow fairways and multiple water hazards. During the construction of this course, special care was taken to not interrupt the natural habitat in which it lies. You may have to watch not only for the water hazards, but wildlife as well while you are playing this 18-hole course. Whether you play on a PGA course or a public course in any one of California’s cities, this state has a lot to offer the golfer on vacation.

In addition to the numerous courses in Florida and California, many other states offer great destinations for the avid golfer. For example, Nevada has seen a recent surge in courses near Las Vegas. Also, don’t forget that international travel will lead you to some of the best and most-loved courses in the world.

 With more than 1,057 new courses either just opened or under development, you are sure to find one or more that suit your needs on this year’s vacation.

Special Promotions and Technologies

When looking into a golf vacation or just a round to add to your already full vacation, it is best to check out any special promotions. Currently, Michigan’s tourist industry is offering gas cards to visitors who book a four-night stay in participating hotels, motels, and resorts. With a number of courses in Michigan, this might be your chance to save a little travel money while experiencing new courses.

With more than 1,057 new courses either just opened or under development, you are sure to find one or more that suit your needs on this year’s vacation. Take in nine or 18 holes and join the 17.3 million adults in America who will likely play golf on vacation this year alone.