Intimate atmosphere and dedicated services pamper serious golfers, big challenge resorts.
Imagine a Golf Shangri-la
Golfers are treated with over-the-top service usually reserved for big-name PGA Tour pros; a haven where everyone from the bellman to the front desk person speaks the language of golf; a place where dinner conversations in an intimate, luxury gourmet restaurant revolve around the day’s golf round on a world-class course. Welcome to the exclusive, enviable world of the golf lodge.
Many smaller meeting and incentive groups are finding that bigger is not necessarily better for a memorable luxury golf experience. A significant trend in resort development is smaller golf-oriented properties: inns, lodges and boutique hotels with fewer than 125 rooms–some as few as 15–and access to championship courses designed by big-name architects.
“Golf Lodges have the feel and exclusivity of a private golf club,” said Dove Jones, president of Golf Ink, a Charleston, S.C., golf resort marketing and consulting firm with an international client list of golf properties. “For golfers who take the game seriously, these smaller properties provide environments where the focus is almost entirely on golf, on and off the course. Everything is much more personal and intimate than at a high-volume golf resort.”
The arrival in the past two years of several impressive golf lodges has propelled the trend to new heights, Jones said. Some of them are:
* The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Calif., which has 75 rooms, a gourmet restaurant, access to golf courses that host an annual PGA Tour event, and plush decor dominated by leather, granite, and Craftsman accessories.
* The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, Sea Island, Ga., a luxurious 40-room property that resembles an elegant English manor with access to three championship golf courses and amenities like 24-hour butler service.
* The Lodge at Ocean Hammock Resort, Palm Coast, Fla., which has 20 rooms with Atlantic Ocean balconies, oversized desks and 1,200 square feet of meeting space.
* The Lodge at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore., a 19-room property set on Oregon’s rugged coast with a restaurant and Scottish-style pub and access to three of the most talked-about new courses in recent memory.
Executive retreats and incentives are popular at golf lodges
“There are a wide variety of lodges in diverse locations,” said Jones. “Some are only about golf, but others have meeting space ideal for board meetings. Executive retreats and incentives are also popular at golf lodges.”
The antithesis of the often cookie-cutter golf resort experience, golf lodges have unique personalities that can offer one-of-a-kind experiences.
For instance, at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, a club-like and folksy 65-room property overlooking the famed Bay Hill course, there’s a distinct possibility for a chance meeting with Palmer, who can be spotted regularly and just about anywhere on the property, from the clubhouse to the front lobby.
In Charlottesville, Va., 48-room Keswick Hall is a Tuscan-style estate resting at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of Virginia wine country and framed by a championship golf course.
The 70-unit Barnsley Inn & Golf Resort in Adairsville, Ga., is modeled after an elegant English estate garden with English Cottage architecture, suites filled with antiques and a Jim Fazio-designed golf course.
On California’s Monterey Peninsula, the Lodge at Pebble Beach, which many consider being the ultimate golf lodge experience, features stunning views and one of the world’s great golf courses, the Pebble Beach Golf Links. The stately lodge has only 11 guest rooms; the rest are in 12 separate low-rise buildings.
Discerning golfers aren’t the only ones who are picking up on golf lodges. Traditional golf resorts are aware of the competition and are responding.
“The demand for more exclusive accommodations that cater to golfers’ needs is evident in the number of larger golf resorts that are now incorporating lodge-type products in their properties,” said Dave Gabri, president and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International. The Orlando-based international sales network represents more than 80 luxury golf properties, including the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the nearby Inn at Spanish Bay, and Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club in Durham, N.C. “These resorts have separate areas and clusters that offer a more intimate experience, especially for golf groups.”
For example, the 242-room Westin Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire, Scotland, a sprawling 800-acre complex with two championship golf courses, a golf academy, and a spa, features a “lodges and cottages” area with two-, six- and eight-bedroom residences that offer privacy and access to numerous amenities.
The 1,041-unit Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Fla., offers the Boca Bungalows, 120 one- and two-bedroom villas overlooking the golf course and secluded from the main hotel. In White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., The Greenbrier has 100 guesthouse accommodations that are situated away from the centerpiece hotel.
Beyond the bricks and mortar of stylishly designed buildings, Jones said, golf lodges appeal to more serious golfers because they provide amenities that enhance the experience.
“Things like big, hearty breakfasts, cozy bars and lounges, exceptional dining, and large balconies with panoramic views are what many golf lodges do well,” said Jones. “They can provide the best in all of their amenities because it’s much easier to accommodate the needs of 20 to 50 people than 1,000 people.”
For small-group planners who are looking to avoid the dreaded “been there, done that” response from attendees, the expanding roster of golf lodges offers a myriad of unique choices. “It’s the closest thing to the private golf club experience–without the monthly dues statement,” quipped Jones.