Tee time: Three bucket-list golf trips

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Oregon

These scenic and downright fun destinations help show why golf is more popular than ever.

Golf’s built-in outdoor social distancing helped fuel a boom in participation in 2021 that continues today. In fact, experts are saying that golf tourism is expected to continue to grow for years, both in well-known golf locations such as Scotland and new courses in the Middle East and Asia.

With that in mind, here are three courses — on three different continents — to make your golfing dreams come true in 2024 and beyond.

North America

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Oregon

Play Bandon Dunes at sunset, and you won’t wonder why it’s on this list. As you play, you can take in sublime views of the Pacific Ocean and listen to the waves crashing against the headlands. The resort itself is remarkable. Just five miles from a major airport, Bandon Dunes gives golfers the feeling that they’re among the luckiest people in the world.

When to go: The period from mid-July through September offers the most predictable weather.

Extra fun: Aside from five championship courses, try Bandon Preserve, the resort’s par-3 course. It’s a blast, and all net proceeds go to benefit a local conservation group. The Punchbowl is an incredibly entertaining 18-hole putting-only course.

Insider advice: Golf carts are verboten, except for people with medical conditions. Hire a caddie to help you through the wind and blind shots.

Off the course: The southern Oregon coast is an outdoor paradise, loaded with opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and crabbing. Check out the Oregon Cheese & Food Trail for some of the world’s best cheese, along with accompanying beers, wines, chocolates, and other treats.

Find out more: The Bandon Chamber of Commerce website offers direct links to the area’s courses, lodging, dining, and activities.


Lahinch Golf Club, County Clare, Ireland

Lahinch Golf Club, Ireland

They’ve been playing golf at Lahinch since 1892, and while the course’s long history and stunning beauty are not unique in this part of the world, the club’s proximity to the village and a mile-long beach set it apart. St. Andrews legend Old Tom Morris, who won four British Opens in the 1860s and designed many of the British Isles’ legendary courses, called Lahinch “the finest natural course I have ever seen.”

When to go: June to September, but especially June, when daylight in Ireland can last from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the greens will be at their best.

Extra fun: Within a roughly three-hour drive lie five other courses listed among Golf Digest’s 100 greatest in the world. Here’s the start of a great multicourse trip.

  1. Ballybunion Golf Club, Old Course. About 2 hours from Lahinch, including a ferry over the River Shannon. Golf writer (and Golf Hall of Fame inductee) Herbert Warren Wind called Ballybunion (est. 1893) “nothing less than the finest seaside course I have ever seen.”
  2. Tralee Golf Club. A little over 2.5 hours from Lahinch (with ferry). Golf legend Arnold Palmer said, “I may have designed the first nine, but God designed the back nine.”
  3. Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale. About 3 hours from Lahinch. Set on top of a peninsula surrounded by 300-foot cliffs and the ruins of a 12th-century castle. A sign at the club reads, “From the eons of time, spectacular beyond belief.”
  4. Waterville Golf Links. About 3.5 hours from Lahinch. Sam Snead, one of golf’s all-time greats, called Waterville “the beautiful monster — one of the golfing wonders of the world.”

Insider advice: As with many old Irish courses, there are no golf carts or even walking carts. At least one caddie is required for each group; hiring one will give you the benefit of their knowledge about the course and the area.

Off the course: Perhaps the most familiar attraction in Ireland, the 900-foot-high Cliffs of Moher are just up the coast. Grab a sunset pint in the village at O’Looney’s, and then hit Kenny’s Bar for traditional Irish music. It’s all within a short walk of the four-star Lahinch Coast Hotel & Suites.

Find out more: The Wild Atlantic Way website has everything you need to plan a trip to Lahinch and the entire Irish west coast.


Ba Na Hills Golf Club, Vietnam

Ba Na Hills Golf Club, Vietnam

Vietnam is an up-and-coming destination for golf, and the central coastal area around Da Nang, which The New York Times called “the Miami of Vietnam,” shows why. The Ba Na Hills course, a newish resort-style layout, is set between the beach and the mountains, running through the heavily forested foothills.

When to go: September to April, to avoid the summer’s heat and humidity.

Extra fun: Ba Na Hills is lighted for night play to beat the heat of the day. Hoiana Shores Golf Club, another new world-class course, is about 35 miles south, and the area hosts world-class courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Colin Montgomerie.

Getting there: Be sure to allow time for getting out in the country; there are daily flights from Vietnam’s two largest airports, in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, on several regional airlines.

Insider advice: Traveling to Vietnam can be a challenge; you need a travel visa from the Embassy of Viet Nam. And when you play, bring lots of golf balls. You’ll find a lot of water and trees there.

Off the course: The lovely Old Town of Hoi An, 35 miles away, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that lets you step back to the 17th century. For an adrenaline rush, ride the cable car into the temperate mountains above Ba Na Hills to visit Sun World, a wild amusement park and resort.

Find out more: Visit the country’s official tourism site for the region to learn more about the golf course as well as the beaches, historical sites, rivers, mountains, and people.