Family golf offers youngsters the chance to develop skills in a sport that can be played for a lifetime.
Here are seven places where your crew can tee it up together.
1. Kingsmill Resort. Williamsburg, VA.
Families can play three championship caliber 18-hole courses that offer rolling hills, tree-lined tracks and coastal play along the James River. Children 7-16 can sign up for Junior Golf Camps that teach fundamentals while making sure youngsters enjoy the game. They'll experience play on courses designed by legendary players including Arnold Palmer and Curtis Strange. The family-friendly resort also offers hiking, biking, Segway tours, and fishing as well as organized kids activities.
Contact: 800.832.5665; www.Kingsmill.com.
2. Marriott Golf Resorts.
A yearlong series of one-day family golf events is under way at 32 Marriott golf destinations around the world. The sixth annual International Family Golf Festival encourages family members of all experience and age levels to join. Free golf instruction, clinics, interactive games and the chance to win prizes are all part of the program. Families can play at no charge after 3 p.m. as part of Marriott’s Kids Golf-4-Free program. Children staying at the J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country also have access to instruction as part of the TOURAcademy Junior Golf Camps program. Check the website for festival dates and locations.
Contact: jwsanantonio.com; marriottgolf.com
3. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Kids can make their way to the junior tees on three nine-hole tracks in a resort town where sun-drenched golf attracts professionals and part-time players. Youngsters age 15 and younger play free with a paying adult. Junior clubs, lessons and course activities are also available. Take a break from play to ride a gondola around the lake, take a two-wheeled spin through the nearby greenbelt or cool off in the water playground. Send your clubs directly to the pro shop via Shipsticks.
Contact: 480-444-1234; www.scottsdale.hyatt.com; www.shipsticks.com
4. Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.
The largest golf resort in America, Pinehurst sports junior tee markers and scorecards on all but one of eight courses. During the summer and holiday weeks, course No. 8 is reserved for families after 5 p.m. Ask about family clinics and free rentals for juniors.
Contact: 1-800-487-4653; pinehurst.com
5. Hershey, Pa.
Warm up on the miniature course before heading to the nine-hole Spring Creek Golf Course or the Hershey Country Club. Ask about family golf packages that include accommodations, play and sunset admission to Hersheypark. In addition to golf and theme park fun, consider a visit to ZooAmerica, a chocolate-theme spa experience or relaxing time by the pool.
Contact: 1-800-437-7439; hersheypa.com
6. Resort at Squaw Creek, Olympic Valley, Calif.
Your clan can swing away on the resort’s Robert Trent Jones-designed course as part of the family golf program. Play a quick and no-stress round on the front nine from the family tees, located just 150 yards from the green. Kids can spend time in the Mountain Buddies program enjoying active pursuits while grown-ups take time for a full 18 holes.
Contact: 530-583-6300; squawcreek.com.
7. Oasis at Death Valley Resort. Furnace Creek, CA. At 214 feet below sea level, the rolling 18-hole, par 70 course scores points as the world’s lowest elevation golf course. Palm trees frame the fairways and majestic mountains provide arresting vistas throughout the course. Water comes into play on nine holes and multiple sets of tees provide a challenge for every member of the family. Located at Death Valley National Park.
What’s not to like about a town that serves up 300 days of sunshine, boasts an average annual temperature of 82 and continues to land on one “Best Place” list after another? That's Tucson.
It’s not surprising that this gem in the desert is tipping the population scale at close to one million people. Arizona’s second largest city, Tucson has had the collective good sense to hold on to its Wild West charm and rugged good looks while attaining status as a new sophisticate, boasting world class art, novel cuisine and luxury spas and resorts.
I am among the city’s legion of fans. For starters, how could anyone not be impressed with the neighborhood? Tucson is in a saguaro-strewn desert basin circled by five mountain ranges—the Santa Catalinas and Tortolitas to the north; the Rincons to the east; the Santa Ritas to the south; and the Tucson Mountains to the west. And if that weren’t bounty enough, three national parks lie just outside the city limits: Saguaro National Parks East and West, and the Coronado National Forest in the Catalina Mountains.
Certainly the natural beauty and conducive-to-almost-everything climate continues to attract weather-weary folks from other parts of the country. But among the city’s most appealing aspect is its authenticity.
The city’s Old Pueblo has a long and complex history that blends the cultures of the earliest Anglo frontiersmen, Native American peoples and Spanish explorers. That history and its remnants provides a richly textured backdrop for the natural playground that beckons outdoor adventurers as well as the modern-day amenities that lure other segments of today’s travelers.
So when you decide to visit Tucson, the hardest part will be narrowing your list of possibilities. As you begin to plan, know that it may be your first trip, but it won’t be your last.
Start by spending time on the Tucson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s very thorough Web site, www.visittucson.org. There, you will find a wealth of information, including money saving deals and packages, and can request a visitor’s guide. You will also find information about the Tucson Attractions Passport ($15), which provides 2-for-1 offers and discounts to major attractions.
The first decision to make is where to stay. The options are all enticing: downtown historic hotel, rustic guest ranch, luxurious bed-and-breakfast, or world-class spa, golf and tennis resort. Which will it be? This time!
With the kids in tow, any of these resorts are good family-friendly choices:
Two of the world’s best-known spas are in Tucson. These relaxing enclaves may be best enjoyed when the youngsters are occupied elsewhere.
Guest ranch stays make for great family vacations and are an ideal way to sample the Tucson landscape. [Read our Tucson Guest Ranches article to find out more.]
Like much of Arizona, Tucson is an athlete and nature lover’s nirvana. There is a whole collection of people, from professional baseball players to serious cyclists, who make this desert oasis their home base for winter training. With so many ups and downs to keep the heart rate pumping, and so little rain in the forecast, you can count on staying in shape during your holiday.
From urban walks in town (take a walk through the University of Arizona campus!) to rugged canyon outings, you could strap on your boots every day of the year and never run short of trails to try. If you must choose one place to start, Sabino Canyon tops my list. For sheer beauty, a chance to see wildlife and plenty of easy to follow trails, this is a winner. And, no matter where you stay, you’ll likely find great hiking options out the front door. Ask for nearby suggestions. Also check www.localhikes.com.
My cycling friends concur: Tucson is a great place ride. With so many mountain trails and well-marked bike paths, it’s not surprising that Bicycling magazine has ranked Tucson as one of the country’s best bike-friendly cities. One example of the local attitude: free bicycle valet parking at Tucson special-events.
If you have even the slightest interest in birding, you will be mesmerized by the plentiful and colorful species that migrate through Southern Arizona. I saw my first Vermillion Flycatcher on a Tucson golf course. Rather than focus on my son’s tournament, I spent the day transfixed by these red-chested beauties as they darted in and out of the trees. Young children delight in the plentiful array of hummingbirds hovering near brightly colored desert plants and feeders.
You could spend a week, a month, even a year playing the more than 40 beautiful municipal, public and private golf courses in Southern Arizona. Most are family-friendly and welcome junior players on the links. You’ll find desert courses (locals call it “target golf”) or more traditional links style courses. If your focus will be tee to green, be sure to check the CVB and resort hotel Web sites for the multitude of packages available. Also note, as the temperatures rise, greens fees fall considerably.
Don’t Miss Sightseeing The Anza Trail
Learn about the significant Spanish and Mexican influence on the region through a tour of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Anza, an intrepid explorer, led a party of 240 colonists on an expedition from Mexico to found a mission near the San Francisco Bay. The Anza Trail is a 1,200-mile marked route, beginning in Southern Arizona. While this could be a vacation program in itself, you can pick and choose from the many interesting stops on the trail. There are numerous, itineraries to consider. For suggestions: www.arizonaguide.com
San Xavier del Bac Mission
This amazing white, historic structure is often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of North America.” With delicate paintings on the walls and ceiling and beautiful architectural lines, San Xavier del Bac is a favorite among photographers visiting the area. My children and I enjoy visiting churches during our travels, particularly in historic areas, and this stop was no exception. It remains a Catholic parish serving the Tohono O’odham community for whom it was first established in the late 1600s. www.sanxaviermission.org
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
I’ve visited this remarkable museum many times, with and without my boys, and would welcome any opportunity to return. This is a great way to introduce children (and adults) to the magnificence of the Sonoran desert and all of its inhabitants. With a world wide reputation in the scientific community as its cornerstone, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum serves as a zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden in one stop.
Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the more than 300 animal species (including mountain lions, snakes and Gila monsters ) and 1,200 kinds of plants. Check the Web site in advance to find out about special events for the day and children’s programs you will want to schedule into your visit. www.desertmuseum.org
Pima Air & Space Museum
The largest aviation and space museum west of the Rocky Mountains, Pima gets votes from my boys for the more than 250 aircraft on display, from Wright Brothers–style antiques to space exploration vehicles. www.pimaair.org
Center for Creative Photography
For photography lovers, the Center for Creative Photography is a must-see stop. Located on the University of Arizona campus, this museum holds contemporary works of nearly every major North American, 20th-century photographer, including images by Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz. And it’s free. www.creativephotography.org