The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand
Typifying New Zealand’s often-authentic take on luxury, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs sits within a working cattle and sheep farm. Its massive, delineated acreage encompasses a recently renovated, par-72 championship course. All but three of the 18 holes yield island-speckled Pacific Ocean views, with six arranged along Kauri’s titular, plunging sea cliffs — rendering errant driving extra-expensive here! Five sets of tee positions allows for golfers of varying capability to play. Its 22 suites, accompanying some bigger, segregated Residences and a palatial Owner’s Cottage, the main Lodge is designed in an elegant colonial style and overlooks the course. After playing, ease out any kinks in an equally splendid spa before roaming the rest of the estate via walking and cycling trails through native forest to a waterfall or three private beaches. This part of the North Island is home to the beautiful Bay of Islands, where whales and dolphins appear year-round.
Velaa Private Island, the Maldives
Golf in the Maldives? Putting in paradise? Oh yes indeed. Rather than a traditional course, ultra-exclusive Velaa has something almost as good in the shape of its Golf Academy. Devised by two-time major winner and ex-Ryder Cup captain José Maria Olazábal, a Spanish great renowned for his short game, this comprises six holes (ranging from 55 to 194 yards) and various interchangeable tees placed to provide numerous wedging, flopping, punching and putting challenges atop hand-sown grass. Don’t worry about playing slowly, either; book a round here and you get this entire practice facility to yourself. There’s even the option to play after dark, to increase your sense of feel, with the course and ball illuminated. Elsewhere, the small coral atoll lays on snorkelling, diving or yachting excursions. Each modern villa sits either beside the white-sand beach or out atop a turquoise-watered lagoon.
Terre Blanche, France
Between Provence’s lakes and lavender fields sprawl two of Europe’s finest 18-hole challenges. Part of the five-star Terre Blanche’s estate, they are picturesque Le Riou – where lengthy, steep fairways feed onto complex greens – and the more famous Le Château, packed with water hazards and host of the Senior European Tour’s annual French Riviera Masters event. A high-tech swing centre impresses, too. Mimicking a classic Provençal village, the otherwise forest-set hotel features only low-rise buildings; linked by herb-scented outdoor pathways, its 115 private suites and villas are sprinkled across wooded hillside. Patios overlook rolling countryside whose produce is championed in Michelin-starred restaurant Le Faventia. Cookery classes are also offered, and tastings at nearby Château d’Esclans – the producer of Whispering Angel rosé – can easily be arranged. Another option for post-round recuperation is the huge spa, providing Valmont or KOS Paris rituals in 12 treatment rooms alongside a heated indoor pool.
Sea Island, USA
Two of the three courses on this private isle in Georgia have been overhauled of late by local resident Davis Love III, a PGA Hall of Famer, and his brother, Mark. That includes the longstanding Plantation Course, which has been lent Golden Age design elements, a bunker inspired by the legendary 16th hole of the Old Course at St Andrews and increased Atlantic views. The corridors are helpfully wide, but most greens carry a real challenge. For all that – and despite a state-of-the-art Performance Center containing one of the planet’s finest indoor putting studios – Sea Island’s biggest golfing draw is Tom Fazio’s Seaside Course, 18 spectacular links holes via tidal creeks, salt marshes and sand dunes. Other temptations around the Deep South resort range from five miles of private beach and a spa to tennis courts and boat jaunts. The plushest stays are seven capacious Lodge Cottages; one even boasts its own private driving-range bay.