Travel – Summer Golf Destinations

Travel – Summer Golf Destinations

Summer is here, but you don’t need your Pete Delkus, your friend’s social media picture of their car thermometer or an upcoming family vacation to figure that out.

Just head to any golf course, where you’re sure to find green fairways, brisk winds, coolers full of swing grease and other beverages, and festive times (the last two usually go hand-in-hand). That all sounds good, until you realize the high temperature mirrors what a D player typically shoots, with a humidity hovering around an even-par score.

To beat the heat this summer, why not head somewhere with stunning mountain vistas and rugged northern landscapes? Where you can challenge your game on stunning courses designed by golf legends like Arnold Palmer and Johnny Miller or bonafide architects like Rees Jones and Jeff Brauer.

We’ve handpicked four exceptional destinations in locales where summertime temperatures are manageable, but the golf experiences are 100.

Balsam Mountain Preserve

Considered one of Arnold Palmer’s finest designs, Balsam Mountain Preserve is tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and boasts incredible views and exceptional challenges throughout. The par-70 layout, which sits at 4,200 feet above sea level, boasts one of the most thrilling openers in golf, a par-4 that offers a scenic backdrop off the tee and a dramatic downhill approach to the green. Other majestic holes on this Palmer Signature Course include the par-5 14th and the par-3 18th … yes, Balsam Mountain Preserve ends with a striking par-3.

Balsam Mountain Preserve is a private course, but it does allow for public play under special arrangements. Each day, only 16 non-members are extended an invite to play Balsam Mountain Preserve and indulge in the club’s fantastic golf amenities, which include access to the Palmer Practice Park and its six-hole short course. 

Located less than 40 miles west of Asheville, Balsam Mountain Preserve opened in 2004 and encompasses 4,400 acres. Of those 4,400 acres, 3,300 are safeguarded in a permanent land trust to protect their natural mountain habitat–and to provide an expansive natural playground for residents and their families. The property’s elevation rises to 5,400 feet above sea level, promoting summer outdoor recreation in a cooler setting.

In addition to the golf course, Balsam Mountain Preserve offers extensive equestrian facilities that include stables and riding rings. Other community highlights include the Summit House restaurant and Mine Tavern, fitness, spa, tennis and pool facilities, a Nature Center and private campsite, 40 miles of Class A trout streams, historical gathering places and more than 40 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

Giants Ridge

One region of the country that is getting more popular among golfers is the northern part of Minnesota. Not only is the weather mild during the summers, but the golf courses in this region also rank among the best in the Midwest.

The main catalyst for this recent love is Giants Ridge, a splendid resort set in the rugged beauty of the Mesabi Iron Range. Giants Ridge boasts two layouts often regarded as tops in the Gopher State, The Quarry and The Legend.

As its name implies, The Legend offers flat-out legendary golf. Carved out of the Superior National Forest, The Legend is a true “northwoods” course, featuring towering pines, giant fairways and majestic views of Wynne and Sabin Lakes. Jeff Brauer designed The Legend in 1997, yet it is a completely different experience from The Quarry.

Brauer also designed The Quarry on the site of a former sand quarry and iron ore mine. Dramatically raised tees and hazards forged from reclaimed and repurposed mine land set The Quarry apart from other courses, and why many publications list it as the top public course in Minnesota.

Located an easy one-hour drive from Duluth and three hours from the Twin Cities, Giants Ridge offers overnight accommodations–from suites and villas to rustic and modern homes – perfect for golf groups and families. Both GOLF Magazine and Golf Digest recently tabbed Giants Ridge as one of the best resorts for families, and among the top golf resorts in the Midwest. Golf specials for 2024 can be found on the resort’s website.


Situated atop Lookout Mountain in Northwest Georgia, the McLemore Resort features an 18-hole Rees Jones/Bill Bergin-designed golf course–the Highlands Course–that boasts a finishing hole considered one of the best in the world.

Yet, the Highlands Course is much more than just its finishing hole – the layout plays through three different landscapes. Much of the front nine plays through a canyon and sometimes over an elevated ridgeline on the eastern side of Lookout Mountain. Providing the course its name, the Highlands holes sit on a plateau of the mountain, like an island in the sky. The starting hole and finishing holes of the Highlands Course all sit on cliff edges, providing dramatic views and plenty of Kodak moments.

Later this year the club will open a second 18-hole golf course, The Keep. Like the Highlands Course, The Keep is a Bill Bergin/Rees Jones design that features stunning vistas and dramatic holes along the eastern side of Lookout Mountain. The links-inspired, headlands-style course will stretch more than 7,800 yards on a mountain plateau perched 1,500 feet above the valley floor. In fact, every hole will offer 50+ mile views.

Lodging-wise, guests can stay at McLemore through stay-and-play packages at one of its spacious golf cottages, villas or private homes, or they can pamper themselves at the new Cloudland at McLemore Resort, the first hotel built on Lookout Mountain since the Great Depression.

Featuring 245 guest rooms, including 19 suites, 20,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting and event space, exceptional dining and world-class amenities, Cloudland at McLemore Resort opened on Leap Day 2024 and ushers in a new era of luxury for leisure and business travelers.

Rising Sun Golf Course

Set against the breathtaking Big Sky Country of Montana at the entrance to Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, Rising Sun Golf Course stands as a testament to both natural beauty and exceptional design. Crafted by the legendary Johnny Miller, this par-72 masterpiece spans 7,130 yards, offering a challenging yet rewarding experience for golfers of all skill levels.

As you navigate the meticulously maintained course, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges, providing a stunning backdrop to your round. The par-4 12th is a beauty and a beast, while the 16th is a great risk-and-reward hole that begins a wonderful stretch of holes to conclude the round.

Rising Sun is only open to guests of Mountain Sky, and there’s a good chance golfers will have no problem playing an emergency nine. That’s because Rising Sun also boasts a solid nine-hole short course right next to the cozy clubhouse and fantastic practice area.

Situated next to the Gallatin National Forest, Mountain Sky Guest Ranch epitomizes rustic elegance, and it’s been like that since the Great Depression. Mountain Sky sits on land that was once the Ox Yoke Ranch built from 1929-1930 and was the first dude ranch in the region to provide guests with “modern conveniences” like bathtubs built into guest quarters and buildings electrified by a small hydroelectric plant that ran off a nearby creek. The cabins at Mountain Sky still have bathtubs and electricity, along with other updated accouterments; what they don’t have are televisions and Wi-Fi. Mountain Sky is a place to unplug and become one with nature and the surroundings, although you can enjoy a great workout or yoga class in the wellness center, search the Web at the main lodge and catch an ESPN highlight in the golf pro shop.

In addition to golf at Rising Sun, guests can indulge in stellar amenities and activities at Mountain Sky, including horseback riding, fly fishing, excursions to Yellowstone National Park, ziplining and swimming. Homestyle meals are served daily at the main lodge, and the Thursday night dances are can’t-miss.

Mountain Sky is a premium destination–packages typically require a week-long stay ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on cabin size and seasonality.