As life, and travel, have become increasingly stressful, we need to step back and nourish ourselves to get motivated for the next round. No one needs this more than the incentive winners who have worked 24/7 to achieve their goals.

“We wouldn't consider a resort for our incentive programs or our large client meetings that doesn't have a spa on property or very nearby,” says Rebecca Rosensweig, group director of strategic programs and events, Fidelity Investments, Boston.

Spas aren't just for women anymore, either. “We've seen a significant increase in spa treatments among male attendees,” says Rosensweig, who often blocks the entire spa for afternoon activities. During a recent 300-person client meeting, for example, attendees booked 200 spa treatments. Spa treatments are so popular at Fidelity meetings that the planning department asks attendees to book them on its online registration forms.

For an update on the ever-expanding spa scene, read on.

Best of the Best

Over the past year, I've visited many new spas across the country. They all had outstanding facilities and services, but each excelled in different areas. The following reviews, based on my experience, skim the surface of the burgeoning inventory of fabulous new hotel and resort spas.

  • Best yoga: Golden Door Spa at The Boulders. Yoga classes were among the best I've ever experienced, with top-notch instructors. The circular studio ringed with mirrors and capped by a ceiling painted with a skyscape mural is both serene and highly functional.

  • Best spa treatment: A watsu massage at Golden Door at the Boulders. A watsu is similar to shiatsu in water: you're cradled, stretched, and given pressure-point accupressure in a special warm-water pool. The effect is relaxing and invigorating.

  • Best design: Willow Stream at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The elegant three-level space, linked with a waterfall, was inspired by Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and designed to take visitors on a journey through air, water, earth, wood, and fire. Rooms are bathed in golden light, and tactile stone treatments evoke the Arizona landscape.

  • Best small spa: Sonesta Beach Resort, Key Biscayne (Fla.). The atmosphere is bright, modern, and tropical, and the quality of the treatments is up there with the big guys.

  • Best spa cuisine: Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment Resort. OK, it's trendy, but the complimentary dish of warm endamame (soy) beans were unbelievably fresh and tasty.

  • Best indoor pool: Pinehurst, N.C. As a swimmer, I appreciated this tranquil indoor pool, which is long enough for laps.

  • Best scenery: Few views anywhere can top the mesa-like red rock cliffs of Sedona, Ariz. Mii amo is nestled into this dramatic backdrop and was designed to bring the outdoors in: Even the treatment rooms have drop-dead views. It's easy to see why this spot is sacred to the Apache Indians.

  • Best fitness facility: The Sports Club/LA at the Four Seasons San Francisco. Everything $50 million can buy, including a 10,000-square-foot weight training gym and a cardiovascular center with 150 pieces of equipment that feature personal TV monitors.



Golf Muscles

Thinking about investing in a new golf club to improve your game? There's a better way. “If you want to drive the ball farther, you need to work on yourself,” says Steve Phillips, a personal trainer and exercise physiologist who directs several golf fitness programs at the new Spa at Pinehurst, N.C. These range from a one-hour golf conditioning workout to a four-hour golf biomechanics program that assesses each joint from head to toe.

Like Pinehurst, many resort spas offer fitness programs and massage therapies to help keep people limber on the links. I was lucky to have my own golf conditioning workout with Phillips at Pinehurst, and came away convinced that golf fitness can make a big difference out on the greens.

Phillips says fitness should be developed by four steps: flexibility, stability, strength training, and power training. “You can't get stronger without first becoming flexible,” he says. “Golfers who aren't flexible don't have good range of motion on their swing, get fatigued earlier, and then change their swing plane on the last few holes and throw their ball flight off. That's when they get hurt by duffing the ground or straining an elbow or wrist.” Any golfer can improve their game with the right golf exercise program, Phillips adds. His top fitness tip: stretch the neck and hamstrings regularly. “Once those muscles are in shape, you can hit the ball well with any kind of club.”