Los Cabos, Mexico

That's right — this once sleepy fishing village favored by Hollywood celebrities who used it as a vacation hideaway is one of the fastest-growing golf destinations in Mexico.

A concerted 10-year development surge has produced seven golf courses, impressive multi-amenity beachside resorts, and an airport with more than 200 flights a week. Spanning 25 miles of coastline at the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, Los Cabos is a combination of the historic mission town of San Jose del Cabo to the north and the resort town of Cabo San Lucas to the south.

The peninsula fronts the sea on both sides, with a mountain range stretching from north to south, giving golf course architects a wonderful mix of desert, mountain, and ocean.

Jack Nicklaus was one of the first major golf course designers to discover the area, and he is well represented with 27 holes at the Palmilla Resort & Golf Club, the seaside El Dorado Golf Club, and the Ocean Course at Cabo Del Sol. Consistently ranked one of the best golf courses in the world, the Ocean Course is noted for its phenomenal three finishing holes.

Other notable courses are Tom Weiskopf's Desert Course at Cabo Del Sol and the Raven at Cabo San Lucas Country Club, which has sweeping panoramas of downtown Cabo San Lucas and the El Arco rock formation. Scheduled to open in 2005 is a new course at Cabo Del Sol designed by Tom Doak, noted for his design of Pacific Dunes in Oregon.

* Where to Golf

  • Palmilla Resort & Golf Club (27 holes)
  • 278-room Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos (36 holes)
  • 171-room Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar (18 holes)
  • 109-room Palmilla Resort & Golf Club (27 holes)
  • 104-room Melia Los Cabos All-Suites Beach & Golf Resort (36 holes)
  • 61-room Las Ventanas al Paraiso (18 holes)


Mississippi

What do Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Davis Love III, and Jerry Pate have in common? Besides being major championship winners, each of them has designed a course in Mississippi.

There are more than 140 golf courses in Mississippi, a dozen more are on the way, and, according to the Mississippi Development Authority Division of Tourism, golf tourism revenues have increased 60 percent in just the past two years.

The hottest golf area in Mississippi is undoubtedly Biloxi and Gulfport on the Gulf of Mexico, where a recent development boom has produced more than 20 courses and 12 Las Vegas — style casinos. Grand Casino Resort's Grand Bear, a Jack Nicklaus design, has received rave reviews. Also notable are Shell Landing, an innovative Davis Love III design, and the Arnold Palmer — designed Bridges Golf Resort at Casino Magic, where wooden bridges extend over pristine wetlands.

Recently, the Mississippi Development Authority established the Magnolia Golf Trail, a collection of 14 of the state's best courses that stretch from Tunica, the gaming hub outside Memphis, to Bay St. Louis, on the Gulf of Mexico. In Tunica, which has nine casino resorts, the Tunica National Golf & Tennis Complex, with a Mark McCumber — designed course, debuted last year.

* Where to Golf

Note: All of Mississippi's casino resorts have play agreements with the best courses in the area, including Oaks Golf Club, Shell Landing, and Mississippi National Golf Course, all on the Gulf Coast; and Cottonwoods Golf Club, River Bend Links, and Club at North Creek, all in the Tunica area.

BILOXI

  • 1,780-room Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
  • 1,086-room Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino
  • 1,000-room Grand Casino Biloxi, Grand Bear
  • 500-room President Casino Broadwater Resort
  • 378-room Casino Magic Biloxi, Bridges Golf Resort
  • 367-room Isle of Capri Casino Resort
  • 256-room Treasure Bay Casino Resort


TUNICA

  • 200-room Harrah's Casino & Hotel
  • 134-room Sheraton Casino & Hotel


The Caribbean

Golf used to be an afterthought in the Caribbean, something you might consider after the snorkel and windsurfing gear were stashed away. Not any more.

The Dominican Republic is adding six new courses, Puerto Rico has greatly expanded its golf menu, the Bahamas is renovating many of its courses, and even places such as Barbados, Nevis, and the Grenadines are getting into the act.

The biggest news in the Dominican Republic is the upscale Cap Cana resort, a 30,000-acre development that will open the first of three Jack Nicklaus signature courses later this year. Recently opened just outside Santo Domingo, the capital, is the Guavaberry Golf Club, the first Gary Player — designed layout in the Caribbean. Pete Dye's new River course at the Casa del Campo resort has also received rave reviews since its debut last year.

In Puerto Rico, the big news is the October opening of the Paradisus Sol Melia Beach & Golf Resort in Rio Grande, a multiphase project that will initially offer 490 guest rooms, a spa, a casino, nine restaurants and bars, 24,000 square feet of meeting space, and two 18-hole, Bruce Besse — designed golf courses.

In Barbados, the Barbados Golf Club, which recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation and redesign, became the island's first 18-hole pay-and-play championship course. Designers including Tom Fazio and Colin Montgomerie are considering projects there.

* Major Golf Resorts

  • 694-room Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico (36 holes)
  • 504-room Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach Resort & Club, Dorado, Puerto Rico (36 holes)
  • 490-room Paradisus Sol Melia Beach & Golf Resort, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico (36 holes)
  • 432-room Punta Cana Resort & Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (18 holes)
  • 430-room Casa del Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic (54 holes)


Western Canada

Most golf minds don't stray north of the border when conjuring a list of fantasy places to play, but Western Canada cannot be overlooked. Alberta and British Columbia offer stunningly beautiful courses, in settings with ancient forests, mountains, and crystalline lakes and rivers.

There's a much longer list of courses to choose from than you might think. Alberta has more than 250, most of them in or near its two major cities, Edmonton and Calgary. Golf season begins in late April and runs through October. During the summer months, temperatures average in the mid-70s, and daylight lasts up to 15 hours, affording extra play.

In British Columbia, top designers have descended on the region.

For golfers who enjoy the test of mountain golf, this part of Canada provides some of the world's best mountain layouts. Among the more notable are Banff Springs, Jasper Park Lodge, Silvertip and Kananaskis in Alberta, and Greywolf and Whistler in British Columbia.

* Where to Golf

ALBERTA

  • 800-room Banff Springs Resort, Banff (36 holes)
  • 446-room Jasper Park Lodge (18 holes)
  • 420-room Kananaskis Village Resort, Kananaskis (36 holes)


BRITISH COLUMBIA

  • Chateau Whistler Resort, Whistler (54 holes)


Oregon

Propelled by a golf course building boom, Oregon has 200 courses in a variety of heavily wooded, coastal, and even urban settings. The majority are in the central region where Route 97 snakes through communities such as Redmond, Bend, and Sunriver. There are 90 courses along the route, with designer labels including Tom Weiskopf, Bob Cupp, and Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Portland has 35 public courses, one of the largest inventories of public access courses in the nation. Despite what most people think, the city gets less precipitation per year than Atlanta, Baltimore, and Houston.

The new Oregon courses that everyone is talking about are two beauties called Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes, both along the southern coast. Oregon's answer to Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, was designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd and has seven holes on the Pacific Ocean with sea views at every hole. Designed by Tom Doak, Pacific Dunes is arguably the best links course in the United States. Set on an inland mountain with more than 400 feet of elevation change, the course is sandy and duned, with gorse and shore pines and stunning sea views.

* Where to Golf

  • 210-room Sunriver Resort, Sunriver (54 holes)
  • 205-room Westin Salishan Lodge & Golf Resort, Gleneden Beach (18 holes)
  • 160-room Resort at the Mountain, Welches (54 holes)
  • 100-room Inn at Eagle Crest, Redmond (54 holes)