Arizona * Heli-Golf Want to add an extra dimension to attendees' day on the links? Resort Suites of Scottsdale now offers Heli-Golf, an exclusive escapade designed to take the game to the next level.
Clubs and players are transferred to Scottsdale Airport, where they are whisked away via helicopter to one of three championship courses. After a narrated ride with views of some of the most stunning scenery in the west, the helicopter lands close to the first tee the group will play.
It's a flight of only 30 minutes to Dinosaur Mountain, the newest course at the Gold Canyon Golf Resort in the Superstition Mountains, east of Scottsdale. The 6,585-yard, par-70 course was designed by Ken Cavanaugh and has spectacular mountain views.
Or, take a 45-minute flight to the awe-inspiring Red Rock country of Sedona. Here, surrounded by red sandstone mesas, is the Sedona Golf Resort. Designer Gary Panks added some special local flavor to this par-71 course by placing red sand in the bunkers.
A third choice is the Raven Golf Club at Sabino Springs in Tucson, an hour's flight from Scottsdale. Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course winds through craggy rock outcroppings and crosses through a forest of giant saguaros. --Margie Meldman
Bermuda * Year-Round Play Few destinations are as conducive to year-round golf as Bermuda. Daytime temperatures don't dip below 60 degrees, even in the coolest months, and there are eight challenging courses to keep players busy.
Two of Bermuda's top hotels have spectacular golf courses: the 600-room Southampton Princess (a Canadian Pacific Hotel) and the 421-room Marriott's Castle Harbour Resort.
"We give groups priority status," says Bruce Sims, golf director at the Southampton Princess, "but you need to book a year out for the high season (March to October)." Sims can arrange for attendees to be whisked directly to the golf course from the airport: Recently a group of top executives from Ford Canada arrived at 1:30 p.m. and teed off at 2. A round of golf at the compact course takes only three hours (a plus for half-day meetings) and every hole has an ocean view.
Marriott's Castle Harbour course, designed in 1931 by Charles Banks, is a 6,440-yard rolling course that follows the natural terrain and is known as one of the most challenging on the island. Golf pro Kevin Benevides cites a six-hole eveningthat was a big hit with a recent incentive group. "The course was lit up by torches and participants used glow-in-the-dark balls."
Want to offer attendees the chance to perfect their strokes on Bermuda's best 18 holes? Golf Digest magazine and the Bermuda Department of Tourism have identified the most challenging 18 holes on the island, including five at the par-71 Port Royal Golf Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. --Regina Baraban
Whitefish, Montana * Golf and Ski in the Same Day Imagine spending a crisp morning on a championship golf course and the afternoon skiing in the spring sunshine. Groups visiting Montana's Flathead Valley in April can do just that.
The region is an undiscovered gem (Golf Digest called it "the last best place to golf"), framed by the towering Big Mountain ski resort, two large lakes, and, only 15 miles away, the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park. Golfers can choose from several courses, including beautiful Whitefish Lake, with 36 championship holes, and nearby Eagle Bend, a 27-hole resort course off the shores of Flathead Lake.
The tiny town of Whitefish is lined with bistros and shops, and has its own microbrewery--a local watering hole. The feeling here is friendly, without any pretentious edge. Just outside town, the 145-room Grouse Mountain Lodge, the area's main group resort, has a huge stone fireplace in the lobby, indoor and outdoor spas, and conference space that can accommodate groups of up to 300 --Barbara Scofidio
Cabo San Lucas * Mexico's Paradise At the southern tip of Mexico's Baja peninsula, Cabo San Lucas lures cor-porate groups with its combination of five championship golf courses and top-of-the-line resort hotels.
There are three Jack Nicklaus-designed courses: the Palmilla Golf Course at the 114-room Hotel Palmilla Resort on the Sea of Cortes; the Cabo del Sol-Ocean Course, carved out of the side of the desert shore that lines the Sea of Cortes, with seven challenging oceanfront holes and an 18th hole that is a mirror image of the 18th at Pebble Beach; and the El Dorado, located at the luxurious Cabo Real Resort complex, which also includes the 18-hole, par-72 Cabo Real Golf Course.
Ground has been broken on a new 18-hole course designed by Tom Weiskopf in Cabo del Sol, which will eventually feature three golf courses and two new luxury hotels spread across 140 acres of desert terrain. --Jonathan Siskin
Ireland * Legendary Links About the size of South Carolina, Ireland offers legendary year-round golf opportunities. Within a two-hour drive of Dublin's growing list of first-tier hotels (a Four Seasons will open this year), there are about 30 high-quality golf courses. The venerable Portmarnock, with 27 holes on a windswept peninsula, is reputed to be a classic test of golf. A less challenging experience--but one of Arnold Palmer's finest design efforts--can be found at the Kildare Hotel & Country Club, a luxurious 45-room hotel in an 18th-century mansion 25 miles west of Dublin. Druids Glen, about 20 miles south of Dublin in Wicklow, offers a hilly, wooded terrain that is described as the Augusta National of Ireland.
In the beautiful Connemarra region is Ashford Castle and its sister property, the newly refurbished and expanded Dromoland Castle. Dromoland's challenging 18-hole parkland course is a favorite of incentive winners. The castles are not far from Shannon International Airport, and within two hours of Shannon there are 50 golf courses. These include the Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed golf course at Adare Manor, an architectural jewel originally built in 1832 that is now a five-star hotel. Three lakes anchor the front nine, and the River Maigue meanders through the back nine of this lovely course.
Also close to Shannon airport are the "stations of the cross" for golf devotees visiting the Emerald Isle: Killarney, Waterville, Ballybunion, and Lahinch. Ballybunion's Old Course is renowned as one of the world's great links courses, while Lahinch has been described as the St. Andrew's of Ireland. No wonder Ireland has been chosen to host the Ryder Cup in 2005! --Regina McGee
South Africa * Golfing and Game Viewing South Africa's golf boom means inveterate players don't have to sacrifice their clubs for the country's other attractions during a meeting or incentive program.
The mega-resort Sun City, for example, features two par-72 championship courses, both designed by famed South African Gary Player. The Gary Player Golf Course, like most in South Africa, uses kikuyu grass on the tees, fairways, and semi-roughs. The Palace of the Lost City Golf Course uses finer Cape Bermuda grass and is more of a desert-style course. Thirty-eight crocodiles, some of them nearly six feet long, inhabit the water hazard on its 13th hole.
Last year, Zimbali Lodge and Zimbali Country Club opened just outside of Durban, with a par-72 championship golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf. Country club courses in Durban include the Durban Country Club and the Mt. Edgecombe Country Club.
Capetown has the Royal Cape, South Africa's oldest course; Erinvale, a Gary Player course; and the Stellenbosch Golf Club and the Paarl Golf Club, both in the wine region. Three new courses are being developed in the area, one by Player, one by Jack Nicklaus, and one by Robert Trent Jones Jr. --Regina McGee
Boca Raton Resort & Club * Redesign The Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Fla., which has 963 guest rooms and suites (including 214 guest rooms at the Boca Beach Club and 120 golf villas), last year reopened its 18-hole Resort Course (one of two 18-hole championship courses at the club) after a $6.5 million redesign. The course features more than 12 acres of water (it had fewer than three before the remake), and dramatic elevation changes. With the newly created "Mount Boca" (elevation: 30 feet!) a feature on holes 1, 2, and 11, the creators say the course plays more like the Carolinas than Florida.
Beginning last year at the resort, the Nicklaus/Flick Golf School is offering Master Golf three-day golf schools and a three-day Golf for Women Magazine Golf Program, taught by women. The Dave Pelz Short Game Golf School facility recently tripled in size to more than 100,000 square feet, with more than 44,000 square feet of greens, 10,000 square feet of tee space, a variety of practice bunkers, and an indoor classroom. Three-day sessions, including 24 hours of classroom and tutorial instruction, are available.
The Boca Raton Resort & Club opened its new $40 million meeting and conference facility, the Mizner Center, in January 1998. The 128,000-square-foot conference center features 34 meeting rooms and can host meetings for up to 1,800 people. --Barbara L. Brewer
Portugal * New Territory What makes Portugal an attractive golf destination? It's unknown territory, says Neil B. Jackson, principal partner, Executive Sessions International in Lynchburg, Va. "Our high-level clients have already played all the better-known, top-rated courses," Jackson explains. "Portugal is a delightful surprise to them. The greens and fairways are well-manicured, the landscaping is picturesque--a grove of eucalyptus trees to one side, cliffs leading down to the sea on the other. Penha Longa, a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course, is one favorite, and a new course, Praia D'El Rey, where Marriott is developing a resort, has great potential."
David Brice, president, Golf International in New York City, custom-designs European golf incentives. He views Portugal as the best "true value" golf destination. "The greens fees and room rates are reasonable," says Brice, "while the quality of the courses and the resorts is high."
In the Costa de Lisboa region, Brice's golf course picks include Penha Longa, Belas Clube de Campo. and Estoril Palacio. And, in the Algarve region, he cites Penina, San Lorenzo, and Quinta do Lago. --Jacquelin Carnegie
Walt Disney World * 99 Holes in One Guest appearances by famous Disney characters, a bunker shaped like the world's most famous mouse--would you expect anything else when you golf at Walt Disney World?
For all the fun, Disney's sixcourses--99 holes in all--have gained a reputation as being among the finest in the country. The two original courses, Magnolia and Palm, were designed by Joe Lee. (Palm, with nine water-trap holes, is considered the resort's most challenging.) Lee also designed the Lake Buena Vista course, which is more heavily wooded, with tight fairways. Some of the finest golf architects in the world have contributed to other Disney courses: Tom Fazio designed Osprey Ridge, Pete Dye designed Eagle Pines, and Ron Garl designed Oak Trail, a nine-hole executive course.
Disney's PGA Pros are available for lessons and corporate clinics for corporate groups, or for tournament instruction. If there's limited time, one- and two-hour clinics are also available. --Barbara Scofidio