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Hotels and Resorts

Cigar Aficionado's panel of travel experts picks the most luxurious, most outstanding, most exciting range of destinations in the world
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Jim Belushi, November/December 2010

(continued from page 5)

Second Place: Bandon Dunes, Oregon. This dichotomy illustrated the different interpretations our panelists had of “golf resort.” Like the Sanctuary, third-place winners Pebble Beach and Pinehurst excelled across the board, with multiple top golf courses, several hotels and endless dining and activity choices, making these the most complete resorts. Some purists voted on the basis of quality of golf, pure and simple, and they overwhelmingly came out in support of low-key Bandon Dunes, which has the nation’s top-ranked public course according to Golf Magazine, and three of the top 10. TheAPosition.com founder Jeff Wallach follows this logic: “Hands down, if golf is the most important part of this category, Bandon Dunes is the best golf resort on the planet.” Where Bandon fails to shine is off the courses, with very basic lodging and dining. “The best golf is definitely at Bandon, but it’s not much on the resort front,” says Robert Pedrero, founder of The Golf Insider (now part of Golf Odyssey). “If you didn’t play golf you’d be miserable there.”

Third Place: TIE: Pebble Beach, California; Pinehurst, North Carolina. “While Bandon Dunes now offers a peerless collection of four golf courses, our choice is still Pebble Beach Resort, America’s shrine to the game,” declared David Baum, owner and editor of Golf Odyssey, the nation’s leading critical golf travel newsletter. Pinehurst has the most courses of any domestic resort and won accolades for its southern hospitality and one-of-a-kind historic and spiritual ambiance, or as golf writer and broadcaster Michael Patrick Shiels puts it, “our St Andrews.”

Best Golf Resort, International

Gleneagles, Scotland

Some things never change. While our golf rankings got pretty shaken up here at home, overseas the status quo prevailed, with Gleneagles winning again, just as it did in our initial 2005 poll and our 2006 Best Resort poll. Our voters took a much different approach than they did at home, since virtually no one believed that Gleneagles has the best golf in this category, but rather is such an incredible overall resort. It combines true luxury with first-class facilities at every turn, from Michelin-starred dining to a state-of-the-art equestrian center, a shooting compound with sporting clays, a famed off-road driving school, elaborate falconry programs, and virtually every other activity you could imagine, along with some you could not. Its classic King’s and Queen’s courses by James Braid are widely considered among the finest examples of “inland links style,” while its much-criticized modern course by Jack Nicklaus has shrugged off the comments and was chosen to host Europe’s next Ryder Cup. “It’s the glaring choice, right in the middle of Scotland, close to lots of other great courses, but with the caveat that you don’t go just for the golf, you go for the awesome activities,” says Pedrero.

Runners Up: Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand; Old Course Hotel, Scotland; Westin Turnberry, Scotland; Mission Hills, China.

Baum champions stunning Kauri Cliffs, our previous winner for “Best Single Course Resort Overall,” and not surprisingly, he describes it as “the world’s finest single course getaway.” The Old Course Hotel, while unaffiliated with the famed courses of the Links Trust, wins for its perfect location alongside the world’s first course, plus a lavish spa and excellent restaurants. Turnberry, another previous winner, wows not with lodging or food, but rather with a British Open venue our panelists consider one of the world’s very best, the Ailsa. Finally, I had to throw my support behind Mission Hills —even though many of our panelist have not been yet, it is the world’s largest golf resort, has first rate courses (a dozen of them!), impressive dining, a very full array of resort facilities, eager-to-please service, and in short, would be an error of omission not to recognize. Or as Pedrero puts it, “It’s the obvious answer for those who know about it, and in years to come, a lot more people are going to know about it.”

Best Spa Resort, U.S.

Canyon Ranch, Tucson, Arizona

Arizona is the undisputed champ of spa vacations, according to our experts. Five years ago, they chose Tucson’s Miraval, with Canyon Ranch a close second. In our all-resort poll, Sedona’s Mii Amo took top position, and while both still had fans, Canyon Ranch finally nabbed the top spot, and by a sizable margin (its sister property, Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, which previously won for “Best Wellness/Fitness Hotel,” also fared well). Spa, beauty and travel writer Debbie Karpowicz Kickham cannot believe the “fantastic low-calorie food,” or that the chocolate chip cookies had just 85 calories, and raves about the Euphoria spa treatment. “I’m relaxed just writing about it!” Luxury travel agent Stacy Small, “CBS News” travel editor Peter Greenberg and prolific travel writer Everett Potter are among the many knowledgeable experts who loved Canyon Ranch.


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