1 Center Drive, Sunriver, Oregon; 800-547-3922, sunriver-resort.com
Big Picture: This is golf in the great outdoors, and the resort's many offerings, including a full-service golf academy, are extensive enough to make a week's vacation fly by. Accommodations range from luxurious (the River Lodges) to modest (the condos in Lodge Village).
The Golf: Three eighteen-hole courses. Crosswater, a notoriously difficult par-seventy-two design by Bob Cupp and John Fought, is the best known, having hosted the 2002 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship and numerous U.S. Open qualifiers. The other two courses are better for kids: the Meadows, which measures 5,287 yards from the forward tees, and the Woodlands (5,446 yards).
Family Golf: A nine-hole putting course takes the focus off grip-it-and-rip-it golf, which kids tend to overdose on. With holes from 45-feet to 120-feet long, the course plays to a par twenty-two or twenty-three, depending on which set of tees you use (yes, there are two sets). Junior golf instruction costs just $20 a lesson. Family lessons, for up to five players, cost an equally reasonable $100 a session. When teaching children, the pros keep moving from drill to drill every ten to fifteen minutes to keep the kids' attention. They also hold frequent contests in putting and chipping—two skills that often come easiest to youngsters. The resort offers free use of junior clubs for lessons or when kids play in the evenings with a paying adult.
Other Fun Stuff: Cascade Lakes Highway is designated as a National Scenic Byway, and no wonder: The eighty-seven-mile loop goes deep into the wilderness and offers gorgeous views of pristine lakes and reservoirs. Whether you take it all in through the windshield of your car or stop to hike, bike, fish or go boating, it's a memorable experience. To give parents a chance to play or relax on their own, the resort offers extensive day care and recreation for kids three to eighteen, including mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding as well as golf. Sunriver also runs Fort Funnigan, a camp for three- to ten-year-olds.
Dining: Seafood from the Pacific and game from the Northwest woods make up much of the menu at Meadows at the Lodge, Sunriver's nighttime fine-dining option; the award-winning wine list includes a vast selection of Oregon's famous pinot noirs. The more casual Grille at Crosswater features a less fancy menu.
3962 Wilkinson Road, Treetops Village, Michigan; 888-873-3867, treetops.com
Big Picture: Located in rustic northern Michigan, Treetops has become a high-profile Midwest golf destination since renowned instructor Rick Smith bought the resort in 2002. Accommodations range from family-style two- and three-bedroom condos with full kitchens to luxury suites equipped with hot tubs in the Lodge. A major spa, salon and workout facility is less than two years old.
The Golf: Five well-maintained layouts, including a par-three course, offer a range of challenges. The two best courses for children are the Tom Fazio Premier, which features mounding that helps keep balls in play, and the Tradition, a straightforward Rick Smith design.
Family Golf: Instruction programs address the needs of golfers of every age and ability level. "When we talk about serving families, we mean every member of the family—beginners, juniors, high-school kids on accelerated paths. We offer women-specific instruction and, for hard-core golfers, the Rick Smith Academy," says Scott Head, director of golf operations. Junior lessons include putting and straightest-drive contests, while the women's school creates a nonintimidating atmosphere through large doses of humor. Note: You'll need to bring clubs for all your children, as the resort has no rental sets for kids.
Other Fun Stuff: Guided horseback-riding and trout-fishing trips provide great family excursions into the pristine forests surrounding the resort. There's also river tubing, kayaking, fly-fishing and dirtbike riding nearby. The resort provides day care for children from six months to six years old, as well as a camp for those six to twelve years old.
Dining: Hearty, simple fare. The Broken Club Pub is essentially a sports bar, with a beer menu (sixty brands from around the world) that dwarfs the food choices. Legends is the choice for a more formal meal.
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
6902 East Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale, Arizona; 480-624-1000, kierlandresort.com
Big Picture: Opened in 2002, Kierland is friendly but sophisticated. Villas with full kitchens, dining and living rooms and laundry facilities are ideal for families—as are the huge pools and a 110-foot water slide.
The Golf: Twenty-seven holes designed by Scott Miller, a former senior designer with Jack Nicklaus. Each of the nines—the Acacia, Mesquite and Ironwood—emphasizes playability, with wide fairways and accessible greens, and each eighteen-hole combination has a roughly 5,000-yard set of forward tees.
Family Golf: In teaching children, the pros incorporate equipment from other sports, such as baseball bats (for demonstrating swing speed) and Frisbees (for working on the proper release). They also hold trick-shot contests. A new program prepares promising young players to compete at the high-school level, while the summer junior programs aren't quite so serious—run essentially as half-day sports camps, they focus on golf instruction but also include tennis and a supervised swim down the resort's "Lazy River." Unique to Kierland is a junior club-fitting program, which builds three-club sets for kids as young as five; rental clubs are also available. The Fore-Max fitness program includes rigorous exercise and strength training for adults and children. (Yes, that is LPGA star Grace Park working out in the gym, and Cheyenne Woods, Tiger's niece, hitting balls on the range.)
Other Fun Stuff: Two nearby attractions are CrackerJax Family Fun & Sports Park (crackerjax.com), with miniature golf, go-karts, batting cages and bumper boats; and Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse (rawhide.com), which offers a host of Western-themed amusements, including stagecoach rides, a shooting gallery, a mechanical bull and a staged gunfight by stunt men. Additionally, at the resort is the Tumbleweed Kids Club, which runs half- and full-day programs of sports and arts and crafts for kids ages four to twelve.
Dining: Brittlebush Bar & Grill, in the golf clubhouse, features casual dining and a Southwestern-style menu—including fish tacos to die for. The sleek Deseo, in the main hotel, showcases fiery Nuevo Latino fare.
Wild Dunes Resort
5757 Palm Boulevard, Isle of Palms, South Carolina; 800-845-8880, wilddunes.com
Big Picture: A sprawling beachfront community twelve miles east of Charleston. The epitome of an "active" resort, it offers tennis, golf, beach and nature-oriented activities. Accommodations range from suburban-style villas to beachfront homes to a small, luxurious inn.
The Golf: Two well-regarded Tom Fazio courses, The Links and The Harbor, plus a driving range where you hit into the water (which kids love). The front tees at the Harbor are a manageable 4,774 yards.
Family Golf: "All in the Family" lessons bring parents and children together for an hour of instruction at the bargain price of $95. To keep things interesting, the pros pit Mom and Dad against the kids in putting and closest-to-the-pin competitions, as well as contests to see who can hit the ball closest to the center of the clubface. There are also kids' contests for the best Tiger Woods pose. Twice a week, the resort lays out a mini-golf course on the beach, with seashells serving as tee markers and holes routed around tiny pools and dunes. The "First Swing" program, for kids nine and under, focuses on fundamentals. "Family Evening Golf" gets everyone out on the course at twilight, when kids fifteen and under play for free. Junior clubs are available for rent.
Other Fun Stuff: The resort's "Island Adventures" for kids feature kayaking, fishing, crabbing, treasure hunts and much more. What's more, Charleston's many attractions are just a thirty-minute drive away. Kids will especially enjoy the Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum (patriotspoint.org), which offers aircraft-carrier tours; the South Carolina Aquarium (scaquarium.org); and the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry (explorecml.org). Supervised child care and recreation programs for kids three and older are available.
Dining: While children are welcome at all five of the resort's eateries, kids might not be ready for the wasabi-encrusted black grouper at the Sea Island Grill. Better for families is Edgar's Italian Restaurant, where the menu features a simple lasagne as well as more sophisticated fare.
Other Great Choices
Palmetto Dunes Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC: Choose from three courses (one of which has junior tees) or head for the two-acre short-game area at nearby sister property Palmetto Hall, where kids can practice shots of seventy-five yards and less. (800-827-3006; palmettodunes.com). Resort at Squaw Creek, Olympic Valley, CA: This pristine Lake Tahoe resort runs camp-style programs for kids ages four to twelve, featuring sports, scavenger hunts and movies (800-327-3535; squawcreek.com). Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, Maui, HI: Paradise for children and adults alike, Grand Wailea offers kids' activities galore at Camp Grande, a miniresort for five- to twelve-year-olds (808-875-1234; grandwailea.com). Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes, VT: Kids stay active all day long in this Lake Champlain resort's wooded compound—swimming, boating, biking, hiking, and playing tennis and golf (800-622-4000; basinharbor.com).