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Golf Destinations for Families

No need to hire a baby-sitter so you can sneak off for a quick 18. Some of the best golf resorts now have an open-arms policy for their world-class tracks. What's more, they've designed courses with forgiving layouts and offer lessons just for kids.

Acme, Michigan
Three courses roll through forests and wetlands at the Grand Traverse Resort—and all are open to children with accompanying adults. Jack Nicklaus's aptly named Bear Course is not recommended for novices (though it's a must-play for avid adults). Instead, kids should try Spruce Run or, better yet, the resort's 120-yard par-3 practice hole, laid out with youngsters in mind. There's also boating, biking, swimming, tennis—plus two drop-in day camps, and an Orvis fly-fishing school on-site. STAY AT Grand Traverse Resort & Spa; 800/236-1577; www.grandtraverseresort.com; doubles from $255.

Farmington, Pennsylvania
The Links at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort follows the U.S. Kids Golf tee system, which is in place at a growing number of courses. (For beginners, three separate tees shorten the length of each hole while retaining the same par that parents play from the back.) The resort's Adventure Center has a climbing wall, 300-foot-long zipline, and scheduled paintball games. STAY AT Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa; 800/422-2736; www.nwlr.com; doubles from $275.

Hershey, Pennsylvania
With an unlimited supply of chocolate and an amusement park nearby, parents may not be able to persuade kids to join them for a round at the Hershey Resorts' golf club. But if they do, the Spring Creek Golf Course sets up perfectly. Built in 1930 for boys and girls under 18 (it was originally called the Juvenile Course), Spring Creek spans nine holes and plays just 2,318 yards to a par of 33. STAY AT Hotel Hershey, Hershey Resorts; 800/437-7439; www.hersheypa.com; doubles from $329.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Home to the PGA Tour's Heritage tournament in April, Harbour Town Golf Links is on most amateur golfers' "Must Do Before I Die" lists. Put that one off for now, and try the adjoining Sea Marsh course, which has special tees that shorten the course, plus scorecards and gold stars for kids. Then hit the beach, just a short walk away. STAY AT Inn at Harbour Town; 888/807-6873; www.innatharbourtown.com; doubles from $215, or Hilton Head Marriott Beach & Golf Resort; 800/228-9290; www.marriott.com; doubles from $249.

Hot Springs, Virginia
The Old Course at The Homestead resort was built in 1892 in the old style, meaning plenty of room to smack the ball around, and lots of precarious places for it to land. Kids are welcome with adults and should find the Old much friendlier than the resort's 6,679-yard Cascades Course. After golf, the whole gang can loll in the hot springs before retiring to the spa for tandem massages and "cookies-and-cream" scrubs. STAY AT The Homestead; 800/838-1766; www.thehomestead.com; doubles from $198 per person; kids under four free; 5-12, $47; 13-18, $68.

La Romana, Dominican Republic
At the Casa de Campo resort, home to three courses, kids can try to avoid being bitten by Pete Dye's Teeth of the Dog course—hands down, the cream of the Caribbean crop. And for some parent-free time, the resort has separate programs for kids, tweens, and teens. There are also organized family kayak outings, merengue lessons, and donkey polo tournaments. STAY AT Casa de Campo; 800/877-3643; www.casadecampo.cc; doubles from $190.

Orlando, Florida
When it debuts in July, Grande Lakes Orlando—comprising a new Ritz-Carlton, a JW Marriott, and a spa—will introduce FORE the Kids, a golf etiquette class at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. Graduates can join their parents on the Ritz's Greg Norman-designed course, or the six courses (comprising 99 holes) at the nearby Walt Disney World Resort, where junior-sized club rentals are free. Disney World's Junior Golf Camp (407/938-3435; www.disneyworldsports.com; $250 per child), a five-day program for 8- to 15-year-olds, is offering five sessions this summer. STAY AT Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes; 800/241-3333; www.grandelakes.com; doubles from $399; or Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge; 407/934-7639; www.disneyworld.com; doubles from $239.

Pinehurst, North Carolina
America's mecca for golfers—a community that eats, sleeps, and breathes the sport—Pinehurst Resort is the closest thing to St. Andrews this side of the pond. There are eight 18-hole courses, and kids with an adult in tow are welcome at all of them, including Donald Ross's famed No. 2. Lessons are for future sticks of all ages. STAY AT Pinehurst Resort (800/487-4653; www.pinehurst.com), which has three options (all including lodging, breakfast, and dinner; kids stay free): the Holly Inn, from $205 per adult; the Carolina Hotel, from $195 per adult; and the Manor Inn, from $155 per adult.

MINIATURE GOLF, ANYONE? After all, it's the easiest way to get the gang to play. For a nationwide list of courses, with user reviews, see the Professional Miniature Golf Association's Web site, www.thepmga.com.

KIDS' CLUBS With Disney World the notable exception, it's BYOC at most golf resorts. That means shelling out for junior sets. A lot of big golf companies (Nike, TaylorMade, Callaway) make them, but the best in terms of price and performance come from the originator of the kids'-club phenomenon, U.S. Kids Golf (888/387-5437; www.uskidsgolf.com). Their five color-coded bags for ages 3 through 13 start at $103, and include a variety of woods and irons, as well as a putter. Each should last about three years, until its owner grows into the next size.

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