Romance & the Tee

12 13, 2011

Hotspots to set the mood--and improve your Wedge Game

Published in 2 Magazine in December of 2011

Getaways offering rooms with a view, chocolates on the pillow and proposal worthy beaches are pretty ubiquitous, as are golf resorts with spectacular layouts. Frequently at loggerheads, it’s rare that a duffer’s paradise and a romantic escape can co-exist in perfect harmony. Skipping locales where either sunset strolls pour deux or tour level conditions are the primary draw, we seek out destinations where an early morning tee time and afternoon delight are truly copacetic bedfellows.

Jeju Island, South Korea
With its cinematic beaches, gnarly surfing, and a gigantic dormant volcano in the middle of the island, Jeju, an hour's flight from Seoul, is worthy of its nickname "the Hawaii of Korea." Play: Unveiled in 2001, Nine Bridges required approximately $100 million dollars to carve out and is now a frequent LPGA host course. Chi Chi Rodriguez nicknamed it the "Taj Mahal of golf" because every hole looks like a postcard. After 18, if you're wondering why you only counted eight stone bridges, the namesake ninth is actually a metaphoric link between the course and the game itself. Foreplay: A 33-foot tall giant phallus is just one of the many sexual attractions at Jeju's Loveland Theme Park. The brainchild of randy art school grads from Hongik U, the park also features breast "mountains," with climbable nipples, and plenty of other stone sculptures knocking rocks. For a brainier examination of lovemaking, Jeju is also the home to the Museum of Sex and Health.

Algarves, Portugal
Bom Dia! Brimming with wildflowers, fabulous shellfish and silky beaches accented with rocky outcroppings, the southern coast of Portugal is a slice of Eden.
Play: With a who's who of course architects to choose from, it's hard to go wrong. Go old school with Frank Pennink's Oceanico Old Course at Vilamoura or Sir Henry Cotton's Championship Golf Course where you'll contend with some dastardly doglegs. Or take in scintillating views of Lagos Bay and the Monchique hills at the Palmares Golf Club. Originally opened in 1975, Palmares underwent an extreme makeover last year by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Foreplay: Fill your heart with pangs of awe and experience the wanderlust explorers must've felt peering off into the ocean from the lighthouse at Cabo Sao Vicente. The southwesterly tip of Portugal was once believed to be the edge of the world (literally!). Embrace your partner while contemplating the existential beauty of the surf crashing against the rocks below.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
God must have grinned when he shaped this barrier island like a running shoe--knowing full well its future as a kick-ass leisure retreat. What, you think Italy's boot shape had nothing to do with their fashion supremacy? Play: The sprawling Sea Pines Resort at the island's toe is the home of Harbour Town, the longstanding home of the PGA's Heritage tourney. Ball blasting takes a firm backseat to placement artistry making it an absolute pleasure for shot-shapers. The candy-striped lighthouse on the signature par-four 18th is one of the most memorable backdrops in all of golf.
Foreplay: While Jimmy Buffet and beach music cover bands still abound, if you're hankering for some vibraphone or sultry vocals in an intimate atmosphere, set the mood at the Jazz Corner. The intimate listening room hosts live acts every night of the week.

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Vineyard hopping is one of the preferred pastimes in the Kiwi Island's premiere grape-growing region. The region is home to 70 wineries, including the Gimblett Gravels district renowned for producing divine full-bodied reds. Play: While the name may sound rather foreboding, Cape Kidnappers is an otherworldly Tom Doak dreamscape that'll leave you slack-jawed. Pirates Plank, the par-five 15th features a 140-meter cliff on the left sure to pilfer a sphere or two. You need to have really refined trajectory control to post a low score with wind gusting in from the sea a constant factor.
Foreplay: For a real dopamine rush, get circled by sharks at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Supervised swims with the steely-eyed fellas (as well as stingrays and less spooky fish) take place daily. Palling with Jaws and friends is popular, so be sure to book in advance.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
The land of Eva Perón and intensely hot tangos is constantly bustling with a whirlwind of energy.
Play: Olivos Golf Club boasts 27 holes and plays host to the Torneo de Maestros (Argentina's Masters). The 6th hole on the red track, a par four for the pros and a five for everyday hackers, requires a 270-yard bomb off the tee in order to set up a 200-yard carry over water to safely land on a protected green. Foreplay: Get up close and personal with the brush strokes of Latin American masters at MALBA (Museo de Arte de Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires). Tarsila do Amaral's tropical delight, Abaporu (translation: The Man Who Eats) from 1928 is a highlight. The painting is credited with kick-starting the "Cannibilistic" art movement (no actual human munching involved).

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