LONDON, United Kingdom - If your idea of a nature hike involves driving an elusive ball over acres of meticulously manicured greens, then bookmark this list of premier putting destinations created with golf enthusiasts in mind, hand-picked by the boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com).
Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Primland; Virginia, USA
Pristine Primland hotel in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains is an elegant estate surrounded by 12,000 verdant acres. One of the many spectacular ways to explore the grounds is by playing across ridge tops and over valleys on the 18-hole Highland Course, designed to thrill every level of golfer.
Rejuvenate following your day of sport with a bespoke golfer's treatment - sea salt scrub, mud wrap, deep tissue massage - at the sublime spa. All before retiring to your luxurious Fairway Cottage with a fieldstone fireplace and private deck, set just steps from the scenic greens.
2. Residences at Kapalua Bay; Maui, Hawaii
Perched on the Pacific Ocean, Maui's Residences at Kapalua Bay hotel is the ultimate paradise playground with its landscaped lagoon pool, airy, modern suites, kaleidoscopic coral reefs, private beaches, and spa honoring traditional Hawaiian treatments. And, what draws club-toting travelers is the two championship palm-strewn golfing greens.
Brush up on your technique at the state-of-the-art Kapalua Golf Academy, or tee-off on either of the world-renowned courses, each set against a background of sweeping ocean and ancient mountain vistas. It's possible you'll take more photos than you will strokes on these jaw-dropping courses.
3. Farm at Cape Kidnappers; Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Set in the foothills of Hawke's Bay in one of New Zealand's fêted grape-growing regions is the Farm at Cape Kidnappers hotel. This 6,000-acre working sheep and cattle farm is dotted with 22-charming cottage suites, and has a par 71 golf course dramatically perched on a cliff above the churning Pacific. With deep ravines, jutting ridges and windswept terrain, this unique course is perfect for those who relish a challenge.
And, no matter how things play out, reward efforts with a trip to the hotel's serenity-boosting spa followed by an epicurean feast paired with local wines.
4. Kirimaya; Thailand
Khao Yai boutique hotel Kirimaya, a few hours' drive from Bangkok, is a grown-up rustic Thai retreat, and a most exotic setting for an exclusive, Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course. With its single-track layout surrounded by lush jungle and mountains, you may feel as if you're the only one out on the links.
Overall, the resort exudes understated good taste and combines modern sophistication with an all-natural escape. Rustic trimmings such as antique doors and wooden decking give way to simply furnished rooms showing off the best of contemporary Thai design, as well as elegant tented villas.
5. Masseria Torre Maizza; Puglia, Italy
In the coast-hugging countryside of Puglia, the 16th-century Masseria Torre Maizza hotel offers yet another tempting reason for an Italian adventure: a scenic round of golf.
Immersed in a grove of olive and almond trees is a handsomely landscaped split-level nine-hole course with sea views. And, this spacious escape with cool, contemporary décor and jasmine-lined pathways offers plenty of additional amusements too: an Aveda spa, private beach, two massive pool decks, cookery school and equestrian center.
6. Stoke Park; Buckinghamshire, England
Seasoned pros and untested novices will both feel right at home on the majestic grounds of Buckinghamshire's Stoke Park, whose 27-hole championship course has seen games by the likes of James Bond in Goldfinger. The acclaimed golf academy includes everything from a swing-analysis video suite to a driving range.
If you can tear yourself away from the golf lover's dream, though, the stately mansion is equally impressive; the White House-resembling building was designed by 'Mad' King George III's architect and the highly acclaimed spa Stoke Park Spa is the perfect alternative if your other half isn't quite as passionate about the links as you are.
7. Finca Cortesin; Costa del Sol, Spain
The Costa del Sol's elegantly sprawling Finca Cortesin boasts both one of Spain's top courses and the idyllic
year-round weather to go with it. Host of the Volvo World Match Play Championship for three years and home to a Nicklaus Academy, this course is one of our favorite places to spend a day, from the Mediterranean views to the green-side Spanish dining.
Afterwards, make for one of the three Moorish-tiled pools or head straight for the private Beach Club to recuperate. By night, sip potent cocktails and dine on fresh seafood at one of the three international restaurants.
8. Blantyre; Massachusetts USA
If you unexpectedly stumbled upon Blantyre, a grand old Berkshires estate, you might think yourself somewhere in Scotland, between its castle-inspired architecture and the
18-hole Cranwell Golf Course that surrounds it. Hike around the rolling hills and admire the area's renowned natural beauty - the colourful autumn leaves are legendary - or participate in old-world sports like croquet and snow-shoeing.
The illusion continues inside, where it's all roaring fires, antique accessories and cheese fondue whenever you want it.
9. Namale; Fiji
For anyone but a golf aficionado, the tropical Fijian Namale Resort's nine-hole course, driving range and virtual golf simulator might go unnoticed amid the opulent hydrotherapy spa, snorkeling and diving excursions and picturesquely situated private bures.
Private outdoor dining overlooking the ocean is de rigueur and resort-coordinated visits to local villages make stays that much more memorable. If you decide to just lounge by your airy villa's plunge pool, though, you'll be in good company - Namale has been a favorite retreat of such privacy-seeking celebrities as Ed Norton and Russell Crowe.
10. Carneros Inn; California, USA
Nestled away in Northern California's legendary Napa Valley wine region, the 'agri-chic' Carneros Inn seamlessly blends local farm style with contemporary architecture and the area's relaxed vibe. Surrounded by rolling hills and lush vineyards, it'd be a shame not to spend as much time as possible outside. Fortunately, four world-class golf courses are within half an hour of the resort, including the Chardonnay Golf Club and Eagle Vines Golf Club, both within a 10-minute drive and both winding their way through acres of oak trees, creeks and working vineyards whose products you can sample at the end of a round on the links.