Meeting professionals trying to choose a meeting destination often face the same challenge as families trying to pick a vacation spot: How do you please everyone? Like Dad, the vice president of sales wants to go somewhere with great golf courses, which are perfect for networking with clients and prospects. Like Mom, however, the CEO is rooting for a relaxing island locale that will give attendees the chance to unplug and rejuvenate. Fortunately, there are destinations that offer both. Here are five, where groups can transition seamlessly from sand traps in the morning to sand castles in the afternoon.
Hilton Head Island, SC
Hilton Head Island is Lowcountry living at its finest. Along with warm Southern hospitality and delectable Southern cuisine -- peel-and-eat shrimp, Gullah rice, gumbo, fried okra, and peach cobbler are just a few of the regional specialties waiting at the island's more than 250 restaurants -- it has over 12 miles of pristine beaches and more than 33 championship golf courses, many of which have been designed by golf greats like Robert Trent Jones Sr., Pete Dye, and Jack Nicklaus. Among the island's most popular courses are the Palmetto Dunes Resort golf course, which was designed by Arthur Hills; The Sea Pines Resort's Harbour Town Golf Links, which was co-designed by Dye and Nicklaus; and the Nicklaus-designed May River Golf Course at Palmetto Bluff, a par-72 course that weaves nearly 7,200 yards along the banks of the May River.
Sea Island, GA
A stone's throw from Hilton Head Island is another Southern gem: Sea Island. The only resort in the world to have received four Forbes Five-Star awards for nine consecutive years, it's home to four Forbes Five-Star experiences -- The Cloister at Sea Island, The Lodge at Sea Island, The Spa at Sea Island, and the Georgian Room restaurant -- plus the more casual Inn at Sea Island. Beachgoers can enjoy five miles of private beach, plus a beach club, tennis and squash centers, a yacht club, and a shooting school. Golfers, meanwhile, can choose from three championship 18-hole golf courses: the Scottish links-style Seaside course, the expansive Plantation course, and the more approachable Retreat course. The island, which is home to the PGA TOUR's RSM Classic, also has a Golf Performance Center where golfers can work on their stroke and a wealth of golf history that visitors can imbibe on and off the course, as the Sea Island Golf Club dates all the way back to 1928.
The Big Island, HI
The Big Island isn't just Hawaii's largest and most geographically diverse isle. It's also its most popular golf destination, having earned the nickname "the Golf Capital of Hawaii." Must-play courses include the Mauna Kea Golf Course, which boasts incredible ocean views and a legendary third hole that can play up to 272 yards over a section of the Pacific; the Francis H. I'i Brown South Course at the Mauna Lani Resort, which has several dramatic holes set against black lava rock that juts out of the sea; and the Kings' Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort, which is cut out of a lava field, creating incredible vistas of black volcanic rock amid lush green fairways. And, of course, there's plenty to see and do off the course, too, including both white- and black-sand beaches, land activities like ziplining, water activities like diving and paddleboarding, and adventure activities like hiking through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
There's no shortage of great golf in the Caribbean. Some of the region's best courses, however, can be found on Bermuda. Although the island is only 21 square miles, it packs seven courses into its tiny footprint -- more courses per square mile than anywhere else on Earth. The island's hottest spots are Port Royal Golf Course, an oceanfront course that is widely considered to be among the best public golf courses in the world; the Mid Ocean Club Golf Course, a championship 18-hole course that was designed by the legendary C.B. Macdonald in 1921 and has hosted the likes of Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Babe Ruth; and Turtle Hill Golf Club at The Fairmont Southampton, whose dramatic elevation changes, strong coastal winds, and vast water hazards make it the island's most challenging course. Meanwhile, the island offers approximately 34 sandy beaches and covers, and activities such as whale watching, windsurfing, parasailing, and deep-sea fishing.
Although it's not your typical island getaway, the Emerald Isle is unquestionably one of the world's most beautiful islands. Packed with cozy pubs, historic castles, and breathtaking landscapes, there's tons to see and do -- including, believe it or not, beaches, albeit not the tropical variety. Golf is as deep-rooted here as Guinness. Consider, for example, this piece of trivia: There are fewer than 200 links golf courses in the world, and Ireland has 50 of them. A few of the island's favored courses are The Royal Dublin Golf Club in Dublin, which was founded in 1885 and is Ireland's second oldest golf club; Royal Portrush in County Antrim, which hosted the first professional tournament in Ireland in 1895 and the only Open Championship ever held in Ireland in 1951; Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, which is one of the world's most exclusive golf clubs and one of Ireland's most beautiful; and Waterville Golf Links in County Kerry, of which pro golfer Ray Floyd once said, "This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen; it has some of the finest links holes I have ever played."