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The Alabama Gulf Coast is lined with sugar white sandy beaches, luxurious accommodations, incredible food and plenty of good golf. It is the perfect place to tailor almost any type of vacation whether it’s a buddies golf trip or a family trip with some golf on the side.
I grew up traveling to Alabama on vacation with my family in the late 90s. While it wasn’t glamorous back then, it had the best beaches around.
Here we are over 20 years later and while the white sand beaches have not changed, the surrounding areas have done a complete 180 for the better. The condo and resort developments are beautiful, massive and right on the sand. Newly built restaurants line the strip and serve up some of the best seafood I have ever had. I spent a week on the Alabama Gulf Coast exploring the best golf, food, and accommodations the area has to offer.
Golf on the Alabama Gulf Coast (Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama to be precise) surprised me. For a destination so heavily geared towards families and spending time at the beach, I figured the golf would be few and far between. What I found was quite the opposite.
Formerly ranked in the top 100 public golf courses in the US, Kiva Dunes [review HERE] sits on remote site a good 30 minutes away from the all the hustle and bustle of the downtown areas of Gulf Shores. While you can stay on property with access to its private beach, pool, and restaurants, you can just as easily make the drive just to play course. Well worth it either way.
Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club [review HERE] and 36 holes at Arnold Palmer designed Craft Farms [review HERE] are more centrally located to downtown Gulf Shores and all the major resorts, restaurants, and activities. These make more sense if time is a factor or you’re going to play a round or two while on vacation with your family.
The overall best experience was Kiva Dunes. The property is the only golf course that sits on the beach. Add this to a fun routing and beautiful views, this convenient stay and play is hard to top. I do have to give a few honorable mentions. The first is the Gulf Shores Golf Club as they had some of the most welcoming, genuinely nice staff we met in Alabama. A second honorable mention is the laid back Orange Beach Golf Center which has a driving range and a 9 hole par three course, perfect for a family friendly outing.
If I was looking to plan a buddies trip, I would make Kiva Dunes Golf Resort the centerpiece while staying onsite and playing it at least twice. Then I’d move the party east and find a beach front condo centrally located to both Peninsula (18 holes) and Craft Farms (36 holes), where I’d book the remaining three rounds – one at each course.
Lodging at Kiva Dunes was fantastic. I stayed on the 18th hole, only steps from the practice area and first tee. I could not have been happier. The pool and private beach access was great, but if you wanted to go out at night for dinner, drinks, or fun activities, you were limited unless you wanted to drive a decent ways.
My favorite non-golf resort is the Turquoise by Spectrum condominiums. This is luxury beachfront living at its finest and where I see lots of families staying. The multi-room condos are massive with raised ceilings and oversized kitchens that make my house feel small. There are tons of amenities and everything was clean and new. My personal favorite feature here is the lazy river which embodies exactly how I like to spend my vacations after 18 holes.
Non Golf Activities
When I go on a golf trip, I enjoy mixing up the activities with some non golf fun. What else do you do when you’re staying on the Alabama Gulf Coast other than golf and sit by the ocean? The answer is deep sea fishing. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are home to some of the best deep sea fishing charters on the planet. The Gulf of Mexico is laden with red snapper (which is also delicious) but you can find such great variety of fish to catch less than 10 miles offshore.
One of the often overlooked aspects of a golf trip to this area is the food. You can opt for the clubhouse grill before or after rounds, or you can explore the impressive list of restaurants and fine dining experiences.
My top restaurant pick has to be Coastal [check it out HERE]. Coastal is a massive indoor/outdoor complex with a full bar and televisions that sits directly on the beach. It is a place to go with any group and is especially kid friendly. While waiting for a table, you can take your family or kids down the ocean or shop in their onsite store. The best part of Coastal is sitting at a table steps from the sand with the ocean breeze keeping you cool. The food and drinks are moderately priced with vibes for an informal dinner. Don’t be fooled by the relaxed bar and grill atmosphere, the cocktails and menu are upscale and spectacular.
As far as more formal dining experiences, two really stood out. The first is Jesse’s on the Bay [link HERE] in Fort Morgan. This is close to Kiva Dunes so I would recommend pairing this when staying or playing the course. Jesse’s is a steakhouse that boasts an impressive selection of wines as well.
The second is Voyagers [link HERE] inside the Perdido Beach Resort. This is a must if you want a formal steak and seafood dining experience in Orange Beach. The staff here were incredible, but it is small and reservations are a must. I highly recommend the filet and sweet potato gnocchi as they were out of this world. By recommendation of our waitress, I also opted for the deconstructed lemon meringue dessert which was to die for.
Finally, I have to give an honorable mention to the Kiva Beach Club restaurant. This is only open to resort guests at Kiva Dunes but is absolutely worth checking out if staying on property.
Overall, golf on the Alabama Gulf Coast is a hidden gem. From a former top 100 public course in Kiva Dunes to 36 holes of Arnold Palmer designs, there is plenty of world class golf only steps from the white sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. While a family beach trip with golf sprinkled in makes plenty of sense here, the Alabama Gulf Coast is well prepared for a buddies golf trip, too. If you’re a golfer and planning an upcoming trip, I highly recommend checking out the Alabama Gulf Coast.