t the right time, in the right place and with the right people, you just can’t beat a great cottage or cabin getaway. We’ve been into the woods, beyond the river, and through the mountain pass in search of the most restorative cabins and cottages around. Here’s what we found
Location is not everything when considering where to find the best cabins and cottages, but it is more than something. Cabins are meant to provide shelter for those who have mounted a great escape, including from urbanization. Put one behind the cart barn, next to a busy road, near any kind of function-holding facility and what, really, is the point. Just as bad: build the cabins in the perfect place but forget to create an experience to match.
But if one starts with the right spot, a world of potential opens up. A scenic and probably solitary location sets the atmosphere, the sense of freedom, it releases internal pressure valves and it enhances the sense of sanctuary a great cottage provides from the wilderness (even if that wilderness happens to feature a few golf holes here and there).
A great cottage or cabin is where you gather friends, teammates, colleagues or loved ones after a day of sports. This is where you can watch the warm glow of flames from the fire pit climb into the night sky, when the best cigars are handed around and when the time is finally right to uncork that magnum of special vintage pinot noir. It might be from California, it might be European, but it tastes all the better when shared with those who are close to you. And then the scene is set to debate the merits of bourbon versus Scotch, and how that missed putt on 14 should have been a gimme anyway (not if you missed it, it shouldn’t!).
Big Cedar Lodge is unequivocally “America’s Premier Wilderness Resort.” Sling a fishing line, play golf, hire a motorboat on Table Rock Lake or explore an abundance of tracks by foot, mountain bike or horseback—until it’s time for skiing, the primary winter activity at this rustic retreat in the Ozark mountains of Missouri.
Untouched nature combines seamlessly with contemporary luxury at this 4,600-acre destination, and guests can stay in a broad range of beautifully built log cabins, cozy cottages and more substantive lodges. There is a variety of options for every group, from a couple to two eight-man golf teams under one roof. Some of the exquisite details in the cabins and cottages need to be seen to be believed, like the stone-clad bedroom fireplaces and outdoor fireplaces, vintage leather furniture, bedrooms with private balconies—complete with recliners—ornate mirrors and stained glass windows, infinity pools and copper tubs.
And from a spectacular array of 77 golf holes at Big Cedar, don’t miss Big Cedar’s nine-hole, par-three test of breathtaking beauty, Top of the Rock, for which resort owner and conservationist Johnny Morris collaborated on design with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
Erin Hills is a modern club with a traditional feel—having opened in 2006—and spectacular use has been made of this 652-acre expanse of Kettle Moraine post-glacial terrain, which is hemmed in by wetlands and the Ashippun River, 35 miles north-west of Milwaukee.
The five Irish cottages at Erin Hills are spacious, well-appointed and beautifully furnished, epitomizing that home-away-from-home feeling we all want from a golf cottage. Named Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Ballybunion, Lahinch and Waterville in tribute to the homeland heritage of many Wisconsinites, their construction from timber and stone offers striking aesthetic appeal. They are rustic in feel yet comtemporary in amenities.
The cottages reflect the sense of innovation intertwined with tradition that emanates from the whole club, which is something to appreciate while taking in the far-reaching golf course view from the veranda, perhaps while sampling Erin Hills’ own pilsner, which is Milwaukee-brewed, of course.
Erin Hills was built with the specific ambition of hosting major championships, and hosted the U.S. Open in 2017.
Consider this location: Scottish Highlands to the west, the Speyside whisky region to the east, the untouched, rugged majesty of Cairngorms National Park to the south, and to the north, the ice-cold waters of the Moray Firth that flow in and out of the North Sea. Welcome to Castle Stuart, where one of the world’s finest contemporary course designs ties in perfectly with the timeless beauty of northern Scotland.
Castle Stuart has painstakingly renovated three old cottages on the property to ensure golfers can enjoy convenient stays that share the same caliber of amenities as those at the club’s famous art deco clubhouse. The Castle Cottage—which is literally next door to the medieval Castle Stuart itself—the Golf Lodge—hidden amid the dunes and fescue between the 14th and 15th fairways—and the Farmhouse can each cater for four to eight guests.
As for the golf, Phil Mickelson, who won the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in 2013, went as far as to say that playing Castle Stuart “should almost be a prerequisite before you’re allowed to design golf courses nowadays.” The course opened in 2009, when Golf Digest called it “the first great links of the 21st Century.” Co-designed by founder Mark Parsinen and architect Gil Hanse, this is a young course with an old head, and while it offers plenty of forgiveness to the lesser player, its hazards are intended to punish the mistakes of the more accomplished.
As if the Sand Valley golf course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw was not good enough on its own (and believe us this golf course is a spectacular modern classic) they have perched the perfect pint-sized cabin in perfect isolation on a hillside above the 18th hole. “Crenshaw’s Cabin” has one spacious and idyllic bedroom, a screened-in porch and beautifully-appointed bath, and a golf-loving couple could not ask for better.
Four- and eight-bed cousins also feature at Sand Valley, complete with outdoor fire pits. The eight-bed Lake Leopold Cottages have been built on the property’s highest ridge, overlooking the lake while the four-bed Glacial Lake and Dunes Valley Cottages are nestled into sand barrens and are surrounded by oak savannahs.
Sand Valley offers 36 holes of championship golf and a 17-hole short course in the heart of Wisconsin, 160 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
With elevated golf in mind, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and its broad range of cabins offer the quintessential hideaways in the Canadian Rockies. Settled into Jasper National Park in southern Alberta, 220 miles west from Edmonton, Fairmont Jasper is defined by rich pine forests, the extraordinary and historic mountain golf course, the emerald green waters of Lac Beauvert, and all is enclosed by the towering Rockies.
A broad range of cabins here starts with the quaint, one-bedroom Athabasca Cottage—alternatively known as the Honeymoon Cabin—sitting above the rushing waters of the Athabasca River. A king bedroom is adjoined by a jacuzzi bathroom while a fireplace provides glowing warmth to the cozy living area. The other cabins vary in size but all emanate the same Rocky mountain charm, working up to the imposing Milligan Manor, featuring eight bedrooms and a “great room” with a vaulted ceiling, which must be one of the most desirable reception rooms in the Rockies. Bob Newhart would have loved it for the Christmas special. The Manor overlooks the first fairway and even has its own putting green.
The golf course is an alpine masterpiece and dates back to 1925, having taken 50 teams of horses and 200 men a year to clear and build.
“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade” From The Lake Isle of Innisfree, W.B. Yeats (1893)
Dundonald Links, sitting amid the golf stronghold of Scotland’s Ayrshire coastline, opened 18 new lodges this summer, providing an impressive illustration of how far contemporary cabins have advanced since the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Offering ideal shelter for visitors looking to play Dundonald and its historic neighbors Royal Troon, Prestwick and Turnberry, these accommodations are the latest manifestation of a recent $35 million investment at Dundonald.
Club manager Ian Ferguson tells us: “The opening of the new lodges is the start of an exciting new chapter for Dundonald Links and we’re thrilled with the initial feedback we have received from guests.”
The new lodges come in two-, four- and six-bedroom varieties and have been built with bag storage and drying areas, and en-suite bathrooms; some even have their own pool tables—rack ’em up.