For genuine golf junkies, there's nothing like retirement. With your schedule cleared of the 9-to-5 grind, you're finally free to pass the days as you always wished: taking extra swings at the driving range, lining up that perfect putt on the 18th hole, and enjoying the fresh-cut grass and sunshine.
But for retirees, golf offers much more than just fun. In addition to the exercise, the game provides seniors with a wonderful social outlet, says 18-year LPGA Tour veteran Penny Pulz. "You [have] to deal with people that aren't always on your page—and that is terribly important in seniors," says Pulz, who now runs the senior-focused Penny Pulz Golf Academy in Sun City, Ariz.
With no less than 220 public and private courses in surrounding Maricopa County—and its proximity to other golfing hot spots in the state—Sun City is one of U.S. News's 10 great retirement spots for golfers. (For a photo gallery of these "golfiest" of places, click here.)
We dug into the U.S. News database of more than 1,000 Best Places to Retire and came up with a list specifically tailored for duffers. (Don't agree with us? You can offer your favorite golf areas in the comments section below. And feel free to build your own list using our search tool. It allows you to comb through the most attractive retirement spots based on region, climate, healthcare, recreational and cultural activities, and other factors.)
For 68-year-old Dick Horne, an avid golfer who retired from the insurance business in 2000, the best retirement spot for golfers is a no-brainer: Mount Pleasant, S.C. "I've traveled an awful lot in my life to different regions [of the United States] and abroad," Horne says. "But I don't know of any other place I'd rather live than where I live right now."
While the warm weather and friendly atmosphere are certainly draws, it's the golfing culture that makes it a dream retirement spot, Horne says. Located just outside historic Charleston, S.C., Mount Pleasant has 30 courses close at hand. And since it's within day-trip distance of two South Carolina golfing havens—90 miles from Myrtle Beach and 110 miles from Hilton Head Island—boredom is one obstacle you'll never face on the links (the bunkers are another matter). "You could play golf every day for a whole month and never play the same golf course [twice]," Horne says.
Then there's beautiful Charlotte, N.C., home of the PGA's Wachovia Championship. While Chris Payne, assistant golf pro at Raintree Country Club, says Charlotte's public courses can get crowded, the city has at least 14 courses open to everyone, and one of America's premier golf destinations is 90 miles away in Pinehurst, N.C.
Of course, retiring golfers have no lack of attractive options. Bonita Springs, Fla., is within easy reach of more than 135 courses in Lee County and is just a 20-minute zip down the sun-kissed southwest Florida coast to Naples, one of the country's golf meccas. West Coast daydreamers should consider Rancho Mirage, Calif. This resort community of 17,000 has been a preferred vacation destination of Hollywood stars, corporate chieftains, and presidents—Gerald Ford even had a home there. Rancho Mirage hosts the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship (won this year by Lorena Ochoa) and is just 7 miles from the golfing paradise of Palm Springs.
Although best known as a football town, Auburn, Ala., is located at the foot of Grand National, one of the 11 sites that make up the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail that snakes its way through the state. (The trail is named after the esteemed golf course architect who designed it.) Golfers can get a season pass that's good at all but two courses on the trail for just $1,360 a year, regardless of what state they live in. If you prefer cooler weather—and can stand a shorter golf season—consider Lemont, Ill. The Chicago suburb is surrounded by more than 140 courses in Cook County and is itself the home of the Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, which biennially hosts the PGA's BMW Championship.
With more than 20 courses nearby and playable weather nearly all year round, Georgetown, Texas, is a fine option for golf lovers looking to retire in the Lone Star State. And in addition to being home to a Del Webb retirement community with two 18-hole courses of its own, Georgetown is just a half-hour drive to the state capital and duffer's paradise of Austin. Meanwhile, lovely St. George, Utah, home of the Red Rock Golf Trail—eight courses clustered within a 15-minute drive's radius—is another underrated retirement spot for golfers. Finally, if it's the Pacific Northwest you're after, try Portland, Ore., where the wet climate keeps the greens lush and the fairways cool.