Plan the perfect golf buddy trip
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You may dream up the perfect golf trip, and then worry how things might go off the rails. Expectations can differ, personalities can clash, money conflicts, and decisions about venues can all be a source of difficulties.
So how do we make it the best possible experience?
Choose participants carefully
Think about the various personalities and their compatibility. Control freaks, umpires, and penny pinchers usually don’t make for good travel mates.
I’ve been on trips where there was a lot of fussing about who pays for what and how much. It puts a damper on the fun. The best groups compete for who can grab the bill first. The attitude gets contagious and sets the right tone for a great time.
Agree on expectations
Are you doing the blitzkrieg to play as much golf as possible, or are you looking for a total experience that includes other activities and a slower pace?
How many nights will you plan to stay? Don’t forget that travel days can include unexpected events that disrupt your timing. So be careful about locking in reservations on travel days. It’s best to plan for flexible activities on the first and last days.
Is the group interested in using caddies? A caddy certainly adds cost but can dramatically improve the experience.
Too many choices can lead to endless debates, especially with larger groups. It’s better for key people to make the plan and limit the decisions. Then it’s more about going or not for the rest of the group. Much simpler.
I’ve done trips to Bandon Dunes where we book a foursome and then let other friends know we are going and invite them to add another foursome. This is easier than getting eight or more to agree on a plan. This approach can also avoid any hurt feelings by someone not invited.
Chose the right dates and book early
Getting your selected group to agree on dates is often the hardest part of planning a trip.
Start with a wide date range and ask for everyone’s availability. It is easier to ask which dates they are not available as a place to start.
There’s never a perfect date, so compromise is essential. Keep in mind that someone may have to cancel out. Have a back-up plan.
Pair the right roommates
These days I prefer having my own room. But when I was younger and a little more money conscious, we would double up. And sometimes individual rooms just aren’t available. So, when you are picking the group, be sure to think about who would room well with whom.
Agree on how expenses are going to be shared.
Sorting out the money issues is a sensitive process. Communicate clear expectations about what things will cost right up front. Remember, not everyone is in the same financial position, so try to avoid any surprises.
If some participants have budget concerns, create optional rooms or golf courses where one might choose a less expensive choice.
Plan for how expenses will be managed. I’ve done trips where I just pay for everything on my credit card and then sent a closing summary to everyone with their allocation.
On a recent trip to Vegas, we divided the big expenses among each other. One paid for the Airbnb and rental car, one paid for football tickets, another paid for the golf, and our fourth picked up dinners.
We all sent our receipts to our designated “accountant” who calculated the final amounts due, and we used Venmo to make it square.
Consider having people pay a deposit if you have any concerns about a sincere commitment.
Pick a leader
Who will be the point person to keep all the plans together? Someone who isn’t afraid to make decisions, and everyone generally trusts. This person will be the main communication channel.
You need a leader, but you don’t want to put all the burden on them. Look at the various strengths and resources of your group and pick different people to handle reserving accommodations, tee times, restaurant reservations, other events, rental cars, etc.
Plan for individual interest and time
Even the best of friends can get on each other’s nerves. Try to allow for time alone or optional activities that not everyone has to participate in.
Flexibility is the key here. If you’re flying, allow people to arrive in a time window so they can use their preferred airline. Many want to use frequent flyer benefits.
Be aware that luggage will often get lost. Pack your essentials in a carry-on. And make sure the golf courses you are playing at have rental clubs available. If your clubs are sacred to you, consider using Shipsticks.com as a more reliable way of getting your clubs to your destination.
If you are doing an overseas trip and want to do it right, hire a driver. It’s a game changer!
Good luggage is essential. I have had many golf travel bags fail after just a few uses. A golf pro finally told me that the best on the market is Club Glove Last Bag. I’ll never need another!
Consider using a golf travel agency. I had a good experience with Hidden Links.
The PGA Tour sponsors Golf Breaks.
Here’s a Top 10 list of golf travel companies from Golf Travel Guru.
Choosing a golf course
This is THE priority. Is your trip going to be about camaraderie, experiences, or playing top-rated courses to check off a bucket list? Agree on a budget.
Get your most important venue reserved first and then build around it. In my first trip to Scotland, I followed the process to get a tee time at St. Andrews and then we built the rest of the trip around that day.
Creativity is the key to getting the best courses lined up. There are always booking agencies but check with the courses directly first.
On a trip to play Torrey Pines we used a booking agency. The Covid lockdowns caused us to cancel and they weren’t much help getting a refund. I finally had to go directly to Torrey Pines and they told me it’s always best to book directly with them.
Ask your club pro or manager for help too. They often have industry connections giving you VIP access.
Don’t forget to research club dress codes.
Replay rounds are another good thing to be aware of. Many courses will offer a discount if you play the same course twice a day. For example, Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon charges $295 a round in its summer peak season, for example. That drops to $150 for your second round. Some courses even let you play unlimited same day golf.
Do your research ahead of time using web searches and visiting club websites. More knowledge equals better trips.
Here’s Golf Digests 23 best buddy trips
Here’s where the fun starts. Size up the group and plan some betting competitions. Having a plan and creating a pool of money in advance is a great way to go. Use gg4golf.com to pick some game formats. I always like to have a daily game and a cumulative game to keep it interesting. Provide a way for both individual and team wins.
Another fun idea is to find a group at your destination to play against. On my last trip to Scotland, we connected with a group of Swedes and played a two-day Ryder Cup match at Old Prestwick. We had commemorative beverage bottles and went out to dinner together. Great fun!
Prepare to Compromise
People have different habits and preferences. Make sure the main elements are attaining the goal, and then try to make room for some individual priorities.
Do your research on the area’s weather and plan to pack the proper attire. Weather can change though, so be prepared for any outcome and use layering to manage daily weather changes.
Things will not always go as expected. Make decisions about what reservations are necessary and what to keep open.
In my last overseas trip, we made a couple of dinner reservations on key days, but otherwise relied on the feel of the day. We’d often ask locals about the best venues. You can also lock down a reservation, and then cancel it if better options emerge.
Do some research on “local favorites” wherever you go. Chat people up when you have an opportunity. When we went to the 150th Open we ended up in a local pub and were the only Americans in sight. We met a fine fellow who invited us to join him at his nearby club for a drink. We got the complete tour of what turned out to be “the oldest golf club in the world.” We didn’t even know of its existence before our new friend showed us around.
Print a trip itinerary
Build and share a reference sheet that includes dates, contact info, golf and room reservations, travel reference, emergency contacts, side bet summary, etc…
Put it in a format that can be printed or kept digitally.
Group Code of Conduct
- be flexible
- not fuss over who pays
- be patient with each other
- show up on time
- pay our expenses promptly
- keep a good attitude about our golf game
- not whine
A new year is almost here!
Let’s start planning!!
© Tom Newton, Great Games for Golfers, December 2022