Aside from waking up to watch the final round of the Masters or every round of the British Open, I relish my annual golf trip with my buddies more than anything else. The trip gives us a chance to get away from our better halves and enjoy some much-needed camaraderie amongst ourselves for a few days.
I’ve been doing these golf-centric rendezvous for several years and have learned my share of do’s and don’ts. As I grow older, I have come to realize that these trips aren’t about cramming in 36 holes a day for a week straight. Been there, done that and it doesn’t work. What I have come to realize is that we aren’t as young as we once were, and people have obligations of family, work, coaching and financial limitations that make dream trips to Pinehurst or the British Isles nothing more than a dream.
The good news is that you can still book your annual buddies’ trip, not break the bank and have a great time. Below are my best tips to make sure that everyone has a good time on the trip you think about all year.
You Don’t Need to Drink Champagne on a Beer Budget when with your Golf Buddies
I’m fortunate to live in the great state of Oregon and Bandon Dunes is the site of my annual golf trip. It’s affordable for Oregonians in the winter. I’m lucky.
A successful golf trip with your buddies doesn’t have to be hallmarked by exclusive courses that cost an arm and a leg. I remember a spur-of-the-moment single boys trip to Boise, Idaho in September where we never paid more than $60 for a green fee, cart included.
With a little research, it’s easy to find places that everyone can get to and there are hundreds of quality courses that fit everyone’s budget. If you do this work upfront, you’ll attract more players and you’re sure to have trip to remember.
Start Planning Early
Whether your group is four or 44, planning is key to a successful buddie’s trip. The last thing you want is any loose ends not to be tied up.
Planning can start as far out as six months in advance. A good place to begin is an email thread that invites everyone on the trip and let’s them know that spots are limited. Doing this and asking for commitments in advance plants a seed. You’ll likely get a barrage of responses that say, “I’m think I’m in” or “Sounds great and I’ll get back to you.” While this is annoying, at least you can establish a baseline of what your budget and reservations look like.
From here you can start making tee times and reservations for places to stay. Do you want to stay in the United States, or go to one of the oldest golf courses in Scottland? If you do these things in advance, it’s likely you’ll receive favorable treatment of discounted rates on both rooms and golf.
Fast Pay Makes Fast Friends
After you send out that initial e-mail it’s important to start collecting deposits. Even if it’s just $50 per guy for rooms, collecting this money upfront alleviates your liability and gives your golf buddies an incentive to see their commitment through. Trust me on this one, I’ve made the mistake of paying before collecting and I won’t ever do it again.
Be Fair and Be Square, Remember these are your Golf Buddies
You’re at the point that you have some commitments and deposits. Now the real fun begins. You need to communicate the format to everyone involved. Unless you’re spending your last penny to go on this trip in the first place, chances are you and your buddies want to enjoy some friendly competition with a few dollars involved. On my annual trip, each player pays $40 a day that goes toward daily skins and payout as well as the overall pot. If you have one good day, you’re sure to break even at worse.
The biggest key is to make the format fun and competitive. After you get everyone’s updated handicap, your options are virtually limitless. Below is my favorite format for groups for four or more. Feel free to get as creative as you want.
While it’s not likely you’re going to attract passionate fans from both sides of the Atlantic and be broadcasted on national television, there’s nothing better than a friendly competition that divides your group in two. Using the match play format, you can come up with creative pairings that award each match a point toward the team total. The team that ends up with the most points at the end of your trip leaves with a few bucks, bragging rights and a “trophy.”
Speaking of Trophies
Belts with huge buckles were cool for a short while but they aren’t anymore. When you’re on a buddies’ golf trip, you’re not vying for the world heavyweight boxing title. You should choose an award that is special to the group. For me, the winning team wins not only a few bucks but a coveted chalice that I purchased for $12.50 at a thrift shop when I was in college. That’s a story for another time but it’s sacred in our group. Your prize should be too.
Too Much Golf
Whether your trip is for a weekend of a week, there is a lot more involved than the golf. At the end of the day it’s about spending quality time with friends you don’t get to see every day.
I remember the first time I flew in three friends to my hometown in Oregon and arranged world-class golf for six straight days. By day four, we were all burnt out and no one wanted to play the last two days. If you’re going to be at a destination more than two or three days, taking a day off in the middle of the trip is a wonderful idea. Let your friends explore the local sites on their own and meet in the evening for a great meal where everyone has a chance to catch up and recant the day’s non-golf adventures.
The Best Things Come in Moderation, Including Moderation
This trip is your one chance to cut loose and have a good time with your friends. You should enjoy yourself. There’s going to be a night or two when everyone wants to tell the same stories from a decade ago just like they did last year. This is usually accompanied by some food and some adult beverages. Have fun. You’re only with this group once a year… But remember you still must play golf the next day.
Early Bird Get’s the Worm, Said No One Ever on a Golf Trip
Don’t get me wrong, I love being the first group out on a Saturday morning when my surroundings are quiet, and the smell of freshly mown grass permeates the air. As romantic as these rounds are most days of the year, getting proper sleep on your buddies’ trip is imperative for everyone. Chances are there are going to be some late evenings and the libations will flow so there’s no sense in making early tee times. Teeing off between 10:00am and 11:00am gives everyone the chance to sleep in and have a leisurely morning.
Chances are your group represents a wide spectrum in terms of ability, so you need to play a net format where appropriate handicaps are given and make agreed upon adjustments after each round.
I remember being on a trip one year and the first day my opponent was a 16 handicap and shot 74. Safe to say I didn’t stand a chance and was not a happy camper after the round. Much to this player’s dismay, his handicap was adjusted for the rest of the trip and he was never invited back. You don’t want to have anyone like this guy in your group.
While people do play above their expected levels from time to time, adjusting at the end of play each day keeps everyone competitive and in the game.
Trips with your golf buddies can be a lot of fun. They give you a chance to bond once a year for a few days and don’t have to cost a fortune. If you start planning early and make sure everyone is on the same page with each facet of the trip, you’re sure to make memories that last a lifetime and create a tradition you can look forward to for years to come.
About the Author
Scott is a professional writer and has been a golfer his entire life. After playing at Oregon State University he spent time playing on the Gateway Professional Tour. Six subsequent years working as a Club Professional allowed Scott to pursue his passion of helping others become better players. Scott now spreads his love of golf through the written word as a full time author and copywriter.