By Erik Matuszewski
Tucked away somewhere in the attic over my garage is an old golf travel case—you know, one of those rigid plastic coffins designed to protect golf clubs from damage at the airport. I upgraded my travel bag years ago and never looked back, opting for a soft, padded model with rolling casters that’s incredibly durable and rolls through crowded airports with effortless ease.
I still see the hard, plastic travel cases from time to time during my travels and feel a twinge of pity for their handlers. “They might seem practical because they protect your golf clubs, but they’re the most impractical things ever created,” says Gordon Dalgleish, the President and co-founder of golf travel company PerryGolf. “It’s like another body going into your vehicle.”
If you’re among those still clinging to the old-school hard travel case for your clubs, you’re making one of the most common mistakes people make when taking golf trips. So, what are some of the other missteps most frequently made when it comes to golf getaways? I talked with several of the game’s most prominent golf travel experts to get their input.
Get the Right Group
No matter what kind of golf trip you’re taking—buddies, couples, etc.—the group dynamic is important. Yes, you might need numbers to fill a spot or two, but choose wisely. “If you’ve got seven guys who get along great and the eighth guy is kind of an odd duck, it changes the tone of the trip,” cautions Dalgleish. “That’s not right for anybody.”
Booking Too Many Rounds
You’re going on a golf trip to play golf, but quantity doesn’t mean quality. Marty Carr of Carr Golf Travel has been in the business for more than three decades and says he finds that 18 holes per day makes for the most enjoyable experience, with possibly a number of 36-hole days for the more energetic golfers. When playing two different courses in the same day, make sure they’re in close proximity—no more than an hour or so apart is a good rule of thumb.
But planning too many rounds is the single-biggest miscue cited by golf travel experts.
“You have guys who think they’re all 35 years of age again and they’re going to play 14 rounds in seven days. Then they get through the first day and a half and wonder what they were thinking,” says Dalgleish.
Plan for Jetlag, Especially When Traveling Internationally
We golfers are a passionate bunch, so it’s understandable that we’re eager to hit the ground running on a golf trip. But Bud Garmany, the founder of Garmany Golf & Travel, says too many travelers underestimate the jetlag factor and associated fatigue. “Let’s say you’re coming from the West Coast to Scotland. It takes you three days to figure out what planet your legs are on,” says Garmany. “It just goes by in a blur and they come home and can’t remember what courses they played.”
Stay Multiple Nights
In a pinch, two nights at a destination is fine when trying to cover a lot of ground, but Garmany strongly suggests a three-night minimum when visiting a particular destination. “We’re big on cautioning people not to do one-night stays and making it three if they can,” Garmany says. Carr adds that selecting an “operating base” is critical to a properly planned trip and that focusing on just one or two regions is highly recommended.
Don’t Focus Too Much on Rankings or Reviews
When a golf trip is over and we’re reflecting on the experience, often the most popular courses are the hidden gems. “It’s not all about rankings,” Carr says. “Many times, it’s the course that guests have not heard of that gets ranked as a favorite of a trip.” That was the case for me on a recent trip to Ireland, as I’d heard all about wonderful spots like Tralee and Lahinch, but was floored by the less-heralded Dooks.
Avoid Over-Organization and Too Much Input
While every group needs a leader, some can make the mistake of over-organizing, says Dalgleish. “They’re there for six nights and try to book six dinners in advance,” he says. “And it’s quickly discovered that everybody has a different opinion. Invariably, they may end up going separate ways for dinner. And that’s not great for the travelers or the restauranteur.”
Some group leaders also seek too much input ahead of time, particularly when it comes to which courses to play. As Dalgleish says, a three-person committee is most effective when two of them are absent. “As a group leader, you don’t want to get too far down in the weeds where you’re trying to pull together this matrix of eight different views of six different golf courses,” he says. “All of a sudden, you’re making compromises because you’re traveling too far on the ground to visit these different courses. So, the group leader needs to identify what the two or three must-play courses are. In Scotland, it’s the Old Course, a Carnoustie, Troon, or Muirfield. We can get at least two of those and then fill in the rest.”
Get a Driver, Especially Overseas
The cost of a concierge driver is usually minimal when compared to the overall price tag, yet it fundamentally changes the experience of your trip. Far more than just getting the vehicle from point A to point B, a good driver brings the whole trip together and manages the experience—dinner options and reservations, wrangling the troops and setting departure times, loading clubs, and knowing exactly where to go.