Golf travel can be exhilarating and exhausting concurrently. It’s always great to check out new courses and destinations (and this correspondent knows of what he speaks—more than nine hundred courses played in forty-plus states and fifteen countries), but there are tips, tricks and hints that can make the trekking a bit easier on both the body and the mind. Here are some thoughts on minimizing hassles and getting the most enjoyment out of a trip; whether with the boys, the girls, the spouse, or as couples.
- Bring two pairs of golf shoes, and a pair of sandals. The shoes need to be rotated daily to air out and dry out. With the evolvement of modern golf shoes, many of which look likesneakers or casualwear, often they can substitute for evening shoes in restaurants, grill rooms or pubs. The sandals are there for the off-course hours; to let your feet breathe either in transit, near the pool or in the hotel or condo.
- Invest in a sturdy travel bag, preferably with wheels, for ease of transport through airports. Be sure to insert a towel covered broomstick longer than the driver into the golf bag. (There is also a commercial product called the Stiff Arm which is expressly for this purpose.)This will ensure that if a ham-handed baggage handler drops the bag upside down, the broomstick or Stiff Arm, not the driver, bears the brunt of the impact.
- Maximize your time. Depending on how much golf the group is willing and/or able to play, by leaving early and returning late on departure day, it possibly affords the opportunity to play a full round, or maybe just nine holes, on both travel days.
- Shipping can be your friend. On that same subject, if there’s a tight connecting flight, consider shipping golf clubs (there are a variety of reputable services available) to the final destination, or risk arriving to the course without benefit of one’s own clubs.
- Cut yourself some slack on a new course after a long layoff. Instead of tying self-worth to the scorecard, consider a ‘traveler’s game.’ Divide the round into ‘good holes,’ (often pars or birdies) ‘OK holes’ (usually bogeys, and depending on the skill level in question, sometimes double bogeys.) And ‘others.’ (Doubles, triples or X’s, depending.) At round’s end see if you managed a goodly number of good’ or ‘OK’ holes, and hopefully a dearth of ‘others.’ It will help with equanimity, and lead to a more enjoyable excursion.
- Weather the weather. Don’t forget the umbrella (always) and rain pants. (Sometimes. But particularly in the UK, or in coastal Oregon, AKA Bandon Dunes.)
- Pack lighter than you think. Most golfers tend to pick up a shirt, wind vest, rain jacket, sweater, etc., while visiting a marquee destination. Leave some space for the mementos that mark your adventures on and off the course.
- Don’t skimp on the rental car size. Four people, with four days worth of luggage and four golf bags and covers, equals serious volume. Reserve a large SUV, even a mini-van, for maximum comfort. Golf bags and travel covers fill up the trunk of even the most capacious sedan much faster than you think!
- Schedule a day off, even two, if the location chosen is heretofore unexplored. This advice is primarily directed at travelers to the UK, but is equally applicable to those who plan golf-themed travel to more exotic locales. South Africa, Asia and continental Europe come immediately to mind. First off, the body can use the time off from incessant golf. Secondly, playing course after course becomes a blur, especially when indulging in links golf, as many of these courses have a similar feel and look regardless. Third and most importantly, take some time to explore the culture and the community where you’re visiting. The pubs, the castles, the museums, the wildlife, the countryside are all worthy of one’s attention. Engage some locals, and try and get a feel for the area, beyond the course or courses themselves. This advice, much like the advice in the opening paragraph, comes from hard experience. So myopic was this correspondent earlier in this golf-travel writing career, I once spent five days in greater Seattle, and never visited a coffee house or the Space Needle! Similarly, some years back I spend an equal amount of time in Chicago, and hopscotching from one course to the next, never found time to visit Rush St. or Wrigley Field. Don’t make the same mistake.