For those of us golfers with even a hint of wanderlust, hitting the open road for a golf trip is as good as it gets. Be your journey three days, three weeks or three months, the thrill of packing up the car, heading for greener fairways and leaving behind the stresses of your daily grind should be an annual (at least!) ritual for every golfer.
I should know. In 2018 and the first month of 2019, I set forth on a golf road trip unlike any other: Powered by my trusty RV, I hit 403 courses in 47 states (racking up 35,345 miles, and 689 birdies, along the way). That trip was my most memorable golf jaunt but certainly not my only one. From all my travels, here are 8 tips I’ve learned that I urge you to follow the next time you slide behind the wheel for your own golf getaway
1. Choose your travel mates wisely
The personality dynamic of your crew is one of the most essential pieces to consider when planning a golf trip. Be sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the quality of courses, lodging, overall budget and, perhaps most important, amount of golf on the agenda.
Does everyone in your group want to play 36 a day or are they more of a play-9-and-then-hit-the-pub crowd? If you’re not aligned, fractures will quickly form. As for the size of your group? If they’re tight, four is the perfect number. That’ll keep you mobile and, should the need arise, allow you to adjust your plans on the fly. If you foresee potential rifts or drama, eight golfers is advisable. A bigger posse will provide some release by allowing you to mix and match the groupings in each round.
2. Establish a primary communication channel
Group chats are loathed by many, but during a proper golf romp, communicating on the same platform is key, and can also be a source of serious entertainment. Whether you run with WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger or a simple text chain, agree on one platform, then brace yourself for a bounty of cheeky banter, arresting golf photos and hilarious GIFs.
3. Embrace change
The adventure doesn’t start until the plan falls apart. When weather hits and tee times get cancelled, you will know that your moment has arrived. During a golf trip in the Los Angeles area years ago, my friends and I encountered the wettest day California had seen in a decade. Instead of drowning in our sorrows, we pivoted and found the only course in the area that was still open, Griffith Park. After suiting up, we waded down fairways that looked more like rivers. On a journey that also included A-list courses like Riviera and LACC, this still ranked among the trip’s more memorable rounds.
4. Lean into local knowledge
You might think that your diligent destination research has uncovered all of the hot spots and insidery scoops. Truth is, though, no matter how many blogs and message boards you visit, you will never know as much as the indigenous population.
While maintaining strict adherence to this commandment during a stop in Minnesota, I asked a beverage cart attendant, “What’s the hot scene in Duluth tonight?”
“Well,” she said, “the malt stand will definitely be popping off.”
So, my partners and I decided to skip dinner entirely that evening and head directly to the PortLand Malte Shoppe. This led to the best banana malt that I have ever tasted. Results will vary when following local recs, but rest assured this approach will bare surprising and delightful fruits.
5. Allow for some “weird time”
Somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin I decided to download an app on my phone called Roadside America. This little gem provides the down-low on all of the most interesting roadside attractions. For example, with only short detours, I checked out the world’s largest piece of petrified wood, a house shaped like a shoe, a towering T-Rex, even a tree adorned with tubas. There’s something for everyone lurking just off the beaten path, so on longer hauls, build in time to explore curiosities in between your golf destinations.
6. Stay loose and limber
Not only is this good advice when you’re home working or supposed to be working but instead watching The Today Show, but it is also a must-do on any self-respecting golf trip. You don’t need a full-blown hot yoga session, but a couple of key stretches and a few spinal twists daily will keep you primed for the 1st tee. Nothing spoils a golf trip faster than not being able to, you know, play golf.
7. There’s always golf to be had
Just because every stop on your trip might not be at a golf course doesn’t mean you can’t play golf. While visiting White Sands National Park in New Mexico, I designed a course in the heaving dunes that Tom Doak would be proud of. If you, too, can get creative, no matter where your travels take you there are always tee times to be had.
If you are able to abide by my first 7 commandments, your golf trip is more than likely to be a memorable one. To guarantee that it is, memorialize your journey with schwag from each of your golfing destinations. The best (and cheapest) course keepsakes are a scorecard and pencil. They’re not only free but also won’t occupy much space in your luggage or trunk.
Just the other day, I browsed my collection of scorecards from 2015 and reminisced about the triple-bogey I made on the 17th hole at Whistling Straits (after needing three shots to get out of a devilish greenside bunker, I canned a 25-footer). It was one hell of a 6, and one hell of a golf trip.
With these golden rules, I send you forth upon your own magical journeys. Safe travels!