What is going on with all the disparate rules on how to manage golf courses during the emergency? Is golf an essential business? Is golf exercise? Is golf just entertainment?
In Maryland, our governor shut down golf courses on March 23 as non-essential businesses. If Lakewood Country Club (course behind my home) is a microcosm of the industry in our state, judging by the number of groups coming through after the order, people were ignoring it, even though they had to walk. Two days later, Virginia closed non-essential businesses but golf courses and driving ranges remained open. A week later, both states instituted ‘Stay At Home’ orders. Lakewood pulled all the flags out and players stopped coming through, but nothing changed in Virginia.
Today, I checked with friends in West Virginia (all courses open) and Arizona, where all courses have been deemed essential businesses and are open, along with beauty salons and barber shops! Go figure.
Today I walked 18 holes on the closed Lakewood course (without clubs) and nary ran into a sole. Got some great exercise in. Then I ventured across the river to Reston National in Virginia and practiced for two hours. Here’s a video and picture of the parking lot at Reston.
I think if you lived in the DC area, you were either home or playing golf at Reston National. Finally, I saw this article about golfing in Brampton, Ontario. Apparently, it’s illegal because of the virus and could cost you a big time fine. Unbelievable that it’s come to this.
I very much enjoy getting out to play and practice while socially distancing. Helps me to keep my sanity. Where do you stand on golf as an essential business? Is it?
It’s the middle of winter and we all have cabin fever. Wouldn’t it be great to tee it up tomorrow at a tropical golf destination? Lately, I’ve been getting quite a few inquiries on how to book the best golf trips at the lowest cost. Getting bang for the buck when you travel is a great source of satisfaction, but remember the most important element in a golf trip is the golf. A great hotel, delicious food, and wonderful entertainment are fine, but if the golf is substandard, that’s what you’ll remember.
Course Reviews: To get the best golf, start your travel planning reading websites focused on course reviews. Skip the sites like Golf Digest where you’ll get lists of great courses and glossy marketing material (yeah, we all know Pebble Beach and Whistling Straights are great venues), and focus on personal experiences because you want a straight call on the good and bad. You want to find the hidden nuggets of value, the starters and course marshals who took the extra steps to make you feel special, the details about conditions that stood out or didn’t meet expectations, and the ups and downs of customer service from your reservation agent to the pro shop staff. Here’s some top sites to get you started:
2 Play the Tips has reviews from world famous golf courses across the country.
OneBeardedGolfer has got you covered on Kentucky and other courses in the southeast USA.
Golf Is Mental has great information on Alberta, British Columbia, and visiting the western USA.
Finally, Vet4golfing51 sprinkles his interesting playing insights in with information on his journey to play 100 courses in the western Pennsylvania region. There are many others.
Conditions: Once you decide where you want to play, seek out information on course conditions for the period of time you’re going to play, not necessarily the latest conditions. Pay close attention to reports of when courses will schedule aeration. We hit Pinehurst #2 the day after an emergency aeration. Nothing is worse than traveling to a world class venue only to find you are putting on bumps and top dressing. Hit up a site like Golf Insider for Myrtle Beach. They have thousands of personal visit reviews for hundreds of area courses. Then go to Trip Advisor and look at reviews that can be sorted on the time of year you’re traveling. Getting a good cross-section of opinion yields the best experiences.
Lodging: Next, look for a good package that couples lodging, golf, and maybe some food. In June, my travel group has a package lined up in Myrtle Beach with seven nights lodging, six rounds of golf, carts, free range balls, lunch, and complimentary daily replays for under $600. If you don’t want to couple resort lodging with golf, look to book a hotel separate to save money. We traveled and played the RTJ Trail in Alabama staying at Hampton Inns across the state and had a great and inexpensive experience.
Peak Discounts: Lastly, if you’re traveling in high season and don’t want to pay those exorbitant prices, don’t worry; there are tools that can help. I am traveling next month to Myrtle Beach during peak tourist time and didn’t feel like paying $150 for a round. I used a tool at Golf Insider that allows you to plug in your desired dollar range and date, and searches the entire Grand Strand for a match. Got one for $60 and I’m ready to go!
You can get overwhelmed with information and will save time and money reaching out to an individual who’s traveled ahead of you to your destination. Often times you’ll pick up local knowledge about good venues and ones to avoid, and most folks are very happy to help. I know I am. Good luck!
Conversation about course reviews, travel, instruction,and opinion. Please join in!