Planning a Golf Vacation

Stay-over golf vacations are fast becoming one of the most popular ways to relax and unwind. With a wealth of destinations to choose from, it's easy to see why. Whether you're a novice or a pro, you'll find a course that suits your skill level and resorts that cater to any non-golfers you may be traveling with offering attractions like shopping, spa services and local tours. With a little thought and some careful planning, you'll go from dreaming about golf to perfecting your putt on the back nine which is what the best golf vacation is all about.

Choosing a Destination
Whether you want to play near the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas or somewhere in the quiet countryside, you'll have little trouble finding golf destinations that appeal to you. However, where you'll ultimately choose to go often comes down to the time of year you want to travel and the weather.

If you're thinking about a beach golf vacation in the Southeast, you may want to avoid booking your trip during hurricane season which runs from June to late October. Autumn in New England is a sight to behold, but occasional gusts of wind may affect your game and while Pebble Beach is one of the most sought-after golf experiences, the Monterey Peninsula is unpredictably subject to fog, rain and wind and greens fees aren't refundable.

Take the time to research your destinations and their weather patterns at all times throughout the year. Hitting the right course at the right time means playing during peak season-and you'll need to adjust your budget accordingly-but if you're willing to put up with less-than-perfect weather conditions, you could save a few dollars. It's all about what you're willing to risk and pay for your game.

If you're traveling with family or there are other non-golfers in your party, you'll want to consider destinations that offer activities that interest them. You should also contact your destination's local Chamber of Commerce or Convention Bureau to see what events are on the calendar. More people in town, means competition for more than just tee times-hotel rooms and restaurant reservations will also be harder to come by.

Planning On Your Own
The next decision you'll need to make is whether you want to plan your own golf vacation or purchase a golf vacation package. The primary advantages of planning your own trip are more control over your itinerary and being subject to fewer tee time restrictions, which are often part of the terms of a golf vacation package.

If you choose to plan your own trip, you'll need to plan your budget to include airfare, transportation, lodging, meals and any other entertainment or activities you'd like to experience. You'll also want to be sure you choose your courses wisely. The goal of any golf vacation is to spend the least amount of time traveling and the most amount of time on the course. Identify the courses you want to play and try to keep the distance between them to a minimum.

Once you've identified where you want to play, look for hotel that's centrally located so you're not spending more time in the car than you have to. If possible, choose a hotel that also features one of the courses you'd like to play. Although it may be more economical to stay off site, hotel guests are almost always given preferred status over non-guests when it comes to tee times.

Regardless of where you stay, be sure you speak with a representative of the hotel or golf course to go over reservation policies. Some properties require that you reserve your tee time only a week in advance, while others require that you also book your slot during a limited timeframe, say 8:00-10:00am. It's always best to book your trip as far in advance as possible, especially if your destination is in high demand.

Golf Vacation Packages
For most people, booking a golf vacation package takes the hassle out of vacation planning. Although you'll likely need to work within certain tee time restrictions or limits, these packages offer golfers the major benefits of all-inclusive travel.

Even if airfare isn't included in the package you choose, your greens fees, lodging and meals, and in some cases even your drinks, entertainment and gratuities will be included in the upfront price. While staying in a five-star resort may offer more luxuries off the course, you're there for the golf. When you're evaluating packages, favor the course over the resort, not the other way around.

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