The buddies trip captain has plenty of crosses to bear.
Beyond collecting the money, planning the itinerary and setting up the competitive games, probably the most important part of the job is making the trip affordable for all the friends who want to go. Nobody wants to come home from a golf trip feeling they didn't get their money's worth. It's a delicate dance to play as many good courses as various budgets allow and still feel like everyone got some bang for their buck.
There are a few tricks to add value to any trip you captain.
Save money on golf
The biggest way to save money is to choose the road less traveled to an undiscovered destination, as opposed to a bucket-list golf resort. There are "value" courses everywhere, but the bar moves depending on where you are. In Monterey Peninsula, Bayonet/Blackhorse is a "value" at $100-150 per round, while in the Carolinas you can find courses that are under $50, especially away from the coast.
No matter which destination you choose, look for courses or resorts that offer a variety of price points. Dynamic pricing can get you a good deal at certain times of the day or the season. If you have a group larger than two tee times (generally 12 or more people), you could be in position to lobby for a group rate with the facility's group business manager. Our Managing Editor Brandon Tucker recently planned a trip to San Diego and found the municipal courses don't negotiate with groups like privately managed courses will. You won't usually get deals for aeration or maintenance issues on a popular muni, either, beyond the published rates.
The style of courses matters, too. Municipal courses tend to be more affordable, but sometimes they can be busier, in less than ideal condition and their facilities (range/clubhouse/restaurant) can be run down or lacking altogether. What you should look for are courses that allow walking (where you save on cart fees) and short courses.
If you have a group that loves playing more than 18 holes in a day, consider making your PM round a short course. Executive/par-3 routings or courses with less yardage/a par total lower than 70 can give the group its golf fix while costing less and introducing different competitive formats (a par-3 shootout?). Thirty-six hole days with a short course in the afternoon will probably bring more laughs and less complaints about tired bodies.
Short courses have made a lot of waves in recent years and perhaps the best place for excellent architecture and value is in Tennessee. Golf Advisor is hosting a Getaway to Tennessee's Sweetens Cove and the Gil Hanse-redesigned Course at Sewanee this September. If time is tight and you've run out of time to plan your trip, let us do the legwork and bring your whole group.
The season you go will also add or subtract a lot to the bottom line. Mid-week trips are ideal to score cheaper green fees. If you must travel on a weekend, book the more expensive tee times during the week days and the more affordable courses for Saturday and/or Sunday. If going to a higher-end property, some in the group might want to skip the caddie and carry their own bag or use a pull cart instead. That's a huge savings.
(If your group is dead-set on booking a package at a five-star golf resort, see if they are listed among the many top properties that offer a $100 travel credit to GOLFPASS members. These include Streamsong, Sea Island and Red Sky Ranch among many others.)
Cost cutting beyond golf
Golf will be a major expense of the trip, but certainly not the only one.
Transportation costs are related, again, to where you choose to play. There's little sense in going to a destination with value golf and lodging if the flight is $300 more than somewhere else. Look at where the majority of your group will be flying from and find an airport that has affordable fares. Route competition between airlines is usually a good place to start.
Those who book stays at one multi-course resort or a handful of courses within a tight radius of your accommodations might not need as many rental cars, or one at all. Maybe an airport shuttle to the resort/hotel/Airbnb and a couple Uber/Lyft rides can get the group where it needs to be.
Skipping the rental car can work; Just realize it will take additional planning and coordination to get everyone's flights to arrive in a similar window to share rides on the shuttle or with Uber/Lyft.
Where should you stay?
Where you stay can make or break the trip, both from a budget and an experience perspective. Sharing group accommodations - instead of individual hotel rooms - will likely foster better group bonding and be cheaper, too. Having a refrigerator and full kitchen, along with an outdoor grill, to cook meals will cut food costs considerably.
Airbnb and vacation rentals will save you money, but they come with potential headaches. You never know what the unit will offer until you arrive and it's too late to change. You could get inconsistent furnishings or a bad location. Something as simple as not enough towels or pillows might have you wishing you booked at a resort or hotel for guaranteed comforts. Resort-sanctioned home rentals are a safer bet (and probably why they'll be more expensive), allowing the group access to resort pools and other amenities that will likely not be accessible to independently-operated vacation homes.
But lastly, don't let penny-pinching ruin the trip
All these tips are meant to help you plan, but don't forget the ultimate goal here: To have fun with your pals. Don't get so wrapped up on being thrifty that you take the shine off your itinerary. Feel free to schedule that final round at a pricey course everyone has always wanted to play or hit up that fancy steakhouse for the last supper.
There should be some memorable experiences, and in some ways, going a little overboard might be the way to deliver that boom.
We love our buddies trip captains! Do you have a trip coming up? Let us know on Twitter!
Many thanks to @BrandonTucker & @GolfAdvisor for all the AMAZING swag for #TweedGolfTrip2019!! What was already going to be an awesome trip is now even better! Can’t wait to show it off in MN!!!— Bryan Tweed (@BryanTweed16) July 16, 2019
Check it out @dancreagh, @trentmcmahan18 & @nish604!!#BrainerdBash #MinnyMarathon pic.twitter.com/tVhFXeQ8hE