Hey, hope you enjoyed the PGA Tour's one week off-season by catching the Presidents Cup this past weekend.
As the 2017-2018 season gets underway this week, it reminded me to show you a cool way travel-minded golfers like you can play on your own golf "tour."
Not by turning pro, but by joining an amateur golf tour - be it at the local, regional or national level.
Really quickly, here are the big reasons to look into this:
- These tours visit really nice golf courses (see below), which get themselves in tip-top shape for events.
- Sometimes, you can access private courses and PGA Tour host sites (see below).
- Because these events attract big groups of golfers, courses charge event organizers reduced rates, and a lot of that value gets passed along to you.
- Tour operators want players to keep coming back, so there are some nice perks with tour membership and solid "swag bags" at events.
- Competition is more fun than fierce. Just enough to make you sweat a little without ruining your day if you have a bad round.
- If you play well, there are usually some nice prizes in the form of shop credit and skins payouts. You can often cover your entry fee with a nice showing.
- You're with like-minded players who enjoy competing. You'll get to know them and expand your network of friends in golf.
- In most cases, you can compete whether you're a scratch player or a bogey golfer. Many events are flighted by handicap level, so you're truly competing with peers. And experienced event organizers know how to weed out sandbaggers.
One great example of this is various state and metropolitan golf associations' one day events.
Another is the highly-regarded Golf Channel Am Tour, which consists of more than 50 local tours throughout the U.S., plus an expansive schedule of regional- and national-scale "majors," which attract fields from far and wide to some of the best golf destinations around.
More on the Golf Channel Am Tour
Golf Channel Am Tour events enjoy such a strong following and reputation because they give participants a glimpse into the sort of treatment pro golfers receive at events. And this VIP atmosphere exists regardless of skill level, as Golf Channel Am Tour events are flighted by age and handicap.
Local tour events are typically 18 holes, with regional- and national-scale "majors" usually contested over 36 holes. Top finishers in these events earn invites to play in the National Championship, a full-field, 72-hole event held every September.
Membership has its advantages as well. In addition to the opportunity to participate in all tournaments, GC Am Tour members receive a "Welcome Pack" with a Golf Channel hat, shirt and Tour bag tag. Another cool touch: every new member receives a personalized welcome letter from David Feherty.
But to me, the coolest aspect of the tour is the opportunity to play some of the best golf course in the U.S., which includes top resorts in the "majors" and some sweet private clubs on local tours as well.
Here are some highlights of the upcoming schedule:
Notable Golf Channel Am Tour Majors:
When: Sat.-Sun., October 21-22
Where: Disney's Magnolia and Palm Courses
Why: The Magnolia Course was a long-time PGA Tour host and the Palm is a fun layout recently renovated by Thad Layton of the Arnold Palmer firm.
Central California Amateur Championship
When: Sat.-Sun., November 11-12
Where: Rancho Murieta Country Club - North and South Courses
Why: Rancho Murieta is a private club just east of Sacramento, so this event offers a rare opportunity to see two wonderful private courses at a prime time of year.
When: Sat.-Sun., December 2-3
Where: Innisbrook Resort - Copperhead and Island Courses
Why: You'll get to experience the Copperhead and its famous "Snake Pit" holes just a couple months before the pros do in the 2018 Valspar Championship.
Duel in the Desert 2018
When: Wed.-Fri., January 31 - February 2
Where: Las Vegas Paiute Resort - Snow Mountain, Sun Mountain and Wolf Courses
Why: Super Bowl Weekend in Vegas is a bucket-list experience for sports fans, and this rare 54-hole event will be ideal for any avid golfer who'll be in town. In light of this weekend's tragedy in Las Vegas, we anticipate this will be an emotional and hopefully healing occasion.
When: Sat.-Sun., Apr. 14-15
Where: Kingsmill Resort - Plantation and River Courses
Why: Kingsmill, long a PGA Tour host and now an LPGA host, enjoys a wonderful setting on the banks of the James River outside Williamsburg.
When: Sat.-Sun., 23-24
Where: Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex - Kampen and Ackerman-Allen Course
Why: Purdue University's two golf courses are the work of native Indianan and master golf architect Pete Dye. The Ackerman Allen course used to be second-fiddle, but after a major renovation it is every bit the Kampen Course's equal.
Texas Classic at Barton Creek
When: Sat.-Sun., July 28-29
Where: Omni Barton Creek Resort - Crenshaw Cliffside and Fazio Canyons Courses
Why: All four of Barton Creek's courses are critically acclaimed and popular, and the opportunity to experience two of them in competition is something few Texas-based competitive amateurs are able to resist.
Notable Local Golf Channel Am Tour Events
Bay Area 2018 Season Kickoff
When: Mon., Oct. 16, 2017
Where: Ruby Hill Golf Club - Pleasanton, Calif.
Why: Ruby Hill is a lovely private club just east of the San Francisco Bay, with a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course.
When: Mon., Oct. 16, 2017
Where: The Sagamore Golf Club - Noblesville, Ind.
Why: The Sagamore is a private club, with a Jack Nicklaus Signature-designed course that was named one of the best new course in America by Golf Digest when it debuted in 2004.
TPC River Highlands event
When: Mon., Oct. 23, 2017
Where: TPC River Highlands - Cromwell, Conn.
Why: Want to try and replicate Jordan Spieth's heroic hole-out from the front bunker on the 18th during the 2017 Travelers Championship? You just might have that opportunity at this phenomenal and popular PGA Tour venue.
The Biltmore Classic
When: Sat., Oct 28, 2017
Where: Biltmore Golf Course - Coral Gables, Fla.
Why: The Biltmore's classic Donald Ross-designed course is relatively accessible, but what's most notable here is the modest entry fee of $130 to play in the event, relative to the normal $120 rack rate. That extra $10 will seem like a massive bargain compared to the value of competing, the "swag bag" and the opportunity to win credit back with a low round.
The Athens Championship
When: Mon., Oct. 30, 2017
Where: Athens Country Club - Athens, Ga.
Why: This private club has 27 holes of Donald Ross-designed golf, and it drips with Southern charm.
Oak Tree Fall Classic 2017
When: Sun., Nov. 5, 2017
Where: Oak Tree Country Club - East Course - Edmond, Okla.
Why: Pete Dye left his mark on this club north of Oklahoma City, with two acclaimed private courses next door to his vaunted Oak Tree National, which hosted the 1988 PGA Championship as well as the 2014 U.S. Senior Open.
When: Sun., Nov. 12, 2017
Where: Steelwood Country Club - Loxley, Ala.
Why: Steelwood's Jerry Pate-designed course is rated every year among the best in Alabama. Being private, not many non-members get to experience it the way Golf Channel Am Tour participants will.
Chambers Bay Open
When: Sat. Nov. 18, 2017
Where: Chambers Bay - University Place, Wash.
Why: Want to walk the same fairways in competition as the likes of Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson did in the 2015 U.S. Open? Say hello to the iconic Lone Fir for me.
King's Dunes Challenge
When: Sat., Nov. 18, 2017
Where: Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club - King's Dunes Course - Sarasota, Fla.
Why: Lakewood Ranch's three courses are private, but the Golf Channel Am Tour will be visiting the King's Dunes layout, a 2004 Arnold Palmer/Vicki Martz design.
Savannah Quarters Country Club event
When: Sat., March 10, 2018
Where: Savannah Quarters Country Club - Pooler, Ga.
Why: This private, Greg Norman-designed course has a number of solid tests in store, including an island-green par three.
Southern Hills Plantation Classic
When: Sat., May 5, 2018
Where: Southern Hills Plantation Club - Brooksville, Fla.
Why: Lovers of the work of Pete Dye will enjoy competing at this private course, which holds Web.com Tour Qualifying events annually as well.
These one-day events are just a taste of the opportunities that may be very close to you or along your upcoming travel routes. Events are usually scheduled a couple months in advance, so winter and spring events should be popping up on the Golf Channel Am Tour website on a rolling basis over the coming weeks. Be sure to check back often!
I'm hoping to play a few events this year, so maybe I'll see you on the road!
Have you played in any Golf Channel Am Tour events? We'd love to hear your thoughts on them below!