Don’t You Love It When… (The Little Things That Golf Resorts Do Right)

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As golfers go, I like to think I’m fairly easy to please.

Give me a fun golf course in decent shape and I’m going to have a pretty good time.

But in the golf world, there’s a big difference between “pretty good” and “can’t wait to go back.”

That big difference is, of course, the little things. Here are a few that bring my judgment of a golf experience from "like" to "love."

Beyond the bare basics that courses do more out of necessity than the pursuit of excellence, the “little things” seem to come from one of two categories: customer service and, for lack of a superior term, “everything else,” which may be beyond the direct control of the course’s operators.

Customer Service

I spent a couple summers caddying and one of the rules it reinforced—beyond the timeless “Show up, keep up and shut up”—was that great service anticipates as well as reacts. At golf facilities, that anticipatory service is what customers love. The best-run facilities have an entire customer service machine in place that takes care of most needs before they’re needed. Speaking of which, Don't you love it when...'re greeted at the bag drop? The bag drop interaction is a handshake from the course. When two or more staffers swarming my car, greet me and pluck golf bags from my trunk, that's the strong, confident handshake I love.

...practice is made perfect? The pre-round warm-up is not a time to nickel-and-dime visitors, so if range balls are included in the green fee (and set up in neat pyramids on the practice tee), I’m happy. If they’re nicer-quality golf balls (read: Titleist NXT or similar), I’m ecstatic.

...carts come with all the comforts? Play enough golf across the world and you’ll realize that not all golf carts are created equal. Now, I love walking a golf course as much as anyone, but when I do take a cart, I have certain preferences, such as:

  • Battery, rather than gas power
  • Ample storage space, e.g. flexible cupholders, a front-middle compartment as well as the normal front-left-and front-right
  • A GPS system where the day’s pin positions pre-programmed
  • Built-in club-cleaning box on the back
  • A cooler on the other side, pre-stocked with fresh water
  • Fresh, dry towels should also make an appearance up front.

If I'm going to ride during a round of golf, I might as well be maximally informed. (ClubCar)

...snack time is elevated to an art form? The presence of a beverage cart is nice (especially if there is one on each nine on a busy day), but the rise of the gourmet “comfort station” has raised the bar at the truly upscale courses. A good mid-round chicken salad sandwich? Always a pleasure. Made-to-order sliders or fish tacos like those offered at the luxe Diamante Cabo San Lucas? Now we’re talking.

This snack bar is more run-of-the-mill than we love. Like? Sure. (CK Golf Solutions)

...there's post-round pampering? On a hot summer’s day, there’s little more welcome relief after a round than a cold towel on the neck. My favorites courses go the extra mile by supplying a scented towel; minty ones give our necks and faces an especially refreshing feeling.

Everything Else

You could technically boil everything that happens at a golf course down to “customer service,” but these are the “little things” that don’t really relate to the golf course staff whom players interact with each day. Don't you love it when...

...the course is firm and fast? It bugs me to no end to arrive in the first fairway on a sunny day, only to find a huge clump of mud on my golf ball, especially if I know the area has not exactly been inundated with rain lately. I know some golfers would rather see unnaturally green grass than have fun on the course, but I am not one of them (you may recall my celebration of Pinehurst this summer). get off to a great start? This is another one of those handshake metaphors. If there's a nice practice area at the player's disposal, why are so many opening holes so forgettable? I love the first at The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC course: a long, straightaway par four that shows you the course means business immediately.

...intimacy? There's something about teeing off just steps away from the pro shop and putting out on the 18th with people looking on while eating lunch that adds a ton to the atmosphere of a golf course. Not surprisingly, the Greenbrier also does this nicely.

...that private club feel? One of the best feelings after a round of golf is a hot shower. Even resort courses, where one’s lodging might not be too far away, do a great service by providing a comfortable locker room where players can clean up without retreating to their rooms.

What little things do you love when you go to play golf? As always, please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Dec 09, 2014

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Fred Lens's avatar
Fred Lens wrote at 2014-12-15 07:44:15+00:00:

Comfort station on the way are always an advantage, you forget the game for some time. Also, the private club feeling after a hot shower is mesmerizing. Overall, you want comfort and above all, luxury.

Slammin' Steve's avatar
Slammin' Steve wrote at 2014-12-10 21:58:41+00:00:

Agree with the other comments, especially the locker room and would add...

When they clean your clubs after the round - with a real brush and 'fresh' soapy water. Caledonia Golf and Fish Club did and I enjoyed tipping the guy.

Plaques and markers about the history surrounding the course. The Blue Monster had plaques on nearly every tee marker recanting the then 50-year history of the tourney there. I didn't remember Tiger's eagle at 12 in the 'Duel at Doral' but I do now. I stood one the 1st tee at the Homestead's Old Course to read it was where the first round of golf was played by a sitting US President - McKinley. Adds interest, romance and a desire to return.

Chotchkie items such as ball markers. Like bag tags, they are good memories. I still use my PGA National green repair tool. Simple, brass and a good reminder for me to go back.

Tim's avatar
Tim wrote at 2014-12-10 05:44:08+00:00:

I played Mayakoba in Cancun in February and plan to play it again in February 2015. It cost around $500 for 3 days and I received excellent treatment. I was put with someone each day. It was the first time I played on a PGA tournament golf course. What I enjoyed was that it was not crowded maybe 10 groups on the course. I received a golf bag tag to keep and a gps equipped cart with a cooler of bottled water. I am a revolution golf subscriber and a Jim Mclean golf school is there. I plan to play with a club pro or take lessons when I go next time. I am a 7 handicap player but played to around a 15 on that course. For an extra $800 I will hopefully play for 3 days and get lessons along the way.

Max's avatar
Max wrote at 2014-12-10 02:33:33+00:00:

Amazing how spoiled golfers have become. My goodness do you really need towels and pyramids?Sure they are nice but it all costs in some way. Have a range with balls in a bucket and a course that keeps play moving, thats all I need. I then assess the course based on the shot value.

Mark's avatar
Mark wrote at 2014-12-10 01:07:44+00:00:

I usually travel & play as a single. I don't need a lot of help getting out of the car and into a cart, just help me get oriented and ready to play without a lot of drama. A friendly greeting in the pro shop (while they swipe my credit card) seems reasonable and then point me to the practice range. At this point the starter is the key guy; fit me into a group, tell me something about the course I won't find on the website and send me off with a smile. All the stuff listed above is just icing on the cake.

Marguerite's avatar
Marguerite wrote at 2014-12-10 00:59:23+00:00:

I like it when the cart comes around at least once on each 9 holes, They provide snacks and every kind of cold beverage as well as iced disposable towelettes that are carried in a cooler. I like it when my sandals are brought out to me as they take away my clubs and golf shoes, clean them and then put them into secure storage until tomorrow, The next day, they recognize you and your clubs are on a fully stocked cart before you finish checking in. The best one of all was where the cart driver went out and bought white wine for me and kept it cold because I'm not a fan of beer. (Loreto, Mexico, Baja California south, BCS)

Jeff's avatar
Jeff wrote at 2014-12-10 00:36:47+00:00:

Why limit the treatment to resort courses- Golf sadly is on the decline in North America. I play a local course in Wake Forest, NC - I'm seeing more often than not the management teams squeezing every nickel and dime they can out of their operations to what has becoming a a mediocre experience and in particular they've recently added foot golf to compensate for the declining revenues at my neighborhood track- Your point albeit directed to resort golf........I say Semi-Private courses take note create a better experience and they will come. For that matter maybe they'll join and spend more money

Adam's avatar
Adam wrote at 2014-12-09 20:43:36+00:00:

I tend to agree with Chris---I don’t want or need people swarming around me trying to help. However, having tees and towels (and possibly cold water) in the cart and having a club and ball cleaner attached to the cart are definite pluses.

For me, the most important thing that the staff can do is manage the crowds and the course so that you feel neither rushed nor delayed. The closer they can get to making you feel like you are the only group out on the course today, the happier I am.

For example, there is a local course that has a waiting area behind the first tee that is not visible from the first tee area. The starter has you wait there until either (a) the exact time of your designated teetime or (b) the entire hole is clear (in which case you can head out early)--always making sure that the group ahead is at least at their second shot before letting you go. That way, you never feel rushed on the first tee and you don’t feel like you are hitting your first tee shot in front of a gallery. They also have 10 minute teetimes.

John Corman's avatar
John Corman wrote at 2014-12-09 18:06:44+00:00:

I agree with Chris in that I do not feel comfortable with over-fawning service. I understand, though, that some folks love it. I go to Bandon Dunes almost yearly. If one wants real personal service, they hire a caddie. Otherwise, you are treated great by staff without feeling you need to fish in your pocket to tip for small indulgences. Not Spartan but not too posh at the same time. Free run of a great practice facility is a bonus. To each his or her own, different resorts offer different experiences.

Tom's avatar
Tom wrote at 2014-12-09 17:31:27+00:00:

Two other nice touches: a guy with a wet towel starts cleaning my clubs after the round without asking; and an offer to have my shoes cleaned when I enter the locker room.

Chris's avatar
Chris wrote at 2014-12-09 16:59:08+00:00:

There is a fine line between great customer service and excessive "service". I prefer a more laid back experience where the staff makes you feel welcome (Pine Needles and Whistling Straits/Irish Course come to mind) and like a "member for the day". I abhor "two or more staffers swarming my car" at the bag drop or descending on my cart or bag at the end of the round feverishly wiping down my irons and generally being a nuisance.

A friendly starter with scorecards, yardage books, perhaps divot tools/ball marks and some general advice on how to best enjoy the round are always welcome.

Gates Whiteley's avatar
Gates Whiteley wrote at 2014-12-09 16:43:33+00:00:

A course I play regularly here in San Antonio, TX meets all the criteria noted in this article...and that course is.........The Palmer at La Cantera Resort.

Right now the greens are the best and the fastest in town. They let them go dormant and when burmuda is allowed to go dormant, you want to keep the ball below the hole.

TK's avatar
TK wrote at 2014-12-09 16:27:06+00:00:

Great article guys,

Last time I played @ the Boulders in Cave Creek, AZ (I believe - just outside of Scottsdale) they had misters on the cart to keep us cool in the summertime heat.

Also, @ Farm Links in Sylicauga, AL you are treated as family. Towels, the best in golf carts, free food / snacks / non-alcoholic drinks / Blue grass music @ the Clubhouse and all day play at one of the best courses I have ever played at (Played Pebble / Southern Hills, etc). Family owned and just fantastic.

Just my 3 cents. Merry Christmas to all


John O'Connell's avatar
John O'Connell wrote at 2014-12-09 16:24:43+00:00:

Yes, I like the mango-scented iced towels at the Boulders in summer - where, if you offer the staff a tip they turn it down because their service is included - and the air-conditioned golf carts at Kierland.

Thom Watson's avatar
Thom Watson wrote at 2014-12-09 15:49:49+00:00:

I think the Peninsula just south of Gulf Shores Alabama rounds up the likes and dislikes I've read so far from above. They greet you with young College golfers co-opting with the course and from there the hospitality gets better. The tee times are at 10 minutes, they have cold apples on the first tee box of each nine, cold towels during the summer at just the right intervals, the greens are always smooth and fairways are great when you're in them because if you're not the course will remind you you're there to play golf, most days there is a cooling gulf breeze that keeps you focused and at the end of the round the 19th hole is a great place to reminisce and recall shots.

Simon Parker's avatar
Simon Parker wrote at 2014-12-09 14:17:43+00:00:

Totally Agree with Adam. Our first ever round in Belek in Turkey at the TAT course. They had overbooked the course with 5 minute tee intervals so we tee'd off on the first and found 3 groups waiting on the 2nd tee and another starting to play the hole. After 6 hours we blundered up the 18th in the dark to the clubhouse. Not impressed

Never been back to the TAT and must admit that the rest of the Belek courses are nothing like that, as proved by the fact that we have returned to turkey the next couple of years after that.

Ģarrett's avatar
Ģarrett wrote at 2014-12-09 14:02:23+00:00:

1. A course with no rangers telling each group to pick up the pace three times each side. I always feel like I'm sitting in a restaurant where they're trying to turn the table. Rather, a course if you experience a problem or slow play ahead you can place a call to the pro shop for help and resolution. 2. A few tees on the driving range and the First Tee (scorecards too, for those who don't swing through the Pro Shop until after warming up or those who hit too many drivers/fairway woods/hybrids on the practice tee and need to reload on tees. Scorecards for an extra collectors edition, scorecard that was forgotten in the Pro Shop, etc. 3. Courses with no visible tee sheet and a well orchestrated Starter. Who gets everyone off with ease, no spats on the first tee no matter if some groups want to hit balls, chip and putt or a group just wants to head directly to the first tee and let it fly.

Jay Brignac's avatar
Jay Brignac wrote at 2014-12-09 13:55:32+00:00:

How about starting on time! Even with a 7/8 min spacing, get the golfers out and work the course to keep everyone on time.

How about letting everyone know what is the expected pace of play? Sometimes it's written, but few golf course employees like to discuss it. Even if it's a 20 minute apart spacing, someone is bound to slow up a course if the pace of play isn't discussed. (20 minutes will be too slow for me). True customer service is pleasantly discussing it at check-in, at the starter... get the golfers thinking, we are playing golf today.

The Old Course, their goal is 3:57 hrs. Love it or not, it's all about the course, then you have time to sit and reminisce. Please, golf is hard enough without the start and stop on course.

Mike Phillips's avatar
Mike Phillips wrote at 2014-12-09 13:40:39+00:00:

A bag tag from the golf course is a nice touch, especially if your name is engraved. I have collected these bag tags from courses I have played and surprisingly enough I remember them better and would definitely play again. A great example is Valhalla. My group played there this summer and it was a great experience.

Adam's avatar
Adam wrote at 2014-12-09 13:34:12+00:00:

Reasonable distances between teetimes.

I've seen a course that alternates every other teetime as 7 min/8min. I've never been back.

I think 10 minutes is reasonable (which is fairly common at good courses)---and I've heard of teetimes as far apart as 20 minutes (but you pay for it in your greens fee).

Tim Gavrich

Senior Writer

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.