Buddies trips are all about the golf.
All other concerns -- where to stay, what to eat -- are secondary. Most buddies trips are serious benders over a long weekend, usually lasting three days and rarely longer than four. Depending on the destination, back-to-back days of 36 holes are not out-of-bounds. It's an easy golf-drink-sleep routine. Rinse. Repeat.
Longer trips, however, need to be more carefully scheduled. Golf every day for seven or more straight days is often too much, even for the most diehard golfers. Don't be shy about taking a day off along the way. The big question is: How do you entertain a large group without getting too many groans? Nobody wants to feel like their precious vacation day was wasted.
Here are 10 suggestions, based on my favorite off-the-course discoveries over the past 15 years. Some of these ideas might even work if bad weather derails your round.
10. Go Paul Blart: Mall Cop style
Driving a Segway might not be for everyone, but I loved it. Numerous U.S. golf resorts offer the opportunity. Segways are easy to ride. After 10 or so minutes of practicing in a parking lot, I was off on a guided tour of Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in northeast Florida, zipping through private neighborhoods and the surrounding marshes and the golf courses. It was a great way to explore the property and check an item off the bucket list. Just be careful if anybody wants to race.
Sightseeing doesn't get the heart pumping for most guys, but it can work if done properly. I've found natural wonders work better than touring big cities and/or museums, unless you're overseas where a day spent in a historic city like Edinburgh, Scotland, or Killarney, Ireland, can be just as fun as a round of golf.
I recently chose to spend a sunny afternoon gawking at the Cliffs of Moher along the west coast of Ireland instead of playing the Old Course at Lahinch Golf Club, a world top 100 course. Am I crazy? You might think so until you see the 700-foot sea cliffs for yourself. They're mesmerizing. The Giants Causeway, another coastal anomaly in Northern Ireland, is equally awe-inspiring.
Hiking the Diamond Head State Monument on Oahu (followed by an afternoon at Pearl Harbor) and the Colorado National Monument (near Colorado's top-rated course, the Golf Club at Redlands Mesa) were great half-day experiences. I've always wanted to explore the Mayan ruins (such as Tulum) when playing golf in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya.
8. Declare a casino day
Casinos are great places for a guy's getaway because they are entertainment hubs not just gambling halls. If you are staying at or near a casino, build an open day into the schedule, so golfers can do as they please. Since I'm not a gambler, relaxing at the spa is usually my first choice. I don't worry about the grief I get. A loose back, hips and shoulders are loaded weapons ready for competition the following day.
You can pay for a show -- I've seen some great comedians, musicals and Cirque du Soleil performances in Las Vegas over the years -- or catch the free show by people watching on the casino floor and at the bar. Unless you're a great card counter, stick to a budget if you start gambling. Nobody wants to lose the bank midway through the trip.
7. Booze and buddies
There's no harm in enjoying a drink or two on a golf trip. That's what makes a tour of a brewery or whiskey distillery popular options during a day off. I've done whiskey tastings and distillery tours a half dozen times in America and overseas. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin was, by far, the best. It ends with a complimentary beer in the Gravity bar, overlooking the city.
Wherever your group goes, don't let the tour turn into a pub crawl. It will have lingering consequences going forward.
6. Get hooked
Unfortunately, I'm not a big fisherman. I haven't fished much on my golf journeys. I'm fully aware, however, how many golf destinations are ideal for fishing. Mexico's Cabo San Lucas, Florida and the Caribbean offer some of the world's finest deep sea fishing. For a small fee, certain resorts will even cook up your catch for dinner that night.
Fly fishing is a specialty of Colorado, Michigan, Oregon and other states. Many golf resorts have nearby ponds or lakes where golfers can cast the day away.
5. Guys and guns
I'm not a card-carrying NRA member, and I still enjoy a good shooting range. It's competitive. It's relatively inexpensive. Major golf resorts such as Sea Island in Georgia, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania, Lajitas Golf Resort in Texas, The Greenbrier in West Virginia and The American Club in Wisconsin (and others) have excellent target ranges, gun clubs and professional staff on site. Chances are, by the end of the trip, guys will be talking just as much about shooting clays as they will about shooting birdies.
My afternoon shooting clays at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic was an interesting experience. I'm left-eye dominant but right-handed, a combination that made line of sight difficult. By the end of the session, my instructor had me in a nice groove, destroying most targets.
4. Get wet
I grew up near one of the largest lakes in America -- Lake Huron in Michigan. Since I don't own a boat, I savor getting out on the water almost more than I do playing a top-100 course. Obviously, a romantic sunset cruise or leisurely boat ride with a bunch of dudes probably won't go over well. There are other, more adventurous options. I've gone jet-boating in New Zealand, whitewater rafting in the Canadian Rockies and whale-watching off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts and Cabo San Lucas. It's likely not everybody will go, but those who do will love the bonding on the water.
3. Get high in a helicopter
My wife won't go near a helicopter. My teenage son is afraid of heights, too. Good thing I've already checked a helicopter tour off the bucket-list a couple of times. These aerial tours aren't cheap, but again, if you want your golf trip to be a once-in-a-lifetime memory, book it. I thought nothing would top my flight over the mountains in Whistler, B.C., until I flew to a peak in The Remarkables range on the South Island of New Zealand. Standing on the edge of a cliff, I hit bio-degradable golf balls into oblivion. Another flight toured the scenic north shore of Oahu, taking off from Turtle Bay Resort. The helicopter used was a replica of the one in "Magnum P.I.," a TV show I grew up watching. That was cool.
2. Unique local excursions
Every golf destination has a local flavor. Get out, and explore it. I've gone zip-lining in northern Michigan and Hawaii. It's a fun activity that doesn't take much athleticism or effort. My favorite excursions tend to be off-road. Art's Dune Tours in Provincetown, Mass., drive deep into the impressive sand dunes at the tip of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The final stop of our jeep ride was a secluded beach on the Atlantic Ocean. What amazing scenery.
The Desert Wolf Tour of the Sonoran Desert outside Scottsdale, Ariz., is simply epic. Participants in the "Firearms Experience" drive a Tomcar -- a sort of hybrid jeep/ATV originally designed for Israeli military use -- on dusty trails through the desert. The destination is the middle-of-nowhere, where you shoot AK-47 and Glock handguns at targets. It's entirely safe and totally a riot. Companies have used the tours for corporate bonding. Imagine what a day off the grid will do for your buddies.
1. Trade a golf cart for a race car
The Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway isn't necessarily my top choice -- the Desert Wolf Tour or hitting golf balls off a mountain are -- but it lands at no. 1 for several reasons. It's perfect for golf groups of all ages and sizes, and there are opportunities to do it at 18 race tracks around the country.
Who hasn't wondered what it's like to rip around the oval at 180 miles per hour? Even though I didn't drive -- that costs up to $550 for an eight-lap "rookie experience" -- my ride-a-long was still a rush. I've never felt such extreme G-forces. I'm glad I wasn't behind the wheel. I'll stick to driving a golf ball off the tee, thanks.