We still haven't been able to stop thinking about that tremendous Open Championship finish from a couple weeks ago.
But in addition to the drama produced by the players, we couldn't help but focus on how the Monday finish had affected the fans, particularly those who were there on golf vacations.
Suppose you had bought a Scotland golf vacation package that included tickets to the final-round of the Open Championship, with the (usually safe) assumption that the final would take place on that Sunday.
How would your trip have been affected by the delayed finish - particularly if you'd had a round of golf scheduled nearby on Monday?
We reached out to a few golf tour operators about this issue, as well as the broader issue of potential changes to a trip itinerary caused by bad weather.
Here's what we learned:
In our conversations with some top golf vacation organizers, a couple key points stood out to us:
- Going it alone, especially in times of year that can be iffy (i.e. spring and fall), can be a big risk.
- Paying a little bit more up-front might just end up saving you hundreds of dollars (or time, aggravation, etc.) in the end.
We asked golf tour operators about weather delays and other potential trip-changing events.
Specifically, we wanted to know...
Are people generally ‘out of luck,’ or are there built-in contingency plans for situations like these on your end?
When something like this happens - be it a tournament delay or a rainout at another course on the itinerary - are travelers able to recoup greens fees, etc.?
Regarding the first question, this is where booking with a tour operator can really bail you out.
"We are lucky," said Premier Irish Golf Tours Managing Director David McMahon, "that we have great connections within the golf links and also with the hotels which allows our golfers great flexibility with any changes or events that may arise that are outside the golfers control."
He did add that other major tour operators, such as Haversham & Baker and Perry Golf, have developed similar relationships such that the vast majority of courses and resorts will make any accommodation possible if severe weather threatens to scuttle a day's golf.
That's not necessarily to say that if you don't feel like playing in a little rain one day, you'll be able to get out of it scot-free.
Ann Mabry, Managing Director of Premier Golf, LLC (distinct from Premier Irish Golf Tours), says, "If the course is closed by management, then green fees are reimbursable. If the client chooses on his own to cancel due to inclement weather...green fees remain non-refundable."
Mabry was also able to give us specific insight into the "Monday finish" example, because Premier Golf, the official distributor of Ryder Cup Packages, has recent experience.
"In these type of circumstances we have found hotels, golf courses and ground transportation to be extremely accommodating," she says. "We experienced this exact same issue at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales when the final day of play was postponed until Monday. However, airlines are a different issue and would be the majority of the cost due to change fees and availability, even if using miles."
Indeed: changing a flight can cost you $200 (domestic) or $300 (international) PLUS the fare difference at the time you re-book, which, at the last minute, is usually astronomical.
Now, extra hotel nights don't necessarily come free of charge, either, but securing acceptable lodging on the fly is typically easier and faster for tour operators to arrange.
This is a classic case of the "strength in numbers" principle at work. A one-off traveler, unassociated with any of the well-established tour operators, may end up out of luck if weather threatens to upend part of a trip, especially since travel insurance will not cover delays during a trip due to "known" (i.e. generally in the forecast) inclement weather. This is not to say that hotels and courses actively inconvenience individual visitors in such cases, but we have heard some horror stories.
We'll freely admit that these days, it's easier than ever for travelers to act as their own travel agents by reserving flights, golf and lodging online.
But if you're taking a "big" golf trip, the bottom line is that the companies who make it their business to interact with hotels and courses on behalf of travelers can add peace of mind to the "cost" equation.
Have you ever had "weather issues" on your golf trips? How did you (or your travel pro) handle them? Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.