Leaving the comforts of home for the excitement of foreign lands is one of the reasons tourism and travel have grown to a $1.3 trillion-a-year industry in the United States alone.
And with excitement comes uncertainty - which is why travel insurance has surged in popularity as well, covering a gamut of on-the-road disasters ranging from lost luggage to injury and death.
Golf travel carries its own set of potential complications. Golfers generally bring more equipment and have a more concrete itinerary than typical travelers. Older golfers can have difficulty with the physical demands of a four-day, 72-hole schedule.
The insurance industry is adapting. Last year Travel Guard Insurance, a subsidiary of AIG Travel Services Inc., introduced its first Golf Travel Plan, squarely aimed at the thousands of golf travelers who flock to Florida, Arizona, Myrtle Beach or their own dream destination.
Now, golf insurance won't cover a sneak attack of the shanks or the agony of slow play, but it does offer options and solutions to golf-specific vacation problems. It might even cover your bar tab, thanks Travel Guard's "Hole-in-One Celebration" coverage.
Yes, in the unlikely event you score an ace, Travel Guard picks up your ensuing bar tab up to $250.
This may not be the most practical reason to purchase golf travel insurance, but it's been a major selling point for the coverage, according to Travel Guard sales representative Bob Wurster.
"It's just a little kicker," Wurster says. "It's something we throw in to make people more attracted to it. It's happened a couple times where the second I've mentioned it, a customer told me they'll take it."
Wurster says 10 or 20 customers have actually filed hole-in-one claims in the policy's first year. All you need to prove the ace is your scorecard and a testimonial from the course.
A more practical aspect of the plan is coverage for weather-related changes to your itinerary. The golf package if popular during hurricane season, Wurster says. No need to worry about flying down South just to be evacuated; should a category 4 come knocking on your dream course's doorstep, your whole trip - from airfare to accommodations to green fees - is covered and you can reschedule.
And should a temporarily closed course offer you a raincheck rather than a refund for a prepaid round, Travel Guard will cover your loss (some packagers will refund a cancelled round, Wurster says, but some won't). Don't expect a refund if conditions are simply sub-par - say, if your long-awaited round at Pebble Beach is wracked by winds - but if the course won't let you out, you don't pay.
Equipment is also paid careful attention. Most golfers like to bring their own sticks with them on their trip, and golfer's insurance specializes in equipment loss, damage and delay up to $2,500. If the airline misplaces your bags and can't get them to you within 24 hours, Travel Guard insures rental clubs up to $200.
Senior golfers whose health doesn't always allow them to make their scheduled tee time can also get their round refunded should they have complications with a pre-existing medical condition.
"We've had golf outings where the majority of the people were senior citizens," Wurster says. "Some of them had conditions such as diabetes and heart disease that may prevent them from playing on a certain day."
Even if your bags arrive safely, the weather cooperates and your health prevails, you can still take advantage of Travel Guard's Golf Concierge Service, which offers course recommendations and directions, slope and rating information, PGA pro referral services and ground transportation assistance. There is also a 24-hour hotline.
The cost depends on your age and the price of your trip; if you're between 35 and 59 and spending $500-$999, expect to pay about a $50 premium. Be warned, though: Purchase of Travel Guard's golf insurance ensures you'll be swinging for every par-3 sucker pin you play.