The Smartest People In The Room

In a round-table Q+A, the winners of our Best Buddies-Trip Planner Contest explain what makes their getaways so great

December 2009

Recognizing that it takes a ton of effort to organize a successful group getaway, Golf Digest created the Best Buddies-Trip Planner Contest as a way to give back to the givers. Our six winners, selected from reader nominations, were treated to three days of lodging, dining, spa services, merchandise and golf at the Pinehurst Resort. Senior editors Matt Ginella and Peter Finch gathered insights from these expert trip planners on a variety of topics, including whom to bring, where to play, where to stay, and how to do it all for the best price.


GOLF DIGEST: Let's talk about the most important ingredient in a buddies trip. What is it?

BARBARA BERWICK: It's the people you invite. Secondarily, it's the venue. But to have the right camaraderie among friends, that makes the trip.

ROY GRIFFIN: It has to be the individuals, the right mix, so everyone gets along.

CALVIN WEIDE: See, we're just the opposite because our group is so diverse [up to 30 people], and for most of them it's actually not about the golf, it's about a bunch of guys coming together from different locales and doing their own thing and, oh, by the way, we're going to play golf. There are people who've been thrown out of the group because nobody ever wanted to see them again. But everybody does not have to like each other on the trip. I don't like half the guys I invite on my trip, and it's an invitational.

Barbara Berwick, 51
Marina del Ray, Calif.
Number of trips: 15
Typical group size: eight
Top trip: "Almost Pinehurst" tournament at Mid Pines Inn & G.C.
Roy Griffin, 49
Snellville, Ga.
Number of trips: 10
Typical group size: four to eight
Top trip: Scotland pilgrimage
Bob Sandt, 54
Park City, Utah
Number of trips: 20-plus
Typical group size: eight to 50
Top trip: "Playa Azul Open" in Cozumel, Mexico
Neil Thomson, 34
Charleston, S.C.
Number of trips: seven
Typical group size: 16
Top trip: "Ponce de Leon Invitational" at Sea Island
Dave Walker, 58
Number of trips: 21
Typical group size: 130 to 140
Top trip: "Watson's Springfest" at Bristol Harbour in upstate New York
Calvin Weide, 49
Claremont, N.H.
Number of trips: 10
Typical group size: 16 to 30
Top trip: Myrtle Beach

GD: What's the payoff for you?

CALVIN: The venue. I want to play nice courses. But for everyone else on the trip, it's getting together, enjoying the nightlife, playing some golf if it happens to be nice weather. If it doesn't happen to be nice weather, they know how to entertain themselves.

GD: Your trip is like getting a hall pass.

CALVIN: Yeah, a lot of these guys let loose. For them it's like their one time to be a different person. We have an award that we call You Did What? At the end of the trip, everybody kind of tattles on one of the other guys about something off-the-wall that he did. A lot of times, I find it's the new guys who have the best story and give you the thing that's most memorable about the trip. For the first five years, the guys who won the actual tournament never came back. But the You Did What? winners always came back. That's the part of our trip, the extracurricular activity, that draws people back.

NEIL THOMSON: Similar to what Barb was saying, I'd rather go to a bunch of B-level courses with the crowd we're inviting rather than the best courses and invite guys I don't even know very well. For our trip, we've kept it at 16 people. We've gone seven years now, and everyone has played at least four or five years. So you build these traditions within the group, and there are fewer and fewer surprises. Now there's almost year-round e-mail and chatter about the next trip. Twelve months out, we'd already gotten written invitations out, and everybody accepted.

CALVIN: I wouldn't consider your courses B-level.

NEIL: Well, no, we've been lucky to play some really good courses. We've been able to do it by going offseason: in January or in the dead of summer at a place like Sea Island. So that makes it affordable. Otherwise we'd be priced out of it.

DAVE WALKER: My deal is so different than what everyone else does. We're 130 to 140 people. I can't move this around on a yearly basis. I have to find a course that everyone is happy to play. I have to find a hotel that's nearby. I have to find a price point that's reasonable. Not too far from our homes in Toronto. Food that's OK. Once you've found the right spot that can marry a really good golf course with the price and hotel and everything else, you're going to stick with it. And the numbers, year after year, will prove that it does work.

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