October 26, 2009

Tips For Better Buddies Trips

From the winners of Golf Digest's Best Buddies-Trip Planner Contest

Photographs by Cy Cyr & Matt Ginella

Photographs by Cy Cyr & Matt Ginella

1. You want to make sure everybody's on the same page. I want guys who really love the game of golf and keep that as the priority. A lot of guys play golf in conjunction with weddings and long weekends, but to really have a separate buddies trip, you have to make sure everybody's going to treat golf as the most important part of the weekend. —Neil Thomson

2. I want to bring at least 20 guys on my trip, because if you get 20 people going to Myrtle Beach, the coordinator usually gets free golf. What I do is take that money and throw it into a prize fund. I don't really get free golf. —Calvin Weide

3.You have to be tenacious. We went on a trip to Ireland with a guy who had a bad leg, and most of the time we were hearing it's walking only, but there are ways around that. At Royal County Down I found a guy with a golf cart, and they let him bring it on the course, and we hired him to drive my friend for $150. Even at Bandon Dunes you can go get a medical certificate and use a cart. —Bob Sandt

4. On my trip, which is women-only, we like to go places where men have to wear a jacket into the dining room. I think that helps to keep some of the testosterone at a certain level, where the guys are a little more accepting of us, and they learn to enjoy having us around. —Barbara Berwick

5. To make it a real holiday it helps to leave the country instead of just blasting up the road. When you go someplace where you have to get new money, you really feel like you're getting away. —Dave Walker

6. When going overseas, I always arrange to play the day we get there. Otherwise the temptation is to go lie down and sleep, and then your body clock will be off all week. Go play golf; no one is going to fall asleep on the golf course. —Roy Griffin

7. The best way to get on the old course is to go on St. Andrews Links' website (www.standrews.org.uk). The first day you can request tee times for the next calendar year is in early September. I give 'em the whole week we're going to be there. Usually we get times on Monday or Tuesday, and then I build the rest of the trip around that. The Old Course green fee is about $200, depending on the exchange rate, if you do it this way. —Roy Griffin

8. When I research an area, I go to Google and type in "coupons Pinehurst" or wherever I'm thinking about going. There's always some kind of golf-discount passbook. I've stayed at Rufflets Country House Hotel near the Old Course for half price. —Bob Sandt

9. I don't go to packagers. I go directly to the courses in Myrtle Beach. They might have a package with their hotel or their villas, and then you can work with them directly. I've found I get really good deals and I can manipulate the packages to play the courses I like best. I get their price list and can see that on Monday and Tuesday I can play (4½ -star) Tidewater cheaper than on other days. Instead of going Thursday through Sunday, I might go Saturday through Tuesday or Sunday through Wednesday. — Calvin Weide

10. In Scotland, ask the caddies where to play. Ask them for a good course that doesn't cost £100 to play, and they'll turn you on to some great golf. —Roy Griffin

11. When people sign up for our trip, I have them send two checks: one for $100 dated that day and another check for the balance due dated a few weeks before the trip. That way I have their money. I'm not chasing a bunch of people down. And it gives me a few bucks to buy trophies and prizes. —Dave Walker

12. You can have people pay for their own hotel, but when you go out for dinner and drinks, it's nice to just pay for it with a community pot. You don't have to deal with, "What do I owe?" —Bob Sandt

13. My group usually goes in January. It's a dead time of year. Nobody's getting married in January, so it's the optimal time to get out and do it. —Neil Thomson

14. If you find a place you like, stick with it. The people at the resort or the golf course, they'll go the extra mile if they know this is a yearly thing. —Dave Walker

15. Every trip should have a Website. One of my guys runs ours. I don't even have to send out e-mails telling everyone about the trip anymore. They'll check the site every couple of weeks just to see what's new. Through the long January, February and March of winter, the guys really start looking forward to it. —Dave Walker

16. At one point I let the rooming situations and the pairings be a free-for-all, and that just doesn't work. You have to pair people. Maybe one time every three years you can get away with pairing incompatible types, but you can't do it every year. It does result in bad feelings. —Calvin Weide

17. Our group uses a modified stableford format, where you get points for bogeys and better. I didn't want everyone to be too worried about their score. Stableford scoring rewards you for risk, which is a fun element. And they like it because we now have a big scoreboard, but people can't tell what they actually shot. —Barbara Berwick

18. One guy came up with the step-aside for our scramble. You can't ride the best player all the time. If you take his shot, he has to step aside for the next one. The other guys have to go. Instead of maybe four or five teams that are close, there are like 10 or 12 that'll have a chance. It really opened up the field. —Dave Walker

19. To bump up our prize fund, we sell mulligans. I made up one last year, the Golden Ticket: No matter where you hit it on a par 4, you could bring it up to the 150-yard marker and hit from there. They can buy one mullie per nine or 18, and guys are perfectly willing to pay, and we just throw that into the pool. —Calvin Weide

20. Once I had to make a ruling on a dumb technicality in a scramble. It drove me insane. I'm going around talking to my buddies, talking to the pro, trying to figure out the right thing to do. I should have said to the guy who complained, "Don't bother me. If you've got an issue here, how much did you bet? I'll give you your money back . . . and now you can get lost." —Dave Walker

21. My most important advice for planners is, "Don't sweat the small stuff." You have to go with the flow. You have to project a calmness. So something's not perfect or something doesn't work out—it's all right. You just have to project a positive attitude and let the flak roll off your shoulders. —Barbara Berwick