A summer buddies golf vacation is not unlike making your own ice cream sundae. There are plenty of ingredients that can affect how it turns out, but you really can’t go wrong. That said, by adding the following toppings, you can max out the fun.
Whether it’s playing for a tattered green jacket or a mounted plastic cup from your favorite dive bar, a sentimental trophy is more special than any prize money. You can also play to avoid winning something like the Bush League Open Championship’s Sweater of Shame, which goes to last place and has to be worn all the way home and on the first night out of next year’s trip.
“Sometimes that’s more fun to follow than the championship,” says Bush League commissioner Rob Kelly, whose group of Philly high school friends has a pre-tourney Par-3 Contest and Champions Dinner just like the Masters. “Some guys might not have a chance to win, but they certainly don’t want to win the sweater.”
Take advantage of later—and warmer—sunsets
Taking a trip in the winter can be a nice escape, but if playing the most golf possible is your goal, the summer is your friend. Pick your destination wisely—e.g., go north, or to the westernmost edge of a time zone—and you could be playing until 9 or 10 p.m.
Or—and hear us out—maybe mix in a nongolf activity like catching a concert at a famed outdoor venue or attending a baseball game. Kelly says he and his buddies like to take one break from golf. This year they plan to rent a pontoon boat and go sightseeing around Toronto.
Have multiple competitions
Keep everyone involved for the entire time with other forms of action other than your big tournament. “I can’t stress enough how much fun, and stressful, it is to play worst-ball scramble,” says Tony Cherone, who organizes multiple trips to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and is a big fan of tracking greenies.
As for the main event, scoring apps like 18Birdies make it easy for everyone to keep track of the competition, giving your trip even more of a tournament feel. Giant, electronic leader boards sold separately, of course.
Stay under the same roof
If your group is more than four people—congrats, you have a lot of friends!—you’ll be splitting up on the course, but you don’t have to part ways off the course if you rent a big enough house. “It’s the magic of the trip,” says Jim Meyer, who organizes the annual Plastic Cup tournament (they play for an actual plastic cup) in Orlando with up to 16 golfers. “Half the guys are playing cards, some are having a cigar, some go up to watch a movie. That’s what really makes it.”
Turn it into a yearlong event
No, we’re not advocating that you abandon your family, but there are ways to keep the fun going for the other 360 or so days of the year. In addition to a lively group chat, the Bush League creates a variety of pre-trip prop bets while maintaining an active website and social media handles that build anticipation for the next year’s trip.
Not ready for all that? Start with a group holiday party or a pre-trip barbecue. “The original idea of the trip was just to get everyone together,” Kelly says, “but now it keeps us all close and keeps us all talking all year.”