The Buddy Rules
A primer on planning that ultimate golf trip with your pals
Illustrations by Kyle Hilton
Few things warm the heart of a golf enthusiast more than a golf trip with buddies, especially one that is well-planned. If it has been a while since you have undertaken a buddies trip because of the pandemic, then your next one is even more important to get right—down to every last detail. In case you need a refresher on what goes into a successful buddies golf trip, here is a rundown, in no particular order, of 10 factors that a trip organizer should take into consideration in preparation for that special occasion.
Who you invite is important
A group of buddies could just as easily visit the world’s worst golf resort and have a blast as it could travel to Pebble Beach and be miserable. More than lodging, food, weather and even the golf courses, the people who come are key. Buddies trips take people out of their comfort zone. They are away from home, sleeping less than usual, playing unfamiliar courses, competing hard, drinking copiously. This isn’t the time to introduce your pals to a friend who might irritate the hell out of them. The trip will suffer because of it.
Establish the ground rules on cost
Chances are you will know beforehand how much you are spending on lodging, golf and transportation. What about gambling, food, drink and other off-course stuff? It helps if the trip leader can give some direction before you go. All it takes is a note added to the itinerary: We eat dinners as a group, and the bill is typically $40 a person, etc. It’s usually easier if one person pays, and the group reimburses that person afterward, although this isn’t a must. One more note worth adding to the itinerary: There will be no quibbling over who ordered what.
Choose a destination that fits the group’s expectations
You might want to go to Pinehurst or PGA National Resort, and you probably wouldn’t get much resistance from your buddies if they are as avid about the game as you are, but perhaps a destination that is less well known might be an option to explore. Great courses always are going to be of interest, and this time around it might be an easy decision to go big (especially if you have been on the travel sidelines for a while). Then your next trip might be about discovering some hidden gems. Find out what everybody wants.
Have an off-course plan
Know the dinner options in advance so that you’re not looking things up and making hasty decisions. In other words, plan the entire trip, not just the golf. Get input from the participants and set the itinerary. It can be amended if you decide on an emergency nine or, God forbid, weather dictates a change in plans, but the important thing is enjoying the time with your friends, not wasting it figuring out where to go next.
Clearly outline expectations
Establish a plan so that nobody is surprised or disappointed with the itinerary. Maybe the plan is to play as much golf as humanly possible. That could mean 36 holes a day—or maybe more. Or perhaps the sentiment among the group is to play 18 and check out some local attractions or good pubs and restaurants. Whatever the case, inform the group ahead of time.
Be prepared to play a lot of golf
Most buddies trips involve more golf than you are used to. Don’t let sore muscles, blisters or fatigue stop you. Stock your golf bag with anti-inflammatories, band-aids, athletic tape and whatever else gets you through the round. Get plenty of rest before you board the plane because eight hours of sleep on any given night during a golf trip won’t happen, and make sure to stretch before and after your round.
Give ample thought to pairings
Make sure you play with everyone else in the group at least once. Also, groups should be balanced. Don’t ever pair four slow players together or four golfers struggling with their golf games—unless, of course, you are trying to deter certain people from joining next year’s trip.
Agree on the competitions
Every golf trip thirsts for a running storyline, which is what makes a competition that extends from the first day of the trip to the last an intriguing option. The purpose—with some cash or other prize on the line—is to give each hole you play a broader context. A buddies trip is the closest many of us will get to living the life of a tour pro. The fun part is seeing how you fare as the pressure builds. Of course, not everyone might agree. Some might not want to grind over three-footers or have rounds taking longer than necessary. Like-mindedness is important.
Don’t stress about how you play
Nobody wants to be around someone who seems miserable. You probably will have at least one bad round. No matter what you write on your card, remember that you are on a golf trip with your friends and not stuck on an hours-long Zoom call.
Research on COVID restrictions
This might be your first golf trip in perhaps two years. The last thing you want to do is discover some health protocols that might keep you from the first tee or enjoying the facilities to the fullest. Do clubs require vaccination or have restrictions on clubhouse entry? What about other considerations, like airline rules or car-rental policies that might have limitations? Just do all of your homework and keep apprised of news concerning your destination as the date gets closer.