In writing the Golf Digest Ambush, I've dropped in on 16 buddies trips taking place all over the country. Each trip is different, but there also some similarities. The one consistent observation is that the trip planner gets overlooked, taken for granted and abused. And then it's time to start sorting out details for next year's trip. So Golf Digest held a contest a few months ago. We asked that you nominate your buddies trip planner in a 100-word essay. We asked that you tell us why your trip planner, in all of his or her selflessness, deserved a three-day pampering at Pinehurst, one of the ultimate buddies trip destinations. We picked six winners who we considered the Top Gun of executing the ideal buddies trip itinerary. This contest, and this trip to Pinehurst, was to give a little back to the givers of golf.
Our winners each brought a unique perspective to planning a trip based on their core group, their destination(s) and their priorities. We had Dave Walker of Scarborough, Ontario who has been planning a trip of 100-plus golfers every year for 20 years. His group always goes to Bristol Harbour Resort in Canandaigua, NY in the spring. We had Barbara Berwick, of Marina Del Rey, Calif., who plans the perfect all female buddies trip to Pine Needles. They play for green jackets and they don't put the clubs away when the sun goes down, they play night golf with glow balls. Roy Griffin, of Snellville, GA, is a specialist at getting his group to St. Andrews every year and ALWAYS gets tee times on the Old Course. Bob Sandt, of Park City, UT, has found a buddies trip destination deal in Cozumel, Mexico. Neil Thomson, of Charleston, SC, annually leads his 15 friends to an affordable Sea Island in the shoulder season. And Calvin Weide, of Claremont, NH, knows Myrtle Beach like the back of his worn out golf glove.
Here are some of the pictures and thank you letters we received last week:
As one of the lucky winners of your Pinehurst Trip Planners Contest, I'd like to thank you for making such an incredible experience possible. For the last six years I've made the side trek from my annual buddies trip at Pine Needles (we call it "Almost Pinehurst") to the veranda at the real Pinehurst, to sit in the rockers with a glass of wine, watch the players come up 18, and dream the dream that one day it could be me. I'm working on finding a new dream now.
Although my fellow contest winners (and Matt and Pete for that matter) are not as pretty as the buddies I normally travel with, they did not let me down nonetheless. The trip had all the elements I could hope for. The competition was fierce, yet fun. I was fortunate to be on the winning team, albeit carried the whole way. I was truly queen for three days. (Let's not call the other winners this, though.) I can't thank you and your magazine enough for making this possible.
Thanks again for a memorable weekend under the North Carolina Pines. Golf Digest and the Pinehurst resort treated us like royalty. The perfect combination of having a set-agenda (tee times; private dinners; spa appointments), but also keeping it loose and lively (bikes to the Pine Crest; singing with Clarence Levine; nightcaps at the Ryder Cup Lounge; Matty G's tweets; and catching plenty of snippets of Tom Watson's magical run at Turnberry). Everything transpired at the ideal pace--relaxing, but the competitive juices flowed at the appropriate times.
For such a short trip, I truly think all six winners (plus the two captains) were able to develop some palpable golf camaraderie--and we all benefited from the round-table discussion of our various buddy trips.
On a personal note, I have been relentlessly boasting to my friends and family back here in Charleston, SC. About 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning up there, sitting in the 91st hole snack shack with Ginella--eating the recommended "1st Tee" nutrition bar--shaking off some Pine Crest cobwebs, I did not anticipate putting together my career low round! After a ho-hum 90 at No. 4 the day before, my thought was to somehow break 90 on the daunting No. 2. To be able to fire a 78 (with those North-South Am pins!) I was (and still am) on cloud nine! I think Payne would have respected my par-par-par-par finish. It felt pretty sweet--cracking a Heineken on the 18th fairway, moments before sticking my approach to 10 feet . . . I Just wanted to make my Ponce boys proud!
Anyway, what a capper to wonderful weekend of historic golf; good laughs; and friendships born and renewed. That is what it's all about.
From Calvin Weide:
I had a great time at Pinehurst despite my lack of a short game. I'll be popping one of my many gifts, "Secrets of the Short Game" by Phil Mickelson, in the DVD Player. There is no doubt this will get plenty of play over the next few weeks, months, and possibly years while I search for the perfect game.
I really don't want to know how I was selected, but I'm extremely grateful and will always remember this trip as a highlight of my life. Thanks again for the incredible time.
Roy, Bob, Neil, Dave and Barbara--I enjoyed meeting all of you and hearing your stories about golf and your buddies trips. I hope to be hearing more from you in the future. Each of you were excellent company both during the rounds, and after the rounds, when participating in extra-curricular activities.
From Bob Sandt:
I can't even emphasize what a great time I had with you guys at Pinehurst. It was one of the best trips of my life and I have had some good ones! The trip was first class all the way and you all made me feel very special.
From Roy Griffin:
What a blast we had! The service at Pinehurst could not have been better. It took me about five minutes to get out of the accustomed trip planning, decision making mode, and enjoy the pampering. The entire experience was unforgettable, and certainly something I never would have been able to do without Golf Digest. Playing Pinehurst No. 4 and No. 8 was special. Playing No. 2 is one of those life experiences for a golfer that you check off your short list. The caddy bib with my name on it, signed by all of the great people I shared those three unbelievable days with, is a prized possession. I also picked up some great ideas from the others that will be put to use for future buddy trips. I still can't believe I was so fortunate to be chosen. Thanks again for an experience that was over the top.
From Dave Walker:
Hi Guys. I arrived home Saturday night and had to carry my bags into the house myself. There were no chocolates on my pillow when I went to bed and the next morning I asked where the buffet breakfast was and was told there were apples and bananas on the table. Oh God, I am back in Realityville. They expect me to work at work and really looked at me funny when I cracked a beer at 10 a.m. Monday morning. I just wanted to take a moment to thank Golf Digest and Pinehurst for the most memorable time. I will share my story with my guys come December when our web site gets cranking for our 21st Annual Watsons Springfest once again.
As you can read, it was clear we accomplished our goal. We pampered and impressed the best of the best. They deserved it.