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One of the best things about golf is the travel aspect of the game because all golf courses are different.
Whether you play in the mountains, the desert or the Carolina low country, every golf course has its own identity. Each golf course architect creates his own spin as he routes the course through a particular terrain. The golfer experiences different views, grasses, yardages, lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, salt marshes, elevations and challenges as he plays the round.
Travel golf adds a fabulous dimension to the game, especially if you go with a group of friends.
Each year, my husband Gene and our friends, Bonnie and Dick Giehl, plan a fall couples’ trip. We rotate among Pinehurst, Wyboo Plantation (near Lake Marion), and Charleston, S.C. This fall we went to Charleston and had an outstanding three days of golf and camaraderie.
For those who have not visited that beautiful old town, I urge you to put it on the calendar. Museums, art galleries, gracious old homes, antique stores, historic sites including the Hunley, the first combat submarine to sink an enemy ship.
The Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum is a must. You can takes tours of the USS Yorktown (aircraft carrier), the USS Clamagore (submarine) and the USS Laffey (destroyer) and see dozens of other historic planes and memorials.
There are many ways to handle a great golf trip, but here are a few tips gleaned from our 10 years of running these events.
1. Keep it simple so everyone, low and high handicappers alike, has a good time. A couples golf trip is not the U.S. Open and a single-digit handicapper might be married to a gal who is a new golfer. The competition should be low key and fun so everyone can enjoy it.
Our couples’ golf trips are always scored by a modified Stableford system. Points are awarded for gross scores only. A double bogey is worth ½ point; a bogey, one point; pars, two points; birdies, four points; eagles, eight points. Depending on your handicap, you are expected to get so many points. If you are over, you have a plus score; under, you get a minus score.
This system speeds up play because when players have more than a double bogey on a hole, they can pick up. This system makes the high handicappers feel good when they get their minimum points (4) and move into the plus column for the tournament.
At the end of each round, point requirements are adjusted for each player depending on how many points she was plus or minus. The maximum anyone can move is +3 or -3.
2. Know the courses you will play and use the appropriate tees. If the women’s course is much longer than the one they usually play, have them tee it up at the front of the ladies’ tee box. Same with the men. Put them on shorter tees if it will make the game more enjoyable.
3. Give out as many prizes as possible. We have team and individual prizes each day for first, second and third. We play men against women as a group and that builds excitement each day as the total points shift up and down. There’s a lot of teasing that goes on from both sides and it’s fun, fun, fun.
4. Plan for three days of golf with a two-night stay somewhere within a three-hour drive. Schedule the tee time in the afternoon of the first day and in the morning of the third day. Folks can drive, have lunch and go out on the links. Day two gives everyone time to rest up and explore the area if the tee times are set at mid-morning.
5. Go during the week. Courses are less crowded and fees are cheaper. Traffic is minimal.
6. Pick a motel that is centrally located to where you want to play. Most motels will arrange a golf package for your group that includes lodging and golf. Ask them for a meeting room or a suite so you’ll have a place to gather after golf or before dinner. Some participants might bring snacks and appetizers or a deck of cards.
7. Find two great restaurants and make reservations for the group on the first and second night. We’ve tried it both ways (leaving everyone to make her own dining arrangements and us making the reservations) and we find that making reservations for the entire group works best. If anyone wants to go out on her own or order room service, she lets us know.
On this trip, we ate at Graze, a restaurant where Michael Karkut is the owner and chef. His parents, John and Barbara Karkut, live in Ocean Isle Beach. It had a different menu with outstanding food including horseradish-crusted salmon and chicken liver mousse.
The second night we dined at Waters Edge on Shem Creek. The restaurant is right on the water and has great seafood and beef dishes, including shrimp and grits and country fried steak.
8. Communication is the key. The sign-up is posted for the whole community and emails let everyone know what’s happening and what it’s all about. Directions to the motel, the golf courses and the restaurants are given to everyone before the event.
9. Don’t charge too much for the tournament. We put in $20 per person and that gets divided up for team and individual prizes and the “battle of the sexes.” By the way, out of the 10 years we have been going on couples golf trips, the women have won the overall eight times. The trip is about bragging rights not about making a pile of money.
10. Go somewhere that has other attractions and some couples will arrive early, others will stay a few extra days.
The golf in Charleston is fabulous. On this trip we played Dunes West, Stono Ferry and Patriots Point.
Dunes West is on Wagner Creek with a pretty clubhouse and wonderful live oaks with curtains of Spanish moss. Gene and I went to a wedding there years ago.
Stono Ferry was named the 2011 South Carolina Golf Course of the Year. The course is built on the site of a Revolutionary War battle. Cannon and historic signs are on several holes of the back nine.
Patriots Point Golf Club is right on Charleston Harbor. Big ships pass as you play and the skyline of Charleston is just across the water.
So plan a trip somewhere this fall or winter. Make it close, make it simple, make it reasonable and you’ll have a great time.
Golf Gab ponderisms
Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?
Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Did you ever notice that since everyone has a camera in their cellphone and everyone has a cellphone with them all of the time, there are no more reports of UFOs?
If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him?
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com.