36 ways to save money on your next golf trip

It doesn't matter if you're planning a bucket-list Pebble Beach golf trip or weekend getaway to Myrtle Beach, none of us want to spend money where we don't have to.

The Golf Advisor team has pooled their collective knowledge together to come up with two full rounds worth of money-saving tips that are tried and true.

Whether you're looking into your first golf trip and don't know where to begin, or are a seasoned pro who just needs a refresher, hopefully a few of these can help keep your costs down while not sacrificing any of the fun.

But first, a few places where you shouldn't skimp:

• You can't underestimate the value of a good night's sleep. Make sure you've got comfortable digs.
• Observe the facility's alcohol policy. Don't BYOB and cause a scene.
• Get a big enough car. You want to remain golf buddies at the end of the trip.
• Don't book a connecting flight when a reasonable direct is available. Time = money, and bad weather can cause (un-reimbursable) havoc.

And remember, no one ever went broke because they were a good tipper.

Be sure to tell us your favorite ways to save money in the comments section or tweet us your tried and true tips @golfpass.

1. Make your first round a "warm-up" course

While partially blind, the 10th hole has the largest fairway on the whole Black Horse routing.

Don't book a premium course for your first round, especially if you haven’t hit a golf ball in a few months. Find a pleasant and affordable course with a driving range for your arrival round. For example, Pebble Beach groups should first visit the relative bargain but still excellent Bayonet and Blackhorse nearby.

2. More golfers = more savings

The more the merrier when it comes to a golf trip. The larger the group you have the more leverage you have to negotiate lower prices with hotels, courses and even packagers.

3. Use hotel or credit-card points

Do a little research to determine where your various loyalty points can be maximized. TPC Network properties have a Mastercard relationship, for example. Hilton HHonors, unlike other hotel brands, allow guests to use their points on green fees with partner courses. | (More: A look at the top hotel brands in golf.)

4. What other associations do you have?

Military and seniors often receive extra perks at golf courses, but check with each course for which days they are offered. You may even want to check with your home course to see if they are a multi-course operator with courses nationwide. | (More: MilitaryTeeTimes.com offers green fee discounts for military.)

5. Road trip!

The A83 road delivers spectacular seaside scenery on the way to Machrihanish.

Take advantage of the current lull in gas prices for a road trip to a budget-friendly destination within driving distance. Destinations located near large populations include San Antonio, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Ocean City, Atlantic City and Palm Springs.

6. Coordinate flights so you aren't all taking separate airport Ubers

For those groups with lots of buddies flying in from different cities, just because a flight may be a few bucks cheaper, if you end up having to take a cab or Uber on your own to meet the group a good distance away, you just blew all your savings.

7. Pack smart

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Make sure you pack enough of the golf essentials that you don’t have to buy them at a high cost in a hotel lobby or golf pro shop. Those needs include balls, gloves, tees, rain gear, band-aids, sunscreen and mosquito spray.
(More: How to pack for a golf trip)

8. Look for unlimited golf packages

Reduce your cost-per-hole by seeking out golf packages that offer unlimited golf, which have been a growing trend, especially during non-peak seasons. There are also more and more courses that are offering "all-inclusive" green fees that include lunch, drinks, range balls and replays.

9. Seek out mid-sized cities instead of resorts and big cities

The golf scene in Grand Rapids is affordable, with abundant selection.

Smaller and less tourist-heavy cities often have great under-the-radar golf scenes, with courses not as crowded, compared to major metropolises. Indianapolis is a prime example, as well as Grand Rapids (pictured), Milwaukee, Sacramento, Spokane and Tucson. Not only is the golf less expensive, so are hotels and restaurants.

10. Seek out smaller golf destinations that piggyback off nearby meccas

Mesquite's Conestoga Golf Club is a great value compared to top Las Vegas plays.

Most of our country's best golf destinations have smaller, lesser known destinations nearby with a fraction of the marketing muscle, lending itself to great value. Mesquite, Nev. is well known for affordability compared to Las Vegas. In Michigan, savvy Midwesterners stick to the state's central and southwest areas instead of the resort courses in the north. Santee, S.C. is cheaper than Myrtle Beach and right off I-95. Phoenix's West Valley offers tremendous affordability compared to Scottsdale. (More: Matt Ginella's 10 best budget buddies trips in the U.S.)

11. Bring used golf balls

When you play unfamiliar courses, especially in places like the Arizona desert, swampy Florida or tree-lined Michigan, you're going to lose a lot of golf balls. Keep a good supply of used balls in your bag so you aren't bleeding a sleeve or two per day. | (More: Should you consider lost golf balls?)

12. Avoid courses shown on TV

Most of the PGA Tour host venues open to the public are over $200 to play. It's always fun to see how you measure up with pros, but you're paying a hefty premium for the hype. If they're prepping the golf course for an upcoming event, the experience may be compromised with construction and setup. (More: The best bargain courses in America's 10 priciest destinations)

13. Don't be a sucker for "championship layouts"

If you're not planning on playing from the tips, don't judge a course by its national ranking, whose prerequisite often times requires offering a tournament-ready layout. But there are a lot of pleasant 6,500-yard courses out there. They're often older, more affordable with less maintenance costs factored into to the green fee. | (More: The 10 best courses under 6,500 yards)

14. Look for courses with walking rates

From the very first hole, it's evident that walking is the best way to experience Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point.

They may be tougher to find, but there are still plenty of golf courses with affordable walking rates in top destinations, especially in the Northwest, Midwest and Northeast.

15. Watch the weather in the off-season and pounce on a warm weekend

When high-end resorts within a manageable drive of your home have reduced winter rates, watch the forecast for warm spells and pounce on a weekend when the weatherman is optimistic.

This is a tried-and-true tactic for golfers who live within a drive of Bandon Dunes, able to save over half the peak season green fee. | (More: A beginner's guide to Bandon Dunes)

16. Celebrate a local muni

Munis aren't always the highest ranked courses in the city, but they are usually affordable and full of color. Pictured is Austin's Lions Municipal Golf Course.

Munis can be hit-and-miss for sure, but there's no better way to get some local flavor than a round at a beloved (possibly scruffy) muni. Many of the top cities in the U.S. have at least one interesting, value muni worth sampling, like Papago (Phoenix), Lions (Austin), Sharp Park (San Francisco), Stevens Park (Dallas) and many more.

17. Book a round or two last-minute

If you are planning on booking 4-5 rounds on a golf trip, set up your must-plays in advance, but then leave open a couple days to allow for last-minute deals on other courses, as long as you aren't ultra-picky about your courses. GolfNow is a great place to browse.

18. Scan "value" and "most improved" ratings on Golf Advisor

The term "value" is often a moving target because "hidden gems" don't stay that way forever. Look at a course's value rating on Golf advisor over the past 3- or 6-month period.

You can also check out our "Most Improved" tab that identifies the most improved courses based on their ratings the last three months. | (More: Top 25 courses as rated by value in 2015)

19. Play courses designed by lesser known architects

We can all get a little too hung up on big-name golf course architects. But in most destinations, there are regional and even unknown architects that build good stuff for a smaller sticker price (architect Tom Jackson is a prime example in Myrtle Beach).

20. Play a private club

Often times, a private club's guest rates -- about $75-100 or so -- are more affordable than a destination's top resort courses. See if someone in your group has a club affiliation, or check with a PGA Professional you're familiar with to see if they can pull some strings for you and find a member sponsor. Or, snoop around to see which private clubs are currently offering promotional tee times.

21. Keep "alligator arms" honest

It's inevitable if your group gets large enough that one member will "forget" when it's their turn to pick up the bar tab or pay for their golf. There are plenty of apps now that help you keep track of who's paid for what. Try Venmo, a social payment app, to keep everyone up to date on outstanding debts. The Golf Genius Trip Manager provides an option to keep track of expenses among other powerful tools like handicapping and pairings.

22. But don't let Big Spender dictate the itinerary

One of the trickiest parts of the group dynamic on a trip is finding a budget everyone will be comfortable with. Be sure to set expectations before anyone books their flight. Don't let those willing to spend more call the shots on where to play, stay and eat.
(More: Lessons learned from my first trip in the captain's chair.)

23. B.Y.O.Carbohydrates

In our reviews, we constantly see people complaining about $5 Gatorade on the beverage cart. While we don't encourage smuggling in outside alcoholic beverages, sports drink powder and capsules can be added to tap water to create a hydrating concoction on the fly.

24. Find coupons for meals

Don't be shy about using coupons when you go out to eat. You can get them by signing up online for an e-mail club at a restaurant's web site or through various restaurant apps. One way to make sure you're not missing out is put each person in charge of checking a different social commerce app each day for options.

25. Go midweek

If you're like many Americans, you don't use all your vacation days over the course of a year (23 percent go unused, according to one report). That's silly. Use 'em and tee times, hotels and meals will be easier and cheaper to find.

26. Go between Thanksgiving and the New Year

Even the best golf resorts in the southern U.S. struggle to stay full during the holidays, when travel to the in-laws supersedes buddies trips. Saturated golf markets like Myrtle Beach and Phoenix-Scottsdale are prime examples. Also, flights are normally far less expensive between peak Thanksgiving and Christmas travel days.

28. FORE(X)!

If you're planning to splurge on an international golf trip, check out the foreign exchange rate trends. The USD is strong in a lot of places right now, especially Canada and Europe now that "Brexit" has happened. The pound and euro aren't always lockstep, which can make golf in Scotland a better value than Ireland, or vice versa.

29. Sale rack swag

If you're one of those golfers who must bring a souvenir home from every course you play, find the sale rack. Your credit card statement will thank you. | (More: Which golf collectibles should you be buying)

30. Stay somewhere you can cook a few meals

Wyndham Bali Hai Villas make a great stay-and-play base for golfers on Kauai.

Eating out gets expensive on any vacation. Staying in a condo, home or rental (HomeAway or AirBnB, or hotel brands like Wyndham Extra Holidays) with a kitchen or outdoor grill will allow you to cook food yourselves. If you do dine out, save the leftovers and eat them later.

Another trick: bring protein or energy bars for breakfast. That's a big savings over expensive resort breakfast buffets.

31. Splurge on lunch, not dinner

Golfers enjoy lunch at the Donald Ross Grill Room inside the main clubhouse of the Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.

Dinner menu prices can escalate in a hurry. Instead, pick great spots for lunch and save the leftovers. if you're in Pinehurst (pictured), you can eat lunch and hang in the clubhouse without playing any of the premium courses on the property.

32. Book afternoon tee times

Playing in the afternoon not only saves money on green fees and is easier to book last-minute, but it allows your group to sleep in and relax in the morning after that late-night poker game, etc. (Though in some destinations, especially during the winter, dew sweeper times can be discounted as well.)

33. Play a short or executive course

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Rather than play two full-length 18-hole courses in a day, save a few swings by playing your afternoon round at an executive course. Give your golf shoes a break and play in sandals.

34. Bet for chores, not money

We've all been on a golf trip where the skins pot gets out of hand. Instead of throwing money around, bet on chores, like who will be the designated driver, who has to keep track of scores, tidy up the condo, cook breakfast, etc. | (More: 10 golf games to play when you’re sick of stroke play).

35. Replay to save

If your group is dead set on a few 36-hole days, don't bother playing two different courses. Play the second round on the same course. Replay rates can be up to 40 percent cheaper. (Bonus: You may shoot a low score now that the course is familiar.)

36. Wait until after the round before getting on the beer train

Okay, maybe we've gone too far.

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If at all possible, never use a tour operator. I have organized 4 Scotland trips myself using the internet at half the cost of a tour operator and have played the Old Course, Muirfield and others without paying the tour ad ons. The internet makes it all possible.

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Another big cost saver: For smaller groups, talk an out-of-town member of the group (preferably in a warmer climate) into hosting for the weekend, and use his house for your digs and home base.  You'll probably have to crash on a foldout or an air mattress, but it's worth cutting up to 1/3 of the cost out of the trip by not paying for a hotel room.

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Commented on

Great article GA!

I would also recommend going during the low season.  Places like Scottsdale, Las Vegas and Palm Springs offer Championship courses (top architects, reviews, etc) for almost pennies on the dollar in the summer. For instance, you can play 36 holes @ WeKoPa in AZ for about $125.  Normal rates would be over $400...just please stay hydrated.  My only disagreement in this great article would be to avoid walking...hard to walk when it's 100*. 

Stay thirsty for golf my friends!

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36 ways to save money on your next golf trip