Are you playing too many courses on your golf trips?

One or two great layouts can be enough.
Wouldn't you want to wander through the spectacular dunes at Lahinch for more than one round?

Leisure time is precious. For golfers, the prospect of an escape from the stresses and monotony of quotidian life to go somewhere and play a whole lot of golf prompts as much anxiety as it does excitement. It centers on the question that all travelers - golfer or not - ask themselves:

How can I get the most out of this vacation?

Obviously, this is an open-ended question, but die-hard golfers seem to answer it instinctively, by playing as much golf - on as many courses - as possible.

Makes sense. When I lived in the Myrtle Beach area, I would poll golfers on their trip itineraries, and pretty much every group I talked to was in the mode of playing a different course each round, sometimes traveling 30 minutes or more between courses on a 36-hole day.

While I'm not necessarily opposed to that type of trip, I'd like to propose an alternative.

Quality over quantity, intimacy over diversity

How about a golf trip where you get intimately acquainted with one or two courses, rather than giving four to six courses the hit-and-run treatment?

Here are four reasons why this might appeal to you:

Sweet revenge

How many times have you played a course, arrived at a particularly anticipated hole or stretch of holes and just played terribly? Nearly every time you play a course for the first time, you make mistakes that stem from pure unfamiliarity with the layout. Often it's something like hitting the wrong club off a tee, playing too aggressively on a sneakily dangerous hole or misreading a putt. You want revenge, but on a hit-and-run trip, you won't be able to get it until next time, or possibly never.

Playing a particular course multiple times enables you to exact revenge on a hole that blew up your scorecard the first time around, or gain a better understanding of a hole that confounded you. And if you're the type of golfer who likes to keep score, you can use your first round as a benchmark to surpass on your next.

Subtle variety

One of the highlights of my year in golf last year was my visit to the Abaco Club on Winding Bay in the Bahamas. Part of what made me fall in love with the course was the opportunity to play it three consecutive days. That deepened my affection for the course in a couple ways. First, I got to see different hole locations each day, and on a course like the Abaco Club, where the greens are boldly contoured, some holes changed significantly from one day to the next. This was especially true at the 8th hole, whose huge, complicated green housed a classic "sucker pin" over a bunker one day, and a very inviting placement at the bottom of a slope another.

Second, the winds varied in strength and direction, such that a couple holes played much longer or shorter one day to the next. On a calm morning, the par-5 first hole was reachable in two shots, but the next day, I had to hit a pitching wedge for my third shot because of the wind blowing straight in.

7 Min Read
April 20, 2018
Due to its private nature, The Abaco Club on Winding Bay in the Bahamas is one of the Caribbean's less-known getaways. But non-members can (and should) visit on a limited basis. Here's why.

If you play a course just once, you're at the mercy of the maintenance staff. A particular hole with a fascinating green might have a straightforward hole location, and you might wonder what fun you'd have had if it were in a different spot. Seeing a course in multiple setups can deepen your appreciation for it.

Home away from home

In addition to learning how to play a particular course, visiting multiple times in the same trip can help you get to know the facility in general, which includes the staff. Being seen around the pro shop on consecutive days or hanging out on the patio multiple afternoons or evenings after your round allows you to get a feel for the rhythms of a place, help the bartender dial in the mix of your favorite cocktail and generally start to feel like it's a home away from home, even if you're not a paying member.

Savings

Many courses want you to return for another round, often offering attractive replay rates. Usually, replay rates are for the same day, but some courses allow golfers to take advantage of that discounted rate within a window of several days. Kingsbarns Golf Links, near St. Andrews, knocks 50% off the rack rate for replay rounds, which can be used up to seven days after the first round.

The club at one of England's great links puts a competitive twist on this concept. 1909 and 1920 Open Championship host Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, also known as Deal, hosts "Deal Week" every August, a week-long parade of different events that both members and visitors can sign up for. There are medal play, match play, singles and pairs, men's and ladies events, and there are several visitors who hunker down in Deal for part or all of the week, playing in the events and getting to know the course. For 2018 Deal Week, visitors could purchase a temporary membership for the week - covering all tournament entry fees - for £275, which is less than twice the going single-round visitor green fee of £185. It's an incredible, ahem, deal.

Where to scale down your course rotation

Not every destination lends itself to this contrarian approach. But as food for thought, here are some courses I've played that I would recommend for multiple rounds on a trip:

Lahinch and Dooks - My first-ever trip to Ireland last summer was an eye-opening introduction to some great links golf. Of the five courses I played, the two that I found myself wanting to get to know were Lahinch and Dooks. It's not that I disliked the other courses - Doonbeg, Tralee and Killarney (Killeen). It's that the design, setting and overall vibe at Lahinch and Dooks were so enjoyable that if I could immerse myself in their auras for a few days each, my appreciation would deepen as I spent more time than a half-day or so at each before moving on.

10 Min Read
October 2, 2018
I recently had the chance to spend a few days in Ireland’s storied southwest, a trip that introduced me not just to a sampling of splendid golf, but to a whole new perspective on the game. I didn’t think I could love golf any more than I already did, but Ireland deepened my love.

Lawsonia Links - I played this Langford/Moreau masterpiece late one afternoon in August of 2016 after hurrying down the road from an early-morning round at Sand Valley. Walking the superb back nine during the Golden Hour was a highlight of my golf travels, so wonderful that I'd be sad to maybe only experience it once on a "proper" (i.e. non-scouting) golf trip. Lawsonia has a second course, the Woodlands, and while it looks pleasant enough, it's not much different from a hundred parkland layouts you've probably played. If you carve out a day (preferably two) in Green Lake, Wisconsin, go around the Links again and again and bask in one of America's purest public golf settings.

Caledonia and True Blue - As I mentioned above, Myrtle Beach's dozens-large menu of golf courses naturally widens the eyes of any visitor - How many courses can I play while in town? It's an exciting prospect to ponder, but even in Golftown, U.S.A., the answer may be as few as Two courses, over and over. That's how good Caledonia and True Blue are. Stylistically different but united in their bold shaping and strategic intrigue - driven by large greens where hole location dictates difficulty - they're ripe for a three-day, six-round exploration. Caledonia's par-3 third hole will probably play 40 yards different in length from day to day.

I know, I know - you're only allotted so much time for your golf indulgences, and playing as many courses as possible seems like a logical way to get the most out of a golf trip. Just give this alternative some thought; it might make for your best trip ever.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
8 Comments
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I agree that this may be a good idea for some destinations (living in PA., I can get to a place like Myrtle Beach every year, if I chose), and with so many courses there, some can seem repetitive. But, with expensive, and rare, opportunities to play in places like Scotland (2002) or Ireland, I personally would opt for playing more courses, based solely on the thought that you may never have another chance to get back there (we can't all get our golf travel comped, or reimbursed on expense reports).

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I understand what you're saying, and it is hard to find specific fault with the impulse to play as many different courses as possible on a potential once-in-a-lifetime trip. In a place like Scotland or Ireland, part of the idea of staying put for multiple days is not just to shrink the number of courses you play, but to give yourself a chance to get to know a particular town or area better than you would if you were just trying to rack up as many courses played as possible. Do you think you'd come away with a better sense of, say, Ireland if you played 9 courses in 9 towns in 9 days, or spent 3 days each in 3 different towns, playing each of those courses over 3 days? I'd argue the latter.

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I'm not sure I can trust a writer who uses phrases like "quotidian life" rather than the simpler "daily life". I didn't read the remainder of the article after that assault on my elementary faculties.

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I agree totally although we travel a lot and to play all the courses we desire, we can only play each one just once on that particular trip. We then try to make it back to our favorites at a later date and stay longer.
As members of Caledonia and True Blue, I appreciate what you are saying, two outstanding courses with 36 distinctly different holes.
We also loved Wildhorse, Greywalls, Pronghorn, Pasatiempo, Saguaro, Makai and Lawsonia Links.
I liked Edgewood Tahoe but not nearly as much as the above courses.
The courses along the ocean at Bandon get most of the press and they are terrific, but Bandon Trails is very special.

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A most enjoyable piece to read, thanks! I was particularly struck by the mention of Lahinch and Dooks as worthy of repeated play - totally agree! And Dooks is one of those gems that is a little off the main road, but is truly spectacular for the views it presents.

Commented on

My wife and I traveled to the Olympic Peninsula 2 weeks ago, and I played the same course (SkyRidge) on consecutive days. The difference in the weather made the course play completely different the 2nd day (windy vs dead calm). I'm glad I did that.

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There are a few good courses on the Olympic Peninsula. Why that course.?White Horse and Port Ludlow are gems and Cedars at Dungeness is decent. All better than the course you golfed

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It was close to what my wife wanted to do while I was golfing, and less than half the price of Dungeness, which is practically across the street. I plan to make it to Port Ludlow one of these days, but it would have been very wet on the day we spent in Sequim, specifically to be in the rain shadow. And SkRidge was in a lot better condition than the soggy courses of Whidbey that time of year.

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Are you playing too many courses on your golf trips?