At some point, you've probably seen stories that tout the best destinations for a buddies golf trip. What puts the best buddies trip destinations over the top? A lot of it comes down to logistics.
Planning a buddies trip can be a time consuming and stressful year-round process. The good thing is, the best golf destinations practically plan themselves. They offer the characteristics every buddies trip requires: Multiple courses and resorts with multiple price points and styles. The best destinations have a myriad of ways to help set up a trip, either through a tour operator or a marketing alliance offering golf packages. This one-stop shopping may costs a little more, but it also removes a lot of the headaches associated with planning. You're paying a surcharge for somebody else (an expert in the market) to do the heavy lifting for you.
Depending on the ages and tastes of your group, better nightlife in one place versus another can be the deciding factor on where you go. Some groups might prefer casino gambling over dance clubs or vice versa. Maybe Topgolf is the perfect mix of drinks, a bar-like setting and golf. They're in most major cities now, although not in every premier golf resort market.
Large multi-course resorts can also fulfill your needs. The mega-resorts with at least four courses deliver various price points and architecture for golf, in addition to different choices for night life, restaurants and activities. They also offer a major convenience: You might never have to get in your car to find somewhere to eat, drink, golf and sleep.
Wherever you choose to go, make sure your friends feel like they're getting their money's worth and not overspending. That will keep everyone relatively happy, no matter how they play. To help guide your group's expectations, I've collected a few of the best buddies destinations, pointing out both high-end and budget options.
Great buddies-trip destinations for any budget
Sandhills, North Carolina
The Sandhills are great because in addition to the historic and famous Donald Ross-designed courses, there is a tidy collection of affordable courses right around the corner. It also has a great mix of styles and price points. You can mix Ross' Pinehurst No. 2 with Dormie Club, a modern throwback by Coore & Crenshaw, and top it off with rounds at Talamore, Pine Needles/Mid Pines and Tobacco Road, a wild ride by Mike Strantz. We haven't even mentioned the other EIGHT courses at Pinehurst yet (plus the Cradle). But the Sandhills' bench is deep and there are plenty of courses around Southern Pines and Aberdeen under $100, too.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The Grand Strand perfected the golf package and even as its image has changed a little since its more bargain-basement days in the 1960s-70s, you can still find great group golf package rates that include courses designed by the game's best architects. You can sprinkle Top-100 golf - notably True Blue and Caledonia by Strantz, Tidewater and the four courses at Barefoot Resort - with solid budget plays to make the trip affordable enough that you may be able to repeat it year-in, year-out like so many groups to Myrtle Beach do.
You don't have to check off bucket-list courses - Troon North, We-Ko-Pa, TPC Scottsdale, Grayhawk - to play great golf in the Valley of the Sun. The farther you're willing to venture from Scottsdale, the more value can be had at other courses like Ak-Chin Southern Dunes or Quintero. And if you really want to play the best Scottsdale golf courses but don't have the $300 or so peak season green fee, just wait until the summertime where virtually every course is well under $100. Scottsdale's endless parade of bars, casinos, restaurants, TopGolf and sporting events (bowl games, spring training baseball, etc.) gives the destination a significant advantage when it comes to entertainment and nightly activities.
Robert Trent Jones Trail, Alabama
Even though the RTJ Trail is known as a value destination, it does offer high-end highlights, especially at Ross Bridge. Groups will love that most of the best Trail stops have short courses for a casual afternoon round. Of course, you can veer off the trail and still play some good tracks that are probably one-third cheaper than they would be in other states.
With four resorts with at least 72 holes (Boyne Highlands, Garland Lodge & Golf Resort, Shanty Creek Resorts and Treetops Resort), this vacation getaway within a modest drive from Chicago and Detroit is ideal for Midwest golfers willing to drive in and then park the car for the rest of the trip at one resort. Many of these resorts also offer unlimited golf packages to accompany long summer daylight. Or you can zigzag across the fingers of Michigan's mitten chasing down an assortment of Top 100 courses. Arcadia Bluffs and Forest Dunes have become architectural hot spots, thanks to square greens on Arcadia's new South course and Tom Doak's reversible course, The Loop, at Forest Dunes. Mom-and-pop value plays are sprinkled throughout the glacier-cut hills.
The end game here is playing Pebble Beach Golf Links. If you want to do it as a foursome with friends, that will requires a stay at Pebble Beach Resorts to lock-in that tee time. I wouldn't recommend skipping either Spyglass Hill or the Links at Spanish Bay, but if you're budget demands, there are still other options: Bayonet/Black Horse, Quail Lodge and Pacific Grove. Driving to the Monterey Peninsula from San Jose/San Francisco opens up arrival or departure day rounds at Cinnabar Hills in San Jose and/or Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz. Just around the corner from Pebble Beach, you can find charming and more affordable motels in Pacific Grove. The top 10 places for golfers to stay on the Monterey Peninsula are here.
Scotland & Ireland
For North Americans, playing links golf overseas is often a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see some famous links. But you can take a page from U.K. golfers, who take smaller trips here and play lesser-known and more affordable courses. You will be compelled to book all the most famous, Open Championship-rota links, but there is always an affordable and likely very charming course right around the corner. As one of our Local Golf Advisors Brandon Webb recently put it, "Courses like Crail, Brora and Western Gailes are the glue that holds Scottish links itineraries together."