Don’t You Love It When… (The Little Things That Golf Resorts Do Right)

As golfers go, I like to think I’m fairly easy to please.

Give me a fun golf course in decent shape and I’m going to have a pretty good time.

But in the golf world, there’s a big difference between “pretty good” and “can’t wait to go back.”

That big difference is, of course, the little things. Here are a few that bring my judgment of a golf experience from "like" to "love."

Beyond the bare basics that courses do more out of necessity than the pursuit of excellence, the “little things” seem to come from one of two categories: customer service and, for lack of a superior term, “everything else,” which may be beyond the direct control of the course’s operators.

Customer Service
I spent a couple summers caddying and one of the rules it reinforced—beyond the timeless “Show up, keep up and shut up”—was that great service anticipates as well as reacts. At golf facilities, that anticipatory service is what customers love. The best-run facilities have an entire customer service machine in place that takes care of most needs before they’re needed. Speaking of which, Don't you love it when...'re greeted at the bag drop? The bag drop interaction is a handshake from the course. When two or more staffers swarming my car, greet me and pluck golf bags from my trunk, that's the strong, confident handshake I love.

...practice is made perfect? The pre-round warm-up is not a time to nickel-and-dime visitors, so if range balls are included in the green fee (and set up in neat pyramids on the practice tee), I’m happy. If they’re nicer-quality golf balls (read: Titleist NXT or similar), I’m ecstatic.

...carts come with all the comforts? Play enough golf across the world and you’ll realize that not all golf carts are created equal. Now, I love walking a golf course as much as anyone, but when I do take a cart, I have certain preferences, such as:

  • Battery, rather than gas power
  • Ample storage space, e.g. flexible cupholders, a front-middle compartment as well as the normal front-left-and front-right
  • A GPS system where the day’s pin positions pre-programmed
  • Built-in club-cleaning box on the back
  • A cooler on the other side, pre-stocked with fresh water
  • Fresh, dry towels should also make an appearance up front.

...snack time is elevated to an art form? The presence of a beverage cart is nice (especially if there is one on each nine on a busy day), but the rise of the gourmet “comfort station” has raised the bar at the truly upscale courses. A good mid-round chicken salad sandwich? Always a pleasure. Made-to-order sliders or fish tacos like those offered at the luxe Diamante Cabo San Lucas? Now we’re talking.

...there's post-round pampering? On a hot summer’s day, there’s little more welcome relief after a round than a cold towel on the neck. My favorites courses go the extra mile by supplying a scented towel; minty ones give our necks and faces an especially refreshing feeling.

Everything Else
You could technically boil everything that happens at a golf course down to “customer service,” but these are the “little things” that don’t really relate to the golf course staff whom players interact with each day. Don't you love it when...

...the course is firm and fast? It bugs me to no end to arrive in the first fairway on a sunny day, only to find a huge clump of mud on my golf ball, especially if I know the area has not exactly been inundated with rain lately. I know some golfers would rather see unnaturally green grass than have fun on the course, but I am not one of them (you may recall my celebration of Pinehurst this summer). get off to a great start? This is another one of those handshake metaphors. If there's a nice practice area at the player's disposal, why are so many opening holes so forgettable? I love the first at The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC course: a long, straightaway par four that shows you the course means business immediately.

...intimacy? There's something about teeing off just steps away from the pro shop and putting out on the 18th with people looking on while eating lunch that adds a ton to the atmosphere of a golf course. Not surprisingly, the Greenbrier also does this nicely.

...that private club feel? One of the best feelings after a round of golf is a hot shower. Even resort courses, where one’s lodging might not be too far away, do a great service by providing a comfortable locker room where players can clean up without retreating to their rooms.

What little things do you love when you go to play golf? As always, please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
Commented on

Comfort station on the way are always an advantage, you forget the game for some time. Also, the private club feeling after a hot shower is mesmerizing. Overall, you want comfort and above all, luxury.

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Agree with the other comments, especially the locker room and would add...
When they clean your clubs after the round - with a real brush and 'fresh' soapy water. Caledonia Golf and Fish Club did and I enjoyed tipping the guy.

Plaques and markers about the history surrounding the course. The Blue Monster had plaques on nearly every tee marker recanting the then 50-year history of the tourney there. I didn't remember Tiger's eagle at 12 in the 'Duel at Doral' but I do now. I stood one the 1st tee at the Homestead's Old Course to read it was where the first round of golf was played by a sitting US President - McKinley. Adds interest, romance and a desire to return.

Chotchkie items such as ball markers. Like bag tags, they are good memories. I still use my PGA National green repair tool. Simple, brass and a good reminder for me to go back.

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I played Mayakoba in Cancun in February and plan to play it again in February 2015. It cost around $500 for 3 days and I received excellent treatment. I was put with someone each day. It was the first time I played on a PGA tournament golf course. What I enjoyed was that it was not crowded maybe 10 groups on the course. I received a golf bag tag to keep and a gps equipped cart with a cooler of bottled water. I am a revolution golf subscriber and a Jim Mclean golf school is there. I plan to play with a club pro or take lessons when I go next time. I am a 7 handicap player but played to around a 15 on that course. For an extra $800 I will hopefully play for 3 days and get lessons along the way.

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Amazing how spoiled golfers have become. My goodness do you really need towels and pyramids?Sure they are nice but it all costs in some way. Have a range with balls in a bucket and a course that keeps play moving, thats all I need. I then assess the course based on the shot value.

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I usually travel & play as a single. I don't need a lot of help getting out of the car and into a cart, just help me get oriented and ready to play without a lot of drama. A friendly greeting in the pro shop (while they swipe my credit card) seems reasonable and then point me to the practice range. At this point the starter is the key guy; fit me into a group, tell me something about the course I won't find on the website and send me off with a smile. All the stuff listed above is just icing on the cake.

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I like it when the cart comes around at least once on each 9 holes, They provide snacks and every kind of cold beverage as well as iced disposable towelettes that are carried in a cooler. I like it when my sandals are brought out to me as they take away my clubs and golf shoes, clean them and then put them into secure storage until tomorrow, The next day, they recognize you and your clubs are on a fully stocked cart before you finish checking in. The best one of all was where the cart driver went out and bought white wine for me and kept it cold because I'm not a fan of beer. (Loreto, Mexico, Baja California south, BCS)

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Why limit the treatment to resort courses- Golf sadly is on the decline in North America. I play a local course in Wake Forest, NC - I'm seeing more often than not the management teams squeezing every nickel and dime they can out of their operations to what has becoming a a mediocre experience and in particular they've recently added foot golf to compensate for the declining revenues at my neighborhood track- Your point albeit directed to resort golf........I say Semi-Private courses take note create a better experience and they will come. For that matter maybe they'll join and spend more money

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I tend to agree with Chris---I don’t want or need people swarming around me trying to help. However, having tees and towels (and possibly cold water) in the cart and having a club and ball cleaner attached to the cart are definite pluses.

For me, the most important thing that the staff can do is manage the crowds and the course so that you feel neither rushed nor delayed. The closer they can get to making you feel like you are the only group out on the course today, the happier I am.

For example, there is a local course that has a waiting area behind the first tee that is not visible from the first tee area. The starter has you wait there until either (a) the exact time of your designated teetime or (b) the entire hole is clear (in which case you can head out early)--always making sure that the group ahead is at least at their second shot before letting you go. That way, you never feel rushed on the first tee and you don’t feel like you are hitting your first tee shot in front of a gallery. They also have 10 minute teetimes.

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I agree with Chris in that I do not feel comfortable with over-fawning service. I understand, though, that some folks love it. I go to Bandon Dunes almost yearly. If one wants real personal service, they hire a caddie. Otherwise, you are treated great by staff without feeling you need to fish in your pocket to tip for small indulgences. Not Spartan but not too posh at the same time. Free run of a great practice facility is a bonus. To each his or her own, different resorts offer different experiences.

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Two other nice touches: a guy with a wet towel starts cleaning my clubs after the round without asking; and an offer to have my shoes cleaned when I enter the locker room.

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Don’t You Love It When… (The Little Things That Golf Resorts Do Right)