Thanks to John O., Dave S., Tommy G., and the 27 others who commented on last week's post about, "getting burned by golf resort hype."
Today I'd like to cover what you can do to prevent getting burned in the first place, particularly at golf courses that might not have been reviewed yet by Golf Odyssey's secret shoppers.
Sure, a course's website is a good place to start, but I recommend using this "online brochure" only to screen for what you're looking for -- the factual stuff such as your preferred yardage/difficulty, if there's a practice range, a restaurant, locker rooms, etc.
If you really want to know what the overall experience will be like the day you play, take five minutes to pick up the phone and ask the shop clerk or one of the pros the following questions:
1. How are things going today?
This one is purposely vague and potentially bothersome to a busy employee, so their response can speak volumes about how you'll be treated on site. Do they sound happy to be talking to a potential customer, or do they just sound rushed and annoyed?
2. How are the conditions out there? Are there any maintenance issues I should be aware of?
You told me you hate when golf courses don't disclose poor conditions or maintenance, so ask them about it directly. And of course, if the quality of the turf will be reduced the day you want to play, ask if the greens fee will be, too.
3. What is your pace of play like?
Less is more here. In my experience, the more a course has to say about its pace-of-play policy, on-course timers, rangers and such, the more of a problem it is, not that they've corrected it. Be sure to ask about any outings on your target date, too, as they can drag down a normally brisk pace.
4. Are carts required and, if so, are they allowed in the fairway?
Most golf courses love renting carts, so they're often silent about you not being obligated to do so (or that you have the option at certain times of day). If you must take a cart (or you simply prefer it), ask if you can drive to your ball, which makes a world of difference vs. being stuck on the path.
5. Are there any ways to play at a discount?
I purposely leave this one for last. At this point, you have hopefully developed a rapport with the person you're speaking to, and they are more likely to tip you off about their website special, their coupon in the local paper, or even to extend to you the twilight rate if your tee time is "close enough." Note: you're not asking to be given a discount; you're merely asking if they're available. It's a subtle but important difference that often achieves the desired result.
By the way, during your entire exchange, pay attention not only to what the person is saying, but how they're saying it -- how quickly and confidently they respond to your questions or if they hesitate and use a lot of "ers" and "ums." The latter can signal they're searching for adequate answers to sore subjects.
What do you think are the best questions or ways to size up a golf course you've never played before?
Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.