How To Avoid Lousy Scores On Your Next Golf Vacation

Are you one of the many golfers who plays worse when you're on vacation?

When I lived in Myrtle Beach, I played with tons of visiting golfers, and about 90% of the time they'd shoot scores well above their handicaps.

Why is this and what can you do about it if you fall into this camp?

Here's our take:

Problem: Long Layoffs. Whether it's due to winter or simply not being able to find time to play, there can be a considerable amount of rust to be shaken off on golf trips.
Solution: Get Loose Before You Leave. It doesn't take much: you can stretch each morning in a hot shower; swing a club in your garage or basement; or practice putting in your living room or office. Any of these will likely improve your flexibility, timing and touch.

Problem: Unfamiliarity with (Tougher) Courses Going from your home turf to uncharted territory can be quite a shock to the scorecard.
Solution: Do Your Homework "Homework" and "golf vacation" are understandably incompatible, but all you need is a few minutes (and maybe a couple extra bucks) to save valuable shots and have a better golf vacation experience. Here's how...


  • Before you leave, scope out the courses you'll be playing using Google Maps' "Satellite view." You can usually tell in about five seconds whether there are a bunch of forced carries, how wide the fairways are, and whether you're going to want to hit a bunch of practice greenside bunker shots when you arrive. Knowing what's out there can relieve a bunch of the stress of actually facing it.
  • On a similar note, if the unfamiliar course you're playing has a yardage book, buy one. They do vary in quality, but they are easy references for when the strategy of a hole is not immediately apparent from the tee box, and even though in-cart GPS systems have improved, they're still not always worth relying on. That said...
  • ...a rangefinder can be your best friend on an unfamiliar layout. And don't just use it to get your yardage to the hole, use it for edges of bunkers, 150-yard poles, trees that appear to be just short of water hazards. There's such a thing as paralysis by analysis in golf, but it's usually best to know what's out there before potentially reaching for the wrong club.

Problem: Ego. You're on vacation, you're excited, maybe you're with your buddies, so what ends up happening? You end up playing a set of tees much longer (and harder) than you would at home and you go for low-percentage shots and sucker pins rather than the 7-out-of-10 strategy recommended by most golf instructors. The result is overly aggressive swings, ruined scorecards and frustrated golfers.
Solution: Check Your Ego at the First Tee. This is by far the easiest way to keep your scores from ballooning when you go on a golf vacation. Simply swallow your pride and play a shorter set of tees than you do at home. Focus on hitting fairways (maybe by hitting a fairway wood or hybrid off the tee) and greens, which you'll likely be able to reach with shorter, easier irons.

Problem: The Scorecard. If things aren't going well, the scorecard can be a constant reminder and stress producer.
Solution: Tear it Up. Off to a bad start? Just close the scorecard and turn your round into an interactive walk (or ride) in the proverbial park. Take the opportunity to hit fun shots that you might not otherwise try, and laugh it off if you don't pull it off. If you find you're getting hung up on score but still want to be competitive with your buddies, play match play. Whether you "shot" 65 or 95, a 1-up win is a win.

Do you tend to play better or worse on golf vacations? Any other advice for your fellow golfers on playing better on the road? 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.
5 Comments
Commented on

I usually play better on vacation as some others have noted. I do a bit of homework (as the author suggests), and on an unfamiliar teebox, I pick a target to hit to...rather than steering away from trouble, as I often do on familiar courses (and frequently overcook). I also am probably a bit more conservative on my lines and carrys. Which takes score wrecking shots out of the mix.

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Use sunscreen at the beach because being sunburned and playing golf is no fun.

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I'm another who usually plays better on vacation -- I'm waaaay more relaxed and therefore swing more freely. Results are usually a big improvement.

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The biggest issue that affects golf scores on vacation is lack of sleep and overdoing the socialising! Cut back a bit and play improves.

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I usually play better traveling, seem to concentrate better on the course I don't know,rather than just hitting shots. 10 handicap

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How To Avoid Lousy Scores On Your Next Golf Vacation