I'm a big fan of Airbnb. In fact, not only do I regularly book them for family vacations, I'm a certified "Superhost" myself and rent out a little garage apartment on my property.
But vacation rentals aren't always the best option for your buddies golf trip. I learned that earlier this year when I led a group to San Diego. In hindsight, I should have dug a little deeper into options at traditional hotels and resorts or golf packages.
To be clear, the idea of a home rental is appealing. For buddies trips, it's better to be in whole houses with common areas than having everyone retreat back to separate hotel rooms. You can also save time and money by eating in and stocking the fridge with your favorite beverages.
Few golf resorts are convenient to city centers, so if that's a big part of your itinerary you will be drawn to lodging closer in. You can also find some pretty affordable options if you're not too picky. My group ended up paying about $70 per person, per night, for a big place just a few blocks from the ocean.
But I came away from my trip with some remorse for a few reasons. For starters, Airbnbs are independently run, so there is not much of a brand standard when it comes to furnishings. Some cabinets are loaded with soaps, coffee, cooking sprays, spices, you name it. Others are bare. We were rolling 12 deep in this place, and I made the host aware of that, but there weren't enough towels or blankets for everyone. Some of the beds were iffy as well.
And when we booked it, everyone liked the idea of being near the beach. But we forgot that in San Diego it's not warm in May and never actually went to the beach. It was walking distance to bars and restaurants, though, and some of my buddies got a kick out of using motorized scooters for the first time (no one tore an ACL, thankfully).
We also ended up being so busy that we didn't cook anything at all in the house.
But the biggest drawback was that we were staying in an established neighborhood, Pacific Beach, that had grown hostile to short-term rentals. Local ordinances are evolving when it comes to home rentals (some Airbnb rentals even operate stealthily), and it could put you in a precarious spot. There were signs up and down our street saying things to the tune of, "Keep hotels out of our neighborhood."
Not exactly a warm welcome.
Then, when I checked in, the manager called and warned me that the previous buddies trip was too loud on the porch at night and the neighbors called the cops on them and they were evicted with a heavy fine.
How on earth was this Buddies Trip Captain supposed to sleep at night, gripping his blanket in bed, waiting for his buddies to roll in from a late night out in the Gaslamp District? That was the tensest part of the trip for me. I felt like a nervous grandparent.
Here are a few other things to consider before booking a vacation rental on Airbnb, VRBO or similar:
Golf resorts give preferred rates and access for official accommodations. Consider Kiawah Island. They have official villa accommodations that come with the option for a Kiawah Island golf package, but you also get access to other various resort amenities on the island, not to mention preferred tee times. If you book with a third party, you don't necessarily get to use certain pools and other various amenities and services.
Or how about Bandon Dunes? It's not a cheap place to visit and the accommodations, while not lavishly over-the-top like other 5-star hotels, will still push the per-day golf & bed cost to $500 or so per person. So some groups will book nearby rentals, but the green fees for non-hotel guests are $40-50 more per round and you'll need your own car instead of being able to use the great and free shuttle service on the property. Saving on the front end can often mean more outlay on the back end.
Booking at a resort is definitely easier, and more and more of them offer golf packages that include courses outside their property. Phoenix-Scottsdale and Palm Springs are prime examples. Golf course management companies often partner with local hotels - not just resorts - that provide a little more value.
And don't forget the home rental's checkout instructions! Some can be very detailed and onerous, especially in a large house. The operator will likely ask for the trash to be taken out, beds stripped, dishes cleaned, etc. You can't just pack up and walk out of some of them like at a resort. Due to an early flight I had to leave checkout in the hands of those departing after me.
And keep in mind that you, the booker, can be reviewed by the host. Are all of your buddies mature enough these days that you don't fear them spoiling your online reputation? Consider yourself lucky.
All told, I think booking independently-managed Airbnbs as a couple or as a small family might be a little safer bet than rolling a dozen guys deep in a big place for a golf trip. In meccas like Myrtle Beach, virtually all the hotel accommodations feature full kitchens and there are many two- and three-bedroom units with open living spaces. The convenience of home rentals is paired with the professionalism and consistency of a hotel, and it's a huge reason why the destination is as successful as it is.
More and more golf resorts are wising up to the idea of offering villas and cottages for rent, too. They see these third parties and homeowners getting a piece of their pie, and they also know they have the hospitality experience and infrastructure to deliver a superior experience.
I'm not sure which destination my group is going to next year, but I am going to crunch the numbers and browse official options a little more closely before considering a third-party vacation rental.
Do you prefer to book with a resort or get a vacation rental for your buddies trip? Let me know in the comments below: