Golf vacations priced under par
With the resort industry reeling from the recession, golfers can find bargains.
Golf course owners are still searching for the green -- and that could be good news for vacationing golfers.
After ticking down 1.8% in 2008, the number of rounds of golf played in 2009 inched south another 0.6%, according to the National Golf Foundation. Some states saw steeper declines: South Carolina, with well-known golfing destinations in Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, saw 4.3% fewer rounds of golf played last year than in 2008, and golf rounds fell 12.8% in Hawaii.
The drop-off in business could add up to some good last-minute deals for consumers, says Bob Bruns, associate director of the PGA Golf Management program at Methodist University. Already, a few well-known golf destinations are seeing lower hotel prices, from Myrtle Beach, where average hotel rates are down 9%, to Phoenix, where they're down 10%, according to Travelocity. Vacationers can also expect to see hotels offering free perks like spa or dining credits, says Jeanenne Tornatore, a spokeswoman for Orbitz.
For avid golfers, the most critical part of planning a vacation is getting in as many rounds as possible -- so book your tee times first, says John Dekker, a travel agent with Surf City Travel in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Here are some tips for getting a good deal on a golfing getaway:
Think big. Because so many golf courses are offering promotions right now, this could be the best summer to book a trip to a destination where you can play multiple courses, Bruns says. Some private clubs will offer day passes or short-term "memberships," so travelers can look beyond public courses, he says. Official tourism sites for golfing destinations like Myrtle Beach often provide links to package deals, says Anne Banas, a spokeswoman for SmarterTravel.com.
Think off-peak. If you can stand the heat, you can find good deals at warm-weather golf destinations during the summer, Dekker says. Try Florida, Arizona and especially Las Vegas, where excess hotel inventory means travelers can find four- or five-star hotels for less than $100 a night, Tornatore says. "People don't typically think of Vegas as a big golf destination, but there are some pretty great courses," plus lots for non-golfers to do, she says.
If you prefer to stay cool, try golfing in the mountains. In Colorado and parts of New England, "ski is their peak, so they're going to have some good deals," Banas says. Places like Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge in Colorado should offer off-peak pricing, Tornatore says. Last-minute planners should be as flexible as possible on exactly where and when to travel, and consider traveling on weekdays.
Think international. With the euro in decline, golfers could consider courses in Spain or Portugal. Prices for several highly rated golf courses in Lisbon start around 50 euros (currently about $62) a round, or 200 euros for five-round packages, offered through local hotels.
If you've got your heart set on playing St. Andrews in Scotland, consider going later. It stays light late in northern Europe, so you could get in a full game with even a 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. tee time, Dekker says. You'll pay 35% or 40% less, and you may be able to book with less notice, he says.
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