January 9, 2021
You have questions about golf vacations, we have answers! Call us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with your travel inquiries – to play, stay the night, eat and drink, or how to become a smarter traveler – and we could take up your topic in an upcoming column. Safe trips!
After months of rescue and golf near my home, I long for a golf trip! I know the safety precautions I need to take when I’m out and about, but what else should I know about planning / booking golf trips during these unpredictable times? – Anthony Simo, on Facebook
Welcome to the club, Anton! As many golfers as you have played a ton in 2020 but mostly kept it local. Travel was limited to say the least.
However, now that the new year is on and the light is showing at the end of the pandemic tunnel, you are not alone in planning a golf trip. The pent-up demand has given way to a flood of bookings at top golf destinations in this country and on the other side of the pond.
During last year’s tightest lockdown, the travel industry leaned back to accommodate consumers, with lenient pricing and reservation policies on airline tickets, tee times, hotel rooms, group packages, and more. This remains the case with some courses, tour operators and airlines; There is still quite a bit of leeway. But the climate has changed.
“These days, the conditions are sometimes different,” says Bill Hogan, CEO of the golf tour operator Pioneer Golf. “But some of the incentives from last summer, when the resorts just reopened looking for bookings, are now fading and for the most part returning to ‘normal’.”
What is “normal” can of course change overnight. And, as Hogan points out, “nobody has a crystal ball”. But while we cannot predict the future, we can provide a snapshot of the present. Here you get a bird’s eye view of the golf travel landscape while you plan an adventurous year.
Round-trip flights from San Francisco to Honolulu are available this week for just $ 200 or less, a bargain price that comes with one caveat: proof of a negative Covid test is required before boarding, to a 10-day Quarantine bypass arrival. Lesson: No matter where you are going, always read the fine print so that you are aware of any limitations.
In the past year, airlines have adapted to a changing situation on the fly and not only adjusted their prices but also their flight schedules to demand. Depending on where you are going, you may only find yourself flying at inconvenient times.
The good news is that the change and cancellation policies are fairly generous with many airlines, and future credits are offered free of charge, even on “non-refundable” rates. However, given the ongoing uncertainties, Hogan says it’s “more important than ever to get travel insurance” for your golf vacation.
In some cases, booking through a tour operator involves additional security measures. Take PerryGolf, a leading tour operator in the UK and Ireland, for example. The company has a contract with British Airways that allows customers to reserve without ticketing until just before departure, a welcome margin in the event that unexpected problems arise.
Pinehurst. Bandon dunes. Sand valley. Charcoal burner. Stream song. Name your world-class golf resort and the story is the same: bookings for 2021 turned out to be gangsters. The discounts are significantly lower than last year. If anything, the prices are high.
Since reservation policies have varied from property to property since the initial lockdowns began, they may change along with shifts in local public health regulations that also affect what goes on in the properties themselves when it comes to issues such as the wearing of masks and meals indoor. Be flexible in this regard as these policies can change between the time you book and your arrival.
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Recognizing this reality, reservation policies at most resorts remain generous, ranging from full refunds on cancellations to credits for future use with no fees. The hardest part about some of the most popular travel destinations is just getting a start time and room.
For example, at Kohler hotels in Wisconsin, bookings for May 1 through October 31 can be canceled up to seven days in advance and golf up to four days in advance. “In view of the ongoing pandemic,” said a Kohler spokesman, “we remain flexible with our cancellation policy and bookings for 2021.”
At Streamsong Resort, a 54-hole Florida hotel, a spokesman said the resort will be busy in January and February, but guests are booking in a shorter timeframe today than they did in the pre-pandemic era – “usually 45 to” 50 Days off, as opposed to 90-180 days. “
Great Britain and Ireland
Tee times on the Old Course are often difficult to come by. This year they are virtually impossible to land with cancellations from 2020 onwards. The same goes for many of the marquee tents across the pond, including all of the British Open Rota courses that Hogan says are “basically sold out” for 2021.
Not that it doesn’t have great golf. The UK and Ireland are full of top notch courses that don’t always make it up the pages of glossy magazines. Hard to find a city that doesn’t have a local playground that’s more than worth your time. Bookings at these seats remain largely open and can often be made at the last minute on the match day. It may not be the experience you originally envisioned, but it does highlight an important point. Just as flexibility is crucial in a golf swing, it is also important in golf travel these days.
“As we get out of this pandemic and the quarantines ease, there will be opportunities for great golf trips,” said Gordon Dalgleish, President of PerryGolf. “At this point there could be a compromise between your pure travel desire and the compromises you have to make to get it. And in any case, the prospect of a golf trip can look very attractive compared to sitting at home and looking into the four walls. “
Josh Sens, a golf, food and travel writer, has been with GOLF Magazine since 2004 and now contributes to all GOLF platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also co-author with Sammy Hagar of Are We Have Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.