Would you like to tee off in September or October at one of the best golf resorts in the United States? Maybe four to Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or one of the few travel destinations on the bucket list? Better book now.
And that for 2022.
Many resorts can forget about hitting multiple prime tee times in the fall of 2021. You can potentially get out as a single, and you might even be lucky enough to find a midweek spot for a foursome. Would you like to book a trip with big friends for several weekend days at any time in the next three months? Good luck to you and plan to cast a wide net.
Many industry watchers and managers report that the demand for tee times has not been as high in more than a decade since the 2008 market crash. More Americans are returning to leisure travel after COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed or lifted, with many top golf resorts full.
Rounds of golf played in the US increased in the second half of 2020 as golf was considered a relatively safe activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and that growth continued into the early months of 2021. The June was seen as a big test of sustainable growth, as the number of rounds played nationwide in June 2020 increased 13.9 percent year-over-year compared to June 2019, according to the National Golf Foundation and market research firm Golf Datatech. Could this interest in golf be sustained until 2021? The answer is yes, because in June 2021 there was a slight increase of 0.4 percent compared to June 2020. It seems, at least for now, that increased interest in golf may be a new normal.
What follows is a rough year for many resorts, some of which were forced to close their courses at the start of the pandemic. When the game resumed, many potential guests were understandably reluctant to travel. But now, just over a year after they fully reopened, and with players eager to play highly rated courses, many of these resorts are booming.
“Golf already had a tailwind from COVID and then people were locked up for most of a year and now people want to get out, explore, play golf, vacation,” said Aaron Flink, vice chairman president and chief strategy officer at Pebble Beach Resorts in California, home of Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and Links at Spanish Bay. “It was nice to see this recovery, nice to see people on the property again, and nice to see our hotels and golf courses in full.”
Pebble Beach is running a warning on its website about limited availability and long wait times for booking calls. The resort’s three main golf courses are each featured in the top 100 on Golfweek’s list of the country’s best resort courses, including # 1 Pebble Beach Golf Links. Flink said the famous course – host of six previous US Open – never really has a shortage of players on its tee. But even with that in mind, the course – which, according to Flink, typically hosts more than 60,000 laps a year – has its busiest season since the 2008 recession. The resort is also home to a newly renovated short course, the Hay, which is designed by Tiger Woods.
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“We keep telling people if you want to come to Pebble, book your trip now,” said Flink. “If you want to be here in summer or fall, now is the time to start planning for ’22.”
The resort operates 495 guest rooms in its three hotels – The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay, and Casa Palmero – enough to accommodate all players in its three main courts. However, availability in one of these rooms with an accompanying start time on the weekend is extremely limited according to the resort’s online booking calendar.
A free place is around the winter holidays. Rooms will be available for the last two weeks of 2021 and the first two weeks of 2022, and Flink said the resort’s Pacific Ocean location allows for reasonable and consistent winter weather. December 22nd to January 5th could be the best option to play Pebble Beach for months.
Flink called it a “post-COVID gold rush,” saying that overall round demand in the resort’s top three 18s includes an increased percentage of first-time guests. And it’s almost entirely domestic travelers who fill the tees – in a normal year, Pebble Beach could have 10 percent or a little more of its guests from other countries, Flink said, but now the resort draws almost entirely US players. As international recreational traffic picks up, demand in Pebble Beach is likely to grow even higher.
It’s a similar story along the Pacific coast at another top golf destination, Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Like Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes has a website warning of extremely high phone calls from people looking to book golf vacations. Bandon Dunes is home to five of the top 10 courses on Golf Week’s Top List of Top Resort Layouts in the United States
“We’re seeing record-breaking occupancy rates and rounds of golf throughout 2021, even with 24 new guest rooms that we opened on August 1st,” said Don Crowe, general manager of Bandon Dunes. “This demand will continue until 2022 based on early booking trends and a high volume of calls to our reservations department. For larger groups with several overnight stays, we recommend starting the booking process at least a year in advance. “
The same thing happens across the country in the top resorts. Take a Midwestern example: Destination Kohler, Wisconsin – host of the Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits this month and home to four world-class golf courses – has a website warning of unprecedented phone calls and advising guests to use its new online booking system .
The same is true in the southeast. Craig Falanga, Director of Sales and Marketing at Streamsong Resort in Florida, said the destination’s three golf courses are seeing strong demand as early as April 2022, following record numbers month after month. Streamsong is home to three golf courses – the Red, Blue, and Black – all of which are in the top 25 of Golfweek’s list of Best Resort Courses.
“I would definitely agree with you that people have to book earlier than usual as buddy golf trips seem more popular than ever,” Falanga said in an email.
The message is clear: If you want to bring a group of players to a top golf destination with great accommodations in 2022, you have to plan now.