While playing golf can be fun, I have to admit that it takes some planning to get onto the course. For those whimsical and impulsive folks who like to just pop up, show up and do things on the fly, a golf outing might either require a high degree of patience mixed with free time or a load of luck. For the rest of us, a well-planned golf outing is based on some simple tips on how to plan for a round of golf.
I broke this into a 2-part posting because I wanted to make sure that you grasp the tips offered here on how to plan and prepare for your next round of golf. Although these are not an end-all of tips available on preparation for a round of golf, these tips on how to plan for your next round of golf are a look into my own process as well as ideas on how to save money and eliminate frustration when trying to prepare for a round of golf in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Where to Begin
I am a planner. I like to plan my practice days and I like to plan my playing days. That just works for me and it helps me with my schedule and calendar. I tend to start my planning with 3 major factors in mind:
- Time: How much time do I have available to play and when is that available time (morning or afternoon)?
- Distance: How far am I willing to travel to play? Am I staying nearby at a local municipal course in my area? Or, am I thinking of hitting the road and bracing traffic for something beyond my immediate 10-20 mile radius?
- Budget: How much am I willing to spend for a round? Is there FREE or discounted replay?
I might not write it all down, but I have it all in mind. I use this as my starting point to know what I am looking for versus what is not on my radar for this particular golf outing. This keeps my frustration level low when it comes to identifying available tee times and particular courses in my area.
Time Window for Play
When it comes to winter vacation, spring break or even a summer vacation, I find that I can play more weekdays at a cheaper rate than my regular weekend golf rounds. So, for someone like me, my planning might look different at different times of the year, but I try to stick to the same process most of the time.
You might have more free time on the weekends, for instance, but that leaves you at the mercy of the pro shop’s higher rates. You may prefer the early to mid-morning tee times, but those tend to come at a premium price compared to playing later in the day during what is called twilight. Twilight rates come a discount and leave you in a hurried pace of play to finish before the sun goes down. Based upon your available time to play, you can identify a window of time that both fits your schedule and your budget for your next golf outing.
During my extended periods of time off like winter break, I like to mix in a few course that I might not travel to on the weekends. I feel free to hit the road and go beyond my immediate circuit of regular golf course selections in my area. During this winter break, I have already spied out some deals for play at Pala Mesa Resort on a weekday soon and I potentially want to play at Oceanside Golf Course when I visit the Linksoul Lab in the same area. Otherwise, I manage to keep my travel distance down to about 20 miles maximum to play local courses not far from my home and with no stress on my gas tank.
No matter how you slice it, playing golf can be considered expensive by many outsiders. For the frugal golfer, I am always putting out some tips and how-to information as it comes my way. You can enjoy the sport without having to pay wildly high prices as if you only had country club and resort course options. If you do not approach your planning with a budget, you might need some assistance picking your jaw up off the ground for how much a single round comes out to at a luxury golf resort and spa. (They always have a spa as if that justifies the additional hike in tee time rates.)
Please note that I would approach planning a destination golf trip or stay-and-play golf weekend a whole different way than just the above-mentioned factors. Lengthy trips include a lot more considerations than just an afternoon outing to a local course. When you involve travel beyond a single day, you need to expand or enhance your criteria as well as engage others in the process if you are planning for a small group and overnight accommodations.
Searching for Open Tee Times and Deals
Now that you ae armed with your preliminary planning items like available time and budget, you can start searching for for open tee times and deals. You save a lot of time using online resources rather than calling pro shops. (You’ll be lucky if you get any on the phone when it’s great weather = they’re busy checking in other golfers!)
Get on the Email List (Worth It!)
If you haven’t done so already, definitely sign up for emails from Golf Advisor and GolfNow even TeeOff. A recent newbie for me has been Rockbottom Golf. For me, these tend to be my go-to sites for comparison pricing on tee times. There are others such as Golfzing and even sites like JC Golf that have memberships tied to specific courses of play. I think American Golf used to be my favorite back in the day, but changes in ownership, management and course offerings and packages just left me at the point where I let that go.
Search by Your Criteria (Based on Your 3 Major Factors)
Don’t waste your time. That can get frustrating or take you down a rabbit hole. Focus on your goal of finding a tee time that fits for you and how you want to play. Most sites like Golf Now and Tee Off have filters that allow you to set everything from numbers of players, cart or walking, price range, distance from your location, and of course, time window. They will spit out some tee times and locations for you to browse and select from as you review the available deals and rates.
Be aware that there are always some Hot Deals as Golf Now likes to call them and featured courses. These may not match your criteria specifically or entirely, but occasionally they’re worth a look and the possibility of altering your plans slightly. Keep in mind that every deal is not a fit for you. Take it like shopping for anything: just because it is on sale doesn’t mean that you have to buy it.
Review & Research the Courses
Know what is under the hood per se. Get to know a little something about the course, especially if you have not played that specific course since the pandemic hit the nation. Keep in mind that local health guidelines impact golf course facilities and their procedures and policies like many other businesses. Beyond face coverings and social distancing, you might be required to ride in separate carts and that could impact fees and rates. This is all part of planning for your next round out golf.
GET TO KNOW THE LAYOUT
- Is this the course where your buddy talked about that severe dogleg or the tee shot over the canyon?
- Are there areas where there is water in play?
- Do you see a trend of sand surrounding the greens?
- What in the devil was the designer thinking when he laid this out?
- Will this provide a fund, challenging time on the course?
READ THE REVIEWS
Numerous golfers have cited course changes in policies and procedures, but also some course layouts and maintenance has been altered. When the grounds crew feels the need to move the entire green to the fairway and you can hardly tell the moss of the fringe from that stuff that is growing near the newly-identified hole, you might want to have some advance notice, especially when they’re hitting you up at premium rates. Get some insights from course reviews on sites like Supreme Golf or Greenskeeper. Even course reviews by golf pros and golf instructors can provide some gems. Taking the time to take in the reviews of potential golf courses on your list will give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive at a new course and what has or hasn’t changed at an old familiar course. Your planning for your next round of golf should involve taking the time to read some of the latest reviews.
READ & REVIEW THE SCORECARD
This might seem like a given, but the first tee is no place for surprises as you discover that there are four different tee boxes, not including the ladies box, and that the course has the traditional black, blue, and white tees along with gold and green. So, where are we hitting from?
You need to spend some time ahead of your time at the course getting to know the course that you have your game up against. In essence, this helps you prepare for a better outing. If you are facing a series of narrow, tree-lined fairways with little to no forgiveness and you have been hooking and slicing those fairway woods since you got them for Father’s Day, then you you might want to leave them at home or in the trunk and show up with your best iron game off the tee if that’s your selected course of play. Like they say on social media: #IJS.
BOOK YOUR TEE TIME
What I like about using sites like Golf Now or Tee Off is that you can book and secure your tee time online. Oftentimes, you can do this with little to no money down, depending the course and its relationship with the site. I find that convenient when I am booking a tee time 3 to 4 days in advance, especially when I am hitting the road or its between paydays between today and then. I am not the type of guy to use the funds that I might have used for a bag of groceries on a round of golf. (Well, at least not any longer since quite a long time ago) Needless to say, the setup with these online tee time reservations is simple, easy and convenient. And, as part of the new normal, contactless.
Once you have this under way, your next move will be to contact your foursome or playing buddies if you are not playing as a single. Otherwise, I always like the added convenience of adding the event to my calendar, in particular my personal Google Calendar. That allows me to set alerts and keeps me focused as I schedule my days ahead. By doing this, I keep myself organized and balanced when it comes to managing my time and preparing for my next round of golf.