Business Travel and Golf
It is now customary for me to tag along a day or two when traveling for business to get in some golf and tick another great course off my Canadian golf bucket list. My approach is consistent. I’ve done this already this year in British Columbia and Alberta. Here is my itinerary from a recent trip to New Brunswick to share my planning process:
Finishing work at 4:00 pm gave me 28 hours before flying home. This window of time allowed me to get to the airport, rent my car, drive to my destination, check into my hotel, eat dinner, sleep, wake up, grab breakfast and get to the course. After the round, I would grab lunch, quickly tour town and drive 90 minutes back to the airport. 28 hours created some purposefulness but the trip never felt rushed. Besides, it’s hard not to relax when you’re in maritime Canada.
Here are my tips and golf travel essentials to help you make the most of your next trip.
- Golf course access – the focus of your pre/post trip is golf so make sure you can access the course(s) you’d like to play before committing further. Easiest thing to do is to contact the course and ask if there is tee time availability on the date/window of time you’re planning to play. Stating you’re from away and coming in as a single helps them understand your situation and can avoid surprises for you (perhaps the day you plan to arrive is the day after aeration of the greens, or worse, they are hosting some charity event and while there are tee times the first one is too late for you). In some cases it may open up access you may not otherwise get access to. Calling Algonquin resort in advance allowed me to access the earliest tee time available on my day of play which helped considerably.
- Know the fixed variables – Being clear on when work ends and when the flight home are the two most critical factors. I seek to ensure I have a window of time that is realistic. Car rental agencies are generally much more flexible than airlines (Unless you’re willing to pay) but any significant changes to the itinerary could help you by calling them in advance. As for variables beyond your control, do give consideration to the weather forecast on the day you want to play and pack accordingly. And always have a toque in the golf bag.
- Accommodation – My philosophy on accommodation revolves around convenience and price, (with a caveat of some standard of cleanliness and user satisfaction). I like researching prices on an aggregator site and tend to use the same one to accumulate frequent user rewards (after using the site 10 times I get a free stay). I like reputable chains but am willing to try a quaint place that receives great reviews.
- Golf Clubs – There are two camps here – to rent or to travel with your clubs. I personally prefer to travel with my clubs and as a result there are three golden rules: lock your golf travel bag; use a Club Glove stiff arm (or reasonable facsimile) and don’t skimp on your golf travel bag. If you’re comfortable renting then consider these three rules: bring your own golf shoes, glove and a small bag of balls, tees, etc.; research in advance about the rental club options as some courses have two levels of rentals; and lastly, be accepting. You chose not to bring your new driver so don’t get frustrated when you get a model of club you don’t prefer.
- Transportation – for me, it’s usually a vehicle rental. I love driving and find it relaxing. Here, again, loyalty can pay off with rewards offered at most outlets. Airport rentals are generally processed faster and their vehicles are newer. One important item is to map your route and budget for some extra time in the event of unexpected traffic issues. My buddies swear by an app called Waze to get you somewhere as quick as possible. Last, sure you’re in a rush to leave and get to the course but take the time to get the seat and mirrors properly adjusted…and if possible to sync up your smartphone so you can enjoy some travel tunes.
- Keepsakes – I’ve practically walked from the rental car to the first tee (with a quick check in) but I always try to make some time afterward to check the pro shop. I love pin flags and also collect golf balls and markers with the course emblem on them. Of course, the sale rack can unlock some great value too. Here is a good alternative to airport shopping for those at home (especially if they like golf)
- Food – this is one area I stretch the budget. My affinity for seafood and a willingness to ask and try local favourites means I avoid fast food and seek out local flavours. Trip Advisor and Yelp allows me to filter user satisfaction with food types. Sometimes it’s a pub, other times finer dining. Food is often part of the experience for me. I’ve traveled with people who would eat on the cheap and spend more for accommodation (meaning they’re comfortable eating McDonalds but want the assurance of a high end place to stay). Make your own determination and know what’s important. It is always ideal when you can get both. When I have time, I actually like to eat at the course before or after a round. Many courses create a dining experience that rivals their golf experience.
- Pictures – As a rule I get to a course with close to 100% battery power on my phone to allow me to take pictures. I advise playing partners I’ll be taking some pictures for my blog so as to manage their expectation. I keep the phone in my left pocket for easy access as I seek to minimize the impact on pace of play.
- Manage expectation – The number one goal of golf while traveling on business should be fun; you’re playing a course you may not otherwise access to. Shooting a high score, especially if you’re using rental clubs, should be irrelevant and not keep you from having fun. Besides, maybe the rental putter is the magic club you’ve been seeking for years (take a picture and note the make and model…that’s why e-Bay was created!). Smile and enjoy the fact you’re on the course.
- Be a good visitor – I always seek business cards from the courses I play. In many cases, upon learning I am a blogger with journalist accreditation they welcome the chance to host a guest reviewer. I like to extend thanks to courses for allowing me access to their course. My philosophy is simple: the currency of my blog is the relationships I am able to cultivate. I sincerely appreciate the chance to experience their home course and want to let them know that.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, is to budget for the side trip. I set funds aside throughout the year to allow me to tack on the day or two and enjoy a guilt-free and pleasurable experience without impacting the bottom line. With a flight covered from work, the additional expenses create value, help me experience great golf across Canada and help make a significant dent in my bucket list.
The chance to have played golf in 8 provinces now has taught me a few things about business travel and golf. I know I am not alone. I’d welcome hearing your tips for maximizing golf experiences on business.