Danny Hellman
Friday, February 16, 2007

There are as many types of buddy trips — from a party weekend in Myrtle Beach to a marathon fortnight in Ireland — as there are pitfalls that can sour the experience. We asked the folks at Golf Zoo, a travel agency that arranges golf vacations, for five keys that will guarantee a friction-free trip — and ensure you're all still friends when you get home.

Get the right mix

  • Choose guys who play well with others. Not everybody's idea of a good time is a $100 Nassau or milking a case of Budweiser until 4 a.m. (Hard to believe, we know.) Invite like-minded souls who can enjoy the whole trip.
Rethink that hotel
  • If your group comprises a couple of foursomes, splitting the cost of a condo or golf villa is often more affordable than individual hotel rooms. Plus you don't have to plead with the kitchen staff to fire up the grill for a late-night snack.
Plan ahead
  • If you want prime tee times at popular courses, you'll need to reserve them months in advance. Or you can use a package provider with access to those tee times. Planning ahead also will help you score cheap airfares.
Be flexible
  • Some courses offer reduced rates for late morning and early afternoon tee times. This won't work if you like to play 36, but at least the party animals will get more time to sleep it off.
Don't assume anything
  • If a deal sounds too good to be true----it probably is. Read the fine print. And find out in advance if you can pre-book replay rounds; don't assume a tee time will be available when you get there.

Ask Travelin' Joe
He's been where you're going

Dear Joe,
After 10 years of entering the lottery for Masters practice round tickets, I'm going this year with my brother and two buddies. We'll be staying in Columbia, S.C., and would like to know if there are any standout courses in the area that you'd recommend.
--Joe St. Martin, Santa Ana, Calif.

If South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier had known about the meager golf options in town he might have thought twice about leaving the Gators. There just aren't many hall-offame courses there. Your best bet is to try Northwoods or Oak Hills. But the best track you'll see will be as a spectator.

Hi Joe,
I'm planning a trip from Toronto to the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama. I was wondering if there are any gems worth playing between Detroit and Nashville? I'm also going through Columbus, Ohio, on the journey home.
--Mike Murphy, Mississauga, Ont.

It's only a short trip off I-75 to Shaker Run in Lebanon, Ohio. The Woodlands/Lakeside nines hosted the 2005 U.S. Men's Amateur Public Links, where Michelle Wie reached the quarters. On the return trip take a short detour east of Columbus to Longaberger in Nashport. It's Arthur Hills' finest public course.

Joe Passov has played more than 1,100 courses in 21 countries. If you need travel directions, zip him an e-mail at askjoe@golfonline.com.

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