What if you could play a top course without shelling out top dollar? It's possible... well, sort of. These tips from GolfAdvisor.com
will help you decide which discount risks are worth taking (and maybe free up some change for more clubhouse drinks).
Paul Laubach is a self-proclaimed "cheap" golf addict.
Like everybody else, the southern California resident wants to play the best courses, but he hates paying full freight.
He wrote a 2015 book called: "Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America's Top 100 Public Golf Courses," where he details his chase playing every course on Golf Magazine's 2010 list of "America's Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play."
He used all the usual tricks to find discounted green fees -- tee times in shoulder-seasons (bad weather was a constant issue) and at twilight and buying packages to bundle expenses. The truth is, America's most expensive courses just don't offer many breaks. That never deters Laubach, who has plans to play six of the 12 priciest courses in America this year. Every rack rate charges in excess of $350.
"I spend a lot of time doing the logistics of these trips and get frustrated that I can't find better deals," he said. "It's not so much about (saving on) the green fee. It is more about the trip and vacation. Your savings are going to come in the packages or hotels."
So what are the "cheapest" ways to playing America's most expensive courses? There are no magic coupons. If you want to pay less, you risk battling darkness, rough conditions or iffy weather.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Peak Rate: $525 plus $40 cart fee for non-resort guests (forecaddies and cart not required). Potential Discounts: Only for Northern California Golf Association members.
Comment: Discounts at Pebble Beach Golf Links? Hardly. The full Pebble Beach experience, if you include cart and forecaddie, can cost more than $600 a round. Laubach recommends booking at the Inn at Spanish Bay ($670 per night) instead of the Lodge at Pebble Beach ($790 per night) to save. A cheaper, riskier alternative would be to stay somewhere else (I like the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa or the Quail Lodge & Club) and try to book a tee time on Pebble Beach 24 hours in advance. This might guarantee you tee off at an odd time and could split up your foursome, though.
You could also purchase a Duke's Club Membership from the resort for an annual fee of $340. It sometimes offers $395 rates to play Pebble Beach. Twenty percent off at select Pebble Beach restaurants and the membership rates at the resort's other courses ($100 twilight rounds and $210 regular rounds at Spyglass Hill ; $75 twilight rounds and $155 regular rounds on the Links at Spanish Bay ) could ultimately drag expenses down.
Every once in a while, NCGA members get an e-mail promotion encouraging play at Pebble Beach in the winter. In 2017, the promotion, running from mid-December until Jan. 31, was a good one: Members could tee up Pebble Beach for $395 (35 percent off), Spyglass Hill for $225 (56 percent off) and Spanish Bay for $150 (63 percent off). Every price included a free cart and a $75 gift card to use in the pro shop.
Straits Course at Whistling Straits
Peak Rate: $395, plus $65 required caddie fee and $40 recommended gratuity. Potential Discounts: $275 twilight and replay rates. Packages.
Comment: Rate increases after the 2015 PGA Championship have made the price to play the Straits Course at Whistling Straits essentially on par with Pebble Beach if you include the caddie fee and tip and skimp a little bit at Pebble Beach by carrying your own bag without a cart or a caddie. Laubach still calls Kohler his favorite getaway for the price.
"The vacation we scheduled this summer, if you are going with double occupancy, is about $1,100 per person with rounds at Straits, the River (Course at Blackwolf Run ) and one of other courses and free replays. That covers the caddie fee on the Straits and a room at the Inn at Woodlake (for several nights)," he said. "You are going to be under $300 a round. That's how I look at these trips: What is my price per round? It's these packages that you put together to get more bang for the buck."
For the record, the resort quoted that package price about $1,300 per person.
Late fall tends to see rate drops. Those discounts aren't released in advance, however.