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Ways to save money on your next golf vacation

By Cynthia Boal Janssens, Contributor

Fairmont Jasper Lake LodgeWhile golf certainly is not the cheapest sport to enjoy -- note the booming market in high-tech golf equipment -- we are all interested in saving a few dollars here and there, if only to buy another dozen new golf balls, right?

So of course you want to save if planning a golf vacation. But today the considerations have changed. With so many more women playing the game, choosing where to go on golf trip can revolve as much on having a good spa or great restaurants as it does its prospects for challenging golf.

Fortunately, golf vacations can be a very good deal, if you do a bit of pre-planning. Here are five ways that you might save money on your next golf vacation:

1. Buy a golf package. These typically put together rooms with rounds of golf. Some will even include meals and/or your air transportation. In pricey areas like Hawaii, where most of the better courses cost more than $150 per round, these deals can save you a lot of money.

You can make your package as lavish or as simple as you want. Many resorts and golf packagers are willing to customize. If you want to play golf from early to late, then look for packages offering either unlimited golf or reduced rates for replay. Or, if you are interested in doing the spa as well, look for rate that includes both golf and spa treatments.

A good way to find discount golf packages on the Internet. Go to google.com and search for "discount golf packages." There are also a number of Web sites that book last-minute tee-times at discount rates. An example is discountteetimes.com, which specializes in Arizona golf. However, these are best used when you are already in a destination.

2. Stay in a condominium. While staying in a condo instead of a hotel might appear to be more expensive, you can often share the unit with other golfers and thus cut your costs.

You can view this two ways:

If you want to bring a group of gals to play, then a condo will suit because you can whip up a big breakfast and then have a place to retire at the end of the day to lounge around, play cards or hash over the day's holes. Each shares in the cost.

Or, if you want to bring your spouse or family, then an apartment is perfect because those who are not playing golf can enjoy the amenities of the resort complex while the golfers head for the links, feeling no guilt whatsoever.

Making breakfasts and lunches in your condo can certainly cut your spending and those washers and dryers definitely come in handy.

Locating a condo is fairly simple. You can either book one through a packager, or through a resort that has golf villas or on the Internet.

Consider using a timeshare week for your golf vacation. If you don't own your own timeshare that you can trade, then go to the Internet to find one you can rent.

3. Don't rely on equipment rentals. As golf equipment gets fancier, so do the rental rates. And if your vacation is several days long, then paying for clubs can add up quickly.

Pebble Beach It used to be that rental clubs would cost maybe $20 a round. These days you are more likely looking at $50, plus you might end up renting shoes as well. Then, of course, you buy a glove, a couple of sleeves of balls, a hat and, gotta have that shirt, right? And you've spent about $300 even before you leave the shop.

The only time it makes sense to rent clubs is if you are only going to play a round or two or if you want to try out that particular make of clubs, with an eye toward buying them.

Better to buy a travel bag with wheels and take your clubs along. Often couples can fit enough clubs for each of them to into one bag. (Then bring along a small, roll-up "Sunday bag" so you can split them upon arrival as most courses require that each player have his or her own bag.) However, know that airlines are now charging for overweight luggage so make sure of the limitations before you load up that bag.

If you are determined to rent, call ahead to find out what kind of equipment is available and what condition it is in. Typically, first-class clubs offer first-class rentals, but we have all come across rentals that are a raggedly bag of beat-up clubs.

4. Consider going to a foreign country. Sometimes we don't think of it, but often it can be cheaper to play outside of the United States. One great choice is our neighbors to the North: Canada.

For example, the Fairmont Jasper Lake Lodge in Alberta is not only unique with its many lovely cabins and mountain setting, but it boasts a golf course that has been rated the best in Canada. With an exchange rate of about 76, it's a buy. For example, hotel guests pay between $65-$100 a round Canadian, or about $50-$75 U.S.

New Zealand is another winner. "It is one of the most enjoyable places for Americans to visit and the U.S. dollar goes a long way there," explains Bill Hogan, president of Wide World of Golf, which has been selling golf vacations since 1957. "Most courses there can be played for $25, and the rates on wine and dining are great, too. Put that with first-class hotels under $100 a night and you can't beat the value."

For the more adventuresome, Hogan recommends South Africa: "It may take you a long time to fly there but once you get there it is totally worth it."

And this is the country that produced great players like Ernie Els, Gary Player and Retief Goosen so you will find the golf infrastructure to be very mature. There are lots of great courses and most cost only $25-$30 to play. It is difficult to spend more than $200 a day, staying at the best hotels."

5. Travel during the shoulder season. Obviously, most players don't want to plan a golf vacation in Florida for the month of July when the weather is steamy. But the in-between months of May-June and September-October can be perfect and often rates are more than reasonable.

In Northern Michigan, regarded highly for quality and number of courses, the months of April-May and September-October offer superb play at great rates.

If you've been hankering to play golf in the Caribbean, where the weather is pretty much the same year around, then head to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, or Puerto Rico in any months but February through April and you'll get a deal.

To find out when the shoulder seasons are for various resorts, check out their Web sites. Usually you will find three sets of rates: In-season, shoulder and off-season. Then you can choose accordingly.

Cynthia Boal Janssens is a former newspaper writer and editor turned freelance writer. She is the former travel editor and Sunday magazine editor of The Detroit News. In addition, she has worked for newspapers in California, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Ohio University.


 
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Dates: January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014
Spring Lake Golf Resort is a 45-hole resort featuring three great courses, and villas with all the comforts of home. Buy any 3 day/2 night Birdie Weekend or Mid-Week Manager's Special and get one night of room & golf free. Includes Villa, golf & cart daily, one lunch and one dinner. Starting at $188 p/p Quad Occ.
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