To put it into golf terms, the current economic climate is like a long, uphill par four into a stiff wind. Among the almost universally negative effects of the downturn, though, exists a blessing for golfers: Some notoriously hard-to-get-on courses suddenly have blank slots on their tee sheets. The game’s most elite destinations remain just that, but for the golfer with schedule flexibility and an adequate budget, the time is right to visit.
Everywhere, resorts are quietly doing what they can to stave off sticker shock, offering unadvertised opportunities to those who ask politely. Pebble Beach Golf Links (pebblebeach.com), for example, has for the time being relaxed its stay-to-play requirement. With rooms starting at $675 per night, that can mean serious savings. Those who do decide to stay in one of its two lodges get significant perks, such as a complimentary extra night’s stay and free rounds at Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay.
The resort has taken other unprecedented steps recently, such as seeking cooperation from tour operators and striking a deal with the Northern California Golf Association. The group—members of any state association can join the NCGA for twenty-five dollars—gets discounts on all three courses, including a 30 percent reduced rate at Pebble itself.
Resorts in seasonal markets like Arizona and Florida are promoting deep discounts, but most offers at top destinations simply allow guests to enjoy small bonuses that were previously unavailable. For instance, Bandon Dunes (bandondunesgolf.com), in Oregon, has extended its popular off-season Golf Experience package, previously available only between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, all the way into June. Rates start at $580 per person for two rounds, two nights and meals.
In the Southeast, Kiawah Island (kiawahresort.com) is allowing guests to book replay rounds at the time of reservation, and Pinehurst Resort (pinehurst.com) recently offered a night’s stay in one of its bed-and-breakfast accommodations and a round on its premier golf course—the historic No. 2—for $252. Other offers at Pinehurst include resort credits, or waiving the $175 surcharge the resort typically charges for a round on Donald Ross’s most famous design.
The opportunity extends across the Atlantic, too. Compared with recent years, travel is down and availability is up, even at St. Andrews (standrews.org.uk), where, not incidentally, the Links Trust decided not to hike green fees this year. And with the U.S. dollar having staged a remarkable comeback against the pound, gaining about 35 percent in the past twelve months, the economics are squarely in American travelers’ favor—book through a U.S. tour operator to lock into the advantageous exchange rates. It all adds up to this: If the Old Course is on your must-play list, now is as good a time as any.