Recent Golf Digest Blog Post

by John Strege on 02/15/2012

It isn't often that a unique product comes along, but we came across one at the blog, Golf Stuff We Like, that, for those who take buddies trips, might prove indispensable.

It's called, and the emphasis, perhaps, belongs on genius. There was no shortage of brainpower used in developing this product. The founder is Mike Zisman, who has a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh, a Masters in systems engineering from Penn, and a PhD in decision sciences from Penn's Wharton School. He's also a member at Merion Golf Club and Saucon Valley Country Club. is described this way at its website: "An easy-to-use, online toolkit that helps you take care of all the details (like pairings, tournaments, the trip book, expenses) so you can have more fun planning your trip and more time playing golf once you're underway."

"I enjoy golf trips and spent many years organizing them," Zisman said. "But it was frustrating putting together a schedule. I thought, 'you know what? I know how to do this, to make golf trips a lot easier.' We started with mathematical optimization for the scheduling, then added tournament software and trip accounting software.

"You'll spend, honest to God, 30 to 40 hours planning a trip for eight or 10 people, from organizaing pairings, tournaments, tracking group expenses. With our software it takes a couple of hours."

Zisman used an example of a trip involving 16 players, playing five rounds. "Ideally, you should play with everyone once," he said. "If all 16 play with everyone once, we call that the perfect pairing." The software will deliver the perfect pairing for you (a sample tee sheet is shown above).

It has a Tournament Manager, too, to accommodate any kind of competition, including multiple Nassaus, skins games, even Ryder Cup-type formats, and will accommodate betting, providing instantly a payout summary at the end of the round.

Another feature is its Trip Logistics, which contain the golfers' travel arrangements, cell phone numbers, handicaps, emergency contact information, a group message board, and access to housing arrangements.

GolfTripGenius offers two levels of service. The cheaper one, $1 per player, per round to a group maximum of $49, offers Perfect Pairings and Trip Logistics. The other, called the Genius Trip, includes the Perfect Pairings, Trip Logistics, Trip Tournament Manager, Trip Accountant (to track expenses and allocate them accordingly), and a Trip Book (a personal album that provides details and photos from the trip). The cost of the Genius Trip is $3 per person per round up to a group maximum of $249.

Zisman also has developed, but not yet released to the public, a product to handle golf leagues. "There the scheduling is unbelievable," he said. "Its 100 guys playing over 25 weeks. The guy who has been using our product the longest, Thursday is the 14th week. He still has not had a single case of a guy playing with the same player twice.

"[] is a unique product. There truly is no product in the world that does the kind of scheduling we do with our breadth of tournaments."

-- John Strege

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Survival Strategies Before Your Next Golf Trip

by GolfTripper on 01/08/2012


If you can’t play this time of year, you probably live in the northern latitudes.  Unless you have a golf trip coming up, you might find yourself feeling mildly depressed, or at least deprived.  Golfers are a needy tribe.  You might get through the snow months if you’re a hedge fund manager with an HD simulator in the family room, but nothing is going to substitute for 18 holes of the real thing.

One common antidote to the winter doldrums is to buy golf stuff you probably don’t need.  How about a new 60 degree wedge since your current one doesn’t really work; a new golf bag because you’re ready for a color change, new shoes because you can never have too many pairs, and of course the annual search for a new magic putter and the latest driver, both implements guaranteed to lower your handicap 3 shots, make you a better conversationalist at the 19th  and whiten your teeth.

Golfers really need a Good Samaritan hotline to help us head-off these crazy spending impulses.  In fact, if we collectively pooled our completely unnecessary and delusional golf stuff dollars, we could halve the national debt. Of course, what’s more important, national fiscal stability or the vain hope for 20 more yards?  If you thought about it for more than a second, you’re reading the wrong blog.

I recently opened a seldom-used bedroom closet and out tumbled a dozen Lamkin grips, rain shorts in their plastic shipping bag, a hideous magenta hybrid headcover, a 2005 US Open logo shirt from Pinehurst, two containers of Softspikes, an unopened Butch Harmon short game video, an Argyll sweater that Ian Poulter wouldn’t touch, a framed photo of number 11 at Pacific Dunes I forgot to hang, that grip squeezer thing that costs $25, and a gap wedge I must have bought from Edwin Watts after too much eggnog back in the last century.  I quickly unwrapped my forgotten Pebble Beach fleece throw, then covered and kicked the whole mess back in the closet before my wife came upstairs.

This warning may come to late, but my advice is to resist all temptation and simply fill your piggy bank with future green fees.  Start saving toward that spring golf trip to Kiawah or Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach or Orlando.  It’s the smart thing to do when the temperatures dip and the next winter storm is threatening.

You’ll have to excuse me now ---- I see there’s an Wilson 8802 Arnold Palmer putter for sale on eBay, and I know I’m only $200 away from never again missing a three footer.

Post-Turkey Golf Trip Coming Up

by GolfTripper on 11/17/2011


I’ve got a golf trip coming up right after Thanksgiving, and only my D-day anticipation will get me through the in-law’s visit with relative ease. This time it’s to a new (for me) destination, Barton Creek in Texas. Four very highly rated courses, and, no, we aren’t interested in their “spa snuggle” package. We’ve just added an Austin City Limits outing to the itinerary for one of the evenings, which will definitely add to the fun.  I am ticking off the days just like when I was a kid and the annual Christmas countdown was a sacred rite of the wonder years.

So why is it that golf trips are so special? As every golfer who has ever hit the road knows, it goes way beyond just the golf.  On this particular journey, the other 11 fellow travelers are guys I only see once a year.  That makes the 19th hole and dinner table chatter fabulously entertaining-----there is always lots of new news.  We all used to work together in a once famous software company, so there is the extended “whatever happened to?” catching-up, sort of like a real time LinkedIn roundtable.  It’s fun to see how everyone has aged another year while I’ve have stayed exactly the same.  Everyone’s aches and pains are also a popular discussion topic, and of course this complaining just gets exponentially worse over the four or five days of golf.

Yes, of course, there is the golf.  Our talent spread is as wide as the Pecos, but we adjust our pairings (using, of course) so the competitions are “fair and balanced”. The betting is modest but not insignificant.  The trash talking is relentless. Bad shots are greeted with derision. Good shots are uniformly described as “lucky”, “freakish” or “once in a lifetime”.  After the round, we circulate the scorecards and look over our leaderboard and purse summary. More trash talking, now fueled by Bud, Beam and Patron, make the scene, er, lively. Sometimes we go out to dinner, other times the herd can only manage to slowly migrate a few hundred yards in search of beefsteak or Bolognese.

Breakfast buffets are the only time we don’t talk.  Usually just the gentle whirring of the ceiling fans is more than enough audio stimulation. There is a lot of bleary-eyed grunting and shuffling around.  Huge vats of eggs and sausage, steam tables of waffles and biscuits, trays of fruit and banana bread, baskets of bagels ---- all are poked and prodded, sampled and reviewed. You can tell if someone has really overindulged the night before, because they’ll only have 32 ounces of orange juice, 12 ounces of coffee and two glasses of ice water, then head to the porcelain corner of the locker room with a USA Today in hand.

But we’re on a golf trip, so everyone keeps moving like a salmon run headed upstream. No room for slackers, we have three foursomes to fill. But why are we up so early? Of course you already know ---- we are playing 36 today.

I can’t wait to get started.

New Golf Trip Frontiers or Familiar Territory?

by GolfTripper on 10/17/2011


One of the real dilemmas in planning a golf trip is whether or not to go back to a tried and true golf venue or head off for a never before visited destination.  If you and your golf group want to go “new”, you can further complicate your decision by trying to decide between “new, but known and loved”, or “new and we are going to be among the pioneers”.  Aren’t these decisions fun?

The advantages of “tried and true” are pretty obvious: you know where to eat, where to drink, where the quiet rooms are and where not to hit it out on the course. You might know a bartender, a cart girl, the front desk manager, the starter ---- familiar is friendly and fun.  You’re only going back because you had a very good (or better) experience the last time you and your group rolled-in.  Why mess with success?

“New and known” is a little more risky, but only a little.  Most golf captains out there are willing to consider a new and different destination for their group if they have friends who have been there and loved it, or if it has a national reputation like Kiawah or Pinehurst or Kohler.  You know you and the guys are going to go to Bandon Dunes someday --- maybe the time has come.  “New and known” might also be a destination you’ve tried before, but with a twist, like 3 or 4 courses in Myrtle Beach you haven’t played before, or traveling to Orlando and heading to WorldWoods instead of Orange County National or Reunion.

Then there are those of you who are descended from the great explorers and want to be among the first to discover the future “greats” and hidden gems in golf trip destinations. It may take some extra effort to work out these itineraries, but maybe you’re willing to take some risk to play less crowded fairways and possibly pay some lower green fees.  Here are just two ideas for you explorers: In summer 2012, combine Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Cabot Links in Nova Scotia (Mike Keiser is the guiding force) has just opened and will be the highlight of your trip. Look for lots of golf media coverage next year.

Or, in winter 2013, plan to take your golf trip at the not-yet-open Streamsong resort, with two courses, one by Tom Doak and one by Crenshaw-Coore.  The golf architecture aficionados are already going nuts – this one will be big.

Even if your “tried and true” golf trip destinations are as comfortable as your favorite broken-in Footjoys, variety is as tempting as a drivable par four.


Good golftripping.

Cabot Links --- In Your Future?

Golf Trip Anticipation

by Golftripper on 09/15/2011



Anticipating a Great Golf Trip


Watching NFL football or the FedEx Cup golf tourneys? The 5 minutes of ads for every 10 minutes of action is no doubt driving you nuts.  The only upside is you can slip into a beer and pretzels-induced coma and start thinking about your next golf trip.

I like being a trip organizer, or golf captain, because it requires the long range planning and therefore adds the pleasure of anticipation to the whole end-to-end trip experience.  Every captain bitches about the work, but the truth is they all feel the same way I do. Figuring out the dates, getting the group together (analyzing the group chemistry) and guiding the herd to a decision on where to go is a lot of fun. Equally enjoyable is all the random stuff that follows: mentions of your chosen destination that you coincidentally seem to start noticing everywhere, fantastic pictures on the Web and in the golf magazines, positive references from other golf travelers that get you psyched-up, and the multiplier effect that begins when the trash-talking from the other guys starts to ramp-up.

Bernard Darwin, the first and greatest golf writer in the history of the sport, also liked the anticipation of a golf trip, especially to his home course of Aberdovey in Wales:

“All the clubs are taken out one by one, looked at with a gloating eye, and then stowed triumphantly into the bag.”

“There is an iron that I have not used for some time that will be just the thing for carrying the mighty sandhill, crowned with ominous sleepers, that guards the Calder green; and then, of course, one must take a spare putter or two, against the almost unthinkable event of going off one’s putting. Also there is a large umbrella, though it can never be that the fates will be so unkind as to make one use it.”

And as his London train descended the hills to the Welsh coast his anticipation reached a peak:

“There is a wild rush of small boys outside our carriage window, fighting and clamouring for the privilege of carrying our clubs….we have arrived at Aberdovey”.

Bernard Darwin always wrote about his golf travels with gusto. Although he played and wrote in a long-ago golfing era, no one has ever written about anticipating a golf trip with more genuine excitement.

“Os nad wyt gryf bydd gyfrwys” (If you are not strong, be cunning”) Aberdovey Golf Club motto

Wicked Heat and the Antidote: Top 5 Summer Golf Trips

by S.Sayre on 08/08/2011

Slippery grips, Coppertone running into your eyes, soaked-through shirts (and shorts), rashes in unmentionable places and gallons of Gatorade all add up to one conclusion: you need to get out of town.  It’s been way too hot in way too many places this summer.  When it gets too cold, an off-season golf trip seems like a natural.  But now, whether its this year or next, the time has come for a summer golf trip.

I know you Texas, Florida and Alabama golftrippers are way ahead of me on this, especially this particular year when twilight rounds are being played in triple digit temperatures. But even for those of us who live north of Bermuda greens, its time to start packing.

Here are five terrific golf trip destinations that I can guarantee will have you cool, refreshed and ready for another 18:

The Scottish highlands: Royal Dornoch, the new Castle Stuart, Brora, Golspie, Tain, Nairn and maybe a detour down to the Cruden Bay. Today’s high is 61°in Dornoch.

Northern Michigan: Gaylord, Bay Harbor Golf Club, Treetops, Shanty Creek, Boyne Highlands, Grand Traverse, Black Lake…. The Brits use the expression “spoiled for choice”, and in this part of the USA, if golf is your thing, you are.

Prince Edward Island:  Home to 10 of the top 100 courses in Canada. Cheap lobster, PEI mussels. Very little driving round. Next summer, a side trip to Cabot Links in Nova Scotia, which is going to be the next big thing in Canadian golf.

The wild Northwest of Ireland: Gradually being discovered by golftrippers from the USA and beyond. The many course options, from Ballyliffin down to Donegal, and including fabulous layouts like Rossapenna, Sligo, Enniscrone, Portsalon, and especially the magical Carne, are just fabulous. Add the Irish hospitality and the generally reasonable rates, and its not a question of if you are going, its just when. Summer is nice…and cool.

You probably already guessed number 5 on my list. Hint: the best golftripper destination west of Pinehurst and an average high of 67° in July.  Yes, I’m talking Bandon Dunes.  What else is there to say that hasn’t been written about 4, soon to be 4+, of the best golf courses on the planet?  The latest news from Mike Keiser is his selection of Gil Hanse to build 27 new holes that will be financially “locals friendly”.

See Matty G’s write-up   and get out to Bandon soon.


Bottom line: let the dog have the fan, pack your clubs and get out of town.

There is a Better Way

Golf Trips and the Fear of Flying

by S. Sayre on 07/26/2011

Flying to your golf destination is filled with danger and anxiety.  I’m not talking about the flight itself: the statistics make it pretty clear that you’re much more likely to get killed by your partner's skulled bunker shot than having a $40 million Boeing 737 fall out of the sky.

But let’s start with the drive to the airport.  Assuming you can get out of the house unscathed (for days you should have been behaving like father/husband of the year as part of your pre-departure golf trip routine), there are all kinds of high anxiety thoughts swirling through your golf-distracted brain. First, how long will the check-in line be? You have your golf bag to check, so there’s no avoiding the lines. I seem to always get behind the family of five on their way to see extended family in some small Caribbean nation where apparently there aren’t commercial retailers of any kind. These folks, who have arrived a leisurely 4 hours before their departure, are checking 9 bags, a microwave, a tricycle, two strollers, a small HD flat screen, and a LazyBoy recliner. Of course, if you leave plenty of time for check-in, there’s never anybody in the line.

Second, there is the matter of the TSA security lines. Not only is the wait time more unpredictable than earthquakes, but even a short line can turn you into a an anxious, stressed-out mess when the couple in front of you turns out to be two of the 853 people left in the USA who have never been on an airplane. Liquids? Gels? Oh yeah, we’ve got plenty of those. Shoes off? But why?  You mean my belt buckle the size of salad plate could set off your durn machines?  But I just bought this Zippo in the souvenir shop, etc. etc.

Assuming you make it to the gate before your flight to Myrtle or Pebble or Portland, etc. pushes back, you are now faced with a predicament more testing than a 20 foot double breaker: how am I going to find room for my carry-on? You'll note that everybody around you in the gate area has a bag the size of a tailgate cooler, and you’ve got to devise a strategy to avoid the dreaded last minute gate check. Genius tip: check everything and only take you iTunes and headphones on board.  You’ve got an endless wait at the carousel for your golf clubs anyway.

And of course, that brings us to the last and most terrifying aspect of golf trip air travel ---- the arrival, or not, or your golf clubs. I don’t know about you, but every 3 minutes of the flight my stomach flutters like Muhammad Ali in his prime.  You’ve already guessed it’s not the turbulence, it’s whether I’ll ever see my new white TaylorMade driver again.

Be patient. Sure.

Even Golf Buddies Need to Get Away

by Golftripper on 06/24/2011

How about a tournament event for avid golf travelers?  I think it’s a great idea. Lots of buddy trip fun with other buddy trippers from all around the country.  Sounds like a prescription for lots of laughs and spirited competition, not to mention some useful and passionate knowledge exchange regarding courses, restaurants, watering holes and all the rest of the things that make a golf trip such a great experience.

Matt Ginella, senior travel editor at Golf Digest, is hosting the first ever Golf Digest Buddies Golf Getaway down in Orlando in October. Matt is a great writer and friend to buddy trippers everywhere.  I’m betting his inaugural event is a blast.  You can check out the details here:  Three days of golf and a single room at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, a comfortable retreat bordering the Disney property. Trip Advisor ranks the place 7th overall out of 339 hotels in the area.

Even better, the golf is at the new Waldorf Astoria golf club (opened fall 2009), a Rees Jones design that has gotten good press for its old, classic look and shotmaking interest.  No real estate eyesores in sight. How about a 624 yard par 5 (number 12) into the prevailing breeze, followed by a drivable (for you big dogs) par four at 13?  The golf will be excellent and the price is right.

The golf-crazed from will be there in force. Hope to see you on the range.

Looks Tasty...

Brand Position and Reasonable Golf Trip Budgets

by S. Sayre on 06/15/2011

What do these two things have to do with each other? You can be forgiven for asking, but stay with me a minute.  The twin topics arise because it seems that the cost of playing ultra luxe destination golf courses in the U.S. is immune, at least in terms of the retail cost of a tee time, to the fundamentals of Economics 100.

A little background: the great courses I am talking about, Pinehurst #2, Kiawah Ocean Course, TPC Sawgrass, Whistling Straits, Shadow Creek, Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and perhaps one or two others in this top tier of destinations, all cost north of $300 to play. In some cases, waaay north. For most avid golftrippers, that’s simply too much to shell out. One tee time in this range may amount to a full third of a total trip budget for lots of golf buddies.

Consider that for many years, much of the play at these courses was corporate-driven: conventions, customer events, management retreats, top sales performer outings, etc. ------ and, as such, demand was insulated from retail market forces because the greens fees were picked-up by the corporation or expensed to the same. But, of course, times have changed. It’s not exactly news that the corporate golf outing has become an endangered species, even if it’s not as grim today as 2009.

So, you would think that the laws of supply and demand would drive the cost of a tee time at these marquee courses down. Way down.  But, it doesn’t appear that’s happened. How come?

I think the reason is what the marketing folks call brand position. Your brand position is the “space” you occupy in the mind of your customer (Volvo=safety, IBM=trust, etc.) All these fine courses want to occupy the "premium" space in the minds of their prospective visitors----"bucket list" space.  Because these golf destinations also have the financial resources to weather long down cycles without lowering prices, they don't need to act. And because a fundamental marketing principle says price is an indicator of value, a premium price is correlated with highest perceived value.  In other words, this peer group won't risk damage to their brand position by dropping prices, even if it means fewer buddy trippers coming through the gates. A significant reduction in green fees doesn’t correlate with the exclusive, luxury brand position these destinations have spent years and millions of dollars building.

Don’t count on big discounts anytime soon.

Extreme Golf Trip Planning

by Golftripper on 06/01/2011

I started planning a golf trip today That’s not at all unusual, but the fact that the trip is over 350 days away will strike average citizens as eccentric. But not you golf travelers out there.  Golf trip planning is to be savored like 25-year-old single malt or nine innings at Fenway ending in a Sox victory.  Fact is, there are very few ways to make me happier than planning another great golf adventure. I’ve been heads down like a Clydesdale hitched to the Budweiser wagon for hours, scouring the web for the courses we’re going to play, the places we might stay, the ale houses we will frequent. I’ve already got calls into two friends for recommendations, checked-out a few golf travel books and referred to all the “Best of” lists. 

I use a very handy and ultra easy-to-use web tool called iCyte to collect web pages that feature maps, course home pages, hotel options, etc. You just create a folder for your golf trip and then press a button when you find an interesting web page.  It becomes your research folder for future reference, without having to search around for bookmarks.

Advance planning is standard operating procedure for you self-sufficient golf trip captains out there. Well, maybe the 11.5 month headstart is a bit extreme, but if you can’t go play 18, planning is the next best thing. (Below, another good reason for advance planning.)