Golf Article

Golfing through a Recession

Tee It Up!  Recession is No Excuse
By Peter Hellman
Classic GOLF Tours

We can't deny the obvious.  The economy sucks, the stock market is in the toilet, the value of your home has fallen, banks don't want to lend to you or your business, Bernie Madoff has stolen your nest egg and you don't want to buy anything but essentials for fear that you too many join the ranks of the unemployed.  Is this really an environment in which sane people would consider a golf trip?  Now, I don't understand your particular situation and how it may influence your decisions, but you may be surprised to learn that 2009 may be your best opportunity in a long time to save on a super golf trip. 

The bad economy masks some benefits you may not have thought of.  Transportation costs have fallen and may continue to do so.  Lower gasoline prices make a drive to Arizona, California or along the Alabama Golf Trail a bargain this year.  Gas prices last month averaged $1.65 down from $4.00 in July.  A 1,000 mile trip in your 20 mpg SUV, therefore, costs about $80 instead of the $200 it set you back in July. Lower fuel costs and lower demand for airline seats are just beginning to impact the cost of a ticket and downward pressure on prices should continue through 2009.  Fewer projected passengers will also help.  Most recently, some airlines rolled back fuel surcharges. 

Many golf courses are holding to last years prices and in some cases the lowering them.  Due to lower demand, the availability of tee times on some of the most popular courses will also increase.  St. Andrews Old Course expects to have more slots available through its Ballot this year.   Many golfers, who were successful in securing tee times through application in September, passed the deadline for payment in December.  These times are put into the Ballot pool.

Resorts and hotels in the U.S. and abroad are concerned about occupancy and offer incentives to travelers such as free nights, welcome drinks or other inducements. Even governments are getting into the act and looking for ways to encourage travel.  In addition to stimulative monetary and fiscal policies, the United Kingdom lowered its Value Added Tax or VAT on goods and services from 17.5 % to 15%.   If you add that to the surging strength of the Dollar - the British Pound is 35% lower today that it was last year - it becomes apparent that this year's trip to Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland will be a value not seen in years.  Even the Euro is down from $1.60 last April to $1.36 today.  Expect, therefore, to pay about 15% less when you travel to Ireland, Spain, Portugal or any of the other euro denominated countries.  

You can even add to your savings by traveling as group.  Certain costs such as ground transportation are lower on a per person basis when traveling together.  Two golfers sharing a rental car generally costs more than eight to twelve golfers sharing a mini-bus with a driver - there is also added value in being chauffeured.  Airlines, golf courses and hotels like groups and are usually willing to discount to get them.  Playing golf off cruises is another way to save when traveling as a group.  Not only are group cruise rates generally lower, the cost of the sixteenth person is free and when divided among the group, it cuts the cost for everyone.  Don't forget your meals are included in the price of the cruise.  Group travel can also give you greater leverage with your golf tour operator.  Some of them will cut their margins to secure the business in these competitive times.  That's our policy at Classic GOLF Tours. 

Here are some examples of trips and savings:
Scotland:  A golf trip in 2008 that included six rounds of golf, accommodations for eight nights and a rental car cost $3,500 per person in 2008 for a party of four.  With the stronger dollar and a reduced VAT, that same trip in 2009 is only $2,300 per person.   
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico:  A popular all-inclusive beach resort has added free unlimited golf at three of PV's best golf courses.  Your only cost is for the golf cart.
Arizona:  The famous Wigwam Resort with three wonderfully upgraded golf courses on site and comfortable casitas offers five nights for the price of four for much of the year.
Ireland:  Feeling the absence of American golfers in 2008, many courses, guest houses and hotels have lowered their prices to golf tour operators or added other benefits such as reduced green fees for a second round.  These savings are passed on to clients.
Spain:  In the Girona region of Spain located along the Costa Brava north of Barcelona, golf courses, hotels, ground transfer companies, museums and restaurant have joined together to encourage visitors with lower prices and cooperation. 

In conclusion, though we may all feel the need to deny ourselves some pleasures this year, think twice before you sacrifice your golf trip.  Take these tips and "just do it".