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Cragun's 2016

Local Golf
June 23, 2017

Tips For Planning The Perfect Buddies' Golf Trip
By Steven Pease


In June, I will embark on a classic roadtrip reserved for only the most daring and worthy of men: The Buddies' Golf Trip. Centuries ago, links-faring men rode high on horseback into mist - trading pelts for tee times along the craggy shores of the North Sea. While I totally just made that up, what I do know for sure is that I, along with seven other brave men, will ride in style from The Jewel in Lake City all the way to the Links of Lawsonia in the backwoods of central Wisconsin over four days and three (probably short) nights.

This will my first time re-joining the annual "Gunga Gulunga" since the early 2010s, when we cruised up north in a 1978 Winnebago known as "The Turd". In the years since I last attended this great American roadtrip, I've had an award named in my honor, one man has had registered holes-in-one in consecutive years (both on a par 4), and we've traded in the Winnie for our new trusted steed - a 40-foot, loaded RV known as "The Lloyd".

I've been lucky in that I've gotten to know this awesome group of dudes, and that they are actually there to golf (rather than simply drink and ride in the cart). But before we step off of Lloyd, and onto the first tee, months of meticulous planning will have gone into the trip. Well, we'll at least chat a lot in a private Facebook group.

This column will forego the obvious nods to nascent GPS scorekeeping technology, it won't address the fact that you should never coordinate your outfits, nor will it address the general practice of actually bringing enough money (including the emergency $50 stashed in your bag) on the trip. While you can never fully be prepared for the awesomeness, trials and tribulations that are sure to ensue, here are six things to expect / live by when planning your next Buddies' Golf Trip. Let's do this.

1. Get creative about how to pitch the trip, a.k.a. "Spin it to win it." You're going on a "Dad Retreat". Not, I repeat not, a buddies' golf trip. Since my editors have guaranteed me my wife will never read this column, I feel comfortable sharing this approach - one that has worked. The Modern Dad, at least in my household, pulls his weight in Goldfish. Sure, budget, the buddies you choose, the endless hours of logistics, the wheeling and dealing with local pros, and the snagging one-off deals is all part of the time-honored rite of passage that is the buddies' golf trip. Even with my help, for many men (youngish dads in particular) the journey to book the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is more akin to traversing the Oregon Trail. There will be hardships. You'll need supplies from a general store (Amazon). You'll likely have to slay a (blue?) ox. And one of you will likely have something akin to Dysentery. Sorry. But once you make it - it'll all be worth it. After those 11.99 months of 6 a.m. wake-up calls to put Barbie on Netflix, you deserve that 72-90 holes of "Dad Time". Let the bonding (*cough* drinking *cough*) begin.
2. Be selective in whom you invite. Even if you invite your closest friends, I'd recommend checking your expectations at the clubhouse. Chances are, at some point, someone's going to annoy you and you're going to annoy them. The days of the refined, gentile gentleman abiding by the strict formalities (and rules) of golf are gone. But if you remember the 7 main types of golfers you'll encounter on your trip, and you just might be able to role with the punch shots.

* The Tech Bro: He "leverages social media" and will probably use the word "omni-channel" more than once during the trip when discussing his job. Eyerolls will most definitely ensue. Suggestion: Creating a drinking game. Any time he uses a variation of the word "scalable" - shotgun a beer. * DJ Plays-it-loud: This guy loves to bump bluetooth tunes on the course - which, if you ask me - is super cool. Most of the time the tunes are great, except for when his ol' skool hip-hop begins to meld with the new country coming from the other cart in the group. This creates a muddled mix making it real hard to putt. Suggestion: Play the same Pandora / Spotify station at all times, in perfect synchronicity. * Stretch Armstrong: No, that odd Japanese stretching routine you've gleaned from a YouTube video (and that you insist on going through, methodically, before each shot) is not helping you. Suggestion: Encourage him to YouTube "Golf My Way" next time. * Rowdy Roddy Putter: He's completely out of the mix. He might win best-dressed, but his first-round 107 has basically ensured he's going to drink more than 1976 Jimmy Page. What does this mean? It means he'll begin shooting wrestling takedowns on the 14th tee. Again, distracting. Suggestion: Create a modified Stableford scoring system in which a beer drank = a stroke off your score. * The Impersonator: Dude is apt to partake in his best Gary Koch impression as your short iron approach is in the air. "I donnnn't knowwww, Johnny. Looks like he hit that one a little high on the face ... that's gonna need to get up a bitttt." Suggestion: Actually, this guy is really entertaining (if it's not your shot). * The Lone Wolf: He'll appear post-round. He's biding his time until the perfect moment he can "Irish Wake" the group at the bar and bolt for an Uber and the comfy confines of his hotel room. One minute you're taking a shot with "Keyser Söze", and the next "poof - he's gone." Suggestion: Not to worry, he'll probably be the guy who escorts the guy from your group who is passed out outside the bar at 8:30 p.m. * Top Chef: Ever have someone kick you off of the propane grill in a 1978 Winnebago so they can sauté some onions? Easy there Bobby Flay. The words "rue" and "reduction" are not apropos when it's 10 p.m. and we've been on the move since the breaka dawn. I want a grilled cheese and I want it now. Suggestion: Always have a Cliff bar at the ready.
3. Playing for a trophy is great - playing for time is way better. Whatever you play for, make it interesting. Michael Jordan always has the same answer when someone asks how much they should play for on the golf course: "Whatever makes you nervous," he'll say. Put another way: "Whatever makes you putt the 3-footer." According to an excellent post on how to plan a buddies' trip - conveniently located on Pinehurst.com - the Nassau you play for doesn't have to be for cash. "How about this? Loser babysits the kids so the victor can take his wife out for dinner when they get home. Ready to concede that 3-footer now? Didn't think so."
4. Choose a course built for comfort; built for speed. Not everyone on the trip will be the same handicap. Chances are no one, aside from the one who lists his GHIN in his Twitter bio, will even have a registered handicap. Therefore, it's very important to select a "championship" course that probably doesn't regularly host championships. Sure, it'd be a great story to say you held your annual trip at Spyglass, or how the greens at Sawgrass were topping out at 12 on the stimp. But about three holes in you're going to see some very crooked numbers pop up. And good luck getting 36 holes in - even in shoulder seasons - if the course is playing long, fast and tight. In Minnesota, there are an abundance of notable resort tracks with roughly 4-hour runs that feature expansive fairways without being expensive. The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, Giant's Ridge and Breezy are all well worth the trek. And if you can swing a trip before Memorial Day, or after the leaves begin to fall, you'll save a bundle that can justify those ProVs you we're debating whether to pull the trigger on. Another pro tip is to pick your poison and stick with it. If you can (I can't) try to book the same spot year after year. Speaking with the assistant pro, or your booking agent, and letting them know (once you've negotiated your preferred rate) that you'll return if they can match or beat your price next year, is a very good general practice for larger groups. And if you're looking for the best value when traveling for a buddies golf trip, feel free to Google "Myrtle Beach golf trip deals" and see what you can find.
5. Don't forget the family. I know I just wrote all about how to pitch your trip as a Dad Retreat, but it is possible to mix "daddom" with golfdom - even under the watchful eye of "The Boss". Golf Channel's Matt Ginnella (who has perhaps the single greatest job in golf as the guy who just plays amazing courses and creates a Top 10 out of the experience), named Madden's on Gull Lake a "Top 10 Value Couples' Trip" destination for 2016. It's ranked up there with Hershey, PA (think chocolate spa treatments) and Montauk, NY - where you'll find perhaps the freshest oysters on earth. Even if the fam doesn't join you, carve out some time to connect. Early morning FaceTiming (if you're an Apple guy) is a great way to start your day.
6. Find that happy medium. You know how you're an amazing pool / darts player / golfer after three beers, but can't seem to find the bull's-eye after the fourth? There's something to that. In a 1985 study, UK sports and exercise physiology researcher Thomas Reilly examined the effects of alcohol on professional archers - specifically at blood alcohol levels of 0.02 and 0.05 - compared to sober and placebo conditions. Both alcohol levels reduced tremors, and the archers seemed to perform best at 0.02 BAC. According to BloodAlcoholCalculator.com, a 190-pound man will reach .02 BAC between 2-3 drinks in an hour. If you're anything like my fellow Dad Retreaters, I'm assuming you'll be in the 3-4 deep range by mid back-nine, which is fine if you can handle it and don't have to drive the RV. But there is a literal tipping point for most golfers. Perhaps Sport Science should do an episode on the effects of alcohol on hand-eye coordination. Can you imagine Rory downing a few pints of Guinness (or more likely Redbull Vodkas, which he actually drank out of the Claret Jug) and checking his shot dispersion before and after? I'd totally watch that. John Daly said in his riveting autobiography "My Life In and Out of the Rough" that he used to put down a fifth of Jack a day, sometimes more, and still go low the next day. While that's arguably more sad than cool, if you're playing 72+ holes in 48 hours, you'll be tempted to have more than a few cocktails. Feel free to imbibe if that's your thing, but if you expect to remain competitive you might want to register how many drinks deep you are on your scorecard. Interestingly, giving up the sauce has actually helped some golfers perform at their peak. Ernie Els intentionally didn't have a drop a full month before his (pretty much out-of-nowhere) win at the 2014 British. So, maybe that's the ticket to taking home the trophy on your next buddies' trip: Stay sober while the bombers get bombed.

Any questions, comments, amazing Minnesota golf story ideas? Email Steve: Steven.pease@gmail.com






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