When selecting a course to play many of us will simply choose the lowest greens fee within a reasonable distance to travel, and that’s where your group ends up playing. However there are some other intangibles and “nice to haves” that some courses excel at. These details and extras enhance the experience for the golfer, and while these courses might have a slightly higher greens fee at times, these upgrades might not always be considered when choosing where to play, when primarily comparing greens fees.
The biggest intangible is probably the friendliness and knowledge of the staff. It starts from your first interaction with the pro shop. When the pro shop has a staff that is engaged and attentive it makes a difference. You feel catered to, and it adds to the experience of the day. Rather than a simple monetary exchange, it’s great when the pro shop is there with the extra attention to detail. Offering accessories, like sunscreen and bug spray or letting you know about an upcoming events. While the friendly pro shop, or starter might not be what keeps you coming back to a course, unfriendly staff can definitely keep you away, so it is important.
The quality of the carts also has an impact on overall experience. New carts with USB charging ports are a nice touch, however one of the often over looked course upgrades is a paved cart path. Going down a dusty, or bumpy path sometimes feels like racing in the BAJA 1000, and if your beer can is in the cup holder it’s probably bouncing and spilling everywhere. Im convinced that repeatedly tensing up riding over bumps all day can add to the fatigue at the end of a round, and a smooth ride can be a pain saver if you experience any back pain from the lack of suspension.
The layout and location of the course is important as well. I find, the best courses have a way of engulfing you, and giving you a real escape or getaway from the outside world. They are immersive, and usually offer at least one or two picture worthy views. The condition and maintenance of the course is also crucial. No one likes to chip from where grass should be growing, and putting over obstacles should be reserved for mini golf. The worst are the dreaded aerated greens.
Lastly the clubhouse. Ideally you can get a perfectly grilled hot dog on the turn, and after the round, maybe a more substantial meal. The restaurant attached to the clubhouse should offer more than just domestic beer, and walk the fine line of being a nice place to eat, but still a relaxed comfortable environment. Again the best place isn’t always the most expensive, but it’s rarely the least expensive.
I’m not saying that the most expensive course is necessarily the best in each and every way, but simply to consider more than just price when making your decision. Try to factor in the overall experience from the Pro Shop to the the 19th hole, after all, playing golf is spending money on yourself, and that’s the last person you should cheap out on.