This marks the 36th year that our small group will go on a golf trip together. The group has pretty much stayed the same except for the first couple of years where we had a substitute for one of us who couldn’t make it.
For 36 years though, a group of guys from Greenville (the first year my brother-in-law Ernie Larger from Columbus went, and later John Lephart from Arcanum, and Phil Brumbaugh have gone somewhere in the east or south to play this most frustrating game.
For the majority of years though it has been myself, Gary Zechar, Randall Breaden, and Larry Ullery. We obviously look forward to this event because we have done it so often. We try to take this trip in late April or early May.
Each year, one of us, (this year it was Larry’s turn) gets to pick where we will go. Larry chose Memphis, Tennessee, a place we have not been to. Larry was “instructed” on the way home from our trip last April to start planning for this one, as we always do.
Larry didn’t even know where he wanted to go yet, but, this leads to some great conversations on the way home in the car. Speaking of the car, Randall Breaden has been the driver for all 36 years! He enjoys driving, is fast (a couple of times too fast, ask him about Hendersonville, North Carolina) and gets us where we need to be.
We probably should thank him more, but it is more fun to abuse him! Surprisingly, only twice that I recall was the weather bad. Once in Myrtle beach when it rained all week, every day, all day and all night. We actually played for 5-days and decided that we had enough and headed home early.
The other time was in Ocean City, Maryland. That was cold and rainy, but we got through it. Other than that, our trips have seen good weather.
On a side note, we have played every course in Myrtle Beach but two of the Barefoot resort courses. That was the year they had the terrible fires in Myrtle Beach and the Fazio and Dye courses received some damage. At the time of the fire, there were 110 courses in Myrtle Beach, so we have played a lot of golf in Myrtle Beach!
Our favorite spot though in the Myrtle Beach area is Pawley’s Island. Great courses, Litchfield resort is fantastic, and the food…well, the ocean is right there, so…..
I would recommend for all golfers, men and women, to gather some friends and plan a yearly trip. It is truly a great experience. The fun starts when it is your turn to pick the trip. Since our group has done it numerous times, I will offer a few suggestions if I may.
First, decide who you can spend a week or two with. That may sound crazy but chances are you will be rooming with somebody, and you want to make sure they are compatible with you for a week. By keeping the group small, say 4 to 8 people, arranging people by personality is much easier. Randy and I room together every year, and we have no problems at all.
Secondly, start early when planning your trip. Most trips won’t allow you to book more than four months out, but there are so many places to play and it is fun to look on the internet and see where you want to play.
Send for all the free booklets and planners you see, as they are very helpful. A good place to start is Myrtle Beach; great packages, lots of choices on courses (over 80 now), and things to do afterward, and it is relatively inexpensive.
Third, and this is very important, pick golf courses that can fit your skill level. I know several times we have picked hard courses just for fun, Tidewater in Myrtle Beach, and Kiva Dunes in Gulf Shores, Alabama for example, just because we wanted to play them.
Mostly though we pick courses that look like fun. Golf is more fun when you feel like you can play decently and not feel like the course just beat you to death. You’re on a fun trip, so keep the frustration level low, and everyone will have more fun!
Fourth and the most important, is pick your trip on value. Our group is the best at picking packages that give us a lot for our money. I think the most we have ever paid for a golf trip for a week that included the golf, accommodations, breakfast or a meal, and a few gifts(tees, balls, etc.) was around $1100.00 a person.
Mostly our trips are in the $700-$900+ price range. Those trips are readily available and all you have to do is look and then ask the planner or hotel what all you can get. There is a lot of competition for your dollar, so be smart and sensible on your choice.
Lastly, pick a time of year that will accommodate everyone. Early spring into early summer works for us, and makes winter seem like a bad memory! Try not to go in mid-summer because the south can get pretty warm. Another group of us “old geezers”, usually 16 to 20 guys, go to Gulf Shores in November every year, and that works out great too – plus, we get a real good rate!
This year’s trip will once again be fun for us! I know it will because of the people I will be with. We are all getting to the point where we know that this can’t go on forever, but that makes each year more enjoyable. I am fortunate to have great friends like Larry, Randy, and Gary that are willing to spend a week with me, and all the bull I throw at them!
The leaving Greenville at 5:30 a.m., the anticipation, the laughter, the ribbing, the abuse, the after round drinks and snacks talking about how great we were, someday will be no more. But by the grace of God, we have put that off one more year. Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy another trip next year.
We will undoubtedly start planning it on the way home, for sure! So, take the advice, start your own tradition, go play golf with your friends, and enjoy life while you can. Remember what Red Skelton used to say: “Don’t take life too seriously ‘cause you ain’t gonna get out of it alive anyway!” That’s the way I see it from the sidelines!
Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner