From 5 to 8 April, the 2018 US Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, will be the 82nd edition of the championships, and the first of four major golfing events in the calendar this year. To mark the occasion, RCI caught up with keen golfer, Marj Anderson, to get her recommendations for a golf and family holiday, perfectly rolled into one happy break for all.
"Along with my husband David and son Martin, we have long enjoyed golfing and had the pleasure of taking part in green time across the globe over the years. However, Scotland, Spain and Tenerife are home to some noteworthy courses. Here are my tips for people starting out in the sport, plus recommendations for those looking to book their first group golfing tour abroad.
In the swing of it, in Scotland
Scotland offers a range of golf clubs, providing the perfect opportunity to try out a few different courses in one trip. Plus, with so many fabulous resorts in the area and a whole host of on- and off-site attractions, it’s ideal for a family holiday with non-golfers in the party who will have plenty to entertain themselves while you’re out on the course.
We spent a week in Aviemore and I tested out the nine-hole course at Dalfaber Village Golf Club. It's free to play, but if there's one thing I recommend it's that you do your research before you travel and book your tee time as soon as possible so you're not disappointed. You can also discover if there are any golf opens taking place, so it always pays off to plan in advance before you book your exchange.
Golf Empire is a useful source for checking out sporting events and competitions happening around the world, and if you want to participate it can be of great value. In the UK, you often receive reduced green fees, with some dinner or a bite to eat thrown in. Most importantly, it's a fun experience to participate in.
Just a ten-minute drive from bustling Aviemore village is the Boat of Garten Golf Club. Designed by icon James Braid, 'The Boat' is a unique course which runs alongside a steam railway and the River Spey, set in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. In essence, that's the beauty of the sport, each course having different views to offer, be it valleys, mountains, sea views, railways, highlands or lowlands.
The Carrick is an 18-hole on-resort championship course at Cameron House (DG79) in Dunbartonshire, so you don't have to venture far to get your green time in.
Nine of the holes offer views of the Scottish Highlands, with the remaining holes around the lowlands and the stunning Loch Lomond, so you have different perspectives of the great outdoors which is lovely. There are also plenty of walking and hiking options for members of your holiday group who are not going to want to join you on the fairways!
There are also several splendid pit stops - or half way houses - in which to rest your legs and take some refreshment. The Highland Laddie and award-winning The Claret Jug should be visited when golfing or walking here.
We have made some very good friends over the years when finishing up in golf club bars and restaurants, as there's a real buzz and sense of camaraderie with everyone's shared love of the sport. I know plenty of people that now take holidays together, having met through golf.
The Cameron House resort has a second challenging course, the Wee Demon, which weaves between all the lodges. As you slalom around the course, there are strategically-placed sand traps and water hazards, so it really tests your skill even on the par threes.
The key to a good course is how well-tended they are, so the greens' staff are key to being able to read the line accurately. Look out for drains, lakes and ponds around the green, these are good indicators of the run-off areas and they will tell you which direction the slope favours. And the last third of the hole is where the ball will be slowing down so you need to make a secondary read as to how the land lies.
Meanwhile, non-golfers can relax in the spa, just a short journey from the Cameron House resort, or enjoy the rooftop infinity pool overlooking the golf course so you can keep an eye on your golfing chums while chilling out. Nearby you can enjoy boat trips on Loch Lomond, visit the Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, a safari park, art galleries and more. There's enough to cater to all tastes in this destination, while a bonus is knowing that Glasgow is just 40 minutes from the resort so you can enjoy some time in the city as a family together.
There are so many to mention, but some other notable courses in Scotland include Newtonmore Golf Club in the Scottish Highlands, and one of the more affordable at just £14 a round. Grantown on Spey Golf Club is a golfer's paradise within the Cairngorms National Park and, established in 1890, it's one of the finest in the sporting world. Close by there’s an Osprey Centre to view birdlife and squirrels, and treetop climbing for family activities.
Tee off under the sun
There are some fabulous golfing options overseas too. Even though us golfers have our own, personal and preferred golf clubs, by renting your equipment you really will save yourself a lot of hassle, and even cost in not having to pay for extra baggage on your flights. Call up the golf course - or courses - at your destination in advance to organise your equipment rental ready for when you get out there. Some countries, famed for their golfing opportunities under the sun, such as Portugal and Spain, also have golf equipment hire companies at the airport.
To avoid the heat in Spain, you should book a twilight golf slot. But note - they are in high demand, as twilight golfing is also cheaper at approximately €100 a round, so you should plan ahead.
I stayed at Macdonald Doña Lola Resort (1689) in Málaga on the Costa Del Sol. There are ten world-class golf courses within ten minutes of your apartment at this resort which will cater to serious golfers. For the rest of your party, they should know that the resort's beach-front location is ideal for sun worshippers, with great shopping nearby. The resort boasts an assortment of bars and restaurants, as well as many other amenities, such as a Turkish Bath, spas, tennis courts and a gym.
The resort's golf team are really efficient at organising groups, and will even recommend the best courses for your party based on your handicap. They also provide affordable packages with golf rolled in, so if you're planning a trip for your golfing buddies, it's a hassle-free way to sort everyone out.
One of my favourites is Santana Golf, which is set on a former avocado plantation with wide fairways and level terrain which is very walkable. There's also an overwhelming range of flora and fauna, coastal scenery, and the chance to spot the odd eagle, so it's a delightful mix to enjoy while you wait to play. All 18 holes are demanding in their own way, but the last one is one of the most demanding finishing holes along the coast, with a lake and a narrow approach to contend with. Meanwhile the eighth hole at 602 metres long is considered the longest on the Costa del Sol - so made for the pleasure of the longer hitter.
Tenerife is another good option for golfing in reliably fine weather and on well-maintained courses. Amarilla Golf and Country Club on the Golf Del Sur lets you play 18 holes, but you have three nine-hole options to choose from which is a nice touch. Plus the Fairways Club (2117) resort is on-site too so you can play and stay. The different options feel like you are playing completely different courses, so you get variety as well as incredible views of Mount Teide.
May to October traditionally offer the cheapest green fees while the remaining six months you can expect to pay a lot more per round.
Being a much warmer climate, I know people, including my brother-in-law, who will play an early bird or tea time round as there are fewer queues on the course. I personally like to be the first one out on the course so I don't feel rushed and so I can escape the heat and spend the afternoon exploring the local sites and attractions.
While it might be a bit overcast, sun protection and hydration are important when you're exposed to the elements for hours on end.
The other benefit of golf is that it is open to all skill levels, as the handicap system allows you to even up the stakes. Martin is a handicap two, while I am a 28, so we can still play a course together which is a real bonus and you can mix your groups up however you wish.
Some clubs will request your handicap certificate so request this from your home club before departure. Generally the minimum handicap requirements are 28 for males and 36 for females. This allows green staff to maintain the courses more effectively, as naturally you wouldn't want novice golfers chipping away at the greens.
It can be a very expensive sport to get into, but my biggest tip is no matter what course you choose, just enjoy it and make the most of it. And if you're just starting out, look out for online offers with voucher sites to test it out and see if it's for you - but I dare say it won't be long before you get the bug too!”
Dare to be different
Did you know that aside from the golfing experiences in Europe, that your RCI membership opens up the exotic and verdant greens in the likes of Mexico, Asia and the Caribbean too?
With RCI, you can dare to be different, so why not add one of these locations to your upcoming holiday adventures:
With great weather virtually year-round, Mexico makes sense for a golfing trip, with over 200 golf courses across the country. With layouts added in recent years on the Baja California Sur Peninsula, the Riviera Maya as well as along the Pacific coast, now is the time to book that international golf trip.
Hacienda del Mar Resort (3622) in Cabo San Lucas is set on a private complex which boasts two championship golf courses. The resort itself offers 28 acres of gardens, eight restaurants, five pools and even a snorkelling reserve, so non golfers are free to revel in the resort surroundings. Meanwhile budding Rory McIlroys can test their skills on the Ocean or Desert courses.
The Dominican Republic is home to an array of RCI-affiliated resorts complete with golf courses on-site or close by. In Punta Cana alone, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana (A791) and Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa (C552) are two all-inclusive resorts with access to courses created by famed designer Jack Nicklaus. Try out Hard Rock’s Golden Bear or head for Punta Espada which is regularly ranked as one of the best courses in the Caribbean and Mexico.
RCI resorts to consider
There are more than 1,700 resorts affiliated to the RCI Exchange Holiday network available to RCI members. A golfing break with RCI also gives you access to fabulous family facilities and activities.
With many of them in prime locations for non-golfers to holiday their way, it offers the perfect combination for the whole party to enjoy time on the greens or on the move, before getting together in the evening. Here are some options for you to add to your holiday plans:
Cameron Lodges at Cameron House (2416) - Resting on the banks of Loch Lomond in Dunbartonshire in Scotland, Cameron House is made for a magical and romantic stay with incredible views, superb restaurants, an elegant spa and fabulous golfing on-site.
Macdonald Doña Lola (1689) - Get a taste of the exotic with bountiful gardens, a huge pool and extraordinary views of the ocean when you wake up each morning at this luxury resort in Málaga. Meanwhile keen golfers have a whole host of courses to choose from within ten minutes of the resort.
Elite Apartments at Fairways Club (3596) - Experience the quieter side of Tenerife on the sunny south coast. An impressive golf course borders the ocean, and you have a variety of on-site facilities with four bars and restaurants, a pool and beautiful water gardens surroundings.
The are so many incredible golf courses all over the world that are just waiting for you to tee off. If you are a beginner or a Rory McIlroy in the making, there's a course out there for you.
With RCI, you can travel the world playing all the top golf courses and still experience everything else the surrounding area has to offer in between rounds. If you would like to book your next golfing holiday with RCI, visit our Resort Directory and start planning your next adventure.
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