For golf enthusiasts, a round of golf at some of the world’s best courses is high on the bucket list. Ker & Downey’s Lee Stranathan has compiled some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about golfing in other countries and fills you in on all you need to know for your next Journey on the Green. Do you have a question for the Ker & Downey team? Email us or post on our Facebook page.
What differences will I notice when playing at a course in another country vs. a course in the United States?
Your ball and the hole you are hitting towards will be the same size everywhere. Other than that, everything is different. Different grass, different sand, wind conditions and slope ratings are some of the easy differences. Most distances are quoted in meters rather than in yards. (Hint: add 10% to the quoted meter distance to convert to yards.) We will provide you with insights and suggestions in advance of your journey, and you will be greeted and supported at each course by on-site personnel.
What about different types of courses?
In general, courses may be divided into parkland style and links style courses, although they certainly can be broken down further (resort style, desert style, seaside, etc.). Most US courses are typically parkland style and can then be described as flat or hilly, twisting or “9 out, 9 in”, abundant water, lots of trees, etc. Classic links courses, most often found in the UK but replicated around the world, are most often narrow and feature undulating fairways, dunes, bunkers (many that are quite deep) and few trees. We’ll discuss your game, your plans, and the particular challenges presented by the courses in the countries to which you’ll travel.
Do I take my clubs?
Personal preference. Both I and David Marek prefer to take our own clubs. If there’s something really unique about your personal clubs, that’s a vote for taking them, but in general we’ll be able to secure high-end rental clubs that will more than meet your needs. Right-hand or left-hand, graphite or metal, different lofts, hybrids as well as standard, a 5-wood or a 2 iron, no promises on a 1 – we’ll make sure it’s not the clubs that are your memories from the round. This is always a question of debate and we’ll support the choice, whatever it is, but excellent rental clubs will be available.
If I don’t take my clubs, then what?
We will secure rental clubs based upon your input, most likely securing them from each course you play.
If I take my clubs, how will they be handled?
When departing the U.S., you’ll check your clubs along with your luggage through to your destination. Your travel consultant can provide information on luggage restrictions (number of pieces, weight restrictions, etc.). In all likelihood, your clubs will accompany you to your initial accommodation (though, depending upon how many are traveling, they may not be in the same vehicle). From that point your itinerary will influence the transportation and handling of your clubs. If you have planned to spend time at a safari lodge separate from areas where you’ll play, your clubs may be shipped to the first course you play rather than accompanying you to the lodge; if you have scheduled time for cruises, your clubs may remain on shore and meet you at the course; if you are playing while in one country, then not playing in another country, and then playing as you arrive at a third country, your clubs may have their own transportation schedule (and of course if you’re playing while at a lodge or on a boat, your clubs will be there with you).
Do I take golf balls?
With today’s baggage and weight restrictions, we’d encourage you to purchase your balls at the course, or at least in-country, and we can arrange for that ahead of time if you wish.
What about shoes?
Most courses around the world, just as most higher-end courses in the States, require golf shoes rather than tennis shoes. Metal spikes are still allowed on some courses, but just as the States are being more restrictive, we recommend you plan only for soft spikes. Shoe rentals are an option but not as dependable as club rentals. Because shoe fit is more of a challenge than club fit, if you only take one thing from your normal course equipment, we’d encourage you to take your shoes.
What about golf attire?
Just like the varying guidelines on attire stateside, the same is true for international courses. We will provide you with guidelines as to whether long pants are required for men, whether shorts are acceptable for women, whether “shorts” includes cargo style as well as golf style, etc. In general, country club accepted rules like collared shirts worn tucked in, tailored shorts worn knee length, no blue jeans or cargo shorts may be expected.
Confirmation of your handicap from your home pro is a good idea, usually in the form of a document you can present at the course. Many courses require handicaps and confirmation at time of booking but you will find the levels may be quite generous. For example, St. Andrews requires a handicap of 24 or below for men, 36 for women. We will obtain your handicap certificate at the time of booking and provide it to the courses in advance.
Scoring and challenge?
Scoring is the same around the world, one stroke per ball strike. If you prefer courses where you’ll most likely shoot your handicap we’ll suggest layouts that accommodate. But if you want a challenge, want to play courses that have earned their country or world ranking, that present unique tests or experiences, or courses that just can’t be found in the US, we will plan accordingly. We suggest that you “play it forward” to get the most enjoyment out of your round. We want you to enjoy the sights and sounds of the area, and not get stressed over a 200 yard approach shot over water.
Are there any local customs or rules a golfer from another country needs to follow?
We will advise you of anything unique or not commonly found at US courses. At many South African courses, a pause is enforced at the turn (ranging from 10-20 minutes) for refreshments, and tee times are scheduled accordingly. Fourteen of the holes at St. Andrews are played to double greens, an important point when lining up your tee shot.
Are carts and/or caddies available?
Caddie availability varies from course to course and we’ll provide our suggestions as we handcraft your journey. If they are available, we encourage them. Caddies offer invaluable insights into the round (club selection, terrain and influence of weather, etc.) as well as providing local color and flavor. However they are not available at all courses around the world. Notably, some of the world’s top courses require caddies and do not allow carts, and a few of the courses we’ll suggest are walk-only, i.e. no carts allowed. We will provide information on the topic for each course, as well as advise if GPS systems are in use with carts.
What about tipping?
Tipping can vary from course to course. An important part of your travel documents is the Tipping Guide, where recommendations and guides for tipping will be included.
Are lockers available?
Most high-end clubs will have guest lockers available. Some locker rooms will include wellness facilities and showers, and some will be lockers for changing only. At a minimum, you will be greeted by a course employee and taken to the facilities reserved for you, while your clubs, rented or your own, are handled. Your travel consultant will advise you of the facilities available as a part of your travel documents.
For more information about adding a round of golf to your next Ker & Downey journey, please contact your Travel Professional. Stay up to date on all of Ker & Downey’s online content by “liking” our Facebook page.<