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The WEEI Country Club
07.02.09
All Inclusive Golf Trips

By: Pro From Dover

The carnage from the ongoing recession is strewn about with lost jobs, pay cuts, furloughs and general misery. Many of those not directly hurt seem to have had an epiphany, as well. Whether impacted or not, folks are reassessing their budgets and their lifestyles.

Frugal is the new extravagant. Individuals and families are reassessing the need for a new car. The boat has been sold. Close attention is being paid to budgets.

That goes for vacations, too. We hear about “stay-cations” and those are fine but some of us just have to get on a plane and go somewhere.

Businesses involved in the travel and leisure industries are definitely getting the message and there are a lot of good deals to be had. This could be good news for golfers. If you are considering a golf vacation in the Fall or Winter, here is something to consider.

All inclusive resorts were pioneered in Jamaica in the 1970s. The idea of an all inclusive is to bundle all the expenses of a resort stay into one price. At the best of them, the price includes the room, meals (generally the resort will have four or five different themed restaurants), beverages including top shelf liquor and water sports activities.

So, when you book your stay, you pay one price and upon check out you receive a bill for as little as nothing assuming you used your personal cell phone and didn’t go for the a la carte extras like massages and spa treatments. It’s a terrific concept. At most of the resorts tipping is even discouraged. We’ve used all inclusives for years and rarely vacation at a pay as you go resort.

Of course, the trade off in these arrangements is you dine, drink and play on the resort property. If that’s not an attractive idea, then maybe all inclusive isn’t right for you.

In recent years, many all inclusives have added golf. In our experience, Sandals is among the best and they offer golf at some of their resorts in Jamaica and St. Lucia. The greens fees are included and the only additional expense is payment for a caddy which is not particularly expensive. The resorts offer transportation to and from the courses so it’s a very good deal.

Now many of the resorts in other parts of the Caribbean have begun including golf, as well.

In addition to Jamaica, resorts in the Dominican Republic and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico have all inclusive golf options.

As you would expect, the quality of the courses offered vary by resort. We have not had the chance to play many of them so we can’t offer a general ranking. The Jamaican courses are older and quite variable in their challenge and overall condition.

In the Dominican Republic, well known facilities like Casa di Campo and newer resorts in Punta Cana have wonderful layouts that are very well manicured because they are relatively new.

Cancun and the Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico are also offering golf inclusive deals. Be mindful of the recent flu epidemic although we haven’t heard of any problems in that part of the country.

S0 how to find the best deals? Experience has taught us there are three excellent options.

The best of them is using a full service travel agency. Travel agents are exposed to a large number of properties through what are called familiarization or “fam” trips where a particular tourist authority or resort compamy will bring agents to show off many different properties. Generally, travel agents are compensated through a commission they receive from the property they book clients to. The price to you as a consumer is the same whether you book directly with the property or go through an agent.

The agent can book the flights, transfers and other elements of your trip, as well. In the past ten years, there has been a shake out in the travel agency industry with many of the marginal operators being shuttered so the odds are high that the one you pick will be competent and offer terrific service. Word of mouth from friends and relatives is helpful in picking the right one, too.

The second option is to go through a specialized agency, in this particular case, one which deals with golf trips and tours. They know the courses and the resorts better because that is their focus.

Finally, search through the Internet for properties that offer the specific type of accommodation and options you want and deal with the resort directly. The airlines offer the same type of option, too, with the resort and flights bundled.  The challenge here is determining if the resort is really up to par and you are not having lots of smoke blown your way.

We’ve all heard stories or maybe had the experience of booking a “water view room” which actually overlooks the cistern. Caveat emptor.

We’re partial toward independent agents who should be objective in their recommendations.

Two dynamics are working in the avid travel golfers favor. The distressed economy is forcing prices down in resorts all over. And all inclusive resorts are now offering golf as part of their deal. Those two things promise great opportunities for the foreseeable future.