Golf Vacation Travel

Golf’s Greatest Off-Course Experiences

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tom-morris-shopUnless you live or vacation somewhere unaffected by this soul-crushing winter, you probably haven’t been playing a lot of golf lately.

So, today I’m going to share a few more ways to not play golf.

Wait — that didn’t come out right.

What I mean is…ways you can have very meaningful — often moving — golf experiences in your travels on days when you’re not playing golf.

Here’s my list of 14, but I’d love your help with the final four to get to 18 (because all golf lists have to have cute numbers like 9 or 18, right?)

Tour the Factory of a Major Equipment Maker (Nationwide)
I’m not sure if the other big companies do this anymore, but Ping still runs group tours of its assembly areas at its Phoenix factory on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 9 am.

Visit Bobby Jones’ Gravesite (Atlanta, Ga.)
Many tour pros do this for good luck before The Masters and you can do it, too. Just head to Oakland Cemetery in downtown Atlanta and tee up or place a golf ball beside the headstone of the late, great Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones.

Visit the World Golf Hall of Fame (St. Augustine, Fla.)
C’mon, it’s golf’s hall of fame!

Visit the USGA Museum (Far Hills, N.J.)
If you want to learn the story of golf in America, this is the place to do it. Huge collection of exhibits, artifacts, books, and you can tour the equipment test center, too.

Visit the Home / Shop of Old Tom Morris (St. Andrews, Scotland)
6 The Links is where Old Tom lived until his final days. Next door, at 8 The Links, is his golf shop which claims to be his first, although recent reports say it may have been located at 15 The Links.

Visit the Birthplace of Donald Ross (Dornoch, Scotland)
Thanks to reader Rich K., for this one. If you’re into golf course architects, you can visit the birthplace of one of the game’s greatest at 5 St. Gilbert Street in Dornoch, Scotland.

Get Some High Tech Advice (Nationwide)
Go to one of those places where you can get recorded, mapped, measured, and analyzed and you’ll never see your swing the same way again.

Get Some Low Tech Advice (Nationwide)
Sometimes you’ll get the most out of a Zen master-like teacher who relies on technology the least, like Tour player advisor Jaime Mulligan or old-school, top-100 instructor Manuel de la Torre.

Visit Oakhurst Links (White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.)
One of America’s oldest golf courses (1884) where the game is still played with hickory shafted clubs and gutta-percha type balls (period attire, too) was “rescued” in 2012 by Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice.

Walk Pine Valley (Pine Valley, N.J.)
You may not be able to play Pine Valley, but you can walk the course every year when the club hosts its annual Crump Cup amateur tournament. The public is invited to watch the final round and you can walk the fairways right alongside the players.

Attend The Masters (Augusta, Ga.)
You’ve seen and heard it all, but nothing compares to being there. And with practice/opening round access readily available and inexpensive (compared to weekend badges), anyone who can get to Augusta can get in to see Augusta National and The Masters.

Have Lunch at Muirfield (Gullane, Scotland)
Ok, so this one technically involves golf, but it’s too good not to include. After your morning round at this world-top-10 course, you put a sport jacket, sit at the club’s long, community tables (often alongside members), and dig into an all-world lunch before heading back out for an afternoon round of alternate shot.

Visit a Great Player’s Museum (Nationwide)
If you want to deep dive into the life and times of one of the game’s greats, consider going to a dedicated gallery like the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, Ohio or the Ben Hogan Museum in Dublin, Texas.

Read the Classics (Anywhere)
Masters like Herbert Warren Wind and Bernard Darwin often describe golf in a way that’s more enjoyable than playing it (especially if your game is in a rut).

That’s 14. Can you help me round out a list of 18 with things you’ve seen or done that are very golf-y, but didn’t involve playing golf?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

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61 Comments

  1. Adam Russell

    February 19, 2014 at 2:29 am

    Attend anyone of the USGA Rules seminars that are offered throughout the year at various locations. (The two day version is sufficient, the four day version is borderline overwhelming). You will become involved in a level of golfing minutiae that borders on the manic.

  2. Doug M.

    February 19, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Watch a group of young kids taking a golf lesson. It will totally re-ignite your love of the game…and you may even learn a few things from watching them swing!

  3. Craig M.

    February 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    I’ve got 2 to add.
    Go coach at a First Tee program, even if just for a day. reminds of when you fell in love with golf and to see some of these kids who would have no access to golf but for First Tee is life/attitude changing
    2nd is take a trip to Pinehurst, stay whenever you want, I prefer Pine Crest Inn but leave an afternoon free to tour the town and some of the great bars, book shops, etc. in the town.

  4. Ed

    February 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Totally agree with the Herbert Warren Wind and Bernard Darwin references, but two other golf books (among many) to read are “The Clicking of Cuthbert” by P.G. Wodehouse (public domain copies available) and “Tommy’s Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf’s Founding Father and Son” by Kevin Cook. You’ll appreciate the visit to the Tom Morris Golf Shop even more!

  5. Don Cwiklowski

    February 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Walk, bike, drive the 1.7 mile drive near Pebble Beach. See great golf courses, stunning ocean views, and sea otters.

  6. Michael Wojtalewicz

    February 19, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Walk the golf course you play most in the winter, a few holes at a time or all at once. It will give you a whole different perspective of the course. So when you start playing it again you will have a renewed respect for it.

  7. Robert Lanier

    February 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    One should visit the Golf Museum located in the James River Country Club( Newport News, VA.). It is the oldest golf museum in the world. Many items are priceless.

  8. Tom Clifford

    February 19, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    The Men’s Spa whirlpool, overlooking the North Sea at the Slive Donard Hotel in Northern Ireland.

  9. Steve C.

    February 19, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Visit and walk any course where they play a PGA event (Augusta, PGA National, etc.). It makes watching a future event at that course so much more enjoyable.

  10. bill warner

    February 19, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Read John Updike’s “Golf Dreams.” It shows the true spirit of golf and golfers, and explores the relationship between a golfer and his or her caddie. It is a wonderful book.

  11. Arthur M

    February 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Visit the Cliffs of Moher, not far fem Lahinch.

  12. Scott Zochowski

    February 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Volunteer at a local golf tournament in any capacity. The people you will meet will be the salt of the earth and your appreciation for the world’s greatest game will be greatly enhanced from the experience of assisting the in golf’s future.

  13. Gary S

    February 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Never done this but seems like a good idea. Chum up with a buddy in the biz and attend the PGA Merchandise Show in Florida every year. From media coverage, looks like a week long session to get golf juices flowing.

  14. Steve Hayes

    February 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    So, you have traveled all the way to Northern Ireland and are at Royal Portrush. The wind is gale force and it is raining buckets, which is about a 50-50 chance. You can either go ahead and play just because you are there or you can drive 4 miles and have a tour and a tasting at the “Old Bushmill’s Distillery”. They have been distilling Irish whiskey legally since 1608. I asked what did they do before 1608 and was told they were distilling Irish whiskey “illegally”. Wonderful place to take the dampness out of your bones. Cheers

  15. Scott Sadler

    February 19, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Watch a golf lesson?
    Watch a rules committee?
    Why not watch someone put water in a ball washer.
    After Portrush visit the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge ending up at Bushmills Dustillery
    After Lahinch hike to the Cliffs of Moher then warm up at Kenny’s
    The Beach Bar after Rosses Point
    The 2-me after Ancil Hoffman

  16. Scott Sadler

    February 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    BTW
    It 17 mile drive, not 1.7.

  17. Ron M

    February 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Experience a shower, a massage and a great meal at one of the many world class golf courses in Thailand. An inexpensive, relaxing and tasty way to finish your day.

  18. jon G

    February 19, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Take a whiskey distillery tour in Scotland or Ireland. My favorite is Springbank, in Campbeltown following a round at Machrihanish.

  19. John Stoffel

    February 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Show your clubs some love. Get all of your clubs and soak the heads in a bucket of warm soapy water. Use a stiff bristle toothbrush and clean all of the grooves thoroughly. Get some automotive touch-up paint to repair any nicks. Get some rubbing compound and work on the scratches as well as smoothing out the touch-up paint. And, clean out your bag. You don’t want bugs or rodents moving in.

  20. Jerry Convery

    February 19, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    When in Ireland, whether you play the course or not, stand on the bluff overlooking the entrance to Old Head golf links and admire the beauty of this magnificant property.

  21. Wayne Amirault

    February 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    For us North of the Boarder, go visit the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame located at Glen Abby were most of the Canadian Opens have been played.

  22. KBM

    February 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Do Seventeen Mile Drive on the Monterrey Peninsula, stopping to get glimpses of Cypress Point, Monterrey Peninsula, Poppy Hills, Spyglass, Spanish Bay, and Pebble Beach. Have lunch at the Beach Club, dinner (and the firepits, got to have the firepits for cocktails and the lone piper at dusk every evening) at the Inn at Spanish Bay.

  23. Chris H

    February 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    If you are able, get a member of the R&A to give you a walk-through of the club headquarters at the first tee of the Old Course. I did this shortly before I teed off and it was amazing — a true inspiration for my round! Also, walk through the British Golf Museum near the R&A and Old Course — it is filled with magnificent history and historical items.

  24. Dan Fitzgerald

    February 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Go play the Dingle Golf Links or as it is known in Ireland Caenn Sibeal. The course is at the very end of the Dingle peninsula. The ride out to the golf course, the golf and the surrounding area is all surreal and beautiful. Like Old Head, even if you do not play the golf course, you will have a great trip.

  25. Tim I

    February 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    For #18: visit the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, Ohio. What better way to celebrate 18 than by going to see the exploits of the greatest golfer of all time, and holder of a record 18 Majors (20 if you count the Amateurs like they did in Bobby Jones’ day).

  26. Barbara Van Dorn

    February 19, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Play the Putt-Putt course at St. Andrews. I understand that the ladies’ league which plays that course is the oldest golf league in the world – is that true? I believe the course is open to public play once/week. Its historical and its fun too!

  27. Mae

    February 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Wandered into a “golf shop” in Regensberg, Germany that had prints and artwork relating to golf. No one was in the shop but walked across the lane into an antique store where the proprietor was headquartered. After buying a couple of prints, he asked if I wanted to visit his little golf museum, which I did. Located in the basement were very old and oddities of golf stuff…interestingly, the owner mentioned he was writing a book that claimed the Dutch to be the father of golf (judged by old artifacts of the game) and would turn the history of golf on their heads!

  28. TK

    February 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    You sure make getting those Master’s practice round tickets sound easy and inexpensive. I live in Georgia and haven’t gotten the “lottery” nod from the
    Master’s in over 8 years. I’d go every year if those tickets ended up in my mailbox.
    Par 3 Wednesday is the best. But the scalpers now have control and they are
    getting Hundreds$$ for a $35 ticket.

  29. Dave S

    February 19, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Together with your non-golfing friends, walk the Old Course at St. Andrews on a Sunday mid-morning when the Old Course is closed for play – bring your camera. After, have lunch at the Visitor’s Clubhouse overlooking the golf courses and, then, play the Ladies Putting Course (with your non-golfing friends) – and, then: Play the Castle Course late afternoon while your non-golfing friends visit St. Andrews and have them join you at the Castle Course clubhouse for dinner.

  30. PJ Thompson

    February 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Watch someone fill a ball washer! An overlooked but fascinating contraption…

  31. PJ Thompson

    February 19, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Though I’m not sure if it fits the ‘off course’ experience theme, play the sheep ranch at bandon (if you still can)…

  32. Harry Elias

    February 19, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    If you have time to visit the Tom Morris shop, then on Sunday, when the Old Course is open to the public, walk the course (and be amazed that it is one of 5 courses at the same location)

  33. Eric Sniady

    February 19, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Masters practice round tickets are not inexpensive, or easy to come by. Unless you win the ticket lottery – something that myself and a group of friends have all yet to do – you’re subject to paying scalped prices at approximately $300-$400 per, which is something the club “frowns upon”. I also wouldn’t put it past the club to revoke your privileges from the grounds for accepting them, although I believe the scalper is the only one that they enforce that penalty upon. If anyone has a suggestion for making truth out of the author’s suggestion, you have my attention.

    The Hall of Fame in St. Augustine is nice for one visit, but don’t plan a trip around it.

    Oakhurst links, however, is a great experience. Great suggestion, but to get the experience you have to golf … which wasn’t the point of the article.

    I’ll second another reader’s suggestion; drive 17 Mile Drive on Monterey. I’ve never Pebble, Spyglass, or Spanish Bay – and have about as much of a chance to play Cypress as I do throwing a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl – but I’ve had the pleasure of taking that drive. It’s spectacular.

  34. Darren Knight

    February 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    What about the opportunity to play an awesome course with a chance to see wild African animals and if you look across the river on the course you may even see the “big 5”. Nothing like a wild Giraffe sticking his head into my golf cart to check me out or trying to putt with a large crocodile nearby. Leopard Creek is not just about golf. I can promise you all your senses will come alive. Put this on your bucket list and you wont be disappointed.

  35. Fourball

    February 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    A visit to Archie Baird’s museum next to Gullane is worth the trip. We were fortunate to spend a few hours with him and his pooch. His stories are wonderful.

  36. Al Andrus

    February 19, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I hope this is not too out of date, perhaps a native can advise us on current choices in Alaska? Try Moose Run GC in Anchorage. Good chance to have to detour around a roaming Moose on the course. Hard to believe how big they are!

  37. Walter Morris Jr

    February 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    When in Pinehurst NC, Be sure to visit Tom Stewart’s “Old Sport Gallery and Bookshop”
    Market Square in the Village – You will not be sorry !!!!!!!!!

  38. Charles Ray

    February 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Watch Caddyshack or Tin Cup. Read The Spirit of St Andrews by Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Play Fantasia Fairways Miniature Golf at Disneyworld. My favorite- play any of the world’s greatest courses on an indoor golf simulator.

  39. Kent

    February 19, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Stay at Bay Hill Lodge in Orlando, Florida – you just might get to meet Arnold Palmer and shake his hand.

  40. Randy

    February 20, 2014 at 1:33 am

    The Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper is terrific drive, and you can play Stanley Thompson masterpieces on each end of the highway.

    The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller is a nice diversion, and it’s 10 minutes down the road from Dinosaur Trail golf club…what a back nine..!!

    And the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton is a world class drive- Thompson’s Highlands Links on one end and Cabot Links on the other end of the highway.

    Anything by Henry Longhurst is worth reading.

  41. DAVE ROBSON

    February 20, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Tom Clifford would have a problem seeing the North Sea from the Men’s spa at the Slive Donnard. The North Sea borders the east coast of the UK. I think he means the Irish sea.

  42. jon brownstein

    February 20, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Read in the Kingdom of golf , Harvey Penick’s the little Red Book and Zen Golf, 3 awesome golf books!

  43. steve bushey

    February 20, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Dinner at the Dunvegan Hotel in St. Andrews.

  44. Don Harnum

    February 20, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Have your photo taken on the Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course, St. Andrews, then admire the huge expanse of fairway combining the first and 18th holes —and people and cars moving across the fairways. Really a trip to the past. While there putt the “Himalayas” the putting green alongside the first hole –quite a treat and challenge.

  45. Bruce Shively

    February 20, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Take a golf trip, any trip, with your son. Whether it’s local or across the pond, do it now. My son Scott and I enjoyed a wonderful 10 days of golf in Scotland in 2011, while he was completing his Masters Degree in Edinburgh. Scott died this past October. I am so glad we grabbed the moment while we had the chance. To share any golf experience with someone you love is a gift. Don’t wait.

  46. JD

    February 20, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Volunteer to work any available match play,amateur pub links, senior tournament , and witness for yourself just how good these players are. Last year i was able to work the U.S.WAPL @ the Jimmie Austin Golf Course on the University Of Oklahoma campus in Norman,Oklahoma. What a pleasure and eyeopening experience this was. This year it’s going to be the U.S.Senior Open Championship. Can’t hardly wait.

  47. JG

    February 21, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    In St Andrews putt the himalayas, the Ladies Putting Club course with friends, followed by a pub crawl ending at the Dunvegan for a burger and a Belhaven. Extra credit for stopping by the Old Tom Morris gravesite.

    The Punchbowl putting course in Bandon has a view of the Pacific rather than the North Sea, while putting the greens on Number 2 will prepare you for a round on Thistle Dhu at Pinehurst. No water views in Pinehurst, however sitting in the Adirondack chairs with a whiskey and a cigar is a great way to pass the time.

    In Northern Ireland take a bike ride along the Antrim Coast starting at the dunes at Portstewart Golf Club and ending at the Bushmills Distillery. Stop along the way at the harbor in Portrush, Dunluce Castle, Portballintrae Harbor, the Giants Causeway, and the Carrick-a-rede bridge before ending at the Bushmills Distillery for a tour and a tasting. You need to double back to get to Bushmills, but if you stop along the way you will never get to the rope bridge. As a recommendation, when the guide at Bushmills asks for volunteers, jump at the opportunity. Difficult to pass the Royal Portrush Golf Club and not stop in, but that will be for another day.

  48. Tom Krause

    February 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Spend a few days at a house on a country club with your wife who doesn’t play. She rides in the cart with you while you play to enjoy all the scenery. In the evening after dinner go for a walk on the course when no one is there and take your putter. Let her putt and enjoy the game, mine really did!! She actually was an awesome putter. She got into the golf world just a little.

  49. JW Roberts

    February 21, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    On the way to or from your round at Pebble Beach, rent a bicycle and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge in SF, have dinner on the other side and take the ferry back.

  50. Cass

    February 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Bicycle the cart path of a course that is not open. I did it on a course in Green Valley, Az. It gives you a whole new feel of this ghost course and the possibilities it could offer.

  51. bob parsons

    February 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I was lucky to win the draw for The Master’s practice round tickets in 2007!!!
    My son, Rob and I went and had a great time– even took in an NHL hockey game in Atlanta before coming home.

  52. John Williamson

    February 27, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    1. give to the Evan’s Scholar Foundation, the oldest and biggest charity in golf. The foundation, started by Chick Evans many years ago, gives full college rides to caddies who otherwise wouldn’t attend college. They need the loops, the grades, the test scores, player recommendations and financial need. The ESF produces doctors, lawyers, engineers, and in general, great citizens.
    2. Join the Shivas Irons Society. I’ll let you look this one up, but Shivas Irons is the protagonist of the book “Golf in the Kingdom” by Michael Murphy, the first 60 pages of which are the best golf short story ever.
    3. Take a drive into Carmel Valley, stop at the village, stop at the Bernardus Hotel and vineyard, sample some Carmel Valley wine – as good as anything in California.
    4. Dinner at the Tom Moore Tavern, Bermuda. I realize you have to be in Bermuda to do this, but if you are, it’s quite an experience.

  53. e Larkin

    February 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Play ‘The Dooks’ near Killarney in County Kerry . On a beautiful sunny day take in the panoramic views of sea, mountains and clouds.. I guarantee that uniquely for a golf course ‘slow play’ will be welcomed.

  54. Cooperman

    February 27, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    The Carolina hotel at Pinehurst

  55. JBird

    February 27, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    If you play at Pebble Beach go to the spa/ health club that is by the 17th hole, pier and ocean. It is so relaxing. Your have to use the steam room. The best way to end the day.

  56. p fitz

    March 2, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    after a round at ballybunnion take a seaweed bath at the beach in ballybunnion town .

  57. Doug Roberts

    March 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Go to the Island of Islay….Stay at The Machrie….Experience golf the way it use to be….18 blind shots within the 18 holes…Take in the Laphroig distillery as well…

  58. Brendan s

    April 23, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    After playing Doonbeg or Lahinch come to Kilkee and play 18 holes of link golf with great views and some great holes, all for less than a box of NXTs !

  59. Rod_CCCGOLFUSA

    January 3, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Savor a glass of wine on the veranda at Pebble Beach golf lodge. Just outside the resturant wonderful spot to observe golfers and the tide coming in at the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. Top it off with a trip into town for a great dinner. This is as good as a summer afternoon gets.

  60. Anto

    December 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    You need to call the club you have an eye on. They may be having a trial out day for non-member or may be you can just pay for one time use. But, as other suegsetgd, by name they are private club so without membership or member guest status, it should b e difficult.

  61. Chris H

    October 17, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Sit in a Grandstand at The Open. I did this at the Road Hole at St Andrews for about 3 hours. It was great seeing the best players all come through and play the hole differently – especially the ones that landed on the road and had to chip off it.

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