The Golf Trip of a Lifetime
GolfTripGenius user Brett Garber embarked on a golf road trip this past April. As the 2012 golf season winds down, Brett reflects on his trip of a liftetime. Here's his story.
2012 was a great year for golf. A number of first-time PGA Tour winners, emerging superstars, and a thrilling Ryder Cup. But for me, the highlight of the year was a golf trip planned around one day in Georgia.
It was the first week of March and I was sitting at a local Connecticut watering hole with a friend. He had won tickets to Tuesday’s practice round of the Masters Tournament. A beer or two (or was it three?) in, we developed what seemed like a genius, if not somewhat ambitious, idea to form the ultimate golf trip around the 10 or so hours of time we were ensured of spending on the grounds at Augusta.
That night we started networking to find places to both stay and play. After phone calls, emails, texts and a few fortunate requests made on our behalf, the itinerary started to take shape. Within 2 weeks, we had most of the details set, and by the time we left, we were prepared to wing-it for everything else—even if it meant sleeping in the car.
Saturday, March 31: The first leg of the trip was a straight shot from Connecticut to Washington DC. While there was no golf played in DC, the stop did include a great night with good friends, and amazing "Low Country Cuisine" from Georgia Browns.
After waving goodbye to our Nation's Capital (and $5.00+ gas prices) the second leg was from DC to Pinehurst, North Carolina. Needless to say, this part of the trip was going to include golf. We pulled into the Pine Crest Inn Sunday evening and enjoyed a few beverages on the front porch. It was pretty cool staying at a place that famed golf course architect Donald Ross once owned, and to think of the golfing greats who have passed through (Jones, Ouimet, Palmer, Nicklaus).
For dinner, we stopped in to check out Dugans Pub. We sat right next to a plaque of my favorite gofer of all time, Payne Stewart. The food, atmosphere and staff were great.
One of the highlights of the Pine Crest Inn was the chipping game they have in the lobby. Basically, a wooden board with a hole cut in the middle stands upright and you take an old-fashioned iron and try to hit a golf ball through the hole. (Think of the glass break challenges on the Big Break!) Golfers from across the country (and pond) were all enjoying drinks as they tested their skill. A very cool way to end the night before tackling #2 the next morning.
Monday, April 2: Pinehurst #2 exceeded expectation. Besides how fun and tough this course was, one of my favorite parts was all the history on walls of the clubhouse. Trophies, pictures and other memorabilia adorned the hallways and trophy cases. To cap it all off, the most humbling moment came when we walked off 18 green and saw the statue of Payne Stewart in his iconic US Open-winning pose. After taking a few pictures with Payne, it was time to venture South.
Augusta was our next stop, and wouldn’t you know, trying to make a reservation for a hotel Augusta within 2 weeks of the Masters is hopeless, unless you want to spend $500/night at a motel typically priced at $59. We decided to stay over in Columbia, South Carolina, which left us with a simple hour drive into August Tuesday morning.
Tuesday, April 3: The original purpose of our trip had finally arrived, and it was a gray Tursday morning at Augusta National with rain threatening. The first thing we did, (after spending a month’s rent on merchandise) was head up to the Big Oak Tree to meet a friend who works for CBS Sports. He took us into Butler Cabin as the crew was prepping for an interview with Jim Nantz, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Talk about a cool experience! After taking photos in front of the iconic fireplace, we ventured out to walk the course.
Pristine would be an understatement when walking the grounds. Blemish-free green grass, bunkers was groomed to perfection, and the greens were impeccable (and boy were they undulating!). I watch the Masters every year, and I never realized how hilly it was, I wish I knew how many miles we logged. We walked Amen Corner for the final time as the sun was setting and the course was emptying. Time to hit the road once again.
Back behind the wheel, we were now on our way to Kiawah Island. With a Wednesday morning tee time, it was a straight shot to Kiawah, find some food, check in to the villa, and mentally prepare for what awaited us at the Ocean Course. Of course, there was a detour that gave us the truly scenic experience of Georgia and South Carolina.
Wednesday, April 4: We got on the island around 9pm, and you would think it was the middle of the night. We were fortunate to stumble upon Lucy’s, a great local restaurant that kept their kitchen open just for us. The owner sat with us and we exchanged stories from our trip as well as her expectations for the upcoming PGA Championship.
After a good night’s sleep, we awoke to the sounds of native wildlife outside and got ready for The Ocean Course. After an opening birdie, the rest of the round was hit or miss, but I capped it off with a hole-out from 124 yards on the 18th hole (unfortunately for birdie and not eagle) with onlookers from the porch watching. After a shower, meal and drink, we said goodbye to Kiawah and embarked on the longest straight-shot drive of the journey as we drove through the night back to Pennsylvania.
Not even an hour into our 12-hour drive, we were hit with a monsoon and some of the most intense lightning I have ever seen. We made it into PA without any major issues (a bat did fly straight into my windshield) and a shower and quick change at a local sports club had us ready for our final 18 holes of the trip...at Merion Golf Club.
To end the trip playing the 2013 U.S. Open venue was awesome. And my caddie helped me keep things in perspective. After I missed my birdie putt on the second hole, he turned and said to me: “Relax, you’re playing golf at Merion.” I made sure to enjoy every second on that historic property. After lunch in the grill room, it was finally time to head home.
2,000 miles, a whole lot of Zac Brown, 54 holes, and a day spent walking the fairways of Augusta National, it will forever go down as my golf trip of a lifetime.
Follow Brett on Twitter: @BrettGarber3