Mark Bixler, PGA, Head Golf Professional at Kirtland Country Club in Willoughby, Ohio, arranges, on average, between five and eight golf trips for his members. Of those, he generally attends two to four. He discussed the process in this edition of Burning Issues.
By Mark Bixler, PGA, Head Golf Professional at Kirtland Country Club in Willoughby, Ohio
How do you go about arranging group golf trips for your members?
Most of the time members will approach me about helping them plan a trip, whether I am a part of the trip or not. Every trip is different and unique, and I do my best to help with the planning process. Certain locations are more suitable to couples, while other locations are better for “buddy” trips.
If the trip is abroad, I will use a traveling company. If the trip is in the U.S., then I will contact the resort or club directly. I tell my members that it is usually best to plan the trip at least 12 months in advance. And they should try to make as many arrangements ahead of time, such as dining reservations or a tour on an off day.
Do you offer trips year-round?
Most of the domestic trips planned for our members are from September to April, when the weather in Northeast Ohio is not as nice. But I help plan trips year-round, and the summer months are typically the best time to travel to the UK.
Do you only arrange trips for groups, or do individual members also request help?
It’s a little bit of both. I get the occasional request from a member who is traveling to another city for work to play golf if time allows. I will use my contacts at other clubs to try to get them on a course I think they will enjoy.
What’s your role when you attend the group trips? Do you organize competitions, make teams and offer instruction, or are you just a member of the group?
I will typically help arrange games for the trip. One of the most fun aspects is figuring out the competition and setting the teams. Usually that is done on the flight or on the way to the destination. I will then make scorecards for the group each day—and I’m usually the one figuring out the results at the end of the day.
In terms of instruction, I will usually help out people on the trip that I work with throughout the year. But most on-course instruction is more course management-based and about thinking your way around the course. Too many times, a quick tip doesn’t work on the course without practice, and can lead to worse results. If someone is really struggling, I’ll offer to work it out on the range after the round or before the next round.
How has COVID changed the way you go about arranging trips?
It hasn’t really changed the way I go about arranging trips, but it has changed people’s plans and destinations in the short term. I had a trip with seven members to Cabot Links lined up for this past September that was postponed and rescheduled for this upcoming year. Domestically it is very dependent on location, with each state being so different in terms of restrictions.
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