Monday, January 10, 2011

How did we get started? You got a minute for a story...

The plan was simple.  In three days play as much golf as possible, on the nicest courses possible, for the least amount of cash as possible.  How is that possible?  

We started with choosing the best public courses available to us.  Living in Alabama we picked the two courses on our Alabama wish list.  The first was Ross Bridge in Hoover, AL.  The Champions Tour played the Regions Charity Classic at Ross Bridge the past few years.  We had visited the tournament two years in a row walking around saying "I would really love to play this course."  Using a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Trailcard exclusively for Alabama residence, we could play the course for $79.  The second course on our wish list was Farmlinks in Sylacauga, AL.  We had heard through the sand trap Farmlinks was not only a quality golf course, but for one price of $125 you were encouraged to play all you wanted.

Our next obstacle was finding a place to stay on the cheap.  Family is always a possibility but can be a little intrusive.  Hey how about the reward hotel points we never use?  LIGHT BULB - ON.  Join the founders of FGT nicknamed "Dink" and "Putts" on that first trip.  Read about the adventures and how we used the reward systems to drive our passion for playing our golf wish list.

"Ideas are born by everyday experiences." - Putts

Day 0 - Travel day
Picked up Dink in Montgomery and made a bee line for the finest BBQ in the state of Alabama at Jim and Nicks in Hoover.  After dinner we checked into the "Castle" at Ross Bridge using Marriott Reward points for three free nights.  The accommodations at Ross Bridge are first class.  Arnold Palmer level first class.

Day 1 - Ross Bridge
After a quick breakfast of coffee and a cardboard nutrition bar, (hey the pros eat these things right) we entered the Pro-shop and presented our Am Ex Golf Gift reward cards.  We were treated like welcomed guests.  We were asked simple questions about if we had played Ross Bridge before.  This was our first trip.  Had we played other RTJ courses?  What was our normal tee box?  We normally play the orange (6-12 handicap) tee.  The pro explained the Ross Bridge course was more difficult than other courses on the RTJ trail.  He went on to explain how it played longer.  The pro was non-threatening with his information and questions.  He gave off a vibe that he genuinely wanted us to enjoy our round of golf.  

We left the Pro-shop feeling welcome at Ross Bridge.  We left knowing which direction we needed to go to get to our cart.  We left knowing a staff member would be meeting us at our cart to further assist.  We left knowing our options on which tee box to play based on advice from a professional...yes...we played from the white tee box.  

We made it to the range to hit a bucket of balls, a staff member cleaned our clubs as we wandered over to the chipping green.  After chipping we practiced our putting.  About twenty minutes before we approached the first tee the starter found us.  

The starter introduced himself and explained we would be playing with another two golfers.  He introduced us to the others golfers.  While he was introducing us he presented all of us with a bag tag and a bronze colored metal ball repair tool.  He instructed us on the GPS system.  He explained the beverage service cart would meet us roughly four times during our round.  If we needed anything between passes of the club house or cart service, we could use the GPS system to call the Pro-shop.  About eight minutes before our tee time he let us know we were needed on the first tee.

This starter was pleasant yet to the point.  His entire first tee speech took about three minutes.  For the other two golfers that had played Ross Bridge before he welcomed them back and said "Gentlemen let me know if you need anything."  He did not push them to listen to him again; a plus in my book.  If I have played the course before and I have heard the spill once I do not need to hear it again.  Find a new conversation to greet me with.  (sorry stepped out of the zone for a moment)  The starter provided a tip for the first hole and wished us a pleasant round.  Then he left the tee.  I liked that.  As if to say OK boys you can handle it from here without me looking over your shoulder.  First Class.

I could describe every shot I took that day, but I will spare you.  The best part was the condition of the course.  P-E-R-F-E-C-T.  Did I mention it was about two weeks prior to the Champions Tour playing the Regions Charity Classic?  From the tee box, fairways, sand traps, water hazards, trees, greens, cart paths, it was primo.  Cart girls were polite and professional.  The pace of play was spot on.  We played about a shot and a half behind the group in front of us and the group behind was about the same.  Everything was just right.  First class.

We enjoyed it so much we finished our round (Putts won the first round if anybody was interested. Shot 79 with finishing double bogey, bogey, double bogey) then we ate lunch and returned to the Pro-shop.  "Do you have a replay rate?"  The staff behind the counter was now a young lady.  Technically no sir.  It is the same rate all day.  "How about a 9 hole rate?"  Yes, she could do that for half the rate.  "OK"  We used the rest of the AmEx Golf Gift reward card.  Round 1.5 underway.  

We played the front nine again in golfers bliss.  As most golfers under the influence of golf nirvana unable to control ourselves, we cruised on over to the 10th tee.  It was late in the afternoon there were no other golfers behind us, we were not holding anybody up.  The 10th tee was open.  We teed off on 10.  Both drives found the fairway.  Off we went on the cart path (obeying the cart path rules was even fun).  As we entered the fairway scanning our approach shots, an unfamiliar tone caught our attention.  "Bing"  The GPS screen had turned to a shade of red that I have seen only once before while watching the Hunt for Red October.  In bold white letters against the red background was this message:  GENTLEMEN - YOU ONLY PAID FOR NINE HOLES.  PLEASE RETURN TO THE CLUBHOUSE.  Dink says, "Now that is a first class GPS system." 

We hit our approach shots, putted out and returned to the clubhouse.  We stopped just short of the cart return, peeled our bags off the cart, tipped the club cleaning kid a couple of 5 spots and walked briskly to the parking lot.  

Not quite sure how much time to wait before returning to the "Castle" after playing an extra hole of golf we opted to leave the premises for dinner.  For the record I recommend you stay away from Buffalo Wild Wings during WWE season in Hoover, AL.  It played out like an episode of the Twilight Zone.  Should have just gone back to Jim and Nick's.

One night at first class hotel, free.  77% of 2 rounds completed at a first class golf resort, free.  Trying to getting in a extra nine at a five star resort like a couple of spoiled kids and getting caught by a cute counter girl using a state of the art GPS system...priceless.

To Be Continued... 


  1. You're awesome! I like the unique idea of traveling different locations while enjoying what playing golf. Not only you can travel cheap at your desired destination but you can also enjoy playing the most-loved sport - GOLF!

  2. Rick - thanks for the comment! You sound like one of us! Give some of these opportunities a try and let us know how it works out for you.
    Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip will be posted over the next week or so. Come back and see how the rest of the trip turns out.