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14 secrets to slice the price of golf

They say a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at work. And if you can cut some costs while you're shaving strokes, it's all the better.

Golf is not cheap. The median price of 18 holes on the weekend runs about $36 at a municipal course and $40 at a public course, according to the National Golf Foundation.

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But if you know the tricks, you can play for less. And while cutting costs won't cure your slice, you can always invest that savings in a few extra lessons. Here are 14 ways to save:

1. Play during the week
2. Enjoy twilight
3. Investigate other off-peak times
4. Act your age
5. Know the specials
6. Join the club
7. Shop around
8. Look for honors programs
9. Play the seasons
10. Bundle up
11. Join a league
12. Take a pass
13. Keep it short and sweet
14. Include the family

1. Play during the week. Everybody wants to play golf on Saturday morning. So, going by the law of supply and demand, that's the most expensive time. "With each facility, times of day and days of the week will make a difference," says Marty Parkes, senior director of communications for the United States Golf Association. "During the week is not as expensive."

2. Enjoy twilight. A lot of clubs offer what they call twilight specials. After a certain time in the afternoon, the price of 18 or nine holes falls dramatically. The catch: You might not be able to get in a full round before night falls. "They don't guarantee you're going to finish," says Pamela Swensen, vice president of sales and marketing for the Executive Women's Golf Association. The discount: "Probably at least 20 percent," she says.

For nine holes, the cost "might be two-thirds of a regular nine-hole round," says Parkes.

But at some clubs, the discounts are even deeper. Play after 5 p.m. at Stow Acres Country Club (Stow, Mass.) and you'll shave 50 percent off the price while you perfect your game.

3. Investigate other off-peak times. OK, so you don't feel like racing sunset to get in a game. You can still save some money by golfing weekday mornings or weekday or weekend afternoons. At Stow Acres, the price drops from $44 to $24 when the clock strikes 4 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends. "The point is that if people pick their times, they don't have to pay full rates," says course owner Walter Lankau.

4. Act your age. A lot of courses have special rates for older or younger golfers. Sometimes the discount will also be linked to a particular day or time.

5. Know the specials. "Some clubs will have special days where they cater to certain clientele" and offer discounts, says Parkes. For instance, husbands and wives, women or seniors. "Look for specials," he says.

6. Join the club. Membership in certain organizations will win you a discount. For instance, the Executive Women's Golf Association gets its members a 10 to 15 percent discount at a national network of courses. Membership averages about $100 per year.

7. Shop around. If you don't belong to a club, take the time to comparison shop in your area, says Parkes. "Most area newspapers print comprehensive lists of local courses with information, so it's relatively easy to do that," he says.

-- Posted: June 28, 2004

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