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14 secrets to slice the price of golf -- Page 2

But be smart about it, too. Keep in mind the entire cost of play, Parkes says. "Especially with gasoline being the way it is, think about how far it is to get there," he says. "You might save two to three dollars on greens fees, but if you use an extra two gallons of gas to get there, guess what?"

Check out these sites to investigate golf courses, organizations and discounts in your area: playgolfamerica, juniorlinks, and getlinkedplaygolf.

8. Look for honors programs. Clubs are getting in on the affinity programs idea. Sign up at no charge and earn free rounds.

9. Play the seasons. Depending on where you are, hitting the off-season will net you a nice little windfall. In the summer, Florida courses "are crying for people to play," says Swensen. The discount could be as drastic as getting an $85 round of golf for $30, she says.

Likewise, if you're planning to get in a few holes on vacation, go during the "shoulder season" right before or after peak season, says Lankau. "Rates will be better."

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10. Bundle up. While you're on vacation, take advantage of a practice known as "bundling," says Swensen. Often, in resort areas, "you have a consortium of clubs that want to fill [the] greens," she says. Wait until after 5 p.m. and call the central booking agent. While you may not be able to choose which club you play, you're almost always assured of a good deal.

Before you leave home, find out how the process works in the area you'll be visiting. Contact the local chamber of commerce, your hotel concierge or the front office of your time-share resort.

11. Join a league. Sign up for league play and you'll also usually get a nice discount, says Mike Tinkey, deputy executive director of the National Golf Course Owners Association. "And the great thing is the camaraderie of meeting a lot of people."

12. Take a pass. A lot of courses offer an annual pass that, depending on how many times you play, can save you a nice chunk, says Tinkey. The club gets your money upfront while you get a healthy savings, so everybody wins.

Sometimes clubs will sell passes monthly or seasonally, which can be a great buy if you have some time off coming and want to spend some of it on the links. How much, or if, you save will depend on how often you play.

13. Keep it short and sweet. Interested in a little golf to unwind after a day on the job? Ask if the club offers a three-hole, six-hole or even a pay-by-the-hole option, says Tinkey. "More people are interested in playing a few holes after work," and clubs want to accommodate them, he says.

14. Include the family. "More and more clubs are offering family programs," says Tinkey. One of his favorite examples: the hundreds of clubs in and around Myrtle Beach, S.C., that offer free or reduced rates for young people when adults play. Often this is for non-peak times, he adds.

Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

-- Posted: June 28, 2004
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