18 or 36 holes – How much is too much?

There will always be one person on your golf trip that would happily play golf from dawn to dusk if they were allowed to on a golf trip. Spoiler alert… on my golf trips; it’s often me. I should be clear that this is not because I’m good enough to tear up a course twice. I suffer from terrible FOMO and eternal optimism that my next golf round will be the one where I finally figure out how to play this game.

Jokes aside, how many holes to play a day is a common area for disagreement on a golf trip. These days at many resorts (Bandon Dunes, Barnbougle, Big Cedar Lodge, Pinehurst, and soon-to-be Pebble Beach) also exist to play an extra 9 or more holes short course. Something I love, by the way… and a great alternative to a full 36.

There are plenty of pros and cons to consider in making this choice, plus some hot tips if you do decide to take the plunge.

Pros

It’s what you are there to do – You have managed to get the time away for a golf trip, so what else is better than playing more golf? Especially if you are on a bucket list golf course. If you can roll with the punches on the golf course, this is a pretty tough argument to beat.

Snap up the savings – Many top resorts also offer some sharp replay rates if you play twice in a day. Do you research if you are unsure of what your destination offers?

There is a chance at redemption – Nothing is worse than getting excited about a round and then flat-out sucking. A second trip round offers immediate relief to your tortured golf soul. On some trips where I have played 36 a day, we have played some great formats where the goal was to improve our scores on each hole in the afternoon.

Cons

It’s a long day – However you break it down 36 holes is a tough day out, especially if you are walking. So be prepared to pay the price in other ways through your trip in general energy levels. 

It may limit who joins your trip – 36 holes is not everyone’s cup of tea. And if you make this a standard format for your golf trip, know you may scare away some potential players.

Tough to explore the rest of the world – As much as I might not believe this at times, there is a world beyond the golf course, and playing 36 a day does not allow much time to explore the rest of what exists outside the gates of the course.

No time to experience the rest of the club/resort – Sometimes, what makes a course special is not just the golf itself. It could be sitting in a famous clubroom overlooking the 18th or sampling a mouthwatering local specialty off the menu. Playing golf all day can soak up so much time you miss these things.

Tips

Every day can be different – If you plan a longer trip, perhaps mix up your golf volume each day—a strict 36 a day and wear things on even the most positive players. At the very least, make it clear that 36 is not a compulsory thing for all players.

Mix up the formats and groups – If you plan a second round in a day, it always pays to keep things fresh. At the very least new groupings if you have plenty of players on your trip, and if you can, some fun formats such as scrambles/ambrose or alternative shots can work a charm. Also, carts can be a magical choice when you turn for your final 9 holes.

Don’t rush lunch … and food in general – Your energy levels are a big deal on a long golf day. Make sure you eat well and savor a solid lunch. If you have a few drinks on course, it may pay to pace yourself.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – From comfy shoes to the second set of clothes, and remembering extra balls all play into the success of a long day of golf. This includes plenty of water, sunscreen, and even extra charge for any distance devices.

Play smart – This may be the most important tip of all. If you are planning 36 holes, there is no need for heroes, and you may want to think of some special rules for the day for your group.  Not playing the tips is a great start and a sure-fire way to save some time. But the biggest time saver of all can be playing a Stableford format, so everyone can pick up if things are not going well, or a personal favorite of mine, Irish drop. Making a simple rule that any ball lost can be interpreted as being in a lateral hazard saves a lot of time re teeing and searching for balls on very tough courses.

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