According to IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) there are over 700 accredited Golf Tour Operators in 62 counties.  They are responsible for approximately 87% of golf travel sold around the world. 

If you have been a do it yourselfer all along it might just be time to open another door.

There is a big misconception out there, that when you utilize the services of a golf tour operator that you pay more for you golf vacation. That is simply NOT TRUE…there is a good chance that you will pay less and get more of what you are really looking for. If you factor in taking the guesswork out of your vacation, and offer some protection should there be any industry defaults, you should come out way ahead of the game.

If you are exploring someplace new this benefit grows tenfold – WHY? Because they, or one of their staff, have been there!!  They can advise on which courses to play, how to get around, things to do and advise on some of their favorite restaurants.

When it comes to the rates, the cardinal rule between the relationships between good golf tour operators and golf resorts worldwide is that there is no cost difference between the two. Generally the Tour Operator works off a net rate provided to them by the resort based on the relationship that they have established and the business that they deliver.  The golf resort will rarely provide the consumer with a similar rate or there would be no trust and no integrity in the pricing structure. The Golf Tour Operator has earned the rates through the volume of business that they deliver, similar to most other commercial sectors that you can think of, and their reputation is built on the service that they deliver to you.

Dynamic or last-minute pricing may play a role in price variance, however if you are planning a golf vacation and want preferred tee times on a last-minute basis, I wish you luck. Also, if you have a group, booking last minute rarely works out.

My good friend Byron who is pretty well to do and an avid golfer often goes to a Caribbean Island on vacation. Some of the best golf in the world is on this island and I assumed that by now he had played all of the great golf courses there.

It was surprising to me when he said, “When I go there, I don’t even bring my clubs, it costs more to play a couple of rounds than the entire all-inclusive costs for a week.”  For the most part all-inclusive type tour operators couldn’t care less about golfers, don’t want to deal with tee times and have no clue about golf. They are more interested in filling seats on airplanes and their room blocks.

Had Byron booked his all-inclusive vacation through a golf tour operator even though no golf is included in that particular package, Byron could have approached the tour operator to add golf rounds at any of the high-profile courses. And instead of paying the much higher walk on rate that probably would not include a cart, Byron would have received the tour operators’ rate and most importantly his tee time would be guaranteed.

With that, let’s review some of the reasons that you may want to consider booking a trip with a Golf Tour Operator.

So, you know, in preparing the following I consulted with two US and two Canadian Golf Tour Operators, all members of IAGTO. (International Association of Golf Tour Operators).

Golf Zoo:
Let’s Go Golf Trips:
Merit Travel Golf Vacations:
Voyages Golf Prestige:

Time is Money

One of the most valuable services a golf tour company provides is saving you considerable time. Although much can be done online, planning a great trip on your own requires major effort and research. Especially to a new destination.

With most tour companies, there is an initial discussion about where you want to go and play, but once you’ve confirmed a quoted itinerary, you just sit back while they do the work. They book your accommodation, golf, ground transportation, and even some extras. This point is especially true for larger groups. When dealing with more than four golfers, the logistics of a trip become significantly more complex. As a friend of mine recently said, “I just want to cut a check and show up at the airport.”

Knowledge and Personalized Service:  Golf Tour Operators will generally know what you need to know as they travel to the destinations they sell, so not only can they guide you to the courses that might be best suited for you and your group but also stay within budget. They can advise on restaurants and nightlife, shopping and things to do outside of golf especially if there are non-golfers along.

Getting around at the destination.  There is a big difference between getting around in North America – easy peasy rent a car and go!   Not so much when you are going to places like Thailand and Indonesia where you don’t dare try to drive. Two extremes I know and the tour operator will know and take care of things for you.

Internet Guesswork!

Do you find yourself and your group keep going back to the same old place because it’s easy for you or the group leader, rather than trying to figure out someplace new and exciting? A good tour operator will have plenty of choices and be able to customize the golf vacation to the group be it 4, 24 or 104.

Pictures and profiles on websites are not always what they seem.  A Tour Operator will not send you to the unknown black hole!  So many places and not enough time. No money to waste.

Advanced Bookings / Confirmed Tee Times:  Depending on where you are going and the size of the group you may want to have your plans set well in advance.  Generally, online you are lucky if you can book tee times up to a month in advance.  Tour Operators can book from three months to six months out with guaranteed pricing.

One Stop Shopping with Potential Added Value

These days most North American Golf Tour Operators generally will take care of everything once you have arrived at the destination of choice. Some will go that extra mile and take care of airfares as well but airlines have pretty much eliminated any incentive to do that. Larger groups appreciate this when they need a favor to get some tee times shifted in order to accommodate them on certain days and certain courses.

Who wants to pay for replays?  Nooooo body!  Tour operator relationships help with that.  Room upgrades online – very unlikely – a golf tour operator can make such happen. Maybe your group needs a hospitality room for a night or special function.  They can help make that happen. Ground transportation be it rental cars for individuals or for groups, the tour leader can arrange for local ground transportation. Organizations such as Perry Golf in the UK and Golfasian throughout Asia have fantastic teams to get you around safely and on time.

Not to say that something can’t go wrong but if something does it is one call, text or email back to the Tour Operator and it should be solved.

That Private Course that you Want to Play

This is especially true when dealing with inbound operators. Of course, this was truer before COVID.  Many Private Courses were looking to top up their bottom lines with a limited amount of outside play, without of course making it public knowledge.  Often inbound operators have access for you to discreetly get on to that private club.

There is no doubt that with more and more of us buying online, our confidence increases to book a holiday online. Getting those confirmed tee times make golf different. If you are searching online for a golf vacation you are probably looking for that down and dirty price. It may work on occasion but for the times it doesn’t – disaster.

With all the travel related disruptions due to COVID I consulted with a couple of Golf Tour Operators with respect to consumer protection. Tour operators’ relationships are at work with resorts and golf courses on a regular basis, therefore can often negotiate more flexible terms, in dealing with cancellation, penalties or refunds.

Consumer Protection – Eliminate the Risk

Provided by Rob Coulter, Director of Golf – Sales & Product Development for Merit Travel Golf Vacations based in Toronto, Canada.

In Ontario, as well as many other Canadian provinces, the travel industry is regulated. Using the Internet, with all the access to travel information and choices it provides for planning and booking vacations, is often viewed as the best way to book a trip. More and more people try and become their own travel agent and are booking everything online. Unfortunately, by doing so, they often don’t realize they are forfeiting the consumer protection and other benefits available when they book with a provincially based registered travel company. Booking a trip through an out-of-province travel supplier or by booking directly with an airline or hotel, you are increasing the possibility of running into unanticipated problems that can be costly, as well as heartbreaking. Before leaving, or perhaps when you are midtrip, the airline you booked with declares bankruptcy. Or upon arrival you are bumped from the resort you booked due to overbooking and moved to accommodations that are not comparable. In both cases, you’re out of pocket and on your own if you didn’t book with a travel company or website registered with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO). All Ontario travel agents are legally required to provide you with all the travel information you need, including visa and passport requirements, prior to making the booking and accepting payment. As well, you are protected by Ontario’s industry-financed Travel Industry Compensation Fund, administered by TICO, when you purchase your travel through a TICO-registered travel agency or website.

Unfortunately for the US based traveler I was not able to come up with a similar consumer protection program.

You can find a few Golf Tour Operators that specialize in destinations that you might be considering.  Have conversations with two or three and get quotes. Pick the one that you feel more comfortable with and begin to develop that relationship. It could be one of the best things that you do for your golf and travel future.

A number of tour operators both Canadian and US based are listed on the Traveling Golfer website should you wish to explore how they can help with your next dream vacation. If they are an accredited IAGTO Golf Tour Operator you will know that you are in good hands.