You know who’s an invaluable source of travel and lifestyle advice? You are. Paid experts and bloggers can crow all day about the best places to stay and play and the most reliable airlines to fly, but your experiences, impressions and insights matter every bit as much. Over six weeks on Golf.com and through our social-media channels, we asked traveling golfers to rate their favorite destinations, resorts, hotels, airlines, resort caddies, you name it. We inquired not only about where you’ve been but also about where you want to go next (you’ve been warned, Scotland). Nearly 6,000 of you responded, rating 24 categories in the golf-travel space. Now the next time you’re looking for inspiration for a golf getaway or travel case, you have a new resource: your fellow golfers.
FAVORITE HOTEL BRAND: Marriott Hotels & Resorts
Swimming pools and goose-down pillows are well and good. But the hotel amenity golfers crave is, well, golf. Marriott obliges with nearly 80 courses at its hotels worldwide (39 of its properties are full-fledged golf resorts), including bucket-listers like the TPC Stadium Course at Sawgrass. Along with preferred rates and tee times, hotel guests can earn golf-reward points for golf-related purchases at participating properties. To golf nuts, that’s even more valuable than high-speed wifi and high thread-count sheets — though all Marriotts have those, too.
Honorable mention: Hilton Group Hotels & Resorts (includes Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels and Conrad Hotels & Resorts)
FAVORITE DOMESTIC AIRLINE: Southwest Airlines
As if hauling clubs through airports isn’t headache enough, most commercial carriers add injury to insult by tacking on substantial baggage fees. Not Southwest, which bills itself as the golfers’ airline and backs up the claim by allowing passengers to check two bags for free. (Yes, your clunky travel case included.) Throw in dozens of daily non-stop flights to golf-happy destinations like Orlando, Phoenix and Las Vegas, and there’s all the more incentive to schlep your sticks. The dough you save on luggage should be enough to cover a bonus 18. Tip of the visor also goes to Southwest for maintaining sponsorship deals with seven Tour pros, including Aaron Baddeley and Kenny Perry.
Honorable mention: Delta Air Lines
FAVORITE CAR-RENTAL BRAND: Enterprise
Renting a car is like swinging a club: You don’t want to overthink it. Enterprise, the country’s largest rental-car company, leverages its size to get you out of the airport (and to the course) as painlessly as possible. It has 7,000 locations around the world, including 400-plus in airports, and its local outlets will pick you up wherever you are at no charge. Enterprise has been recognized seven times by J.D. Power for highest customer satisfaction in the industry. No doubt our readers’ fondness for the company has something to do with its vast fleet, stocked with mini vans and sedans with ample club … ahem, trunk room. It’s the rental car equivalent of a tap-in: a no-brainer for golfers on the go.
Honorable mention: Hertz
FAVORITE CADDIES: Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Any caddy can keep up and shut up. Pebble’s bagmen (and women) elevate the job into a craft. Their veteran ranks include the likes of Casey Boyns, 59, who grew up in nearby Pacific Grove, won two California State Amateurs at Pebble, and has looped the fabled links for more than half his life. There’s no substitute for that sort of local knowledge. Like all of his roughly 260 colleagues, Boyns (pictured) also shares the wisdom of perspective. Bad shot? Who cares? Look where you’re standing. They’ve earned their rep helping you solve the tricky Poa greens and ever-shifting winds, but Pebble’s caddies are also accomplished at another important skill: positioning your grinning foursome on the 18th tee for the signature Pebble snapshot.
Honorable mention: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, OR
FAVORITE ACTIVE COURSE DESIGNER: Jack Nicklaus
Throwback architecture may be all the rage these days, but nothing beats old-fashioned brand recognition. And no name resonates with our readers quite like Nicklaus, who started building courses well before the modern-classic renaissance began. With 290 design credits around the world, the Golden Bear has left his imprint on such Tour-worthy venues as Muirfield Village and Valhalla. His layouts have hosted more than 700 professional competitions, including the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. But Big Jack’s tracks also offer plenty for the everyday player. Among his recent works is Quivira Golf Golf Club in Cabo Lucas, which GOLF Magazine hailed as the best new international course of 2014. It sits just down the road El Cardonal, Tiger Woods’s first design, giving Tiger yet another Nicklaus mark to chase.
Honorable mention: Pete Dye
FAVORITE TRAVEL CASE BRAND: Club Glove
Club Glove’s features are so functional, you might take them for granted. But before company founder Jeff Herold got started, most golf travel cases were fairly simple creatures — fabric, zipper, done. Today, according to the company, more than 90 percent of Tour pros rely on Club Glove, without being paid to do so. And no wonder, given the brand’s snug fit, soft-but-rigid covers and protective telescoping crutch, which all but eliminates the risk of breakage; for an extra $20, you can personalize your bag with a monogram. Not all of our readers can pound it like the pros, but it appears they do pack like them. (That’s the Burst Proof II, below, which is made of a water resistant nylon that is up to three times stronger than standard polyester.)
Honorable mention: Bag Boy