Good news, everyone: Summer golf is right around the corner, and our summer trips package has you covered. Over the next week, our experts will name their favorite courses and resorts, we’ll look at the newest style trends, help you plan your next buddies’ trip, introduce you to people who can help you plan your golf getaways and more. The goal here? To educate and motivate you for your next golf trip. So read up, then grab your clubs and bags.
MORE: 8 amazing family-friendly golf resorts worth visiting this summer | 20 of our staffers’ favorite summer golf courses | 8 smart essentials to stash in your golf bag this summer | 6 questions to answer when planning your golf trip
It’s summer 2020, and Ashlee Ciora is on the golf course. We’re only a handful of months removed from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, but golf courses — outside, with their seamless social-distancing capabilities and in their raised-cup heyday — have been deemed a relatively safe and useful distraction, for body and mind.
Ciora had recently moved back to Minnesota, where she gradated high school, after she was among the many jobs lost at her LA-based hospitality and tourism agency due to the pandemic. Now she was ready for her next career — but first she had to figure out exactly what that was.
This particular round was with some women Ciora met through the LPGA Amateur Golf Association Minnesota Metro chapter. They got to talking, and a couple of them said they were looking forward to traveling and playing more in the future, but they didn’t know anyone who could set up a trip for them and weren’t sure where to start. They also knew about Ciora’s past in the hospitality industry, how she worked with golf courses, golf resorts and golf destinations.
“Someone said, ‘Is this something you can do?'” Ciora recalls. “And that’s when I was like, you know what, there is a need for this.”
She booked their trip to Pebble Beach later that year.
Over the last 2 1/2 years, Ciora has developed and unveiled that next stage of her career, launching Women on Fairways, a golf and lifestyle experience that creates unique and customized golf trips for women.
Right now there are two parts of her business. One handles trip booking and planning — she was recently contacted by a group of 16 women eyeing Bandon Dunes in 2024 — but her main focus is on her tailored Swing & Sip Golf Experiences, trips she personally attends (with up to 11 other women) to handle all the logistics and legwork. But no, these aren’t your typical 36-hole marathons followed by beers and wings in the clubhouse. Think golf, but with additional elevated experiences mapped out like dinners, shopping, spas, city tours, wineries and more — all at some of the best and most luxurious golf resorts in the U.S.
“My whole concept is [women] are so busy anyway, so let Women on Fairways handle the planning and logistics,” Ciora said. “You just show up with your clubs and have fun.”
The first Swing & Sip took place last month at the JW Marriott in San Antonio. Ciora and a small group played both TPC courses, including the one that hosted the Valero Texas Open. They also checked out Hill Country wineries, took a Riverwalk tour and explored The Alamo. Her next Swing & Sip is at Big Cedar Lodge in August. It sold out in less than three weeks.
“It’s kind of setting myself and Women on Fairways apart from just 36-27-18 holes of golf,” she said. “It’s really about the destination experience.”
Her previous career has played a major impact in her new one. For over two decades she worked for destination marketing organizations based in Scottsdale, Palm Springs and Los Angeles, her goal to promote travel agents and tour operators to book visitors. Many of her clients were golf courses and resorts, so she had a deep understanding of golf marketing and golf familiarization trips. She could also sense there was an opportunity to do more with women-focused trips, but at the time she never put much additional thought into it. A good idea? Sure, but she didn’t have time for that then. Yet the project was always there in the back of her mind, and it didn’t really became a realistic venture until it was reiterated on the golf course that summer day in 2020.
“I wondered about going back into that (previous) world after I lost my job,” she said. “I did it for almost 22 years. I think my time there was good. I learned so much about marketing and strategy and research and an understanding from a brand perspective, and I think those things that I learned are now what I’m taking into my company; they are my skillset.”
Now she’s taking her Swing & Sip Experiences and perfecting them. Her plan is to have a bulletproof template for a half dozen or so destinations and then customize each trip to a group’s liking. More golf? Less golf? More spas? Less sightseeing? More wineries? She’s keeping the destinations list small on purpose, focusing on locations she considers herself an expert. Her thinking: Why bring people places she can’t 100 percent say she knows well? Right now, it’s quality over quantity. Besides Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks, fall trips to Scottsdale and Las Vegas are in the works. She’s hoping to have six to eight 2024 trips and dates finalized this summer.
She’s open to expanding the list of destinations in the future, but that takes time. She wants to scout potential resorts personally — checking out everything from the facilities, amenities, courses and women-friendly activities — to make sure they are perfect. She won’t settle, either. The destinations need to be at least four-star resorts.
In the meantime, she’s getting more involved in the golf industry. She’s started a Minnesota chapter of LEGS — Ladies Executive Golf Society — and is a board member of Women in the Golf Industry.
She wants Women on Fairways to evolve, too, and develop into something beyond travel. She wants it to be something mothers and daughters do together, or a trip friends, or even complete strangers, can sign up for and build lasting connections, strong enough where they’ll already be looking forward to next year’s location and itinerary. She wants it to be a community for women, one that also sends the simple message to go out there and play golf. They’ll find, she says, the vast opportunities when it comes to wellness, networking, business and friendship.
“It’s interesting,” she says. “I fell into this, but I didn’t. I think it’s just my next career. Like, I’m doing this, and I’m excited.”