Golf Course Turnons / Turnoffs

What are some Golf Course turnons or turnoffs that help you decide where to play?

Most of us weigh a few different things when making a decision where to play either at home OR on a trip, so I’m curious to see what Refugees consider when they book a tee time.
As an example, does the name “Pete Dye” make you immediately want to book a tee time? Or does it make you turn away in disgust?

You aren’t limited to the choices below, just listing a few of the more “common” dispositions:

  • Price (or “Hot Deal” availability)
  • Proximity to home/current location
  • Quality of fairways & greens
  • Walking only -or- walkable course
  • Riding only
  • Single play -or- Fivesome play
  • Ranking in local/national media (eg: Top 100 lists)
  • Architect (shoutout to my Raynor people)
  • Available clubhouse ammenities (food and beverage options, locker rooms, etc)
  • Practice Facilities
  • Total course yardage
  • Course par
  • Course style (links, parklands, desert, etc)
  • Round length options (6, 9, 12, 18 hole loops)
  • How it looks on “Google Maps”
  • Golf Advisor or Golf Now Rankings & Reviews
  • Word of mouth/popularity
  • Public or Private
  • Pet Friendly
  • “Resort” options (stay and play, package deals, etc)

I care about three things - 1) Proximity to my house and 2) Speed of a round 3) Value (Cost of Round / Quality of Course = Value*)

  • Value example:
    $50 w/ Cart for 18 (divide) by 50 out of 100 points Quality of Course = Value of 1

For me, anything at 1.0 or higher = Value

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I joined my CC nearly exclusively on price and not many of the publics in my area are worth paying for. If someone invites me to play a local private, I’ll go with little to no hesitation.

If this is a trip/special occasion, I’m focused on:

  • Cost
  • Amount of golf that can be played for that cost
  • How I’m getting their (and what the cost of travel is)

Barrier to entry is rather high for a trip or special occasion. I am not planning a multi day event unless the course is of some architectural significance or a “bucket list” experience.

Local Golf - Chicago

  1. Word of mouth - don’t want to waste my time making a long drive for a crappy round
  2. Pace of play - same as above
  3. Course condition - since most of my rounds come in the summer months and it rains quite often, if the course doesn’t drain well it ends up being a huge factor
  4. Tee time availability - I pretty much won’t play after 9am because of traffic unless its for a special event or something.

Other than that there is not much that will deter me from playing. I have to drive an average of 45 min to an hour to play anyways, so just getting in a good round in 4.5 hours or less is all that matters.

Golf Related Travel

  1. Word of mouth - pretty straight forward
  2. Course style - if I am traveling I want to play in the style of the area (i.e. not looking for links courses in Arizona)
  3. Proximity/Amenities - looking for a golf-centric type of environment, whether it be the Bandon/Sand Valley style or just a overall golf-focused community like Pinehurst.

Pace of play is a big one for me. I’ll play almost anywhere if it means I won’t be waiting every hole. And related to that, I’ve also found myself avoiding overly tight courses with a lot of trees, OB, or places to lose balls. I don’t mind so much if the areas under the trees are manicured, but if it is just a bunch of shit and weeds count me out. I hate having to look for / losing balls.

  • Quality of fairways & greens
  • Practice Facilities
  • Word of mouth/popularity

Most importantly…

  • Course maintenance schedule --> I’ll call ahead of any round to find out if punched within last 2 weeks.

I have a limited amount of time to play so I always optimize for quality.

When playing at home the most important things to me are cost, proximity, tee time availability. I typically play on a Friday with a pretty consistent group of guys. These guys all have kids in school so it means working something between when they drop them off and when they pick them up. This means picking a tee time at course that is not too far away from all of us that doesn’t put us in bad Friday commute traffic after the round. Our location in the East Bay area of NorCal that gives about half a dozen courses to pick from on a typical Friday round. These criteria also mean that pace of play is important. Can’t be playing 5 hour rounds.

I like a course that’s architecturally interesting and fun to play. I prefer courses are less penal when you stray from the fairway. A number of courses around here built on the hills punish you badly with lost balls if you miss the fairway.

Conditions don’t play a huge factor in my choice to play somewhere as long as it’s not a total shit show. I do however enjoy a course that has short grass areas around the green instead of just rough.


Really a combination of price, the pace of play, condition of greens and fairways, and if I can play by myself. I will play almost anywhere if their greens are puttable and it is sub $30.

Being in college, I guess I would say the biggest turn on is the price. Catch me at the Tempe munis all spring.

Not really a turnoff but a couple things I could care less about are who designed it and clubhouse/19th hole facilities. I have never understood people who spend a lot of time in the clubhouse and drinking at the course. Lots of places I like to drink at more for a better price away from the course.

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Really strange to me. Over the last 5 years, most of my friendships that have flourished are with those I golf with at my home club. Hanging out after the round and having drinks with them is the best. Other than my own home or at the neighbor’s house, it’s #1 for me. Not even close.

I take it you’re a big Ken McDonald National guy?

As a Brit I’m a member and when I can I play twice a week. Thirsadays are a Stableford comp and Saturdays are usually medals. I play in two pairs matchplay comps and our pairs and singles matchplay comps and in a society once a month so my schedule is pretty much decided for me.

My course is a good challenge - it’s a James Braid design with tight fairways and tricky greens and most of the members are great.

So to answer the questions - turn ons - comps on my course or courses that are in part of the matchplay comps or my society.

course turn offs - where I have to play and it isn’t a competition.

In a nutshell I don’t play much social golf.

I do like it. Nice place to get 18 in.

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Not dissing people who do that, I know a lot of people like that.

Maybe more of an age thing but I am about the only golfer in my friend group so I guess that is why a golf course is just for golf and nothing more for me.

Wow, this is an eye opener! A lot of reasons in here that are pretty low down my list. Each to their own but it’s surprised me in The Refuge. I hate to say that I thought we were better than that, but … :flushed:

I know pace of play is a big thing for a lot of people but it’s never been a factor for me when deciding where to play. I just approach a round of golf as a hobby of indeterminate length and go with it. Sometimes it’s quick. Sometimes it’s slow. Sometimes I have my own time pressures but that’s my choice and my fault, not the game’s or the course’s.

Nor, to be honest, is cost. That’s not to say I’m rich and I’ll pay anything. There are plenty of places or rounds I am yet to play because I haven’t had the spare cash. But I chase life as a series of exceptional adventures and $200 to play somewhere interesting is what I’m here for, not shlepping it up and down another $30 field because there’s no one on it. Fuck, I’d rather shoot myself. Isn’t Barstool for those people? :smirk:

Variety is by far the biggest motivating factor for me. And I mean doing different things, personally. For example, I’ve played two courses in Vegas, one on the strip and one in the desert. I wanted the two different experiences. Last summer I was on a heathland thing. Year before, Links. I like to fill my mind with different memories. That’s what’s important.

The other factor for me is education. And I mean my own. I like to play a bunch of Harry Colt tracks, or Braid or Old Tom, just so I can understand how they saw the world. This year I’m doing a MacKenzie spree.

I’m also going to play a course called Minchinhampton Old this year because I came across photos of it and it just looks weird. I want to play across that land.

I like interesting routing or spectacular views or deep historical context. I like connections to people I read about or things Ive watched. I like to test myself. I like good company and proud members sharing their otherwise boring home course with love and anecdotes that bring it to life.

The clubhouse isn’t why I want to play a course but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I really really want to try out the half time hot tub routine at that place in Korea Soly went. Nor would my interest in Prestwick stop at the 18th green. Sometimes the best stories about a course you find out off it. Sometimes a clubhouse tells you more about a club and it’s members than the course ever will. Who doesn’t look at Medinah and think “I’ve got your number”?! But then, I’d also love to be proven wrong.

Sometimes I’ll be on a trip and just ache to play the course I can see across the street from my hotel room, just because it’s there. Sometimes I’ll just drive around and find courses and play them because it’s fun to play somewhere you have no fucking clue about. I found two courses like that last year near my Mum’s house in Idaho. One of them I shot my lowest ever score (78). The other turned out to be a hidden GCA gem.

I’ll travel for hours to play somewhere that interests me in some way. But I’ll also enjoy the scrappy muni next door occasionally.

Its never about money or conditioning or pace of play. Sometimes I’ll consider these post round. But never before.

Admittedly I’m a total golf bore! :joy:


Something that drives me insane about courses are where red tees are a complete afterthought. I’ve played too many courses where the red tees are just put a smidge ahead of the white (sometimes in the same tee box). It’s so much fun to play a course where you’re approach shot is with different clubs in different holes and much less fun to play a course where you’re constantly hitting woods into par 4s


I’ve always wanted @Soly or @thefriedegg to ask an architect about this kind of thing when they have an architect on one of their pods. So much of what earns a course acclaim is how if plays from the back tees and maybe the member’s tees. I have no idea what goes into forward tees or how much of a priority they are. Obviously no architect is going to say they completely overlook them, but I’d be curious into what goes into placing them.


Variety & options = fun for me
Good architecture - see above
Convenience and proximity - but I will travel and arrange work travel to check things out.
My playing companions - strangers could be the best scenario - or my friends - totally depends

And every @The_Cad_Says

Perfect insertion and use of a username!


@Sarah Torrey South would benefit ENORMOUSLY from an approach like this.

That would be neat. I wish that courses wouldn’t shy away from having a number of par 4s be 190-250 yards from the front tees. For a lot of women good drive is still only 130-140 yards. That would still leave an iron (evenlong iron) in. And it would still offer a fun challenge for longer hitting women, Srs., guys who like to play the front for a different feel of the course. Too many courses have primarily 350-380+ yard par 4s from the front tees. For shorter hitters that’s a three shot hole. If I play a ladies night most of the women are hitting driver off every tee (even par 3s) and fairway wood at least every second shot on par 4s and 5s. I would be curious if the 130-140 yard driver is even considered in course design.

@Sarah is dead on with the 250 yard hole being a great yardage for both men and women.

I’ll almost always play from the forward tees with my wife. If the whole isn’t properly designed or the tees make no sense, we’ll just tee off from the beginning of the fairway to make the hole, say, 280 instead of 380.