Thursday, July 26, 2018

Best (and Worst) States for a Golf Vacation

The team at Carl's Golfland prides itself on knowing what their customers care about. And while they’d hope that most golfers would spend a golf shopping spree on a new set of clubs, it turns out that 38 percent of respondents would go on a golf vacation, if given a few thousand dollars to splurge.

So, where would they go?

Well, nobody knows. Unfortunately, the surveyors didn’t ask that question — but Carl's can tell you where you should go to get the most bang for your buck, based off of the cost of the trip, the climate, how crowded the courses are, and of course how good the courses are.

So in the event that you’re ever given $3,000 to spend on a golf trip (the amount from the survey), Carl's went ahead and pulled data from half a dozen sources to objectively rate each state by which ones are the best states for a golf getaway.

That’s right, a data-focused review without a "golfiness" score or personal opinions. Here are your top ten:
1. Kansas
2. Minnesota
3. Florida
4. California
5. North Carolina
6. Iowa
7. Arizona
8. Wisconsin
9. Idaho
10. Michigan

The study goes into detail about methodology and rankings in the next section; if your state isn’t in the top ten, you can see the full chart with all of the ranking categories HERE to find where you should spend your next tax refund.

And there's also a little callout to the worst states for a golf trip too.

Carl's wanted to come up with a metric that looked at what you’d actually care about when you decide to secure that green time and book that flight: the cost of the trip and the likelihood that you would actually enjoy your time on the links.

Carl's selected nine factors and gave them a multiplier of one, two, or three dependent upon how important they thought they’d be to a person booking a trip. Then gave factors affecting the cost the most value:
- Average cost of green fees, from the Economic Census
- Cost of roundtrip flights to the state
- Number of 100 best public courses in each state
- Number of days with no rain

Less value went to things Carl's thought would affect your playing, such how crowded the course would be and, again, the weather:
- Hours of sunshine
- Total number of courses in each state
- Number of courses per capita

The least value went to how easy it would be to pick up equipment and souvenirs:
- Golf stores per capita
- What percentage of their sales were for golf products

The didn’t care about things like how many pro golfers come from the state, how many top 100 private courses there are, or even how many sets of clubs get shipped to a given state.

And of course, no "golfiness" score based off of how much Carl’s associate a given state with golf.

Number of top ten public courses: 5
Course number rank: 4

Tenth place in this ranking isn’t too shabby, but there should be an asterisk next to the Wolverine State. You see, the state of Michigan doesn’t provide Economic Census data, for some reason, and to combat bias Carl's placed it in last place for all of the categories it didn’t provide.

In spite of the artificially low rankings from lack of data, Michigan’s massive golf community enjoys some of the finest courses in the country and significantly cooler summer weather, making it worth some special attention for anyone looking to take a golf vacation this year.

Round-trip flight cost: $279
Green fee rank: 7

Did anyone see this one coming?

Kansas gets a big boost from having the cheapest round-trip flights in the country and the seventh cheapest green fees, but it also fairs pretty well in every other category (except top public courses). The weather’s good, the courses are plentiful, and you can afford to play pretty much anywhere.

Courses per capita: 5,271
Round-trip flight rank: 5

Even though it doesn’t rank high on many sites’ "golfiness" metrics, Minnesota has a high one on paper. With three top public courses, tons of golf stores, and a surprisingly high number of courses, Minnesota also benefits from low cost flights and green fees.

Number of courses: 1.024
Green fees rank: 45

It’s no surprise to see Florida on this list, even though you might be surprised that it’s not number one or two. It’s got powerful rankings in every category except for the cost to play in its thousand-plus courses and five top 100 public courses.

Clear days each year: 146
People-to-courses rank: 4

Take what I said about Florida and you basically have the same story for California. Not only does it have beautiful weather and the fourth most top 100 public courses, but it also has a massive number of courses and enough flights to keep costs surprisingly low. But supply and demand doesn’t seem to affect the amount it charges for green fees.

Number of top 100 public courses: 7
Course number rank: 9

The Land of the Pine and home of Pinehurst is host to a surprisingly strong nexus of golf, with mountain courses only a three-hour drive from beach courses. North Carolina made it into the top five by performing fairly well in every category and pretty well in quite a few.

For starters, you’ll see the the states in the top ten for golf vacations were generally in the top ten in at least two categories.

Notably, only one of the usual golf powerhouses of California, Florida, and Arizona in the top three of this ranking, with super-cheap travel and green fee costs boosting several states in the Midwest into our rankings.

And the opposite is true when the study looked at the states that make up the worst states for golf vacations.

These states rank pretty badly across the board, and with the exception of Vermont the main culprit seems to be expensive flights and bad weather most of the year being the factors that clinch it.

See the ranking of all 50 states at

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