If you play golf long enough, you are bound to get bored with the usual Saturday Nassau on the same old course all the time, and unless you belong to an exclusive private club the course you play on every weekend with your buddies is not likely to be in superior condition. Playing the same game on the same course every weekend started getting old to me after a while, so I started to look elsewhere to get my golf fix.
I found out about the Golf Channel Amateur Tour online and decided to give it a shot. The concept of the tour is not unfamiliar to many people. They play stroke play tournaments on good courses and players of all ages and abilities can participate. The Golf Channel runs over 70 local tours all over the country, expanding every year to new markets.
The beauty of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour is that you don’t have to be a scratch player to be competitive. The tour divides players into 12 flights based on age and handicaps. The flights range from the Championship flight for zero to four handicaps, all the way up to the Snead flight for players with a handicap of 20 or more. They also have senior flights for players 50 and over using the same handicap breakdown. Basically the flights go in increments of four. Championship (0-3.9), Palmer (4-7.9), Hogan (8-11.9), etc.
The tour hosts mostly single day 18 hole tournaments, with 3 or 4 regional majors that are 36 hole events with larger fields. The biggest event of the year is the National Championship at the end of the season. Those who qualify meet for a 72 hole tournament where a national champ is crowned in each flight. A team championship is also held a few days prior to the start of the individual stroke play finals, where players from each regional tour team up to take on the other cities. The play is very competitive and the events are always hosted by top notch golf facilities.
Playing on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour in Central Florida has afforded me the opportunity to play tournaments at venues like Disney, Grand Cypress, TPC Sawgrass, Innisbrook and many of the area’s finest golf courses. The National Championship in 2007 was held at Innisbrook, and last year Disney hosted the event. This year the finals move to the West coast and PGA West in La Quinta, CA.
One of the biggest reasons to play on the tour is the prospect of being recognized and rewarded. Not only can you win trophies to show off to your friends, but there is a significant prize pool available at every tournament. The more players, the bigger the prizes. Being an amateur tour, the prizes are limited to gift certificates, but the skins pot is cash, and I have seen skins payouts over $300. Combine that with Callaway Golf gift cards in excess of $200 for a major tournament win, and it makes for a pretty good weekend! Most single day tournament entry fees range from $90 to $125, depending on the venue. This fee is very reasonable, especially considering the prize pool offered and the fact that the courses often charge more for daily greens fees than you might pay to enter the tournaments.
Tournaments on the Golf Channel Amateur tour are held on weekends, and the tournament directors are very professional and well organized. The tour’s website makes it easy for members to enter tournaments, track stats, maintain a USGA handicap and check their place on the season long points standings. All members also receive a logo shirt and hat, and their membership entitles the player to play on any event on any tour around the country. You may join the tour in Orlando, but if traveling to San Diego for example, you can enter and play tournaments there too, and any points you earn go towards your point totals on the local tour.
You get to play on top notch courses against players of similar ability in a competitive atmosphere for prizes and cash and a chance to play in the National Championship. What more do you need to be convinced? Perhaps the biggest benefit of the tour is the friendships that can be made and the comradery that exists every week. In my 3 years playing on the tour, I have made friends and contacts from all walks of life that will last a lifetime. I’ve also collected plenty of prizes, many trophies and a few births to the National Championships, all while playing some of the best golf courses in the state.
For more information about the Golf Channel Amateur Tour go to www.thegolfchannel.com/amateurtour
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