In the golf world, yearly aerification – preventative maintenance done by punching small holes into the greens and fairways to promote growth - is necessary for golf course health. For golfers the short-term disruption can be frustrating, as courses typically close for upwards of a week.

This summer Pamela Shelley, Head Golf Professional of The Creek Club at Reynolds Lake Oconee, put a unique twist on the annual maintenance closing at her club by organizing a 14-night cruise to the British Isles. She was accompanied by 20 Reynolds Members and they dined, toured, and – of course – golfed.

We sat down with Shelley to get a firsthand account from this trip of a lifetime.

During the course of your cruise you visited Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. What was the inspiration behind taking a trip like this?

In addition to offering an experience for our Members while the course was closed for aerification, the trip coincided with the 2019 Open Championship (held at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland). This was a bucket list item for many golfers, including myself. Being able to experience the Open Championship and the culture of the various places we visited was extraordinary. Playing golf was a bonus.

A trip like this requires a great deal of coordination. How long ago did the planning start?

I enlisted a travel agent about 18 months in advance, and she handled the major logistics of dealing with the cruise line and the golf. To spread the word to the Membership, I worked with our Marketing team on a series of emails highlighting the trip. My goal was 20 Members from the start, so I feel satisfied that we were able to fill all of the reserved spaces.

As Head Professional at The Creek Club, how does an experience like this help further grow your relationship with the Members?

It was great to get to know our Members on a much more personal level. A number of the travelers are not year-round residents of Reynolds, so I’ve only gotten to see them in passing on their planned trips to the lake. The Member that lived the furthest joined us from Cincinnati and flew his son with him from Denver. To be able to learn their stories - and for them to get to know me better, also –enhances our relationship going forward and will help me provide a better experience for them at The Creek Club.

Were you able to continue your Member coaching while away?

I provided a complimentary TPI (golf fitness) class on our ship one of the mornings. It was a nice way to stay active while out at sea. During the class we also discussed at length just how different playing overseas is to what we are comfortable with normally. A lot of people were able to share things that helped them from the day before and it was just a nice way to start the morning.

Are there any noticeable differences between an American course and a European one?

We played one course over there that was more Americanized (THE K CLUB Ryder Cup Course). We used electric carts and the layout was similar to what you would find in the states. The rest of the courses were links style, pot bunkers, stacked with sod faces, fescue, and winds blowing 40 MPH. At Port Stewart, my caddy said “even a local wouldn’t play today, this is unnaturally windy.”

What was your favorite memory from the trip?

We played some amazing venues, watched a live Riverdance performance, and all shared a “proper Guinness” the way it was intended. All-and-all a true bucket list trip!

Do you have any plans to do a similar trip in the future?

Many Members have already inquired where we are going next. I am looking into a couple possibilities: The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straights in July 2020 or maybe a trip to Bermuda in March for the Grey Goose Par 3 Challenge.

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