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Golf seems custom made for social distancing, which is sure to make it even more popular this summer. Road trips in the age of COVID-19 are gaining in favor this year, too, meaning many travelers could be hitting the road to vacation at top golf resorts with award-winning courses.
If golfing is in your summer plans, you might be surprised to learn that it can also be a great way to earn and redeem points. Here’s how.
I Prefer Loyalty Program
The Preferred Golf Collection is a curated group of Preferred Hotels & Resorts properties that have special golf packages that include a complimentary round of golf for every two consecutive nights.
Members of the I Prefer loyalty program can earn and redeem points at these hotels. There are dozens of properties that participate in the program, including Grand Velas Los Cabos and Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico.
There’s also the option to book the Preferred Golf Play More Offer, which comes with an option to get a $75 resort credit in place of a round of golf. This could be ideal for those who travel with golfing friends but prefer to enjoy spa or dining instead.
A new program by Choice Hotels is Golf by Choice, which is a great way to rack up Choice Privileges points while hitting the links. Earn points buying golfing gear and apparel at participating golf shops or playing a round at affiliated courses. Members can also redeem points for golfing merchandise.
Elite members in Choice Privileges earn bonus points for every dollar they spend on golf activities and merchandise. Gold members earn 10% more while top-tier Diamond members earn a 20% bonus.
You can earn up to 1,500 points per round of golf. You don’t necessarily have to be staying at a Choice Hotels property to take advantage of this program. Just book your tee time through the Golf by Choice site.
You can even earn Choice Privileges points for downloading training apps like GolfLogix’s free GPS app and enrolling in Tathata’s golf training course.
Marriott Golf Links is a program for Marriott Bonvoy members that awards points to players who like to travel. Members can earn 10 points per dollar spent playing golf or buying golf merchandise at Marriott Golf Clubs. Bonvoy points, best known as being redeemable for hotel stays, can instead be cashed in for gift cards for things like golf lessons and spa services at a Marriott golf resort.
Where are Marriott Golf Clubs? They are all over the world, including the JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club in Paradise Valley, Arizona (a Category 6 property available for 35,000 to 60,000 points per night); the Sheraton Fiji Resort (a Category 5 property costing 27,500 to 40,000 points per night); and the Sheraton Colonia Golf and Spa Resort (a Category 4 property for 17,500 to 30,000 points per night).
Marriott also offers several golf resort packages, which include room rate, rounds of golf and breakfast at various properties. Of course, Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit card holders would earn bonus points for spending at Marriott properties. These include cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card.
» Learn more: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card should I choose?
Accor’s All Live Limitless program gives members the chance to redeem points for golf merchandise. This is a great way to use points when your travel plans are on hold. Accor’s program has been expanding to offer more experiential rewards for members that are not always tied to hotel stays.
Some loyalty programs have creative redemption opportunities, often available via online auction, where members can use their points for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Among these, Hilton Honors previously offered special packages to the Masters tournament, letting members use their points to bid on the experience. Keep an eye on programs like FIND Experiences from World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy Moments to see if any golf-related activities pop up from time to time. Since these offers are available for specific events and curated experiences, they are available for short windows of time. So keep checking back to see what sporting activities are available with points.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
Credit card and airline perks
The Chase Luxury Hotels and Resorts program is similar to the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program except that it comes with specific perks for golfers at some hotels. Several Chase credit cards come with membership to this program including the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the United℠ Explorer Card and the United Club℠ Infinite Card.
This program may not always have the cheapest room rates, but it comes with perks that may outweigh the difference. These include free breakfast for two, space-available room upgrades and a property-specific amenity. At many golf resorts, that could include a free round of golf, so check your credit cards to see if any can unlock this benefit.
Chase Sapphire is also the official credit card of the PGA championship, and cardholders have special access to ticket packages. They are also invited to a Chase Sapphire Lounge at the event, with refreshments and premium viewing areas. Unfortunately, the championship will take place this year without spectators due to COVID-19, so cardmembers cannot take advantage of this perk. But, they can next year!
Even if you don’t have a credit card with special perks, some airlines might offer worthy options of their own. For example, Swiss International Air Lines’ Golf Traveller program sells annual memberships with savings that could more than cover the cost if you travel often for golf. Members do not have to pay to check golf clubs on Swiss flights (or on flight partners like Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines), and they receive discounts with car rental and golf product partners. If you purchase a multi-year membership, the airline throws in some bonus Miles and More miles as well.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card