On the golf course, Scott Samele steers clear of trouble.
It's on the 19th hole where the mischief begins.
Since 1996, Samele has led a group of 12 likeminded buddies on an annual golf getaway to Reno, Nev., a long-weekend excursion that starts out on the links and ends up in places that Samele's Sunday pastor might frown upon: blackjack tables, bars, dance clubs.
Samele and his crew are golf's version of a harmless dirty dozen, a band of 30-somethings of varied backgrounds, some married, some single, all advanced in their careers.
Their common goal is a quest for good, clean fun.
"We've all hit that age where maybe we can't dunk a basketball or play football in the park without pulling a hamstring," says Samele, 39. "But we can still get out on the golf course and be competitive. And afterward, we can hang out and just be guys."
Over the years, the extravaganza gathered so much momentum, and attracted so much interest from men his age, that Samele thought there might be a market in organizing the same sort of trip for others. So this past summer, he launched the
Scottsdale Swing from his hometown, the desert golf hub of Scottsdale, Ariz.
The result is an unusual male-centric service, a company specializing in custom golf vacations for guys. Samele has connections with many of the area's finest courses, which means he hooks up clients with tee times at top spots like
Talking Stick. But just as it is with his buddy trips to Reno, the excursions aren't limited to the links.
When a customer calls or clicks on his Web site, Samele susses out the situation with a slew of questions about the traveling group: Are you serious players, or weekend slashers? What's your preference, steak or sushi? Salsa or samba? Spa treatments or front-row strip-club seats?
"I need to know how much golf you want to play and what kind of courses you'd like to play," Samele says. "But I also want to know: How much trouble do you want to get into?"
The trouble, of course, isn't Samele's only business. While he can land VIP passes to naughty Scottsdale night spots like Skin Cabaret, he also makes more innocent arrangements, from airport limo pick-up to reservations at swanky local steakhouses. Want a box of fine cigars or box seats to an Arizona Diamondbacks game? Consider it done. Samele handles everything except for flights.
Though the deals he brokers are usually cheaper than anything a customer could find on his own, Samele says his service is more about saving time than money. He caters to clients who don't mind spending a few extra bucks to spare themselves the headache of vacation planning, and to guarantee that everything will be done right.
"Think about the Rat Pack in the glory days of Vegas," Samele says. "It's a celebration of manhood aimed at recapturing that era of the three-martini lunch. Sure, we're grown men. A lot of us are fathers, but that doesn't mean we should forget about having fun."
While Samele concerns himself with an all-male audience,
Cork & Tee is aimed at any golfer with an interest in the finer points of culinary culture. The company specializes in refined golf vacations, with an off-the-course focus on wine and food.
Co-founders Gene Holland, a college golf stand-out who played at the University of North Carolina with the likes of Davis Love III and Jack Nicklaus II, and his partner, Jim Dondero, craft high-end excursions to some of the world's most hallowed golf locations, from Ireland and Scotland to the coasts of Oregon and California. But their unique ingredient is haute cuisine.
A Cork & Tee itinerary might pair, say, tee times at Turnberry and St. Andrews (Cork & Tee has a cozy relationship with the coveted Old Course) with private cooking classes and personalized tours of whisky distilleries. It's a service for the golfer who wants to play
Pebble Beach or
Pasatiempo in northern California, then cap off the experience with a fine wine-country dinner and a complex central coast pinot noir.
In Oregon, Cork & Tee arranges tours of the Willamette Valley, a famed grape-growing region, as well as golf at Bandon Dunes Resort, home of three world-class courses, including
top-rated U.S. track: Pacific Dunes.
Though Scott Samele has played Pacific Dunes, he wouldn't know a good pinot if he spilled one on his putter. When he made the trip to Oregon late last year, he and his pals played 54 holes in one day. That evening, they celebrated over beers and burgers, not bubbly and beluga. The only finer points they discussed involved replays on the
In other words, vive la difference!
Consider Scottsdale Swing and Cork & Tee as an indication: Any group that wants a golf vacation tailored to its own interests can probably find a company willing to make it happen.
Josh Sens is a freelance writer in Oakland, Calif., and a contributing writer to Golf Magazine. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Men's Journal, Golf Digest and other national publications.