The golf event is a favorite of nearly every corporation and organization. And why not? For corporations, a golf event allows hosts to have a captive audience with decision makers for as much time as an entire day. For non-profits and associations, it also serves as a key activity that creates opportunities to interact with their membership or even raise a significant amount of money for the cause.
For event planners, planning business meetings at a golf course is a nice professional challenge. The following provides some guidelines for a one day program.
Identify the maximum number of attendees. Golf events are popular, and players who have participated in past events always enjoy returning. However, there are some good guidelines to consider:
- An 18 hole course can handle a maximum of 144 players, but that will create long delays in play and limits tournament formats.
- 72 players (18 foursomes) will create a nice pace of play.
- Player count should include at least one corporate representative in each pairing, which will impact the total external guest count.
- Account the non-golfing staff who will be present at the event, as this will impact overall costs.
Narrow a golf site location. For most golf meetings, an event planner will select a course in the community where the guests already live. Whether public or private, golf courses and amenities are differ, so keep the following in mind:
- Consider guest travel times to/from the course.
- Inspect the clubhouse locker rooms, banquet and meeting facilities.
- Inspect the course and confirm that the club has sufficient equipment, golf rentals, and carts.
- Confirm the club's course maintenance schedule.
- Get to know the club sales manager, catering manager and golf pro.
Develop an event agenda. It's critical to make sure that the narrowed golf site has dates that work for you and your guests. Then, the event should create an agenda that works. Group tee times are usually held with an 8 a.m. or 1 p.m. start time; 1 p.m. is the most popular. A sample itinerary may include the following:
- 9:30 a.m. - Registration & Breakfast
- 10:30 a.m. - Welcome Remarks & Business Meeting
- Noon - Putting Greens Open, Box Lunch
- 1 p.m. - Shotgun Start
- 4:30 p.m. - Cocktails & Hors D'oeuvres
- 5:30 p.m. - Awards Ceremony
Select the food and beverage. Catering costs can quickly add up when you're looking to provide enough food and beverage for an entire day of activities. The following tips will please the guests and keep costs in check:
- Choose a continental breakfast buffet and upgrade with breakfast bars; order extra bottles of water charged on consumption.
- Choose box lunches with multiple sandwich options.
- Cover all beverage cart expenses and make sure carts are fully stocked, including liquor and snacks.
- Plan reception food as a theme; for example, BBQ or Italian.
- Cover reception "bar" expenses on consumption, up to three hours.
Make the business meeting a highlight. While it's fun for everyone to have a golf outing, it's vital that the meeting planner emphasize the importance of business content. Ironically, most invited guests expect to hear a relevant presentation, while some hosting executives try their best to avoid any formal meeting. The following ideas may help satisfy both:
- Have the hosting executive deliver opening remarks for a maximum of 15 minutes.
- Invite the company CEO or another C-level executive to deliver an update.
- Hire an outside motivational speaker.
- Recognize everyone in attendance.
Select the tournament format. The most popular golf format is the Scramble, which allows each player to tee off and then play is continued from the best tee shot. This continues until the ball is holed. Another popular format is Best Ball which allows all players to play their own ball, but only the best score in a foursome is recorded.
Add contests and prizes. Golfers really enjoy competing for prizes. Of course, upon arrival, all golfers should receive corporate gifts from the host company:
- Popular golf gift ideas include sleeves of golf balls (place those on carts), golf shirts, and golf accessories.
- Include special event contests, such as longest drive (par 5 hole), shortest drive (par 5 hole), closest to the pin (first par 3 hole in the back 9), and longest putt (use the putting green for this).
- Purchase tournament prizes and gift certificates to the golf shop.
- Identify a low score gag gift (e.g., tennis rackets).
Confirm your budget. It's not unusual for a golf meeting with 100 or so attendees to cost anywhere from $15,000 - $30,000. Expense items will include the following:
- Green fees per person.
- Food and beverage.
- Tournament gifts and prizes.
- Hole-in-one contest insurance.
- Signage and promotional materials.
- Guest speaker honorarium and fees.
Invite guests. Online event registration forms are becoming more popular for inviting and registering golfers for golf meetings. Important information on the invitation and RSVP includes the following:
- Clearly state the date, time, and location.
- Provide an event agenda.
- Include RSVP contact name, phone, and e-mail.
- Request for club rentals if needed, left or right-handed.
- Request for handicap information, if available.
Determine the pairings. Luckily for the event planner, the inviting hosts are the ones who will put the final foursomes together. Still, a good event planner should understand the following considerations:
- Pairings in a Scramble should consider player handicaps.
- VIP guests should be placed at holes 1, 18, 2, and 17 (closest to the clubhouse at start).
- Pairings are due to the golf course 24 hours prior to event; course should understand and anticipate the possibility of significant changes on morning of event.
- A host player should be with every foursome.
Invite 72 or 108 players. Depending on the course, 18-holes of golf will take more than 4 hours. The golf club sales executive will advise that their 18 hole course can handle 144 maximum players; however, it could take up to an additional hour of play and your guests will not enjoy the painfully slow pace of play, and they will be frustrated by beverage cart delays as well.
Avoid 27 hole courses. Typically, these courses allow for more players, but usually offer an 18-hole championship course with a 9 hole fun, yet challenging course. Depending on the course, 18-holes of golf will take about 5 hours. If you're planning a larger event with more players, it's best to find a 36-hole course that includes two championship courses.
Rely on a private club membership discount. Most executives already have a club membership, and their standing at the club will help with negotiating flexibility with fees, tee times and other services.