Robert Harris
Director of Sports & Recreation
The Greenbrier

How are your corporate clients?changing their golf events to get the most for their money?

Many are doing only one-afternoon events rather than the two-day events of the past.

How can planners keep costs down?

One way is to shift to a secondary course with lower fees. I'm also seeing fewer tee gifts.

Steven Jones
President
SRJ Enterprises

Are your clients still including golf in their meetings?

I think perception has put more fear into companies than the economy itself. Everyone is afraid of how a meeting might be perceived by the press and not [considering] what good it does for the company. I have seen significant cutbacks on pure incentives. Many companies have “postponed” their 2009 and 2010 events. And yes, I would guess that at least 80 percent of golf events have been canceled altogether.

For those companies that are proceeding, how are they changing their golf events to get the most for their money?

Golf events that remain have much less flash. They're cutting down on beverage cart items, offering only beer and no liquor (or only soft drinks and no alcohol at all), making attendees pay for their own snacks and sandwiches. They're also cutting amenities like balls, towels, etc.

Chuck Lane
Director of Incentive Travel & Public Relations
Humana

Are you still including golf in your meetings?

Golf is one area that's not being cut. We always schedule at least one golf event for all domestic (including Hawaii and Mexico) incentive programs, and the response is always favorable. In fact, in Hawaii, I sometimes have to schedule a second event to accommodate all those wanting to play. On others, such as the course at the Ihilani on Oahu, I was allowed to put 160 golfers out onto a shotgun start. You can imagine what that looked like!

How can planners keep costs down?

I'm not sure that cutting back the cost of a golf event is possible, other than limiting the hole prizes, team prizes, etc. We normally have about two-thirds repeat attendance year after year, and our guests expect a similar experience to the year before. Offering anything less sets a poor example of the appreciation we have of their business.

Susanne Marx
Principal
The Golf Event Co.

By what percentage would you say golf programs have been cut? I would say between 30 and 50 percent.

For those companies that are proceeding, how are they changing their golf events to get the most for their money?

They're using less-expensive golf courses (there are great options for a third of the price if you're willing to transfer 20 minutes) and negotiating more with the expensive ones, who don't want to lose their business altogether.

How can planners keep costs down?

Limit your master account charges for the beverage cart, and give people some kind of incentive to bring their clubs because club rentals can run $100. Also, if you're staying on property at a golf resort, conduct a nine-hole event in the afternoon, which saves a lot of money.

Gary Pearson
Director of Meetings & Events
Aon Service Corp.

Are you still including golf in your meetings?

In our larger meetings, no. There are some instances of small client meetings where some golf does take place, but that is getting less frequent.

By what percentage would you say golf programs have been cut?

Golf has been getting cut over the past few years — not just recently. I would say that only 3 to 5 percent of our meetings still include golf.

Frank Sablone
President
Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute Inc.

How can planners keep costs down?

We can't cut anything because our golfers expect the same amenities when they play, like box lunches, transportation, and prizes. But some things you can do are to get back to basics with the boxed lunches, just sandwiches, chips, and a soft drink. I don't use fancy boxes: Not only are they too expensive, but it's bad for the environment when all those boxes get stuffed into the trash barrels. Other ways to save are to let golfers pay for their own beverages on the course and to ask your hotel to provide the transportation if the course is not on property.