First, ask — and answer — some very basic questions:
Will you use a resort course, an off-site country club, or a public course?
If off-site, bear in mind that you'll probably have to pay to transport your attendees from the hotel to the golf course and back. If the course is 30 miles from the hotel, that could wreak havoc with the meeting, particularly if you're running on a tight schedule.
What is the size of your group?
Theoretically, an 18-hole course accommodates 144 players at a time; in practice, that many golfers would result in an excruciatingly slow pace of play. Depending on group size, you may want to consider a facility with 27 or 36 holes.
Then consider these issues:
Does golf course architecture matter?
That depends on the nature of your group and the objective of your outing. Is the goal merely to give attendees an afternoon of recreation between meeting sessions? In that case, you probably can get by with a low-key (and lower-priced) course. Is the outing ordesigned to reward your sales force or bring together the salespeople and key customers? In those cases, a prestigious layout by a top-name architect such as Robert Trent Jones, Arthur Hills, Pete Dye, or Jack Nicklaus might be in order.
What makes a golf course challenging?
The course's slope, as well as any honors or rankings it has received, determines its difficulty. Narrow fairways flanked by woods and lots of water hazards and bunkers are also factors. Length is critical, too: A 7,100-yard, 18-hole layout is more difficult than a 6,100-yard layout.
Now, follow these helpful tips:
What to look for when you inspect the course.
Pay careful attention to the maintenance of fairways, putting greens, tee boxes, and sand traps. Be on the lookout for divots (spots where turf has been dug out by duffers) and soggy areas, a possible indication of poor drainage. Always ask about the maintenance schedule. You won't want to play a course less than two weeks after the greens have been aerated.
Be sure the golf course has the following amenities:
Golf carts. You'll need one for every two golfers.
Equipment and shoe rental for attendees who won't be bringing their own clubs and shoes.
Sufficient staff for setting up the course, loading clubs onto the carts, and greeting attendees.
Food and beverage operations. You'll need at least two beverage carts per 18 holes, more if it is very warm.
Restrooms, permanent or portable.
Locker rooms (necessary only if the golf outing takes place away from the hotel or resort).
Clubhouse. This serves as a meeting place before or after the golf outing, as the venue for a post-tournament awards ceremony, or as a refuge from unexpected rain.
Tournament services, such as scorecards, scorekeeping, and scoreboard updating. There usually is an extra per-golfer charge for this service.
Finally, fit the outing into your meeting schedule:
With most multiday meetings, the golf outing or tournament is held on the first or second full day, although this is a matter of group preference.
The most popular time for a group golf outing is right after lunch. That way, attendees can get in a morning of meetings and grab their box lunches on the way out. They'll have time to change before the 1 p.m. tee-off time. The golfing will usually be completed no later than 6, after which the players should be given at least an hour to freshen up for dinner.
This schedule is not carved in stone. If you hold your meeting in Texas or the Arizona or California desert between May and August, it's just too hot to have your people on the golf course for five hours in the afternoon. When the afternoon heat is an issue, you can schedule golf for 8 a.m., follow up with lunch, and then hold the meeting sessions in the afternoon.
Because some golfers play slowly, it's best to build in a time cushion between the golf outing and the event that follows. If timing is a concern, go with a shotgun start, in which all the foursomes tee off at the same time but at different holes. That way, everyone ends at about the same time, rather than some golfers wrapping up an hour or more after the early finishers.
SOURCE: Golf Hyatt, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts www.hyatt.com/meetings/planning_information/golf_meeting.html