When corporate profits go south, do golf outings, too?
Golf events, long taken for granted as part of off-site meetings and incentive programs, may be quietly slipping off some agendas as companies tighten their belts in response to the recent economic downturn.
Some golf directors report shorter meetings, booked on short notice. “As that booking cycle is getting tighter, groups tend to be more meeting-oriented instead of leisure-oriented,” says Charlie Kent, director of golf for the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort near San Antonio. “Where a group would come for four days, now they're finding a way to come for three days and X out the golf.”
While typically about 80 percent of the resort's group guests play some golf during their stay, according to Kent, attendees of one company's recent annual meeting booked no tee times at all.
In some companies' events, golf remains a staple. Gary Pearson, director of meetings and conventions for Chicago — based Aon Service Corp., says the $7.4 billion insurance services provider may be scheduling fewer meetings this year, but about 60 percent to 70 percent of the events he books at resorts involve an afternoon on the links. “I think people still need to get together and discuss their issues, and a lot think it's a great way to talk in a small group setting.”
It's also golf as usual at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. “Clients come here because they want people together in a variety of situations that promote bonding,” says Robert Harris, director of golf.
Still, there's no question that some companies are weighing the costs and benefits of their golf events. “It's become more of a social function than a business function in a lot of managers' minds,” says Amy Sirois, northeast marketing manager based in Methuen, Mass., for Anixter, a distributor of data communications products. She questions the value of golf outings for customer events. “Customers love them, but when you step back and take a look at the budget, you have to ask, ‘Is this entertainment, or do we actually get some business out of it?’”