To prepare for your next golf event, start with the most important question: What are you trying to accomplish? Why are you even planning a golf event, when there are so many other options? Is the day meant to reward high performers, or to pscyh up the sales force for the coming year? Or just to have fun?

With these answers in mind, allow a minimum of three months to plan your event. For best results, begin at least nine months ahead. Set the date, choose the course, and map out your theme, contests, and activities as far ahead as possible.

Rain or Shine!

No planner can control all the variables. The best we can do is plan for things that are beyond our control — such as weather. If you're planning an event in a resort with which you're not familiar, be sure to research temperature ranges and the likelihood of rain (or snow) and high winds in the time frame you're considering. Always have a rain date or alternate activity. You may want to hold meals or clinics indoors anyway if your event is linked to a conference or meeting date. If not, can they be moved indoors or into tents? What provisions will the club or caterer make for inclement weather?

Also consider the time of the week. Weekend events will cost more in greens fees, and it may be harder to gather people on weekends for a work-related event.

Ask the pro or manager at the golf course to check with the greens keeper about planned fairway plugging or seeding. Since greens are in poor playing condition after aeration and seeding, make sure your event is at least two weeks after any course maintenance.

In choosing your course and format, you need to know the general playing ability of the participants. Are most avid golfers, or will there be a mix of experienced players and newcomers? If you don't know people's skill levels, consider offering a variety of formats and contests, some of which may favor less-experienced golfers. (See p. 41 for ideas.)

With more corporate activities coming under scrutiny, this may be the year to play nine holes instead of 18. With nine holes, people spend less time away from work — and the game can be followed by an afternoon picnic or barbecue instead of an evening banquet. Also, players who find 18 holes daunting may feel more comfortable with the shorter format.

Three to Six Months Out

This is when you should be signing contracts with any celebrities or athletes you may hire, with F&B suppliers and equipment vendors, and with sponsors. It's also the best time to design the event logo and to select prizes and gifts.

If costs need to be kept under control, you might choose to issue beverage tickets to players for soft drinks and beer. Typically, each player will consume seven to nine drinks. Issuing five beverage tickets instead is a simple way to trim expenses — and it's relatively painless for your participants, who are still getting free soda and beer.

This is also the time to send invitations. To give as many people as possible a chance to participate, have the latest response day you can, and do a final round of invitations/reminders, perhaps by e-mail, close to that deadline. But build enough time into your schedule so that you can still deal with caterers and other suppliers without penalty.

Two Months Out

All professional printing — T-shirts, forms, signs, prizes — should be ordered, your schedule should be close to final, and you should begin assigning pairs. This is the time to put together rules and fact sheets, explaining the basics of the games and contests, any course rules and dress codes, and some of the most vital points of etiquette.

As the big day gets closer, you'll be finalizing F&B contracts, setting final pairings and tee times, assembling the goody bags, and confirming transportation for celebrities and VIPs. This is the time to put together a contingency plan in case of bad weather and to communicate that plan to caterers, the golf course staff, and other suppliers. Agree on the time you'll make the call about going ahead or using your contingency plan, and make sure you have contact info for everyone who needs to be notified.

Use the week before the tournament for final pairings, cart assignments, and finalizing your player roster. Keep in close touch with the course staff, F&B vendors, and transportation. Keep an eye on the weather report. Then take a deep breath and relax.

Mike Mucci is event advisor at All About Golf Tournament Planning, Conneaut, Ohio. For a detailed timeline and other golf planning tools, check out the organization's Web site at