TURN BACK THE CLOCK — Let your players experience golf as it was at the turn of the century by hitting shots with hickory-shafted clubs, putting with wooden-headed putters, and hitting off sand tees. (Originally, golfers drove their balls from a mound of sand instead of the standard wooden or plastic tee that today's golfers use. This same effect can be achieved with small paper cups and divot sand placed on each cart.) Work with aor local memorabilia collectors to find props, from vintage clubs to period costumes.
HOST A PARTY AT THE PUTTING GREEN — Use halogen lights to illuminate the putting green and string to outline the holes on a six- to nine-hole miniature putting course. Obstacles can include native foliage and rocks. Or pile some sand into miniature bunkers and fill other holes with water to create water hazards. With foursomes playing each hole, you can easily accommodate 150 people during a two-hour reception.
WAKE UP YOUR GROUP WITH NIGHT GOLF — Line the fairways of the three or four holes closest to the clubhouse with luminarias anchored with sand, and wrap an illuminated rope around the flagstick of each hole. Each player is given glow-in-the-dark golf balls and a flashlight to help light the way around the course. You can also give players light-stick necklaces and other fun glowing props to keep them visible. The ideal night for an outing like this would be the evening of a new moon, when the night is at its darkest. Golf carts should not be permitted.
SET UP A DINEAROUND AT CERTAIN HOLES — Rather than using the standard beverage or snack cart, create themed food stations at various holes. Guests might find an Italian station at one hole, a Mexican station at another, and an all-American cookout at another, topped off by a dessert buffet after the 18th hole.
ADD A MILLION-DOLLAR HOLE — A hole-in-one contest is sure to get people pumped up. Here's how it works: Conduct a closest-to-the-pin contest with a catch — the four players who are closest to the pin on the four par-3s during thewill each get to shoot for $1 million. When the tournament is over, bring all the contestants to the million-dollar hole to witness that shot of a lifetime. If no one scores (the odds of a golfer holing a shot from 150 yards is between 10,000 and 15,000 to one), award a prize to the contestant who was closest to the pin. American Hole 'n One, a provider of hole-in-one insurance coverage, handles thousands of each year and pays out on 20 to 30 winners a year — so anything is possible!
SOURCES: Bob Coman, Boca Raton Resort & Club, www.bocaresort.com; Tony Ciabattoni, Fairways Corporate Golf, www.fairwayscorporategolf.com; Terry Brinkoetter, Walt Disney World, disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/index; Andy Dunn, American Hole 'n One, www.americanholeinone.net
Everyone Loves a Contest
Competitions add a little sizzle to the typical tournament. Everyone knows — and enjoys — the longest-drive and closest-to-the-pin contests, but here are a few other favorites:
STRAIGHTEST DRIVE — While an experienced player usually wins the longest-drive contest, every participant has a real chance at winning the straightest- drive contest. A line is painted down the middle of one fairway, and the player whose ball comes closest to the line, regardless of the distance, is the winner.
ANTE-UP — This is a twist on the closest-to-the-pin contest. On a par-3 hole, players who want to participate put a brand new golf ball in a box placed in the tee area. The player who hits the shot closest to the pin wins all the balls.
COLOR BALLS — At the first tee, each foursome receives a colored ball. An order of play is established, and one player plays the ball for the entire hole, giving the team a score, and then passes the ball to the next player in the rotation. At the end of 18 holes, there is a score with the color ball for the team. The team with the lowest score wins. If the colored ball is lost, the team is disqualified. It can, however, be rescued from hazards or from out of bounds.
MULLIGANS — When there is already a contest going on, a player or team may buy mulligans. For a specific amount of money, which goes into a pot (and is sometimes donated to a charitable organization), a player may take up to two of his shots over again (excluding putts). His score is then figured out on the second ball, with the first shot ignored.
While a round of golf can be terrific fun, it doesn't need to be divorced from the business of your meeting. Why not let your afternoon on the links double as a breakout session, suggests Nancy Berkley, president of Berkley Consulting, a Livingston, N.J., firm specializing in women's marketing and golf-event planning.
Here's how it works: A facilitator at the first tee gives golfers in each foursome a business topic specifically related to their group to discuss informally during the round. “Certainly other topics, business and otherwise, will come up,” says Berkley, “but participants must discuss the suggested topic because the conversation will continue after the round.”
Something about the wide-open spaces of a golf course stimulates thinking, she says. “The experience will generate fresh ideas that can be addressed informally in the clubhouse after the round.”