The answers to your golf-event planning questions.
Joe Manley, golf professional, Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort, Shawnee-On-Delaware, Pa.
Question: What are some money-saving ideas for corporate groups?
The most reasonably priced dates to schedule golf are the Mondays after a holiday. Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day — all of these holidays are the key to obtaining the most value for your company's investment. Scheduling midweek is your next-best option. Finally, don't be afraid to ask for a deal. If you can get 90 people to a course on a slow day, a lot of times the salesperson will work with you on the price.
Chad Campbell, director of golf, Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.
Question: What special touches can I add to make my golf outing memorable?
Often, the much smaller touches are the ones that influence a golfer's overall experience.
For example, groups love to hear stories and tips from pros at their kickoff dinner. Simple touches such as hole location sheets, name placards at the driving range, or a player's name on a caddie's back make them feel like a pro. A bagpiper makes a great impression. Personalized gifts waiting in their carts, such as engraved bag tags or ball markers, are popular. Here, we do finishing photos next to our statue of Payne Stewart, which create a lasting impression.
Even if the entire group doesn't play golf, planners can get everyone involved in the game by night-light putting or “Pitch to the Pool” games at the cocktail hour. And more serious golf groups can take it to the next level with skills challenge events, intensive schools, or even a hickory-stick old-time golf match.
George Willard, director of golf, The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Naples, Fla.
Question: What unique things can I do with the food and beverage at my golf event?
Organic and eco-friendly is a big trend that we're seeing, with an increase in the number of planners who request natural and organic products — and we're happy to accommodate their requests.
Our resort also makes the effort to purchase as many local food products as possible, which saves fuel — and thus helps the environment — and this is very well-received by planners coordinating golf outings. For golf groups that want something quick like a box lunch, we can include local or regional fruit, rather than something that was shipped from Mexico or South America.
Ed Kageyama, general manager, Ka'anapali Golf Resort, Maui, Hawaii
Question: What do you suggest I do about attendees who don't play golf?
We recently hosted Big Break Ka'anapali, a Golf Channel reality show. Taking a cue from the TV show, we created a program for our guests, specifically corporate groups, to experience their own “Big Break Ka'anapali.” It includes challenges such as scavenger hunts, “breaking the glass” (as seen on the TV show), putting blindfolded, and a team hole-out. This Big Break experience allows even the nongolfers to enjoy the beauty of the scenery along the golf course without having to play.
Stuart Smith, director of events and leisure, Gleneagles Resort, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland
Question: How can I better structure my event to achieve my company's objectives?
A key part of the event process is understanding our client's aims for that event. Who needs to impress whom? Will the guests know each other? Is the key outcome a social or business message? The answers to these types of questions then allow us to propose ideas and organize events that will assist the client in achieving its aims. Our ideas are likely to range from the macro to the micro level — it's a little of both.
From the planning aspect, it's the details that can really make the event memorable. Over the years, we have set up full Highland games to break down barriers between teams, translated menus in numerous languages so nobody felt left out, even had a CEO scale down a wall on a rope into a function room to deliver incentive rewards to his stunned staff.
Brian Gerard, director of golf, Kiawah Island Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C.
Question: What formats do you recommend?
Most corporate groups have players with varying skill levels, and we have found that a “shamble” format accommodates these differences. All four players tee off, and the group selects the best drive. Then all four players play their own balls from that position. This takes pressure off the higher handicap player but still allows lower handicap players to somewhat play the entire golf course with their own balls.
For groups with a majority of lower handicap players, we have found that a “one or two best net” seems to work well, where all players play their own ball the entire round. For groups with a large number of higher handicap players, the traditional scramble seems to work the best.
Stephen Horne, director of events, Celebration Golf Club, Celebration, Fla.
Question: What information should I give the director of golf on our first meeting?
When first meeting with a planner, I like him or her to supply me with a specific date, time, and number of players. Once we have this information, we can begin to discuss the operations aspects of the event. It's important to communicate the type of event and its purpose. Are you planning to entertain clients, raise money for a charity, or reward company employees? This information allows us to consult on different ideas for sponsorships, adding additional food and beverage, amenities, corporate clinics, and so forth.
Doyle Corbett, director of golf, Sun Valley Golf Resort, Sun Valley, Idaho
Question: Do you recommend contests, and, if so, which ones work best?
Contests are a large part of many of our golf outings. While longest drive, closest to the pin, and longest putt made are always popular, we also offer straightest drive for a change of pace, and even shortest drive to have a little fun.
Cathy Harbin, general manager, King & Bear and Slammer & Squire courses, World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla.
Question: What do you do with groups who have a limited amount of time to play?
At our destination, the World Golf Hall of Fame offers a unique opportunity in a relatively short period of time. Groups can learn the game's history and enjoy play — from the 1800s-style putting green to the 18-hole, natural grass putting course.
We also create nine-hole tournaments, which still allow for plenty of on-course play and competition. You can also integrate your cocktail/networking events with golf, doing things such as golf trivia or bringing in celebrities or guest speakers.
Robert Harris, director of sports and recreation, The Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Question: What are some of the biggest trends you're seeing among corporate groups?
There were fewer players in 2007 than 2006, and this has been a trend since 2001. Time allotments are definitely shorter as well. We are doing many more “mini-shotgun” start events, whereby 40 players can finish a meeting session, have 30 to 45 minutes to prepare for golf, and then begin play all at once. This also allows players to finish play, return to their room to shower and change, and prepare for the evening's social or banquet events.
I'm also seeing more alternate activities offered for attendees. At The Greenbrier, gun club activities are up, as are whitewater rafting and other adventure activities. There's also less free time for attendees.
For more advice on planning golf events, check out the “Golf and Spa Meetings” special report on our home page.