Tee times met tea time in the corporate village at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
Golf can be just as big a motivator when your attendees don't play as when they do. Just ask any of the companies that hosted clients and top employees at this year's U.S. Open Championship. Held for the first time in its 99-year history at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C., the internationaldrew more U.S. business dollars than any other U.S. Open.
Corporate superstars like Glaxo Wellcome, MCI Worldcom, Caterpillar, IBM, Peoplesoft, Uni-
sys, and Bank of America each paid $125,000 for the privilege of hosting one of the fifty 2,400-square-foot tents in the Pinehurst Hospitality Village. It was an ideal incentive, with the corporate village just steps from the fairways where the greats of the game quietly battled--Nicklaus, Watson, Duval, Couples, Love, Woods, Paine, Singh . . .
The exclusivity of the corporate village experience guaranteed guests' bragging rights. With more than 40,000 spectators dotting Pinehurst's celebrated course No. 2 each of the four days of the tournament (and about 20,000 on each of the three practice days), corporate hospitality clients were allowed just 200 guests per tent per day.
And these "tents" had little in common with the party marquees you might imagine. Picture a country club lounge with a front porch and you'll get the idea. Guests with the proper credentials passed into the generously landscaped corporate village, with its brick-paved path running from tent to tent and white split-rail fence setting it off from the tournament crowds. The tents featured bars, carpeting, phones, and all-day catering. Air conditioning was standard, although hardly needed since tournament week was mercifully cool for North Carolina in June.
ClubCorp., parent company to Pinehurst (as well as The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.; Barton Creek resort in Austin, Texas, and a couple hundred private golf clubs around the world), decked out its two tents with lots of extras: couches and comfy chairs, televisions, and even computers (if you'd had enough of the real game, you could try your hand at the digital links).
The corporate village was the place to be, but companies also had the less extravagant option to buy a 10-person table in one of two giant hospitality tents. A table for the week in the Trophy Club marquee cost $25,000, and in the Medallion Club $32,500.
Altogether companies spent $15 million for their seats near the fairways, a record that far exceeded the $8 million in corporate hospitality spent for the 1998 Open. Jon Wagner, managing director of Pinehurst Championship Management and director of the U.S. Open, says a number of factors explain the jump. First, Pinehurst itself. The Open had never been held there, and, in fact, it hadn't been held in the South since back in 1976. Also, Pinehurst started selling to companies six years out and started a "Presidents Council" of 18 key business leaders around the state to generate support. The Open's management, Wagner says, thought inclusively, encouraging the whole of North Carolina to get invested in the event's success.
Weeks later, Pinehurst's corporate village is gone; the land it was built on will soon be back in service as part of Pinehurst's No. 4 course. But like a quality incentive program, Pinehurst hopes the experience it created has earned the loyalty of golfers, vacationers, and, management hopes, tournament planners at the U.S. Golf Association.