One of the most important components of a successful golf tournament is the format. Use the wrong kind of format for your group and you could have a lot of unhappy golfers by the end of the tournament.

Chuck Lane — who as assistant vice president, public relations and meeting services for Humana in Green Bay, Wis., plans 12 to 15 tournaments a year — says that a tournament should be designed “to create a meaningful experience, a sense of team and camaraderie. You don't want to turn it into something cutthroat and counterproductive.”

The most popular formats are scrambles and shambles. Scrambles, in which teams from tee to green take the best shot in a foursome and hit from that spot — are team-oriented games that accommodate all skill levels. And Lane likes the shamble, which uses the scramble format for the tee shot, but after which every golfer must hit his or her own ball. “It helps keep the field competitive.”

While these kinds of formats help level the playing field, Lane says, there can still be problems. For example, “it's difficult to establish who the A, B, C, and D golfers [in terms of ability] are,” he notes. It's important, therefore, to try to determine that handicaps reported by tournament participants are as accurate as possible.

One untraditional format that Lane loves is the “horserace.” He experienced it at an event at the Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells, Calif. Teams were divided into A, B, C, and D players who were required to hit alternate shots until a hole was finished. The unique component was that the highest scoring foursome on each hole was eliminated from the tournament, making the field progressively smaller. The eliminated teams became part of a growing gallery of spectators, increasing the excitement as the tournament drew to its conclusion.

“It's great for socializing and teambuilding,” Lane says. Since teams can potentially be eliminated after just a single hole of play, it helps if the “horserace” is just a nine-hole event held as part of two or three days of golf.