Knowing what makes a piece of business good for a golf course will help you get the best event for the best price. The specs that carry the most weight include season, day of the week, start time, format, and number of players.
Day of the Week — Unless it is a year-round resort, golf courses host most of their events on Saturday, Sunday, and (for country clubs) Monday. If you book a midweek day, you may get a deal.
Start Time — A shotgun start (in which all golfers start at the same time) requires exclusive use of part of, or the entire, course. It's the best format for groups of 72 players or more. A morning start is best, allowing the club to place your group on the empty course without having to displace other players. If you ask for a 10 a.m. or afternoon shotgun, the course must clear the grounds for at least two hours prior to your start time. Guess who pays for that empty time — you.
Note: If there is a shotgun group playing in the morning before your event, your group may be just what the course is looking for to fill its afternoon. Always ask the course how the tee sheet looks for the week in which you have an interest.
Most planners request a shotgun start because it makes things simpler if the whole group starts and finishes at the same time — at least in theory. But this format may not be appropriate for a group of 60 players or fewer. You can certainly request it, but you will pay a much higher fee.
With a group of 60 or fewer, I suggest either a standard or a split-tee start. Standard tee times would send the group off in 15 foursomes six minutes apart, finishing within an hour and a half of each other. A split-tee format would send eight foursomes off the front nine and seven off the back nine, with players finishing within 50 minutes of each other. These formats let the course maximize its tee times, so you'll pay a lower rate.
Inclusive Rates — Always ask for a rate that includes at least the greens fee, cart fee, and range balls. You may want to add a clinic, a meal, one or several beverage carts, special contests, prizes from the pro shop, club cleaning, bag service, or other specialty services. Know what you want and what course rates include so that you can compare apples to apples.
Rates may be per person or for the entire event. With a shotgun start, the course may impose a flat fee so that no matter how many players the event brings, the course is covered as though it had a full day of players. For example, the price might be $100 per player. If you have 110 players and want the course exclusively for your morning shotgun event, the course will charge you its rate multiplied by a minimum number of golfers, let's say 128, so your flat fee would be $12,800 for the event. Whether you have 100, 110, or 140 players, the entire course is yours because you paid for it.
Lee Norwood-Kraycik is the author of the publication GOLF — A Fore-Letter Word That Spells Business. Norwood-Kraycik can be reached via e-mail at Lee4Golf@mindspring.com.
What is the goal of the golf event/? Is it a fundraiser, an opportunity for a group to socialize, or an opportunity to thank sponsors?
What is the desired outcome?
What is your budget?
Have you looked into sponsorships or partnership options?
How many days do you have to work with?
How many courses do you need?
What activities relate to the event? Is your event associated with a meeting, training, a conference, or a social function?
Do you want to hire a golf professional?
What other entertainment options are you considering?
What's the skill level of your players? Are they low-handicap, high-handicap, or mixed? Is the group all male, all female, or mixed?
What format options would work best with your group?
Consider the type of course, the size of its professional staff, its distance to a hotel/conference facility (if applicable), driving time for participants, and bus parking capacity (if applicable).
How many tournaments are being held the two weeks before, during, and after your scheduled time at the course?
Do you want a fairway or a green? What are the typical slope and greens readings for the course?
Are any maintenance efforts going on during your tournament?
What selection and price range are offered at the golf pro shop?
What are the locker rooms like? Are there separate facilities for men and women? How many lockers and shower stalls are available?
What's the bag drop and bag storage capacity?
How many golf carts are available, and how old is the fleet? Do you want caddies; if so, will they be available?
What special features does the course offer? (Is it a PGA stop, for example, or a place where USGA tournaments are played?)
What's included in the price? Is there a rain policy? What about food and beverage facilities (including beverage carts)?
What's the tee-time spacing? How many starters and rangers are available?
Are tournament services available? What are the rules concerning bringing in sponsor items, beverages, etc.?
Is there a driving range/practice area? Are there clinics?
What's the policy on signage on the course and in the clubhouse?
Is the staff willing to work with outside professionals?
Send out information on the golf outing for the annual meeting program, and/or to whatever other sources are appropriate.
Get tee bags.
Order signage and golf-related gifts.
Make pairing arrangements.
Develop tournament rules sheet.
Create specialty holes.
Get event insurance.
Decide on alternative arrangements in case of weather problems.
Process the verification of handicaps (if required).
Bob Hatheway is president of RJH Associates in Windsor Locks, Conn. He can be reached at (860) 623-6735 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add a little competition to your golf outing with some of the most popular golf formats.
Four-Person Scramble — Divide players by handicap into four groups labeled A, B, C, and D, making the A player the low handicap and the group captain (or let the group pick its own captain). Each player drives the ball, and the captain decides which is the best. Each player then plays their second shot from this position. The best second shot is determined, and the third shots are played from that spot. Continue until the hole is completed. Typically, each player must contribute at least two drives to prevent one team with a very good player from dominating. If the ball is in a hazard when selecting a shot, it cannot be removed and played from outside the hazard. Otherwise, the ball can be moved within one club length. On the green, as soon as one player putts out, the team has putted out.
Two-Person Scramble — The same game with two people per team
Best Ball — Obtain the score for the foursome at each hole by taking the lowest score, either on a gross (without handicap) or net (with handicap) basis. Each player plays his own ball.
Two Best Ball — Requires that the team record the two best scores in the foursome
Low Ball/Low Total — One point is awarded on each hole for the lowest individual score, and one point for the lowest team score.
Skins — A hole-by-hole wagering system in which the lowest score on each hole wins. If there is a tie, the amount of the wager rolls over to the next hole until someone or a team wins a hole.
Stroke Play — The total number of strokes used determines the winner.
Specialty Contests — Four of the most popular specialty contests are Long Drive (the person with the longest drive in the fairway); Closest to the Pin; Straightest Drive (for the player who hits it the longest, but also nearest to a chalk line in the center of the fairway); and the Longest Putt.
Bill Colvin is president, golf, at MarComm Golf, Cleveland. He can be reached at (216) 696-9511, or at MCPBill@aol.com.