Trophies? Out.Golf art? In!

Golf prize and gift selection should get as much thought as other elements of your program.

The Background * Are your participants male or female, young or old, or do they form a mixed group? Are they avid golfers, or workaholics who play a few times a year? These questions help you weed out inappropriate gifts.

* Is your goal solely to entertain your guests? Or do you want to impress or re- ward them? Choose gifts that best deliver your message.

* How important is winning? Most corporate events aren't held to reward the best golfers. Allocate enough of your budget to recognize the winners, but save the bulk for gifts that are distributed to the entire group.

The Short List * Choose the highest quality gift your budget will allow. Recognizable brand names, superior materials, and fine craftsmanship are always appreciated.

* Buy for the people, not the ceremony. Trite symbolic prizes like gold-plated putters will never be used. Save your budget for things that the winner will put into play (like a golf bag). Better yet, give a pro shop gift certificate and let the golfer decide.

* Trophies are out. Who's got space to display them or time to dust them? Try some framed golf art, with a tasteful winner's plaque.

* Keep track of what you give at each event and who attends. Note the reaction, too, so you can follow a popular gift with a related item. If a shirt made a hit at your last outing, follow it up with a coordinating vest or windshirt. Or follow a golf bag travel cover with a matching duffel or shoe bag.

* Watch the logo. For an employee event, your logo is a source of pride and team spirit. Feature it prominently. If your guests are clients, less is more. A sleeve placement, or color-on-color embroidery, is best.

Latest and Greatest Here's the buzz in golf gifts, as seen on the show floor at this year's PGA Merchandise Show, held in February in Orlando:

* Fleece--Shown by all the top makers, jackets and vests of Polarfleece will be this year's favorite outerwear.

* Matching men's and women's shirts, vests, and windshirts--Ashworth, Cutter & Buck, and others expanded their women's lines in colors and models to match the most popular men's styles. Perfect for mixed tournaments.

* Callaway's new ball--Three years in development, the "Rule 35" was the talk of the show. And just to add a twist, the ball comes in sleeves of five, not three.

* Windshirts--These have become a wardrobe staple.

Source: Nina Renaud, principal of Corporate Golf, which provides golf merchandise and services to corporate clients. Call (415) 648-1070, or visit www.corporate-golf.com.