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 the majority 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 (where all your golfers start at the same time), requires exclusive use of part of, or the entire, course. This is the best format for groups of 72 players or more. A morning start is best, allowing the course to place your group out on the empty course without displacing 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 prior to your event, your group may be just what the course is looking for to fill up its afternoon. Always ask the course how the tee sheet looks for the week in which you are interested.
Most planners request a shotgun start because it makes things simpler if the whole group starts and finishes at the same time — theoretically. However, this format is not appropriate for a group of 60 players or fewer. You can certainly request it, but you will pay a much higher fee to the course (and rightly so).
With a group of 60 or fewer, I suggest a standard tee time start or a split tee start. Standard tee times would send the group off in 15 foursomes at six minutes apart. Thus they should finish 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 will 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, a beverage cart (or several), special contests, prizes from the pro shop, club cleaning, bag service, or other services. Know what you want and what course rates include so that you may 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 play. The price may be, for example, $100 per player for greens fee, cart, and range balls. If you have 110 players and want the course exclusively for your morning shotgun event, the course will charge you its rate times some minimum number of golfers, let's say 128, so your flat fee would be $12,800 for the event. On event day, whether you have 100, 110, or 140 players, the course is yours because you paid for it.
Lee Norwood-Kraycik is author of GOLF — A Fore-Letter Word that Spells Business. Reach her at Lee4Golf@mindspring.com.