Paraphrasing Bob Hope: If you watch a game, it's fun. If you play it, it's recreation. If you work at it, it's planning a resort golf tournament.

So what's the best way to reduce the stress of getting a group on the links and increase your attendees' enjoyment of the game? Follow this course, and you're bound to hit a hole in one.

  1. Know your players

    Once you define your participants, it is much easier to customize an event for everyone's needs. Are they all men, all women, all seniors or juniors? Do players come from diverse backgrounds? Are their handicaps high or low?

  2. Understand their motivation

    What brings your attendees to the course? Is this a social or a business gathering? Does it involve corporate teambuilding? Will it be serious competition or recreational fun? If it is recreational, does it involve singles or couples?

  3. Match the event to the participants

    The tournament should not only match the characteristics of the field, but also the reason your golfers are playing. Scrambles are great for company teambuilding outings. Scrambles also work well with players of varying skill levels. Generally the outing will take less time than individual events.

    For more competitive players, individual gross and net tournaments using USGA handicaps are preferred. If the field is divided on what they want to do, a combination scramble and individual event should provide a happy medium. For example, the ‘A’ and ‘B’ players in a foursome shoot a four-ball event — better ball of partners with handicap — while ‘C’ and ‘D’ play an alternate shot format, or two-player Scramble. The team score may be the combination of those two scores (the better ball score added to the scramble score), or the lower of the two scores for each hole.

  4. Tee times are recommended

    Find out when your attendees prefer to tee off. Most corporate events are afternoon shotgun starts. Senior events start early in the morning. Juniors usually play any time the course is available.

    The advantage of a shotgun start is that everyone starts and finishes at the same time, which allows players to attend meetings in the morning and still finish the event in time for evening functions. Regular starting times (usually 10-minute intervals) leave more flexibility. Players aren't restricted to one set starting time.

  5. The front or the back nine?

    Many resorts have multiple golf courses with multiple teeing grounds. Make sure the course setup matches competitors' skill levels and the type of event.

  6. Help those who will help you

    Most resorts have golf tournament coordinators who will help design events. These professionals are experts at planning and running successful events. However, it is important to get accurate information concerning pairings, rental club needs, types of contests and prizes, what to do with results, and correct billing information to the coordinator at least a day in advance.

    Top-level resorts will furnish a formatted spreadsheet for you to complete. Deliver this to the tournament coordinator no later than five hours before the event — preferably the day before. It takes a few hours for the TC to prepare your information.

    Also, schedule time a week before the event to review the details with the tournament coordinator, including final pairings, rental requirements, on-course contests, special events (hole in one, beat the pro, etc.), food and beverage requirements, golf course setup, prizes, and announcements (pre- or post-event).

  7. Inform your attendees, “No mulligans allowed.”

    Last-minute changes can doom even the best-planned events. Let participants know in advance that once a deadline is set, it is set — period. Keep changes to a minimum; the best way is to let attendees know up front that proper planning will benefit everyone.

  8. Don't forget the links-less

    Not everyone will want to play — some simply because they feel they do not possess the skill. A beginners' golf clinic shows not only how to play the game, but teaches proper etiquette and how to interact on the golf course. This can be an invaluable learning tool.

  9. Schedule that tee time — Now!

    Book the course well ahead of time. Make initial contact with the resort six months to a year before the event. At this time, find out the resort's cancellation policy. Reducing the number of players or canceling within a month of the scheduled date can result in costly cancellation fees.

  10. Just how many people are out there?

    Keep in mind that most courses will hold no more than 120 players. Go beyond that number, and you're in for a very long day and lots of complaints. If you think you may exceed 120, see if part of the group can be separated and some tee times reserved on another course.

  11. Get in touch with the players

    As with the golf course, make contact with players six months to a year before the event. Once the date, time, and course have been secured, send mailers to prospective players. Also set an entry deadline at least two weeks before the event. This way you should have an accurate count of players, rental club needs, and food and beverage requirements.

  12. And the green jacket goes to …

    If you plan to award prizes, get things in line one to three months ahead of time. Corporate logos are impressive at events; however, sufficient lead time is needed for artwork approval and custom orders.

  13. Blind dates

    Pairings, which should be made one to two weeks before the event, can be made by the tournament coordinator. But if doing business with clients is the primary reason for the event, someone who knows the participants is much better suited to the task. Final changes should be made at least two hours before the start of the event.

  14. The 18th hole

    After the event, schedule a follow-up meeting with the TC or event coordinator for a discussion of what went well and what needed improvement. This is also a good time to discuss next year's event. As everyone knows, it's never too soon to start planning.

Hill Herrick is the head golf professional at The Greenbrier (, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Reach him by phone at (800) 453-4858.