CORPORATE GOLF EVENTS mix wonderfully with golf professionals. While a poor or mediocre tennis player can't hit balls with John McEnroe for an afternoon, almost any golfer can play a scramble-style tournament with someone of the stature of Tom Kite or Nancy Lopez. The prospect of walking down the fairway with one of the game's great players can be the experience of a lifetime for many golfers, no matter what their handicap or how much money they make.

If it's up to you to transform your event from a pleasant day on the golf course to something unforgettable, here are some tips:

TOP STARS DON'T COME CHEAP

While fees vary widely according to a player's stature, top-of-the-line notables such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods command at least $300,000 per appearance, and stars such as Arnold Palmer and Fred Couples command $125,000 and $100,000, respectively.

If you don't have this kind of money, you'll still find a range of choices. Most PGA and Seniors players are available for less than $30,000, and many LPGA players charge less than $20,000.

MATCH THE RIGHT PRO WITH YOUR GROUP

If you're hosting a lot of older people, players such as Arnold Palmer and Curtis Strange will hold huge star power; if the group is younger, hot shots from the regular PGA tour might be a better draw. The benefits of working with players from the Seniors tour is that because they have less hectic schedules, they often take more time to learn about your company and can spend more time with the event.

THE BEST PLAYERS AREN'T ALWAYS THE BEST ENTERTAINERS

Many companies have paid $75,000 for last year's Ryder Cup hero, who ends up being a huge disappointment. The smart alternative: Go with a player who can work with a group. While a recognizable name is ideal, the key is that the pros you pick be personable and capable of relating to your event attendees, whether they're high-powered CEOs or young sales achievers. As with any entertainer, after you have narrowed down the list of possibilities, contact references.

DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT THE PRO TO DO

Will he or she be playing golf only, or will there be other responsibilities, such as schmoozing at a cocktail party, hosting a golf clinic, helping to hand out the tournament prizes, or delivering a keynote speech?

TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF YOUR STAR

If you have one pro and 54 participants, which breaks down to 18 threesomes, the pro can play one hole with each group. A standard way to do this would be to have the pro set up at a par-3 hole. He meets with each group, chats a bit, plays the hole with them, and poses for a picture. He would then jump on a cart and head back to the tee to meet with the next group. Players who beat the pro on the par-3 by hitting their tee shot closer to the hole can win a special prize.

The more time the attendees can spend with the pro, of course, the greater the impression on them. If, for example, you have three pros and 18 threesomes, each pro can play several holes with each threesome.

LEVERAGE THE PRO'S PROMOTIONAL VALUE

Create a six-month program around your investment in a golf pro by, for example, including information on his or her involvement in the invitation at six months out, sending personal letters with the signature of the pro three months out, and following up with an autographed picture after the event.

PLAN A MONDAY EVENT

Most Tour pros play their tournament practice rounds on Tuesday, Pro-Ams on Wednesday, and the actual tournament from Thursday through Sunday, making Monday the best day for outings. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by scheduling your event on a Monday.

The Doctor Is In

A golf clinic can be a major hook to get top people to come to your event or to reward achievers. Everyone wants to improve. It also serves as an icebreaker, and as a time for the pro to offer tips for playing the course.

  • Keep the clinic to 45 minutes.
  • Decide if you want a clinic that is mainly entertainment, or one that is more seriously geared to expert instruction.
  • Make sure that the times are announced in the golf schedule. Casual arrangements create disorganization.
  • Have someone introduce the pro or instructor.
  • When possible, provide a microphone. Poor sound is a common problem in golf clinics.