COORDINATING A GOLF EVENT is a quagmire of details, from deciding on the right course and coordinating foursomes to choosing awards and making sure that the rental shop has enough left-handed clubs. It's nothing that a gutsy meeting professional can't handle, but that doesn't mean that everything has to fall on the planner's shoulders.

The host resort or golf club is often a critical partner (check out our tips for choosing a course) in terms of food and beverage, rental equipment, and staff who can load clubs onto carts and set up the course. However, nobody at the golf course is going to take care of the signage, prizes, registration staff, or the hundred other details that go into a successful golf event. Stepping in to pick up the pieces are golf-event management companies, such as Golf Logistics in Marietta, Ga., Great Golf Events in Mission, Kan., or Fairways Corporate Golf Services, Pittsburgh. These companies can handle every element on your golf event timeline (see page 12), or just the pieces you want to outsource.

While companies tend to keep certain responsibilities in-house, particularly the invitation and confirmation processes, pairings, golf course negotiations, and guest registration, third parties are often called on to handle site selection, event development and coordination, budgets, format details, contests, selection of merchandise and awards, coordination of rules and format information, on-site coordination, and coordination with golf course staff.

While a golf-event management company may be priceless to a company that is short on experienced event planners, the services, of course, come at a cost. For a one-day event, expect to pay between $2,000 and $10,000, plus expenses. More elaborate events involving multiple sites and dates, and a full slate of services, can push fees into the $15,000-30,000 range. Fees typically are calculated on a flat-fee or per-golfer basis.

You can whittle down the management fee by buying merchandise from the tournament planner. Many offer a range of goods, from clothing to equipment to awards. Golf planners will price goods above wholesale, but you still pay less than retail, and when they sell enough merchandise, they have more flexibility to negotiate fees downward.

Golf Event Timeline

6 Months to 1 Year Out

  • Know the goal of the event (client appreciation, incentive, social).
  • Determine your budget.
  • Decide on a golf course.
  • Meet with the person responsible for your golf event at the host facility.
  • Estimate the number of participants.
  • Book tee times.
  • Negotiate/sign contracts with the golf course.
  • Sell sponsorships, if any.
  • Build a tournament registration/information Web site, if needed.

6 Months Out

  • Book celebrity or guest professional.
  • Book entertainment, if any.
  • Discuss tournament format, special contests (closest to the pin, longest drive, etc.), and the day's schedule.
  • Design the event logo, if any.
  • Book transportation to and from the course, if needed.

3-4 Months Out

  • Order logo items, awards, and gifts. If it's a new vendor, do this earlier.
  • Finalize the celebrity, touring professional, and entertainment's needs, including travel.
  • Finalize the schedule of events.
  • Determine F&B needs.
  • Schedule photographer/videographer.
  • Send invitations. The registration form should include the golfer's handicap, rental needs, preferred tee times (for the tournament and practice round, if applicable), and pairing preference. The deadline for returning the form should be in large type.
  • Create a rain plan, and communicate it to caterers, golf course staff, and other suppliers. Include contact information for everyone who will need to be notified. Agree on a time that you'll make the decision about using the contingency plan.
  • Purchase hole-in-one insurance, if needed.

1-2 Months Out

  • Finalize the format.
  • Make initial pairings.
  • Finalize food and beverage.
  • Confirm tee times.
  • Check on status of special-order awards and gifts.
  • Develop a tournament rules sheet.
  • Mail confirmation letters with a fact sheet for guests that includes directions, phone numbers, and information on the format and special contests, dress code, rental equipment availability, where to meet at the club, whether practice time will be available, schedule of events, and other relevant information.
  • Order banners, tee signs, and any other signage.
  • Decide on a master of ceremonies for the awards presentation.

1-4 Weeks Out

  • Finalize pairings and cart assignments, and make one group list and one alphabetical list.
  • Give final numbers to the golf course.
  • Inventory all gifts and prizes.
  • Reconfirm all outside suppliers.
  • Have a final conversation with resort or club to make sure personnel will be on hand to help you.
  • Make up score cards, locker labels, and goody bags.

At Check-In or Pre-Registration

  • Reiterate the dress policy, the time the golfer should be at the course or pickup point, and what is covered under the master account.
  • Hand out first-tee gifts, especially clothing gifts that players might want to wear in the tournament.

SOURCES: Tony Ciabattoni, Fairways Corporate Golf Services, www.fairwayscorporategolf.com; Bill Colvin, Colvin Sports Network, bill@colvinsports.com; Mike Mucci, All About Golf Tournament Planning, www.golftp1.com

It's Tournament Day!

  • Arrive at the course at least two hours before the golfers.
  • Set up the registration tables near the carts or a walkway through which all golfers must pass.
  • Check start times with the pro. The timing may be off because of weather or other reasons.
  • Give the host professional any pairing updates.
  • Confirm that no repairs are being made to the course.
  • Check on rental club coordination.
  • Check cart amenities, such as rule sheets, balls, towels.
  • Check on special event holes. Course staff should place proximity markers on those holes.
  • Have two people set up tee signs and banners. This task often takes more than an hour.
  • Make certain that the beverage cart is ready to go.
  • Check on the timing and location of meals, and go over the billing procedures for all meals and food and beverage outlets.
  • Check on driving range access for your group.
  • Know where the locker rooms are.
  • Hold a short, 10-minute meeting with your staff and course staff to give them all the pertinent information that golfers will need.
  • Make sure that the scoring summary boards reflect any last-minute changes in the pairings.
  • Check the awards table layout.
  • Remind someone to pick up the proximity markers after play.
  • Note the pace of play periodically. Anticipate delays and let the F&B personnel know about them.