The 5 Steps to a Winning Golf Event

The overall feel of a golf tournament is important, but the fine details are what make people look forward to participating year after year.

It takes a balance of creativity and strong organizational skills to execute a distinctive and exciting golf event. Follow these five steps to ensure that players, clients, corporate colleagues, and employees have a fun and memorable day that they will continue to talk about for years to come.

  1. Determine your objective.
    With so many different types of tournaments, you must figure out the nature of the event that you are planning. It could be a corporate, competitive, or charity event, which will determine how the game is set up and what is needed to maximize the enjoyment of the players. If you are trying to raise money for a worthy cause, optimizing the number of sponsors and players tops your priority list. Just looking to have a great day on the greens with your business peers? Then activities that promote individual recognition and special prizes should be of utmost importance.
  2. Select a strong tournament director.
    Your tournament director is the main contact for players, vendors, and the golf course staff. Select someone who is committed, organized, and able to get people excited about the upcoming event. He or she needs to have the charisma to manage player registrations and the ability to make logical decisions on player pairings.
  3. Build solid committees.
    Surround yourself with the right people to handle all the moving parts of the tournament. Ideally, the tournament director should not handle every aspect of the event, but rather build solid committees to coordinate prizes and awards, player pairings, on-course games, and player gifts. Choose hard-working volunteers who share your vision with regard to your tournament goals.
  4. Offer a one-of-a-kind experience.
    Think about the most memorable tournament you have ever attended. Did they give a car away during a hole-in-one contest? Were there special gift bags that included your favorite products? These memories are what keep everyone buzzing and allow your company to leave a lasting impression with attendees. Offering something unique embeds those positive perceptions in the minds of participants.
  5. Show your appreciation.
    Send a thank-you gift or letter to everyone who participated because, if it weren't for their support, the event would not have been such a huge success. This personal acknowledgement will also create a connection to the golf event — and your company — for years to come.

Tournament Timeline

6 months to 1 year out

Make initial contact with resort

Make initial contact with players

1 to 3 months out

Plan special prizes

SOURCE: John Oney, PGA Professional/Tournament Coach Director, TournEase Inc.,

1 to 2 weeks out

Plan pairings

It's important to book the course well ahead of time, and to research the resort's cancellation policy. Reducing the number of players or canceling the event within a month of the scheduled date can result in high penalty fees.

1 week out

Conduct a tournament review

Once the date, time, and course have been secured, invite prospective players. Set an entry deadline that is at least two weeks before the event; this way, you will have an accurate count of players, rental club needs, and food-and-beverage requirements and avoid last-minute changes.

Corporate-logoed merchandise is impressive, but you must allow sufficient lead time for artwork approval and custom orders. The resort's tournament coordinator can act as the liaison between the company and the manufacturer. Balls, tees, clothing, bags, and glassware are just a few of the many items that can be adorned with your logo.

Tournament day

Pairings can be made by the tournament coordinator; however, if doing business with clients is the primary reason for the tournament, someone who knows the participants is much better qualified for the job.

Contact the tournament coordinator to review all the details, which include:

  • tip

    Want to give your sponsors some extra credit?

    final pairings

  • Get a Handle on Beverage Costs

    rental requirements

  • on-course contests

  • special events (hole in one, beat the pro, etc.)

  • F&B requirements

  • golf course setup

  • prizes

  • announcements (pre- or post-event).

Don't Forget the 5 W's

Any final changes to pairings should be made at least two hours before the start of the event. Also, don't forget a post-event review with the coordinator to discuss what went well and what needed improvement. It's also a good time, while everything is still fresh in everyone's mind, to discuss the event for next year.

SOURCE: Bob Harris, Golden Links Advisory Board member and director of sports and recreation, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.,

Put a visible marker with their logos in the center of the fairway 50 yards from the pin. A 2-foot stick works well, and most superintendents can order or make them. Paint them the sponsor's color or any bright color, or consider slipping a cylindrical sleeve over them with the logo. Guaranteed, more golfers will notice the 50-yard markers than the traditional sponsor signs on tee boxes.
— Nancy Berkley, Golden Links Advisory Board member and president, Berkley Consulting, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.,

Of all the costs associated with a golf tournament, beverages can be the most difficult to control. Other expenses can be negotiated or are charged on a per-player basis; beverage charges, on the other hand, are typically for each drink consumed.

It's difficult, of course, to estimate how many drinks will be consumed — or to budget for it — unless you take control of the consumption. One way to do so is to instruct the facility to pre-set the amount of beverages available to the players on the course. If beverage tickets are used, each golfer will receive a predetermined number of tickets at the check-in table prior to the tournament. Tickets are redeemed for either a soft drink or beer.

Five beverage tickets is a reasonable number of tickets to issue if a pre-tournament lunch is not served. If beverage tickets are not issued and a set quantity of beverages are to be distributed, assume that each player will consume between seven and nine drinks, with a 50/50 split between soft drinks and beer.

For budgetary purposes, use the five-drink ticket method and estimate that each person at the tournament will drink three beers and two soft drinks. Assuming 144 golfers, with beer costing $2 and soft drinks $1.25, plus a tax rate of 8.25 percent, your beverage cost estimate will be $1,324.98:

  • tip

    Speed up play with an “official gimme putt.”

    Beer: 144 people @ $2/drink @ 3 drinks plus tax = $935.28

  • tip

    Match the event to the participants

    Soft drinks: 144 people @ $1.25/drink @ 2 drinks plus tax = $389.70

  • Handicapping Basics

    Total beverage cost: $935.28 + $389.70 = $1,324.98.

Using the same formula without any controls, and assuming four soft drinks and four beers per person, the total beverage cost would be $2,026.44. So it's easy to see why limiting drinks is a must.

SOURCE: Mike Mucci, All About Golf Tournament Planning, Cleveland,

To guide your decisions throughout the golf-event planning process, ask yourself the following questions:

Who is playing? — Are you dealing with men, women, seniors, juniors, or a some combination? Do they have low or high handicaps? Is this a group of customers from different companies, or a team of employees from the same company? Once the participants are defined, it is much easier to customize an event for everyone's needs.

Why are they playing? — Is this a business event or a social event? Does it involve corporate teambuilding? Are the participants salespeople entertaining customers, or is it a social outing for couples? Will it be serious competition or recreational fun?

What type of event? — Are people playing as individuals or in teams? Does everyone play their own balls, or is a scramble format or alternate-shot event preferable?

Tournament Planning Made Easy

When do they want to play? — Most corporate events are afternoon shotgun starts. 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. But be sure that this format will suit your players' goals.

Where do they want to play? — Many resorts have multiple golf courses with multiple teeing grounds. Make sure that the course setup matches the skill level of the competitors and the type of event they are playing.

SOURCE: Bob Harris, Golden Links Advisory Board member and director of sports and recreation, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.,


What about the nongolfers?

Ask the superintendent to spray a circle with a 2-foot radius around the flagstick. A diluted tracking solution (superintendents know what that is) works very well for the line and will be washed away in one irrigation cycle. When a putt is on the line or inside the circle, it's an official gimme. It's a fun feature for scrambles and speeds up play.
— Nancy Berkley, Golden Links Advisory Board member and president, Berkley Consulting, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.,

Scrambles are great for company teambuilding outings. Scrambles also work well if there is a wide variety of skill levels among participants, and generally take less time than individual events. For more competitive players, individual gross and net tournaments using USGA handicaps are preferred. If you have a combination of both types of players, try a combination scramble and individual event to provide a happy medium.
— Bob Harris, Golden Links Advisory Board member and director of sports and recreation, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.,

A handicap is the number of “artificial” strokes deducted from total gross score to theoretically bring the score back to par. For example, on a par-72 course, a golfer with an 18 handicap will typically shoot a 90 (72+18).

Handicapping is a type of scoring system to allow players to compete on an equal basis, regardless of their ability.

When playing a team format using handicap scoring, the golf pro at most courses can calculate the team handicap if provided with individual handicaps. If the facility does not provide this service, use the Pinehurst Handicapping System. (For more information, see the USGA Handicap Manual, Section 9-4 at

When establishing a handicap after the tournament play, the simplest method to use is the Peoria System of Handicap. Without informing the players, select six holes to be used as the handicap holes. Preferably pick two par-3's, two par-4's, and two par-5's.

After the scorecards are turned in, total the scores on the six selected holes, multiply this total by three, and subtract par for the course. This difference will be the handicap.

Example: 6-hole total = 33 × 3 = 99. If par is 72, the handicap will be 27 (99-72).

SOURCE: Mike Mucci, All About Golf Tournament Planning, Cleveland,

Golden Links Advisory Board member Mick Luckhurst, president of American Hole 'n One, Buford, Ga., has seen hundreds of clients struggle with the logistics of tournament planning. That's why, when he learned about TournEase, he called us to rave about the new, free online tool, which rolls out later this month at

TournEase was designed by golf and tournament pros to manage every step of the planning process, from course selection and sponsorships to player registrations, on-course events, signage, merchandise, and awards — everything.

The difference between TournEase and other Web tools, says Luckhurst, is that “they all do one thing or another, but this one walks you all the way through. It's by the far the best out there, it's easy to maneuver through — and it's free!”

Not everyone will want to play in your golf event. In fact, many times people feel peer pressure to play golf, even though they do not have the skill level to do so. A beginner's golf clinic will show novices not only how to play the game but also teach them proper etiquette and how to interact on the golf course. A clinic, which can be as short as one hour, will help them to improve their games so that the next time they are invited to play, they will not feel so intimidated.
— Bob Harris, Golden Links Advisory Board member and director of sports and recreation, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.,