10 Tips for Planning a Winning Golf Tournament

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After a long hiatus, it’s okay to have golf at meetings again. For those of you who might need a refresher course on how to plan a golf outing, here’s a clip-and-save guide to crafting the perfect tournament.

10 Key Steps

1. Ideally, golf events should be booked at least 60 to 90 days in advance of the outing. With larger events, even more lead time may be needed to ensure availability. 
   
2. If budget conscious, try to avoid booking golf events on weekends, holidays, and during high season. Golf courses are hesitant to negotiate during those times because they usually fill up at premium rates with regular players. 
 
3. Be sure to ask about the cancellation period. Prior to that deadline, assess the number of expected players and cancel any unused tee times to avoid being charged for them. This is especially 
important on busy days, as the club would likely have sold those empty spots if they were released before the cancellation period.  

4. It is important for your golf event coordinator to know the expected size of the group. Golf events can be tailored to nearly any size group; however, some formats are better suited to groups of certain sizes. So nail down the number of players first.  

5. Your event coordinator should also be familiar with your budget and time constraints. Golf events can be modified to meet both. Ask the club’s tournament director to suggest a plan that will meet the objectives while staying within predetermined parameters.

6. Define your expectations and goals. What is the purpose of the outing: teambuilding, competition, relationship-building, learning experience, recreation, etc?

7. What related events to include. There’s more to offer than just 18 holes of golf: skills challenges, golf clinics, exhibitions, putting contests, etc. These activities are especially appealing to novice golfers or when facing time constraints.  

8. Anticipate the needs of the group and talk to your coordinator ahead of time about catering, awards ceremony setup, rental equipment, transportation, etc.

9. Consider the makeup of the group. Who will be attending and what is the skill level of the attendees? 

10. Plan for your photography/social media needs. Consider hiring a photographer to take pictures of the event. Ask the tournament director to recommend a local photographer. Event images can also be posted on social networks such as Facebook for participants to enjoy long after the event.  
      
Other Considerations

Gifts, prizes, and awards
These can suit any budget and can often be logoed to create unique mementos. If the participants are from out of town and they’re going to get the prize (e.g. golf clubs) at the event, they may need assistance with shipping—especially now that most airlines charge for extra baggage. If this presents a burden, consider giving gift certificates, so each winner receives an envelope at the awards dinner and can shop online from home.  

Food and Beverage
Most golf clubs offer a variety of food and beverage options that can be tailored to meet any type of budget or event. 

Sponsorship and signage
In many cases, the cost of the event can be offset by securing sponsorships. Put together a list of sponsorship opportunities along with the cost of each to present to vendors and any other group that may be interested in exposing its brand to participants. Most clubs generate basic collateral in-house such as pairings sheets, scoreboards, tee markers, cart signs, and welcome letters—all of which are saleable real estate.  

Tournament formats
There are dozens of different formats available to tournament hosts. The club’s golf event coordinator will discuss which formats are most appropriate for the event based upon its size, purpose, and the relative experience of the guests. Choose a format that encourages a reasonable pace of play. 

Tournament pairings
Submit the player pairings 24 to 36 hours in advance of the event. This will allow the golf staff to properly stage the golf carts and create name placards for each cart so guests can easily find their carts prior to the start of the tournament. Double-check that all names are spelled correctly. To ensure that the scoreboard at the awards dinner is accurate, ask a staff member to go out onto the golf course during play to confirm the names in each group.

Contests
There are a number of contests, such as closest to the pin or longest drive, that can be incorporated into the golf event to add an element of fun and competition.

Event registration
It’s a good idea to set up a registration table. This allows the coordinator to greet the participants as they arrive, hand out tee gifts, and give the staff notice of no-shows or cancellations in time to make last-minute changes to the pairings.   

Every destination on the planet has a peak season, when rates are at their highest. For Scottsdale, AZ, for example, it is January through April. Meeting groups wishing to experience the city’s golf on a budget can take advantage of excellent values during the shoulder season, the time periods just before and just after the high season. 

These seasons offer distinct advantages and disadvantages. Using Scottsdale as an example, let’s look at how the experience changes from autumn to spring. 
 
Autumn Shoulder Season  
October through December marks the autumn shoulder season, immediately following the “overseed” process, when cool-weather ryegrass is planted on top of the warm-weather Bermuda grass.  

Good news
The conditions during this time are typically very good, with a new blanket of rich green ryegrass covering the golf courses. The weather is usually dry and warm during the day (average high of 87 degrees from mid-September through the end of November), and cool in the evening. Lodging fees and greens fees have yet to climb to their peak-season levels, and most hotels and golf courses are less crowded.  
 
Bad news
Newly sprouted ryegrass is fragile, so golf carts are required to stay on cart paths. The ground can be soft and wet, leading to some soggy lies, slower green speeds, and not much in the way of roll.  
 
Spring Shoulder Season
Late April through mid-June marks the spring shoulder season.  

Good news
The weather during this time varies, but generally it’s hot and dry during the day with a steady afternoon breeze and an average high of 99 degrees in May and June. Low humidity keeps it feeling cooler, though. The winter ryegrass begins to wither while the summer Bermuda grass begins to take hold, resulting in some browning, but the overall surface is still very good. 
 
Bad news 
Many courses aerate during this time, leaving the greens a bit bumpy and sandy. Be sure to call the club to find out when the greens last underwent this process. After roughly a week or two, the greens return to good form.