Golf Event Planning Guide

So they’ve made you the Golf Event Planner for this year’s event.  Now what do you do?
 
Not to worry.  What might seem a daunting task bringing a large number of people together for golf, a catered meal, prizes and contests need not be difficult.  You need not be an experienced golfer to run an outstanding golf tournament.  All it takes is some advance planning and the foresight to use some basic guidelines described in this manual.
 
We trust that the information will be invaluable in helping you treat your guests to an unforgettable day of golf hospitality.

Your Golf Outing:  An Overview

A typical daylong, afternoon golf outing involves 90-100 players with 18 holes of golf beginning at 1:00pm  Plan for 4 ½ to 5 hours of actual golf, with most outings followed by a cocktail hour and dinner.  Registration typically begins at 11:00am and some sponsoring groups choose to serve a light lunch to golfers before they head out for their round. 
 
As your organization’s golf event planner, most of your work will be completed well in advance of the outing.  On the day of the event, you get plenty of help from the Abbey Springs staff, which will be more than happy to take many details off your plate, including all matters pertaining to the actual golf competition.
 
One of the pleasant surprises about staging a golf outing is how helpful the Abbey Springs professional staff can be, both in the planning process and on the event day.

Golf Event Planning

On the day of the event, you’ll have already developed a good working relationship with our staff, to the point where, the staff will almost seem like a part of your own event staff.  Good golf courses put a high value on building a spirit of teamwork among their golf staff.  Thus, you’ll find them extremely attentive to your needs and very flexible when it comes to those inevitable last minute changes that are typical to golf events.

First Step: Decide on a Date

The single most important step in starting your golf event is choosing a date.  Are you flexible about which day of the week to hold your event?  Is it critical that your outing be held on a weekend, or would a Friday or Monday work?
 
For example, if you are able to schedule your event on a Monday, your options for golf courses increase dramatically.  Members of your group who rarely get a chance to play better golf courses will be delighted to take part in a tournament at a high-level facility. 
 
The most popular time of day for an event is during the afternoon- after lunch.  This not only suits most golf courses that want to preserve morning tee times, but also works well for your guests who don’t have to get up early on the day of the event.  Additionally, if desired, a company can stage a business meeting during the morning hours, and then break for lunch followed by an afternoon of golf.  Abbey Springs’ first class amenities are available to suit all your needs.

Second Step:  Choosing a Golf Course

You must do your homework and decide which golf course is most appropriate for your group.  Is the course in a good location, and a setting to the liking of the group?  Does the course have the type of food and beverage facilities that will provide your group with the type of service they require?
 
The number of players in your event will also impact your choice of courses.  For example, as many as 144 golfers maybe accommodated in a shotgun start, but that large a field would cause an exceptionally long day because the pace of play would be slow.  So if you are expecting a group in the vicinity of 150 players or more, you might consider playing on multiple courses.  The Staff at Abbey Springs will gladly facilitate putting your large group on multiple courses.
 
What is the goal of your event?  If it is an event for charity - -where players are asked to make a fairly substantial donation to compete in the event then Abbey Springs is one of the area’s more prestigious courses that is well known to everyone.  Likewise, if the event is designed to award a group of employees for doing a good job, you will want to utilize a first class golf course, with first class amenities.
 
Keeping in mind that there will be players at your event with a wide range of golf experience, the actual topography and layout of the course might have an impact on your choice.  The best choice for a golf outing is a course that will provide a challenge for the better golfers, yet still allow inexperienced players a chance to navigate their way around with the least amount of difficulty.  A course in excess of 7,000 yards long is usually more difficult to play than a course that is just over 6,000 yards in length.  Remember, if the course you choose isn’t ideal for some of your players, you can compensate by having players tee off from the forward tees, rather than having everyone tee off from the same spot.

Research Other Golf Events

As you research your golf course options, ask our Head PGA Professional (Jack Shoger) to provide you with names of other groups who have held events at this course.  You’ll be able to contact someone who has been through the whole process and has a benefit of already having experienced a golf event at the course.
 
If there are experienced golfers in your organization, talk with them about the courses that they play during the year.  You’ll find that golfers are more than willing to provide excellent feedback on their golf experiences.  Plus you may find that during the discussion with your fellow employees who play golf an interesting story about the outing that will provide you with excellent background information.

Visit the Course and Take a Tour

When you begin to make telephone calls to inquire about golf course availability, make an appointment to go out and inspect the facility firsthand.  In most cases, you will be able to meet with one person who takes care of booking the golf course, scheduling meeting rooms and helping you with food and beverage choices.  Depending on the course, you might even set up a round of golf to see for yourself how the course will meet your golf group’s needs.  This is also a good time for you to make observations of the quality of the playing conditions of the course.  Is the course green and lush or do you see large bare of brown spots?  Remember that greens are supposed to be green.  Putting surfaces that have large brown patches or worn spots are something you don’t want to have to explain to your guests.  Also look at the fairways, areas of rough, areas surrounding the tee boxes and areas of rough that divide one hole from another.  Are these areas well maintained and tidy looking?  These are just a few of the many little things that help you compare one course to another.
 
Make sure that you ask about the maintenance schedule of the course.  Early spring and late fall are times of the year you may want to make sure there are no major course projects taking place, or greens aeration.  Check with the Professional staff to make sure the regular course maintenance does not conflict with the day of your event. 
 
Remember, you will need one golf cart for very two golfers.  Does the course have enough carts in their fleet to accommodate you?  What about golf club rentals for those in your event who might not bring their clubs?  Are there locker room and changing facilities available?

What is Your Budget?

When establishing a budget for a golf event, remember that most golf courses will charge on a per person basis.  This cost per golfer includes the greens fees (the cost of actually playing the course) and a cart fee (the cost of renting each golf cart).  Most courses will also tack on an administrative fee of some sort that will include taking care of such items as bag handling, preparation of cart signs, scorecards, scoring the tournament and the display of a large scoreboard with all the names of your golfers.  Abbey Springs provides all these extras at no additional charge.  Make sure you are clear what the real cost per golfer will be.
 
Food and beverage is usually calculated separately from the actual golf at a cost per head.  Meals can be served before and/or after your golf event.  You can choose something as simple and inexpensive as a box lunch that includes a sandwich and a drink – all the way to a full course prime rib or a rib-eye steak dinner.  Because many events are played in the afternoon, barbecue buffets that include such outing favorites as hamburgers and hot dogs, or chicken and baby back ribs are extremely popular.  Those key items are usually served along with Cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans and picnic type foods.
 
There are other food and beverage items to take care of.  Will your guests want a Continental type breakfast or box lunch prior to the round?  What about the beverage carts?  Will you run a tab, have your golfers pay cash, or maybe issue tickets to your golfers, which can be redeemed for drinks.  The latter option is a good method to control
consumption.  These are some of the other costs used by event sponsors to determine the budget of the event.
 
What kind of prizes will you give to your event winners?  Will you have to purchase them, or will they be donated?  Many golf tournaments, especially those run for a charitable purpose, contact various businesses for donations of prizes.  Additionally, you can work with the particular golf course so that some of your prizes can be gift certificates redeemable at the golf shop on the day of the event.

Key Golf Outing Budget Items

*Greens fee and cart fee
*Food and beverage (pre-event)
*Food and beverage (post event)
*Beverage cart
*Prizes / awards / certificates
*Printing (brochures / posters / entries)
*Transportation to and from event
*Hole in one insurance
*Gratuities
 
Depending upon the size and scope of your outing, here are some additional items that perhaps could be of interest for your group:
*Photography
*Signs and banners to recognize tournament sponsors
*Clinic or appearance by the club professional or touring professional
 
The number of items in your budget will vary depending on the size of your event and how big a splash you want to make with participants, clients, customers and other guests.  You can offset some of these costs through donations from various businesses, including the selling of individual hole sponsorships.  Business will buy a particular hole, knowing that the money paid out will help the event itself and/or help a designated charity.  Hole sponsor signs are a staple at corporate golf outings.  Placed at each hole (tee) they publicize the names of the companies who have made significant contributions to the success of the tournament.

Food and Beverage: Topping Off Your Day of Hospitality

A traditional part of a golf outing is to extend warm hospitality to your guests in the form of outstanding food and beverage service.  Often, this starts with a box lunch upon arrival, where guests can grab a quick lunch before spending 4 ½ -5 hours out on the golf course.  If your golf is to be played following a meeting, the box lunch can be placed on the carts so everyone can take it with them on the course.
 
Once out on the golf course, beverage service is a must—especially since your guests will likely be out on the course for a period of time.  You usually can run a tab (items to be charged), or offer drink tickets to all of the contestants.  Tickets give you the option to control how many beverages are dispensed
 
After 18 holes of golf, most golfers are ready for lunch or dinner.  While your club will provide you with a great array of dinning choices, the barbecue buffet is by far the favorite post event meal for golf outings because it offers simple fare that is compatible to a traditional outdoor event.  Choices such as hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, and steaks, along with Cole slaw, potato salad and baked beans are the most popular.  More formal menus are certainly an option, and you’ll find at Abbey Springs the food and beverage staff will go out of its way to ensure that your every request is fulfilled.

Signing the Contract

Once you decide on a date, pick a golf course and select food options, the golf course will draw up a contract that will list all elements of the event.  This will give you a chance to review all of what you have discussed, and it provides a written agreement that the golf course will reserve the particular date on your behalf and agree to deliver the food and beverage in the proper quantities, as well as other services you request.
 
Guarantee – Once you have signed the contract, the golf course will require that by a certain date (Abbey Springs is one week) that you guarantee that you will pay for a certain number of players on the day of the event.  This is so that the course can order the proper amounts of food for your group and avoid any last minute changes that could adversely affect club staffing or food and beverage service.

Getting the Word Out

A key component of planning for a golf outing is informing your potential guests about the event.  Since golf outings are all day events, it is extremely important to provide your guests with at least three months advance notice.  If there is a huge demand for spots in your tournament, you may have to start the process even further in advance.
 
For your first announcement of the event, a simple new item or press release listing the name and date of the event, the location, the starting time and list of the day’s activities is appropriate.  Distribution can be via email, fax, through the company newsletter or via snail mail.  Plan to announce your tournament three months in advance so that your guest can reserve the date on their calendar.
 
Approximately six to eight weeks in advance, you should plan to follow up with a second announcement.  This could be a formal invitation that includes a registration form or some type of reply form.  One month in advance, plan to follow up with one more news
item about the golf tournament, a “last chance to enter” letter for those who haven’t
replied and a confirmation letter to those who have already signed up.

What if it rains?

Every golf outing must have a plan in place for inclement weather.  As much as we all like to think we can predict the weather and even though we may be scheduling vacations during the summer months, there is always a chance of rain.  While it is possible to play a tournament in light rain, no one likes to be out there in a steady downpour.  When you are negotiating for a date, also plan in case of a rain out.  Maybe a rain date can be determined once it is decided that the course is unfit for play.  Also, there is the possibility of rain checks to be issued to the participant to return on their own for play on their day of choosing.
 
The worst enemy of the golfer is lightning.  Abbey Springs uses the Thor-Guard lightning detection/prediction system to protect our golfers.  This is the same lightning detection/prediction system used by the PGA tour.  With very accurate science, our staff can determine when it is unsafe for golfers to be out on the course.

Registration Desk                                                                                       

When golfers arrive at your outing, you’ll want to have a centralized place where they can check in, meet their playing partners, change their pairings, learn their starting tee and pick up a tournament rules sheet.  The Event Planner and his/her volunteers usually staff this table.  The registration desk is also an excellent place to hand out pre-tournament gifts and distribute box lunches.  If a pre-tournament lunch is being served in the club, it makes good sense to have the registration table near where the meal is served.

Format for Play

A primary factor in determining the playing format for your outing is the number of players who will participate.  Once you know how many players will take part you can choose the type of event that makes most sense for the size of your group.
 
A golf tournament attracts a wide variety of players, some of them serious players and others who rarely pick up a club.  This will affect your choice of formats in that you should try and pick a format that will allow players of all abilities to enjoy the round and actually take part in the competition.  Even though you will match players of varying
abilities on teams, the social nature of golf tends to bring people together no matter how well they play.
 
You also might want to take into account the time of year and the weather conditions.  For example, if the weather is warm, you may want to try and stage your event in the morning, although it is often impossible for most courses to stage outings on weekend mornings.  You will also want to select a format that will allow your event to finish in
a timely fashion.  Remember, you should plan anywhere from 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours to complete the round for a large group.

Golf Event Formats and Contests

There are a wide varieties of golf formats and contests that will work for a corporate or charity event, but team formats work best.  And because there is usually a wide variance among players in terms of their golf skills, putting players on teams tends to even things out so everyone has a chance to win.
 
In order to put teams together that are even in ability, it will be necessary for you to ask for each player’s handicap.  While many regular golfers carry a handicap, there will be a number of golfers at your event who don’t keep track of their scores often enough or don’t play enough to track their handicap.  In that case, the tournament chairperson can assign handicaps that appear fitting to an individual who doesn’t play much.  Additionally, if you need assistance assigning a handicap or deciding on a format, the club’s professional will be glad to assist you to ensure that the competition will be fair and enjoyable for everyone.

Competition Formats

The Scramble

By far this is the most popular format for a group golf event because it allows for a good pace of play despite the large number of players.  Additionally, a scramble gives everyone—even less experienced golfers-a chance at winning.  A four-person scramble is one in which there are four players on a team.  All players tee off and then each player hits their second shot from the spot where the best shot of the four landed.  Continue with this process until the ball is holed.

Best Ball

Each player hits his/her own ball in a Best Ball competition, but only the lowest score from among the group is recorded as the official score for the competition.  The lowest score for each hole is recorded as the official score for that hole.  The best ball allows for each player to play a full round of golf, but still allows for less experienced golfers to contribute to and be part of a winning team.

Odd and Even

Two-player teams hit one ball between them, with one player hitting the odd-numbered shots and the second player hitting all the even-numbered shots.  Players alternate hitting tee shots, so that one player doesn’t have to hit every single tee shot.

Stableford

A Stableford awards points for shots made depending on a player’s handicap,
A point value assigned for a birdie, par, eagle, bogey, double bogey or triple bogey based on the formula.  Instead of the player winning with the fewest strokes, in this case the winner would be the player with the most points.
 

SCORING

 

PLAYER RATING

 

 

 

 

PLAYER A

PLAYER B

PLAYER C

PLAYER D

DOUBLE EAGLE

8

11

14

17

EAGLE

 

5

8

11

14

BIRDIE

 

2

5

8

11

PAR

 

0

2

5

8

BOGEY

 

-1

0

2

5

DOUBLE BOGEY

-3

-1

0

2

TRIPLE BOGEY

-3

-3

-1

0

OTHERS

 

-3

-3

-3

-1


Peoria or Scheid System

The Peoria or Scheid system, though more complicated than other scoring systems, is used for events where most of the players in an event do not have a handicap.  This system utilizes certain holes (that only the staff know) and bases each player’s handicap on how they perform on those particular holes.  Event planners take note.  This scoring system takes more time to calculate at the end of the event than other methods.

Contest Formats

Putting Contests

The most common added competitive activity at golf outings, putting contests are extremely popular because anyone-whether they are playing golf that day or not-has the basic skill to putt a golf ball toward the hole.  Usually held on the practice putting green,
putting competitions offer dozens of variations on a theme.  The object, of course, is to putt the ball in the hole in the least number of attempts.
 
Most putting contests collect a nominal fee from each participant, depending on the group.  These entry fees can range from as little as $1 to $50, with income going to the winner or a smaller prize available to the winner and the money going to charity.

Chipping Contest

This is a variation of the putting contest, except that shots are taken from just off the putting green surface to see who can chip the ball closest to the hole.  Another variation on the chipping contest is to see how close to the hole you can get from one of the sand bunkers.  Fees to enter are usually the same as the putting contests.

Longest Drive Contest

This should be staged on a hole that has a particularly wide fairway.  A flag or event sign is put up in the fairway to indicate the position of the previously longest drive.  The tee shot must stop in the fairway to be eligible to win.  Keep in mind, this event probably has only a handful of the outing contestants that have the ability to win.  Many times these folks are repeat winners year after year.

Shortest Drive

This contest can usually get a laugh or two out of your group.  It goes to the person who hits the shortest drive.  Drive may or may not be required to be in the fairway.

Closest to the Pin

This is a very popular contest, and involves a tee shot off a par 3 that comes closest to the pin.  It is best to select one of the courses shortest par 3’s to help give everyone a chance to win.

Longest Putt Made

This contest is run on any hole that doesn’t conflict with other events.  This is a good event for those groups that have a number of inexperienced golfers playing.  Players of all abilities feel like they have a chance to win this contest.

Should We Sell Mulligans?

A mulligan is an extra shot-that can be used to take the place of an errant shot-purchased prior to the round with the money going to charity.  Should you muff a shot, you can use
a mulligan to replace that shot without any sort of penalty.  Mulligans are an excellent way to raise money for charity or to defray the expenses of the golf tournament.  Traditionally, only two or three mulligans per player are allowed.  The price for a mulligan can vary from $1 up as high as $50, depending upon your group.

Make a Hole-in-One: Win a New Automobile  

High visibility hole in one contests on par 3 holes are a way to draw attention to your event and send a message of status to your guests.  While few people during the course of a year win automobiles for holes in one, the prospect of hitting the one-in-a-million shot is something that intrigues everyone so that they all want to step up to the tee and have a go.  A hole-in-one contest with a brand new automobile as a prize is something that your organization may want to consider as a way to spice up your event.  It’s an excellent hook for pre-event publicity and something that will surely be a hot topic of conversation among your guests.
 
There are a number of ways to go about having such a contest, but the first is to contact a local auto dealer.  There are a couple of ways to approach the dealer, depending if the event is for charity or not.  If the event is for charity, maybe the dealer would like to sponsor or pay for the insurance.  If this isn’t a charity event, try to find an automobile and its cost from the dealer.  The next call is to the hole-in-one insurance company.  Let them know the prize value, the hole number where the contest will be held, the yardage, and the number of contestants.  There are ways to save money in setting this up, and the golf professional will be critical to setting up the contest at the very best prices.
 
Even if no one wins the car, the fact that it is on display all day lends an air of excitement to the day.  Of course, if a hole-in-one is made the cost of purchasing the car is taken care of by the insurance company.
 
In addition to an automobile, prizes on these high visibility contests include boats, air tickets, vacation rentals and other items costing thousands of dollars.  Of course there will be minimum distances for the contest, and it will be important the golf staff strictly adheres to these minimums to qualify for the prizes.

Defraying Costs of the Event with Hole Sponsors

If your outing is a charity event, hole sponsors are a great way to raise money for the designated charity, as well as a way to engage local businesses to help you promote your event.  Decide on a price for sponsorship of each hole.  Keep in mind that you’ll have to produce hole sponsor signs, and in the process, collect copy and artwork from the individual hole sponsors.  Signs that are perfect for golf course placement can be produced at many local commercial sign companies for a reasonable price.  Better yet, recruit a local sign company as a hole sponsor in exchange for giving you a reduced rate on producing signs.

Volunteers: Backbone of Your Golf Event Planning

Plan to enlist the help of a dozen or so volunteers, depending on the size of your event.  These individuals should plan to work the entire day, handling such items as manning the registration table, helping with contests, helping the photographer, loading and unloading supplies and prizes, placement of hole sponsor signs and collecting supplies when the event is completed.

Scheduling Activities for Guests Who Don’t Play Golf

Chances are not everyone who attends your event will be a golfer.  Thus, it is desirable to have something available so that non-golfers will come out and enjoy the day along with the rest of the group.  Well prior to your event, survey your guest list and find out how many attendees will not be playing golf, and most important, how many in your group would attend the golf event if there was something to do other than golf.  This information is best gathered well in advance and not left to the last minute.  At Abbey Springs we offer boat cruises on Lake Geneva with big tour boats that load and unload folk’s right at our very own docks.  Another great activity for non-golfers at Abbey Springs would be the use of the Spa at the Abbey Hotel located just over a mile from the course!

Your Awards Banquet:  The Finishing Touch for a Perfect Day

A final conclusion to the day’s events is the post event awards banquet, where your group has the opportunity to honor competition winners, say thanks to sponsors, announce charitable contributions and, most important, treat your guests to a great meal.
 
To prepare for the banquet you’ll need a podium, microphone and public address system to communicate with your audience.  To display trophies, prizes and other items, you’ll need a table that should be located in a position that can be seen by the largest number of people.  The golf staff will set up tournament score sheets with the names of all the teams and the participants and their scores.
 
Remember that the results of some of your contests are to brought in by the golf course staff unless different arrangements are made in advance.  The golf staff should pick up the long drive and other event signs, and also collect scorecards from the players when they return from the course.  That’s when the staff posts scores and gives the group leader the results along with the summary of event winners.
 
Golfers are a hungry lot when they come off the golf course.  You’ll want to make sure that the food is set up and ready when the players start finishing their rounds.  Your golf course will closely monitor the pace of play and can predict with some accuracy when most of the players will be finished.  It’s important to choose a meal and serving format so that a large number of guests can be served in a short period of time.  This is why buffets are so popular for golf outings. 
 
Presentation of awards is a major part of your banquet, including team winners and individual winners such as low gross, low net, closest to the pin, and other contest winners.  Decide in advance who will emcee your banquet.  It is usually best to have someone with a sense of humor who can entertain the guests as well as acknowledge their attendance and thank them on the behalf of the sponsoring organization.

A Sample Golf Outing Timetable

Four to Six Months in Advance:
-Research and make final decision on a golf course.
-Block off tee times.
-Review and choose menus.
-Sign and return contract to golf course.
-Decide on playing format.
-Prepare your invitation list.
-Send out first “Save the Date” invitations.
-Begin creating an invitation
 
Three Months in Advance:
-Place orders for any special gifts that require logos.
-Order sponsor banners, hole sponsor signs.
-Select a photographer or videographer.
-Mail out formal invitations for the event.
 
One Month in Advance:

-Review start time arrangements with golf course.
-Check status of special order items, confirm delivery times.
-Mail second notice to remind guests of the event.
-Mail confirmation letters to those who have already signed up.
-Final meeting with your golf course contact person, review beverage carts.
 
Two Weeks in Advance:
-Review your checklist.
-Begin arranging your final guest list.
-Call golf course with final guarantee for the event.
 
One Week in Advance:
-Make sure gifts and prizes have been received.
-Reconfirm all outside suppliers.
-Send your team list to the head golf professional
 
The Day Prior to the Event:
-Review pairings list with courses and spelling of names.
-Alert golf course of last minute changes.
-Review final numbers.
 
Day of the Event:
-Arrive at the golf course at least 2 ½ hours prior to the event.
-Ensure that all volunteers arrive at the golf course 2 ½ hours prior to the event.
-Hold a short meeting with your immediate volunteers at least two hours before event.
-Check arrival of special event contest props (auto or other hole-in-one prizes).
-Make sure your registration table is set up and staffed two hours before event.
-Stay in close touch with the golf staff regarding last minute changes of the rosters.
-Obtain copies of the alphabetized player list that will be supplied by the golf staff.
-Arrange for placement of tee gifts and rules sheets on the golf carts.
-Consult with the golf course about the placement of hole sponsor signs.
-Confirm the beverage cart and the times it will be on the course.
-Reconfirm timing of meal service following the event.
-Double check on availability of practice facility for the group.
-Know where the locker rooms are located and be prepared to direct people there.
-In case of inclement weather, review rain options and start time.