Tee Off for Great Golf Meetings

Meeting Planning

About 20 million Americans play golf, and, due to the Tiger factor, no other professional sport in recent years has experienced as big an increase in the number of fans. It’s no wonder that golf outings and tournaments are among the most popular additions to conferences and meetings. Besides aiming for fun and camaraderie, organizations put on golf events for team-building, client entertainment, customer incentive and employee rewards. Whether you want to deepen relationships among co-workers or encourage business connections, a well-planned day on the golf course could be the key to success.

Although golf events do require considerable advance preparation, you can rest assured that some form of golf-related diversion can be adapted to every budget and time constraint. The good news for planners is twofold: while traditional tournaments are still the bottom line, a “wide variety of enjoyable, affordable golf-related events can be put together for golfers of all abilities, and even for nongolfers. Further, as long as you start with plenty of lead time, golf resort and golf club staff will take care of all the details.

“No worries,” says Ro Davies, sales manager at Whistler Golf Club in Whistler, British Columbia. “Even if you have never hit a golf ball in your life, just let us know the size of your group, your budget and what you want to accomplish with your clients or your organization, and we’ll handle everything, from tournaments to golf instruction to meeting breaks.”

Look for a savvy staff
When shopping for the right venue to host events, planners know that the experience and professionalism of the group sales and event management staff are critical; this is particularly true for golf outings.

The sport is competitive, steeped in tradition and it is not an easy sport to learn; expectations, and even the intimidation factor, can be high. Therefore, the more varied group experience the golf club staff has had, the better they can brainstorm with you to custom-design a tournament or a package of golf-related activities suited to the abilities and size of your organization. That makes it all the easier for you to plan, and produce a rewarding event.

When interviewing host clubs and resorts, find out what types of events they have produced lately and ask for references to planners with whom they have recently worked.

Quality and difficulty of the course
Do take into account the degree of difficulty and the playing conditions of the golf courses you are considering, keeping in mind how well your attendees may be expected to play. Ask around your group to get an idea of handicap levels, and then find out the slope of the courses. Each golf course has a slope rating indicating the degree of difficulty: the higher the slope, the more challenging the course. Even high-slope courses, however, may work for your group, as in recent years, tee boxes have been added to many courses, in particular resort courses, to make them playable for players at all skill levels. Traditionally there were three tees; nowadays, you might find four, five or more tees on each hole throughout the course. That means that high-handicappers and beginning players can tee off from the “forward” tees, well ahead of the water hazards, ungroomed natural areas and extra length that better players contend with from the “back” tees.

According to the time available in your itinerary for a tournament or other golf activity, decide whether to schedule an 18-hole or a 9-hole tournament (about 5 hours vs. 2.5 hours), the former played on a “championship” and the latter on an “executive” course. The Championship Course (golfincline.com) at Incline Village, Nev., for instance, is 7,106 yards long, a par 72, while the Mountain Course, an executive layout also at Incline Village, is a par 58 at 3,513 yards long.