There’s a lot more to throwing a corporate golf outing than finding a venue that meets your budget and schedule. Here are some tips from the pros to help make your next golf outing a success.
“You can never plan too early,” says PGA pro-Brian Nicholoff, director of golf and general manager of Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel. He suggests using a guideline that lists the “tucks of the trade”-what needs to be done before, during and after the event. Consider the “who, what, when, where and whys” for starters: Who are you going to invite? What is your bottom line? Why are you doing a golf outing?
“I now see a lot of companies using golf outings for character building, meeting people in the company and just to go out and have fun once a year,” says PGA pro-Tony VanNess of Salt Creek Golf Retreat in Nashville “Just a little getaway, a little breath of fresh air.”
Once you’ve got a plan, do your research.
“Go play the course,” says VanNess. “Check everything out. A lot of people from Indianapolis call us and they just want price information. I ask them if they can come to see us, play a little golf and meet our staff. A course is a course. Ninety percent of the courses people look at are going to be in good shape, so I want them to see the extras we offer.”
Nicholoff says the importance of research can’t be stressed enough. Things to consider that add to the experience are location, amenities, and services. “Insist on meeting with the golf professional and the food and beverage people,” he says. “Ask them for some references. You don’t want to be embarrassed in front of your client. It’s your company image on the line.”
Rich Love, assistant golf pro and outing coordinator for Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend, says companies with limited budgets must make choices. “You don’t want to skimp on the quality of the golf,” he says. “That should be first and foremost. You can cut back on an outing giveaway, but the overall golf experience is key.”
Be sure to include non-golfers in that overall golf experience.
“That’s what’s nice about outings,” says VanNess. “Even if someone has never played golf before, they can still help the team by just putting in a scramble in which they take the best shot of the four players. The guy who has never played golf before can still putt. It’s a fellowship.”
Once you’ve made your decision on the course, Milan Kruszynski, director of Hammond Port Authority, which manages the Lost Marsh Golf Course in Hammond, says to “book early.”
“We doubled our bookings from 15 to 30 outings last year,” he says. “Literally as their outings were ending, several people wanted to book ahead for 2006. If you have a specific date in mind, contact the golf course you are going to use as soon as you can, because those dates tend to fill up.”
Thinking outside the box. A typical golf outing consists of lunch, 18 holes of golf, dinner and an awards ceremony, While companies won’t necessarily go wrong following this tried-and-true recipe, moving beyond will garner more bang for the buck.
“Anytime you can get an outing coordinator to think outside the box you start seeing more return on your investment for that golf outing,” says Love. “You’ve got to go beyond the norm because everyone holds golf outings. Anything you can do to set yourself apart helps.”
That might mean selecting a venue with luxurious or unusual amenities. Prairie View Golf Club offers taxi service and is considering operating an onsite car wash and detailing service. Salt Creek Golf Retreat has condominiums available and a banquet/conference center that corporations can use to conduct seminars and meetings prior to golf outings. Caesars Indiana’s equestrian-themed golf course, Chariot Run in Laconia, is only 10 miles from the casino and its 500-room hotel. Corporations often combine a golf outing and entertainment with seminars and business meetings.
Companies don’t have to spend more money to make an impact on the golf course, however. Small things can make a big difference.
“Think of different ways they can have fun on the golf course,” says PGA pro-Jeff Krohn, director of golf for Chariot Run. “Golfers are going to be on the course for 4-1/2 hours. You don’t want them sitting around waiting for every shot and getting bored. Have something for them to do on every other hole. It makes their golf experience more enjoyable and the day goes faster.”
Krohn suggests having a golf pro provide tips and free lessons at a tee or playing a poker-hand golf event. Golfers are given two cards, to begin with, and then earn cards as they progress through the course. The player with the best poker hand at the end of the game wins.
Kruszynski cites an example in which Outback Steakhouse, a sponsor of the event, served golfers food at four food stations located throughout the golf course. After the golf, a “closest to the pin” contest was held and the winner was awarded coupons for Outback Steakhouse valued at $1,200.
“Keep the attraction going and have good food and good fellowship both during and after their round of golf,” he says. “It adds a lot to the experience.”
Be sure to promote the fun things you have incorporated in your event in your invitations or entry forms to attract more interest in your event.
“Give yourself a week or 10 days in advance of the event for your deadline for entries or reservations,” says Krohn, “because people will always wait until the last moment to sign up.”
Taking care of business. While you want your customers and/or employees to have fun, remember that a golf outing is a vehicle for doing business. In fact, Prairie View’s new slogan is: “The Perfect Place to Mix Business with Pleasure.”
New GPS technology, available at upscale courses, helps do just that by displaying company information at every hole.
“Your customers are yours during those 4-1/2 hours,” Love says. “You want to make sure you get as much information to them and as much business from them as possible.”