Robert Carey Planning Tips for 2007 Business Golf Events

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine (Holes)

March 09, 2007

By Rob Carey

Many meeting planners think of golf as an activity that necessarily eats up most of an entire day on the agenda. But that does not have to be the case.

In fact, half a traditional round—nine holes of golf—can be the perfect activity for when a group needs an early-morning or late-afternoon teambuilding activity, or simply a long lunch break. Because if you are going to bring a group to a resort, it is counterproductive to force attendees to look longingly out the meeting room windows, fretting that they have no time to stroll that beautiful golf course just a few steps away.

Starting the meeting at 7:30 and ending for the day at 3:00 allows about three hours for folks to play nine holes and still get to a reception and dinner. What’s more, the resort will love that you are sending golfers out at a time of day when the course is usually empty.

At least one resort that has created a specific plan for quick group jaunts onto the links. Omni ChampionsGate Resort in Orlando offers the “9 at 9” and “Sunset Swing” golf packages for meeting groups; “9 at 9” includes breakfast, nine holes of golf, and a roving teaching pro to give players tips as they move along the course. The “Sunset Swing” package offers lunch before the round, or a casual dinner after the round, in addition to the same golf amenities.

Other resorts would surely be amenable to creating a similar program if a planner requests.

Besides being able to satisfy your attendees’ golf cravings in fewer than three hours, a half-round of golf has the advantage of being a little more than half the cost of a full round.

Avoid the Pain of Rain

March 07, 2007

By Rob Carey

Planners need to account for the possibility that it will rain on the day of their golf events. Bob Coman, director of golf at PGA National Members Club in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, routinely walks clients through the list of activities to create a fun “Plan B.”

First, Coman notes that when it rains, “You lose about half of your golfers to other activities at the resort, or to shopping or something else. So the remaining group is usually of a size where we can use our meeting space for alternate golf-related activities.”

Planners, then, can ask that the pro shop staff give personalized instruction to attendees, by breaking folks into small groups and letting them hit into nets, and perhaps use videotaping so folks can compare their “before” and “after” swings once they are home. Or, if instructors focus on teaching the short game and putting, “you can get that going quickly because you don’t need to set up mats and nets.”

Next, “we can create an indoor putting tournament in the ballroom, using masking tape to outline each hole,” Coman adds. “We use baby powder to create bunkers and other props for trees and hazards, so it makes for a fun challenge.”

There’s also the possibility of renting a golf simulator, which allows players to take full swings at a real ball, and watch the result on a screen that displays a detailed video facsimile of a famous course. The cost to rent such a machine is about $2,000 a day, however, so you might want to make it a central part of your event rather than just a back-up for rainy weather. What’s more, a sponsor just might want to attach his name to the front of the machine as well, saving you considerably on the rental cost. And besides being the antidote for rain, golf simulators can be used at winter meetings in northern climes as part of the entertainment at a cocktail reception or during free time.

To find a host of vendors offering these machines, log onto and type in “golf simulators, rental.”

Interestingly, says Coman, many golfers are up for a lecture. “We can do a seminar on course management and rules of the game, and though that sounds dry, if you have the refreshments flowing, golfers really enjoy that.” And if folks want just a brief lecture, the rest of the time can be occupied with videos of previous Masters, U.S. Opens, British Opens, or other memorable pro events.

Finally, golf video games are not only good for a rainy day, but also for any reception that will have a mix of golfers and non-golfers. One of the most popular arcade machines is Golden Tee, which allows users to play anywhere from three to 18 holes. The game is perfect for teaching novices how to play, and experienced golfers love that it allows them to choose from a variety of courses, select different clubs for shots of varying distances, and make other considerations that simulate the real thing.

The CVB at your destination should be able to help you find one or more Golden Tee games to rent from local arcades or distributors, at a cost of about $600 per day. On the other hand, you can simply rent a few Sony Playstations, Microsoft X-Boxes, or other home video machines; nearly all of them can run excellent golf games that beginners can learn in minutes, and which hard-core golfers love to place friendly wagers on.

The Key to a Golf Course’s Heart: F&B

March 05, 2007

By Rob Carey

The newest hospitality report from HVS International finds that the food & beverage operations at 59 percent of public and private golf clubs run at a loss. And less than 10 percent actually make a profit.

This represents a great opportunity for you, as you plan this year’s client golf event or charity golf event with your company’s name on it, to negotiate like a hero. Here’s how: If you make it easy and not too costly for the course on the food and beverage side, you can negotiate to get better rates in other areas, such as greens fees, tournament scoring/services, club rental, etc.

For example, most golf events have a beverage cart that roams the course during play, and then a cocktail hour right after play ends, followed still by a sit-down or buffet dinner. So perhaps limit the choices of snacks and beverages you place on the course-bound carts, and make the cocktail hour and meal portion as simple or limited a buffet you can, in terms of types of food and number of staffers required to serve it.

In short, if you save golf courses money where they typically lose it, you will get better rates in other areas, and probably better service too.

Satisfying Your Golfers, and Teaching Your Non-Golfers, at Meetings

November 21, 2006

By Robert Carey

Yesterday we talked about using "putt-putt" events to get everyone involved in teambuilding through golf during a meeting. But meeting planners can also use the practice range for special events--and use it in a way that entertains veteran golfers while teaching the nongolfers in your group who want to try the game but feel a bit intimidated to be around experienced people.

The practice range is where golfers bring all of their clubs and practice their full swings by hitting balls out into a field where there are several flags at different distances that act as targets. It's also a place where golf teachers stand alongside golfers, watch their swings, and give advice. So here's a perfect way to make everyone in your group happy:

Set up cocktail and hors d'oeuvre stations at opposite ends of the range. One one side, have a few golf teachers on hand to give beginner and intermediate lessons to those who want them. At the other end, have your experienced golfers hitting at a variety of targets out on the range, with those who hit a target receiving a prize. By splitting the activities, the beginners don't feel intimidated, and the veterans don't get bored. Some ranges are even lit up for night use, so a buffet-dinner setup accompanied by round tables can often be accommodated on the practice range as well.

Finally, if you want to use golf in a way that brings everyone together and still has no pressure attached to it, try night golf. The first and last holes of a golf course are generally right next to the clubhouse, so have the pro shop set up strings of lights in the trees along the fairways of those two holes, and get glow-in-the-dark balls, and have bartenders on the tee and at the green of those two holes. You can send people out in groups of 8 rather than the traditional 4 per group, and nobody worries about how badly they swing a club because it's more silly fun than real competition--and it's only for two holes. Each person spends about 40 minutes on the course, and before and after their time on the course, attendees can watch their colleagues swinging at the glow-in-the-dark balls. It gets lots of laughs, and it just might pique the interest of your nongolfers to take up the game.

Golf is for Everyone--Even People who Don't Play

November 20, 2006

By Robert Carey

As golf is one of my favorite pastimes, it is easy for me to get jazzed about showing meeting planners how it can be used at corporate and association meetings for purposes of teambuilding or simply relaxation.

But I can hear some planners now, saying: "Look, golf is a sport that is time-consuming, labor intensive (you have to practice A LOT to get good), expensive, and basically a 'good ol' boys' sport where women are not made to feel comfortable.

Well, some of those sentiments were never true, and some of them used to be true. But if you still think that way about golf, then you're looking at it far too narrowly. In short: Outside of organized, high-level competition, golf is a game rather than a sport. This is evidenced by the fact that so many resorts emphasize golf as an activity for everyone, and have devised more than a few ways to incorporate golf into meetings such that guests who have never before picked up a golf club can enjoy it.

For instance, who can't play miniature (or "putt-putt") golf? Nobody. So why not use it as the central activity around which a meeting's evening reception takes place? Almost every resort has a practice putting green, and most of them are located within steps of the guest rooms and meeting space at the resort. As a result, the resort's golf shop can easily set up the practice green for a simple and fun group event.

Here's how: Staffers can place obstacles on the practice green to frame paths that players must navigate to get to each hole--an instant miniature golf course. And this game is so low-impact that players can have a drink or an appetizer in their hand as they are playing. And for the hard-core golfers in your crowd, the ability to compete with one another for a few bucks in a side bet makes the event that much more enjoyable. Either way, your entire group is doing something that's pressure-free, and probably laughing their way around the circuit of holes, and doing exactly what you intended--bonding through a common experience that does not feel like work.

Tomorrow, I'll give another example of how to use golf at meetings--and this one involves actually swinging a real club instead of just pushing the ball with a putter. But it, too, can involve every meeting attendee--even those who have never played before.

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