Getting the most out of your charity or corporate golf event
For some of you, it might have been the morning e-mail from the vice president of sales and marketing congratulating you on your new project: The company’s client/vendor golf tournament. For others, you somehow volunteered to organize the school booster/charity/church group’s fundraising tournament. Next time show up at the meeting!
The first lesson of putting on a corporate or charity golf tournament is don’t panic and keep your eye on the ball.
Golf has developed into one the most popular vehicles among all sports to raise money for charity. The reason is simple: golf can be played by all ages and ability levels and by both men and women. This gives charitable organizations more opportunities to raise money through golf since the potential number of participants is greater. Unless you’re event is at a very private facility the players are there to support the charity more than they are there to play a round of golf.
Corporate events may be a way to reward employees, recognize vendors, or set up new networks and contacts. Golf is often referred to as the sport of business because it creates a great environment for people to get to know one another beyond what is typically shared in a scripted networking conversation or business interaction. Simply put, golf is a big part of the corporate culture of many companies, and taking your best clients golfing is a great way to build and strengthen relationships.
Golf courses can expect a significant percentage of their annual business to come from golf groups conducting corporate, charity or golf group tournaments. In my career, I have assisted golf groups with as few as eight players and as many as 188.
Groups should expect a high level of service and cooperation from their golf course partner, and go into this by considering them a partner in hosting the event. Many golf courses cater to corporate events because it’s a great opportunity for them to market their facility…they will work with you to the highest level and if they don’t, you should find another facility.
Pre-planning is the key to success. Breaking down responsibilities and creating committees is the best way to take on a large golf event. And if it’s a very large event, the chairperson’s job is ultimately to manage committees.
Suggested committees include:
Operations — Greens/cart/range
Hospitality — food and beverage (course vs. catered)
Golf — Tournament format, rules, mulligans, on-course contests, etc.
Sponsor —Title sponsor, food & beverage, golf, range, trophies, ole, etc.
Prizes — Awards, tee prizes, contest prizes
Publicity/marketing (especially if you are a charity)
All of these areas are part of the ying/yang of costs and revenues. If you are a charity event, this is crucial in getting the most bang for your buck. Your first task in the charity setting is to determine how much money you want to raise for this event. This will determine player costs, venue, volunteers needed and even time of year for the event.
Publicity and marketing are perhaps the most crucial ingredients to a successful event. Think of your ideal target audience. Employ all your databases and community contacts. Use posters, e-mails, PSA’s, set up a Facebook page for your event, even tweet it out there. Get as much help on this area as possible as this outreach will also entice potential sponsors who see your audience as one they want to reach as well.
Sometimes, the course may want to donate a portion of its costs, tee prizes or merchandise if you have a cause they want to get behind. It’s much easier if you are a 501(c) (3) organization to make that happen. Understand that the golf course is a business just like any other, and they may not be in a position to give a lot.
Entry fees will include the cost of playing the golf course, cart fees, lunch and/or dinner, on-course beverages and gifts that can range from a golf shirt or hat, to a golf bag or a driver. Be aware of what the course normally charges for a round of golf. Tournaments with big prizes at a high-end daily fee or private club may warrant $2,000 a foursome, even more if you add a celebrities or star athletes to the event. At a municipal course, its best to keep the cost per player under $100.
Your profits will come from the add-ons. Hole sponsorships and title sponsorships are where you can make your most money before the first swing. Prizes should be heavily weighted toward the raffle or silent auction and less so for the golf competition. The best events, the events people will sign up for year after year, are those where everyone walks home a winner. Get your awards committee out in the community and have them try to get prizes donated in groups of four. The more winners the better!
There are plenty of ways to make money on the course. Mulligans for those not-so-rare errant shots are the gravy that comes on the day of event and brings a big “fun” factor to your tournament. Sell “grenade shots” that allow competitors to throw the ball, if they aren’t so handy with the lob wedge. Pre- or post-tournament putting contests are another way to sweeten the pot.
For a corporate or group outing, you need to keep your costs in line with the annual budget, or the amount your individual golfers can afford, particularly if they are a travel golf group.
Business golf is a marketing endeavor and you should determine how much you are going spend on each client. Ask: What is their value to the company? That answer can determine the scope of the event. Is it worth it to rent out a high-end resort course or private club with full amenities and food and beverage, along with a very expensive tee-prize (Some events provide a full set of clubs). Is the scope of the event and the clients so important that you may want to consider hiring an outside events planner to take care of all the details? If so, check references, call those who have used their services including the host golf courses. Some golf events planners will take the whole shebang overseas to courses in Ireland, Scotland or warmer Caribbean locations.
Your best first step in putting on a golf outing is a call to your local golf pro. Many courses do have a special events coordinator; they can set you straight on price points, prizes, format, food and beverage and even event timing. (You don’t want to go head-to-head against other charity tournaments or corporate events that might draw away your potential players).
Mike Mazzaferri has been a PGA Golf Professional for nearly 30 years. During his career he has managed the City of Reno’s golf operations, been the Director of Golf at the Resort at Red Hawk and the General Manager of Hidden Valley Country Club. Mike is now a licensed insurance agent and is currently the Director of Golf Insurance Programs for Capital Insurance Group. He and his wife, PGA professional Denise Mazzaferri, have a long-term lease with Washoe County to operate Sierra Sage Golf Course.
The agreements are designed to split the costs of improvements such as traffic signals between Carson City and developers whose projects generate the traffic increases that trigger the need for improvements.