New Ways To Drive Golf Events

By | June 1st, 2008

• Even the most successful events should be revisited each year, to identify areas in need of improvement.

• Contingency planning will help make your event a success.

• To give a first-time golf event its due, early and extensive planning is essential.

For the Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, Conn., the annual Men’s Member-Guest is the highlight of the club’s tournament calendar, according to General Manager Warren Burdock. As such, the club’s entire staff, from the golf department to the food and beverage team to the grounds crew, gets involved with the event.

The Member-Guest includes a Saturday Night Dinner Dance held at the facility’s beach club. But because the event occurs early in the season, Burdock notes, the club has “struggled with efficiently serving almost 300 members and guests with a predominantly new, seasonal staff.” In the past, guests typically gathered for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the same time, creating a service crunch that made it difficult to orchestrate a sit-down meal.

To remedy this problem, Burdock decided to try to forego traditional a la carte options in favor of a premium buffet dinner. Because the club already holds a buffet on the Thursday evening of Member-Guest week, this meant rethinking the food selections, to not duplicate the two affairs. So the Thursday night buffet was given a steakhouse theme, to play on the “stag” concept of the Men’s Member-Guest, and Saturday became a seafood night, to tie into the beach club motif.

To get the word out about the changes, Wee Burn’s marketing department highlighted the new formats in the club’s monthly newsletter. And, because Burdock did not want to sacrifice the member-guest’s reputation as a formal event, the club staff worked with a wine distributor to allow members to sample premium selections at no extra cost.

To further boost revenues, guests could purchase additional bottles to take home. “By allowing members to purchase wine, it significantly increased the per-bottle revenue, and reduced the probability of running out of a particular wine,” Burdock notes.

While the event was already a proven success, implementing these changes was challenging, Burdock says. “The club holds tradition in high regard, and it is sometimes difficult to initiate change, particularly ‘high magnitude’ change,” he notes. But in the end, the Wee Burn staff showed that even well-established events can benefit from revisiting “standard” practices to find fresh new approaches.

spread the word about the expanded format of the Greenbier G&CC
Member/Guest, the marketing staff ramped up efforts to send messages
earlier and more often via a variety of methods.

Weekend to Remember
The Greenbrier Golf & Country Club in Lexington, Ky., was also looking for a fresh take on its annual men’s member-guest event last June. Its traditional format of two-man teams playing a series of matches over a two-day period mirrored that of other clubs, and the club’s staff wanted to find a unique way to do more.

“We wanted to make our event a weekend experience,” says PGA Club Manager Kelly Williams. The new plan was for a three-day-long affair that included a practice round on Thursday; breakfast, lunch, three golf matches and a dinner dance on Friday; and a Saturday breakfast, 18 holes of golf, lunch and a five-hole shootout.

All of the club’s departments helped to plan the revamped event, with marketing taking on an expanded role to get the word out via Greenbrier’s Web site and e-mails to members. Registration forms were made available online four months prior to the event, which proved to be a big plus not only to help drive advance registrations for the member-guest, but also to help the staff plan future events and build up a database of potential members.

Supplemental print marketing also ran in the club’s newsletter and was advertised on Greenbrier golf carts during all men’s golf association events, beginning in March. “The [all-encompassing] marketing approach lets us reach all generations of membership who use print, Web and word of mouth and motivate them to participate in events,” says Williams.

Coordinating a series of special menus for each of the five meals on the expanded member-guest schedule also called for extra effort from the Greenbrier food and beverage staff. F&B Director Charlie Clary and Member Relations Manager Kristin Haughton took great pains to select menus that coordinated with varying dining room formats, while still adhering to budget. Meals ranged from continental breakfasts to lunchtime cookouts and an a la carte dinner.

To not detract from the event’s festivities, Greenbrier’s golf course and dining room were closed during lunch and dinner. “This ensures that the members and guests have a first-class experience,” Williams notes.

Even with such careful planning, Greenbrier couldn’t stay ahead of Mother Nature, as torrential thunderstorms delayed matches for nearly three hours and affected dinner preparations and evening maintenance. Still, Williams says member feedback to the new concepts for the event was extremely favorable. “The most fulfilling response is from the guests that return to Greenbrier year after year,” she says. “They usually point out the subtle changes that add both value and enjoyment.”

Having a sponsor helped to make the CC at Woodmore’s Nationwide Tour event a huge success.

Going on Tour
To give a first-time golf event its due, early and extensive planning becomes even more essential. For the Country Club at Woodmore in Mitchellville, Md., this meant planning more than one year in advance. Beginning in early spring 2006, the club rolled out a full-fledged marketing campaign for an event that it would first host in May 2007 (and again this year) as part of the PGA’s Nationwide Tour, with 144 professional golfers all vying for a $600,000 purse.

According to the club’s Marketing and Membership Director, Anthony P. Paino, securing a sponsor was critical to getting the event off the ground. Melwood, a District of Columbia-based charity organization, gave the event its name—the Melwood Prince George’s County Open. After the sponsor and brand had been established, a heavy blitz of advertising in magazines and newspapers and on the Internet, television and radio helped to create a buzz that ultimately drew 30,000 spectators to the club.

Leading up to the first event, however, Woodmore’s management still had to guess about what to expect. “We weren’t exactly sure how many employees we would need and [what would be] the best way to spread out their shifts,” explains Head Professional Mark Russo. “Most days we were here before sun-up and didn’t leave until dusk or later.”

The club’s F&B operation also had its own set of staffing issues. “We had about 30 staff members on the grounds on a regular basis, working in the kitchen, serving beverages on the course and staffing the banquet room,” says Clubhouse Manager Kathleen Piepenbrink. Streamlining coordination between the many vendors and other parties involved in the project proved to be the biggest obstacle to overcome in the planning process, she adds.

Having professional players on site also created new food preparation challenges. Woodmore’s Executive Chef, Marco Camacho, appealed to the pros’ preferences for healthy selections with a breakfast buffet of fat-free yogurts, power bars and fruit, and a lunch buffet featuring grilled chicken, veggie burgers and heart-healthy chili.

Woodmore also had to contend with unsettled weather, with torrential rains arriving just as the first tournament’s champion had been named. The cloudburst drove hundreds of pass-holders and volunteers into the clubhouse—much to the surprise of F&B staffers. But Piepenbrink says the staff rose to the occasion. “We were able to handle the sudden inundation with a certain degree of ease, as the wait staff had been on their toes all week,” she notes.

After a crash course in learning how to pull off a successful affair, Woodmore was much better prepared for the second time around this year. “We know what to expect,” Russo said prior to this year’s tournament. “Our planning and execution will be much sharper, because we’ve been through it now.” C&RB

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