Combined golf-and-fishing competitions, “deck putting,” and tournaments with twists and attractions geared to charitable causes and special tributes are just some of the ways clubs and courses now seek to avoid having too much of the “same old, same old” on their annual calendars.
Some of the most popular and anticipated dates on most clubs’ calendars are the ones featuring the annual member-guest or member-member golf tournament events. Successful club managers, however, are constantly looking for entertaining new ways to engage their golfing members at other times throughout the year, or to keep the old stand-bys fresh.
|Summing It Up
• Planning an annual golf schedule should involve finding ways to keep traditional events fresh while at the same time searching for inventive new ways to attract both experienced and novice golfers.
• Take a fresh look around at your facilities, and engage members and community contacts in new discussions, to draw inspiration for new
• Resources are available to help to market a club as a site for golf outings and events held by non-profit organizations, and to offer unique items for auction and as prizes.
Similarly, many private clubs, resorts and public courses are ever-alert for innovative concepts to generate outing business that can introduce new players to their facilities and not only benefit numerous worthy causes, but provide a welcome boost to the club’s bottom line. In this fashion, some properties have definitely taken outside-the-box thinking to a new level.
Getting Them Hooked
Canterwood Golf & Country Club in Gig Harbor, Wash., takes full advantage of a unique part of its property—a fully stocked fishing hole—to add a special attraction to its annual golf-event calendar. The club’s trout pond, says General Manager Brent Cohen, supplies the unique “angle” in the club’s annual “Hook, Line & Sink It” combination golf-and-fishing tournament. The event typically draws more than 100 players/anglers who play a four-person scramble event, then designate one member of the team at a time to try to catch as many fish as possible during an allotted time period. The winning team is determined by its golf score, minus one stroke per pound of fish caught.
“Everybody hangs out, has a few drinks or throws a frisbee around while the others fish,” Cohen says. “It’s a blast and everyone loves it.” (Although the trout may disagree.)
Other events that Cohen and his staff have dreamed up include Twilight Couples Golf, which takes place at the club most Thursday evenings during the summer months. The format is an alternate shot scramble, beginning with a free cocktail and followed by a buffet. The event draws from 50 to 80 players nightly, Cohen says, with everyone paying a $5 buy-in, and participants include a healthy mix of younger and older members of both sexes.
Another hit at Canterwood is the Par 3 Field Day, where all of the course’s holes are set up as par 3s. Guests pay a cart fee, and the event typically attracts more than 100 players.
Farther down the West Coast, at Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville, Calif., club GM and ClubCorp Senior Regional Manager Eric Jacobsen has definitely amped up the fun quotient for a couple of popular club events. Like Canterwood’s trout pond, the wildly popular “deck putting” feature that Jacobsen has added to the club’s annual member-guest and member-member events is not something everyone can emulate, unless their clubhouse happens to have a deck overlooking the putting green or the 18th hole.
For big events, Crow Canyon’s superintendent cuts an eight-inch hole in the putting green, and members putt off an artificial turf mat on the second-floor deck down onto the cart path and (hopefully) onto the green and into the hole. Participants pay $5 for three balls, and typically keep buying until they either run out of money or faith, with everyone who sinks a ball qualifying for the finals on the night of the post-tournament banquet. There are deck-putting competitions for both competitors and spouses.
“It goes on for hours,” Jacobsen says, “and everyone has a ball.”
Jacobsen has also introduced an event at Crow Canyon, the Friday Night Shootout, that was popular at his previous career stop, TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, Calif. For the nine-hole, two-person event, typically 24 to 30 players sign up in advance, with a buy-in of $10 to $15 and prize money for the top three places. Jacobsen and several members of his staff cook brats on the grill, provide a keg of beer, and crank the tunes to inspire the players.
“It’s not quiet and it’s not polite; it’s just a blast,” Jacobsen says. “It’s a cool way to connect the members somehow for a fun outing. We think of it as ‘happy hour on the golf course.’”
Taking the High Roads
With 10 courses to manage at the sprawling and picturesque Boyne Resorts properties in northern Michigan, Director of Golf Josh Richter has overseen plenty of outings and events for both the club’s private courses and its public and resort venues. The private Country Club of Boyne in Harbor Springs, Mich., has turned its annual August member-guest into a themed event called the Highlander Invitational.
The event’s trophy, in the shape of a big Highlander sword, includes the winners’ names and is displayed at the property for the next year. The Wednesday-to-Saturday event alternates its primary dinner between a Highlander theme and a Young Americans dinner-theater presentation, which attracts not only the golf competitors, but members’ families.
This year also marked the resort’s fourth annual tournament benefitting the Manna Food Project, which provides food to needy families throughout a four-county area. Boyne golf pros man long-drive and par-3 holes, offering their shots to groups who need a better alternative to their own.
A number of Country Club of Boyne members play key roles in either contributing or rounding up contributors for prizes to help the cause. The club has also auctioned off the services of the club’s head chef to come to the top bidder’s home and cook a meal for six or so people, an offer that most recently generated over $1,000 for the project. The annual event as a whole raises over $30,000 each year.
Another popular fundraiser for charity is the Harbor Cup, a match involving 12 of the Boyne professionals and 12 pros from other area courses. The pros compete for the right to designate a local charity of their choice to receive the money donated toward the event, much of which typically comes from Boyne club members, Richter reports. Last year, the winning Boyne team split its $30,000 “winnings” evenly between the Manna Food Project and The First Tee.
“We’ve been doing the Harbor Cup event for over 20 years,” says Richter, “and I believe we’ve raised over $300,000 for charity during that time. It’s a really rewarding feeling to be a part of that, and even in years when the weather might be suspect, we have over 100 people come out to cheer the guys on, so that’s neat.” It should also be noted that unlike some so-called “charity” events, the Harbor Cup is not a profit center for the club, which retains only enough of the money generated to cover the cart fees and a portion of the dinner cost.
Not everyone has a trout pond or a second-floor deck directly overlooking the putting green, but many clubs have a longtime employee or very popular member or club beneficiary they can recognize through special golf-related events. In West Bloomfield, Mich., Knollwood Country Club had a longtime and semi-legendary head golf pro, John Molenda, who passed away in 2004. To honor his memory, the club annually conducts a three-day member invitational event called “The Big Mo” tournament.
The tournament has a unique format. It consists of five nine-hole matches for each member-guest twosome over the course of the event, with the field divided into nine flights of six teams, each playing each of the other teams in their flight. The fun begins on Thursday with an 18-hole practice round, followed by a golf “horse race” that is accompanied on the course by a food cart and cocktails and who knows, perhaps a wager or two among teams on their upcoming matches.
Friday brings three nine-hole matches, with the first two using the Stableford scoring system and the third a two-person scramble, with food and drink available between matches and a barbecue dinner on the deck that evening. Saturday features two nine-hole matches, the first a best ball and the finale a two-ball event, with both scores counting. Prizes are awarded to each flight’s winning team, and then the nine flight winners go back out for a final three-hole horse race.
“We divide the field according to ages and handicaps, with three different sets of tees for each group,” says Knollwood’s current head professional, Tom Fortuna. “That way, everybody feels like they have a chance to win before they start, and it seems to work very well. It’s a great time and a lot of fun for everyone.”
Patriot-themed events to benefit active military and veterans groups have become increasingly common among clubs’ charitable outings and fundraisers. These events, along with others arranged for non-profit organizations or specific causes, give clubs a chance to do good deeds while simultaneously putting their course to use when it’s normally closed and to generate additional revenue dollars. The added exposure that the course gains among those who attend the events can also introduce potential new members or daily-fee customers to a property.
One such event, held on September 9 this year and timed to coincide with Patriots Weekend and 9/11 ceremonies, was the “Destroyer” Par 3 Challenge held at the Golf Club of Estrella in Goodyear, Ariz. The club’s 18-hole course was set up to present 18 par-3 holes, ranging in length from roughly 75 yards to 160 yards, with some pin placements designed to create additional challenge, reports General Manager Corby Foster. The two-person shotgun attracted 104 players who paid $39 each, with $15 from each fee going to the Folds of Honor Foundation.
The course followed through with the theme of the day, emblazoning the course with American flags, naming each hole in honor of a specific military aircraft, and serving $1 Freedom Beers, Victory Dogs and Brave Burgers. At the end of the day, the event raised $2,500 for Folds of Honor.
“We’d shot for 60 players, but there was so much demand we had to open it up,” Foster says. “It was a great day, and we also learned what we can do with our course if we want to do other par-3 events.”
New Resources and Partnerships
For those in charge of planning and marketing club outings and events who may be seeking an easy way to promote their course’s availability for non-profit golf outings, a free resource offered by Geronimo Solutions, LLC can bring their facility to the attention of event planners representing approximately 4,600 non-profit organizations nationwide. Courses seeking non-profit or charity outing business can go to www.bestoutings.com/Home/CourseManagers for information on how Geronimo’s program can list their course as a potential host for events.
Participation in the Geronimo program comes at no cost to clubs, as long as they’re willing to assist non-profits in their area in some way, usually by providing one tee time as an auction item for a local non-profit’s fundraiser. The service is not a money-maker for Geronimo, and any money that it takes in from funds raised by a non-profit’s event is donated back to the golf industry’s grow-the-game initiatives.
Courses can also utilize Geronimo’s OneSpareTeeTime program, to post certificates for play to be used in auctions benefitting any local non-profit organization. While the Best Outings service allows clubs and courses to reach a huge database of non-profits for lead generation, OneSpareTeeTime also promotes the club to auction participants, increasing the opportunity to bring new customers or potential members to club facilities.
For clubs and courses seeking auction items for internal events, a new company called AllPro Classics will provide memorabilia items from celebrity athletes representing the PGA Tour, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB or collegiate teams that are popular in a local area for auction at the club. The company also has an “Every Bid Wins” element, which is exactly what it says—while the item on display goes to the highest bidder, the company will send everyone who meets the minimum bid an identical item.