For many event planners, “Let’s have a golf tournament!” are terrifying words. Golf tournaments are complicated affairs with many moving parts. Literally. (OMG! What if someone drives a golf cart into the lake?!) Then, there’s the weather. If the storm of the century is expected, you can always tent an outdoor wedding, but not a golf course. And what if you don’t know much about golf?
Not to worry. Even if you think a scram- ble is what you eat for breakfast and a mulligan is Irish stew, you can still plan and execute an amazing golf event.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS: PLANNING AND ORGANIZING
Whether you are planning a major fundraiser, a customer appreciation event or an executive retreat, the most important thing you can do to ensure success is to take time—lots of time—to plan and organize the golf outing on paper with your committee members.
All of your event plans need to be laid out in detail, including dates when key decisions must be made and tasks completed. Specifics to consider include your mission, the number of players, type of play (scramble, best ball, etc.), catering, whether an auction or awards program will be included, which companies you’ll be approaching for sponsorships, what awards and prizes will be given, and your budget and fundraising goals.
This keen attention to detail is the most important thing you can do, says Rosanna Bellotti, event director of Children’s Golf Classic. Celebrating its 16th year, the classic—which will be held August 15-17 in eight golf courses at seven properties—has raised more than $80 million since its inception and is the largest annual fundraiser for Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Pay close attention to the details,” Bellotti says. “There’s no such thing as overplanning—but, keep in mind, there’s also no such thing as the perfect plan. Control what you can, but know you can’t control everything. And above all else, have fun!”
INSIDER TIP: PLANNING
“Stick to your plans, communicate the event as much as possible and sur- round yourself with a great committee.” —Brian Remington, Golf & Corporate Solutions
ELEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL TOURNAMENTS
According to our experts, there are a few things that can make or break a tournament. Focusing on these items will increase the success of your event.
Lainie Colburn, director of events at Inglewood Golf Club in Kenmore, Washington, has worked with such PGA events as the Boeing Classic, fundraisers for charities like the Lenny Wilkens Foundation and corporate events for MulvannyG2 Architecture and other companies. “An expert tournament director is essential,” Colburn says. “A well-organized planner and volunteers make a huge difference in the outcome. The more that is accomplished prior to the event, the more smoothly the event will go.”
“Solid sponsors are your biggest assets because they sell the event on your behalf since their name is attached to it,” Colburn says. “Make sure the day is fun and timely—golfers hate to wait! The event needs to be a well-balanced, fun day of golf with activities, giveaways and a lot of schmoozing. Customer service is important, especially with a charity event. Golf tournaments are expensive—make sure your golfers want to come back year after year.”
Brian Remington is principal at Golf & Corporate Solutions in Edmonds, Washington, a one-stop shop for planning and executing golf tournaments. He works with events like the HomeStreet Bank/ Davis Wright Tremaine Charity Golf Invitational and the Washington CLUB Charity Golf Classic. “Choose the perfect venue for your event; have someone in charge who knows the game of golf; be clear on goals and plans,” Remington advises. “Clear communications for committee members, players and sponsors lead to success. Budget income and expenses well in advance; have a solid fundraising plan. Understand that everyone has a key role in fundraising, and utilize your committee and board in secur- ing players and sponsors.”
INSIDER TIP: BUDGET “Do your research and shop around. The golf industry is very competitive. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Most of the time, the first quote is just a starting point.” —Lainie Colburn, Inglewood Golf Club
PITFALLS TO AVOID
Poor attendance and not being organized are two major issues that plague golf tournaments, says Remington. Be realistic about attendance. “If you contract for 120 players but only 50 show up—that’s a big problem,” Remington says. “Being organized and sticking to your timetable the day of the event is critical to your success.”
For Colburn, two of the top setbacks when organizing a golf tournament are planners trying to do too much in one event and not budgeting their expenses efficiently. “Doing too much always makes the plan- ner look bad,” Colburn says. “Golfers do not like a long round of golf—they do like some games, contests and activities midround, but not if it is going to slow the round down.” When it comes to costs, she says, “Remember why you are hosting a tournament; it’s important to cover your costs with sponsorships in advance. The tournament should be paid for before the event happens and all monies made the day of the event should be profit (aka donations).”
PLAY FOR YOUR PASSION
According to Colburn, a well-organized novice can plan anything, but a golf tournament is complex, and it would be beneficial to work with an experienced tournament planner. That is exactly what Bill Quimby did when he founded the Oregon Burn Center Benefit Golf Classic 18 years ago. A former line crewman for a power company who served on the Burn Center’s advisory board, Quimby recruited Gene Daily, a colleague and experienced golf tournament organizer. “We both had friends who had suffered bad burn injuries on the job. We wanted to help,” Quimby says.
This year’s event will be held on June 27 at Indian Creek in Hood River, Oregon. Quimby and Daily have already secured enough in sponsorships to reach the $1 million mark in total donations since the Classic’s inception. “In our first year, we budgeted for $3,000 but made $13,000, and it’s grown ever since,” Quimby says with pride. “It’s a blue-collar tournament. We keep it affordable for the guys, and 100 percent of the sponsors’ donations go to the Education Prevention Program at the Burn Center.”
Quimby knows of some events where only about 45 percent of the proceeds goes to charity. According to him, success begins with the selection of the right sponsors. His include Pacific Power, Portland General Electric and IBEW Local 125—organizations with members who benefit from the work of the Burn Center. “Have someone passionate about the event take it and run with it. Remember why you are raising money and make sure most of it goes to your cause,” Quimby says.