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Planning a VIP Tournament and staying on your budget… it can be done.

Tom Pasha

In the movie,  Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays down-and-out driving range golf pro,Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, who marvels at the VIP accommodations and facilities of playing at the US Open qualifier.

“Titleist balls!” he yells to Cheech Marin, who plays Romeo, his caddy, “we’re hitting Titleist balls on the driving range!”  

There are not many golfers among us who, when faced with a perfect pyramid of Pro V1x’s, would fight back the urge to collect a few spares for later on, rather than hit them down the driving range.  When we are treated like VIP’s, we remember the VIP treatment and it keeps us playing in tournaments and coming back year after year.


From a planner’s point of view, we’d all like to plan and deliver a perfect, high-end, “VIP” tournament, but the economic realities of planning sometime get in our way.  We are torn between the desires to deliver a great event, but we still need to come in under budget or deliver a large check to the charity we are working to promote.


With this in mind, the best planners have had to work to balance both goals and deliver a truly outstanding event and still meet the economic realities of the job.  The key to staging a VIP event is planning every aspect of the outing, with a critical eye to making small and noticeable improvements that golfers will remember when it’s time to sign up for the following year’s event.


Most golfers have three priorities in playing in a tournament—meet people, have a good time and avoid a late tee-time that turns an outing into a 6-hour round.  They all love to play, but many have to return to their offices and justify going to the tournament and show some business return on their time investment.   While it’s easy to throw money at great tee-gifts, equipment and extras, by delivering what the golfers need, you can plan a memorable and rewarding tournament.


Some good ideas to consider adding to your tournament that are not expensive include:

  • Make sure everything is set-up at least one hour prior to the tee-off time, so early arrivals can see and appreciate the layout and planning that goes into a tournament.
  • Be sure to ask the golf course if they can provide a real red carpet for the golfers’ arrival.  Many courses have one on hand, and it sets the stage for the rest of the day.
  • Be sure to have the course staff the tournament correctly.  Have a “floater” bag attendant patrolling the parking lot, picking up golfers and bags, for those who don’t use the Bag Drop.   
  • Have a greeter from the course at the front entrance, making sure golfers get registered, buy their raffle tickets and find the driving range, locker-rooms and food service.  There’s nothing worse than paying for a continental breakfast, only to have the golf course set it up in the back booth of the 19th Hole, never to be found.
  • Items to be set up include the registration table, raffle and door-prize table, carts lined up with accurate names in large printing, with their starting golf tee number posted. 
  • Have the tournament rules sheet in the cart, printed clearly with your charity or sponsor logo.  With color printers, photo-shop and other programs available, print a good layout, with lots of information is easier than ever.

 One of GEMA’s planner members has his daughter do his layout work—it looks great, at a very reasonable cost—free!  Handing out a rules sheet that was printed 10 years ago on a dot-matrix printer is not the way to impress your golfers.

  • Print your golfers’ names onto their scorecards in advance.  It’s a great touch that will not increase yours costs.
  • Have golf balls arranged and re-filled out on the driving range.  Golfers enjoy hitting from a fresh stack, and since you are paying for it, make sure every golfer gets this added treatment, not just the first ones on the driving range. While you probably can’t use the Pro V1x’s from the movie, having them in the pyramid is a nice touch as well.
  • Ask to have a course golf pro working the driving range, welcoming golfers and offering swing tips and advice on playing the golf course.
  • Arrange to have large display clocks in plain view at the clubhouse, driving range and cart area.  Golfers typically take off their watches to play, and we’ve all seen foursomes of stragglers running to their cart from the driving range because they lost track of their tee-time
  • Call the golfers to their carts at least 10 minutes before the tee-time.  As most planners know, getting them to their carts is an exercise in cat-herding, and it’s best to allow a little extra time for it.
  • Once the golfers are assembled in their carts, be sure to have the golf course pro introduce the corporate sponsor or spokesperson for the charity.  Have the spokesperson welcome and thank the golfers for attending.  Next, turn it back over to the golf pro to review the rules, special contest holes, cart-rules, etc.  Make sure to arrange for a good sound system --- your golfers paid to be there, and they would all like to hear what’s being said.
  • While the round is being played, be sure to have your spokesperson ride around the course to personally thank each foursome for attending.  

Mike Mucci, a former PGA professional and Membership Director for the Golf Event Managers Association, believes the awards ceremony and a strong follow-up program after a tournament is the most critical aspect of planning a golf event. 


“The awards ceremony is the most important part of the tournament,” Mike said.  “Have a great speaker, or a paid emcee, not just the planner, do the presentations.”  The closing ceremony is a great time to thank the course, thank the golfers, present the awards to the winners and a check to the charity and remind your golfers save the date for the following year. 


As part of the usual photos that are taken on the course and distributed, you can have digital candid shots taken during the round and projected during the awards ceremony.   Mike suggested that the show might also include information on the sponsors, the charity and key members of the planning committee that can run continuously during the awards meal.


“Also, every golfer should receive a thank-you note, along with a “super-roladex” of all the names of all the golfers and sponsors.”  Mike said, “You can sell added recognition to your sponsors with their logo and contact information in the super-roladex.”   


Mike added that it is a great way to help your attendees justify their participation with their bosses as well.  The super rolodex also encourages your golfers to sign up for the following year.  It also encourages sponsors to increase their level of sponsorship, and provides a handy way for your golfers to save the date for the following year. 


Planners have the responsibility of delivering a good tournament, either for their corporations or their charities, and in both cases, they have to work within a budget.  By watching out for the smaller details and making sure they execute the all the extras, they can make every golfer  playing in their tournament feel like a VIP.


…. And it’s a whole lot cheaper than giving every golfer five dozen Pro V1x’s. 

Tom Pasha is the Executive Director of GEMA, the Golf Event Managers Association. GEMA is a national organization of golf event planners, golf facilities and vendors, dedicated to increasing and improving marketing for the golf tournament business. Based in Orlando, Florida, GEMA focuses on marketing programs to help event planners maximize membership, attendance and sponsorships and works with golf facilities and merchandisers to increase their contacts and business in the tournament golf market.

Tel: 407-891-2252 | Fax: 407-891-6428 | E-mail: tpasha@contactplan.com | www.contactplan.com

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