Lessons from the pros Featured

12:26pm EDT April 25, 2003
Planning a golf outing is never easy. Which course to use, who to invite, what kind of food to serve -- the list of decisions goes on. But with the economy in the doldrums, frugality has moved front and center for planners.

The question is, where do you cut?

"I've seen people, especially in these times, that are trying to cut back, and they cut back in the wrong places and it really is evident in the event," says Jimmy Hanlin, director of golf at Little Mountain Country Club in Concord. "They go to a cheaper golf shirt and it just taints the whole event. There are certain places where you can cut things that are a lot less noticeable than there are right up front. That's the biggest mistake they make."

Instead, Hanlin says, you should talk to the people who know the most about golf outings -- the PGA professionals who work at many area golf courses.

"PGA professionals are guys who go to school to do this," he says. "This is why we are in the business. You can say, 'Hey, we need to do some stuff this year, but we need to cut costs. Where can you help me out? Where can we find a little better deal on shirts this year?'"

At Tanglewood Country Club in Chagrin Falls, owner Dennis Romanini takes a similar approach.

"The main things with outings -- whether corporate or charity -- is that I take care of everything on this end," he says. "All you've got to do is bring your clubs."

Romanini has even distilled his experience into "Easy as 1-2-3," a brochure he provides to prospective outing hosts. It explains key steps -- there are eight, not three -- in the planning process:

* Determine the purpose of the golf outing.

* Secure a location and date.

* Get the word out to invitees.

* Determine the level of food service.

* Pick a gift.

* Pick out prizes for the winning group and skill contests.

* Obtain handicaps from participants and set up foursomes.

* Don't forget the details.

The cost for hosting a golf outing starts with the basic greens fee, as low as $35 at run-of-the-mill courses and $75 or more at upscale public and private clubs.

One mistake to avoid, Hanlin says, is going for the lowest price.

"That's a huge mistake because they don't take in what's totally involved at the whole facility. Golf course A might charge $50 to do their event, but when you show up at the golf course, your clients are having to carry their own bags to their carts or they don't have cart signs or there's no presentation to the whole event. Whereas they might have to pay $70 or $75 at a different facility, but the whole place is just more upscale and they've been helped from day one how to organize the event."

The next big line item is food, especially if you plan on a sit-down dinner after playing, which can add $35 to $40 per person to the cost.

"We do a lot of golf outings at Little Mountain," Hanlin says. "One thing that I see -- in charity or corporate golf outings -- it seems like a lot of people do the heavy dinner after the outing. Most of the time, businesspeople want to tee off around noon, be done and on their way out the door and out around 5 or 5:30 like a normal work day.

"Do a heavy hors d'oeuvres, a cocktail hour and do the awards during that time and it seems like everybody seems a lot happier," he says. "And obviously it costs less -- $15 or $20 per person maximum."

Throw in a gift for each attendee and the average corporate outing at courses like Little Mountain and Tanglewood runs about $120.

Romanini says his goal is to see that event hosts are completely satisfied so they return for future outings.

"We've had the Cavs for 18 years and Bernie Kosar's charity event for 15 years," he notes.

The one task Romanini -- or any course representative -- will not handle, is getting golfers to show up.

"You have to get the players, and that's the tough part now because there are so many outings," he says.

What's the secret?

"Be persistent," he says. "I've seen outings fail because they didn't go after the people."