There are golf courses, and then there are golf courses. And to the benefit of meeting planers looking for outstanding settings, some of the most outstanding courses can be found at resorts that have incorporated the sport as a major part of their operations.
More than just one more attractive feature, golf courses at many resorts can help build prospects for success for any meeting.
“Successful meetings are characterized by achieving business goals and giving participants a taste of the destination and its offerings,” says Heath Carter, regional vice president of sales and marketing at Coral Hospitality, a Naples, Florida-based hospitality management company. “Golf resorts are a prime destination for such events because they allow planners the ease of fun activities within a well-appointed facility.” He adds that golf resorts also tend to have peaceful and relaxing environments because of the scenery and the greens of the golf courses, contributing to a stress-free tone for corporate meetings. Having a golf course close to the meeting facilities can be a major asset for team-building activities.
Properties well known for golf often provide top-notch meeting facilities. With a profile as full-fledged resorts rather than simply hotels, this combination offers much that meeting planners should find attractive.
The Broadmoor, for example, has been a highly desirable Colorado location for meetings held by TWO MEN AND A TRUCK, a logistics company headquartered in Lansing, Michigan.
“The Broadmoor offers the perfect mix of meeting space, the best customer service, first-class accommodations, and so many fun things to do right on site,” says Cindy Wilhelm, executive assistant and special events coordinator. “Their food and beverage offerings are amazing, and you have to appreciate the on-site A/V services.”
The resort has two courses offering a diverse golfing experience. The highly-rated East Course combines challenging terrain with mountain vistas. Along with rolling fairways, the West Course has multilevel greens and steeply angled greens, all at an elevation of 6,800 feet.
The Broadmoor’s meeting and convention facilities, with 185,000 sf, accommodates groups of up to 6,500. The space includes a 60,000-sf pillar-free ballroom. In addition, nearby attractions expand entertainment options available to attendees. They include the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Garden of the Gods Park and Colorado Springs U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center. Planned for a spring 2020 opening is a digital experience guests can enjoy at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.
Holding a meeting at a golf resort offers benefits not only for experienced golfers, but novices as well, complemented by features that appeal to those who are not golfers at all, says Amy Long, chief innovation officer for Visit Colorado Springs. Not only are golf resorts invariably located in beautiful surroundings, but they typically offer other amenities such as: spa experiences, tennis, pickle ball, swimming pools, excellent restaurants and boutique shopping.
For golfers, a plus is that often they have the convenience of an on-site course that’s usually not open to the public, Long says. And for those who are inexperienced but would like to learn, a lesson with the resident pros may be appealing. In addition, group activities can be structured around the game.
“There are some consultants who offer group golf experiences where they use golf as a metaphor for how a person approaches professional and personal challenges, and an analogy for strategic planning and execution,” Long says.
A distinct advantage is that more likely than not, planners can count on good weather.
“If a golf outing is planned, you’re pretty sure you will be in a warmer climate,” Wilhelm says. “Warmer climate means fewer flight delays, more attendees and confidence to book outdoor venues at the resort.”
Another plus is that when the wide spectrum of physical activity is considered, more meeting attendees may be able to take advantage of this long-standing sport than some other, more physically demanding activities. While golf certainly requires certain basic skills, it’s still a less rigorous outdoor activity than say, skiing or hiking mountain trails.
For those who find the game enjoyable, the availability of golfing provides options for attendees to network on the course, aids in physical and mental exercise and ultimately allows for them to recharge in nature, says the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Mark McMinn, vice president of business development. “It’s a transformative meeting experience that will inspire attendees and reinvigorate them.”
Among the Northern California region’s properties offering scenic views and appealing venues are Quail Lodge & Golf Club and Carmel Valley Ranch. Along with nine meeting rooms, Quail Lodge has an 18-hole championship golf course, an all-grass, nine-hole putting course and a golf academy for those wishing to improve their game. Guests can also take advantage of a heated pool, sand bocce ball pits, tennis and pickleball courts and a Land Rover experience where participants learn new skills while enjoying an adventuresome experience.
At Carmel Valley Ranch, golfers are challenged by a par-70, Pete Dye-designed course that features captivating scenic views. A multimillion-dollar enhancement has restored the course to its original design with bent grass, enlarged greens and improved tees. Golf carts are equipped with GPS technology. Meeting possibilities include more than 11,000 sf of indoor space and 35,000 sf of outdoor function space, including three event lawns.
One feature appreciated by many golf lovers is the chance to experience different courses at the same resort. That’s the case with Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, which offers four championship courses. Fazio Canyons, designed by highly regarded Tom Fazio, is 7,153-yard, par-72 course with attractive scenic views. Planners who want to offer options for those with varying golf abilities will appreciate the Fazio Foothills course. It offers five different sets of tee boxes, meeting the expectations of both beginners and more accomplished golfers. Featuring the natural beauty and native vegetation of the Texas hill country, Coore Crenshaw has rolling hills, natural plateaus and soft contours in a championship layout. And located on a secluded lakeview hilltop, Palmer Lakeside offers another attractive option.
Omni Barton Creek recently completed newly designed guest rooms and offers more than 76,000 sf of meeting space, with more than 50,000 sf of it inside, along with two outdoor event lawns. Facilities include 16 meeting rooms, two ballrooms for up to 1,500 guests and a 5,550-sf pavilion with retractable windows and panoramic views. Attendees will also enjoy a spa and other amenities.
Situated on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa also offers three outstanding courses. The Bear is a Jack Nicklaus signature design, while the Wolverine is a Gary Player design, and the Spruce Run was designed by Bill Newcomb. The resort has 86,500 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
“The natural beauty of golf courses surrounding your property creates a sense of leisure and relaxation, which helps set the stage for a great meeting,” says Ryan Buck, director of sales.
The expansive Casa de Campo Resort & Villas in La Romana, Dominican Republic covers 7,000 acres situated between the Caribbean and the Chavón River. Jason Kycek, senior vice president of sales and marketing, reports that the hotel has undergone an extensive improvement plan in recent years. Guest facilities include not only suites and other rooms, but more than 50 villas that come with maid and butler service, daily breakfast, private pools, Jacuzzis, golf carts and other amenities. Some 15,000 sf of meeting space is currently available, and an additional meeting facility is scheduled for opening this year with a capacity of 600. Golfers can choose from three highly-rated courses with features ranging from coral shores to rolling hills and steep cliff sides.
Located in the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, Rosen Shingle Creek boasts more than 1,500 guest rooms and 524,000 sf of meeting and event space, including a 95,000-sf ballroom. The resort’s championship golf course was designed by Arnold Palmer Design Company. Other amenities range from volleyball and tennis to fishing.
For meeting participants interested in improving their games, Orlando’s Shingle Creek Golf Club is home to the well-known Brad Brewer Golf Academy. Its new short-game practice area has doubled in size from the original practice area, and state-of-the-art swing analysis and game improvement technology is also offered.
Highly regarded by golf aficionados is Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, which boasts two challenging 18-hole courses in an area that includes not only wind-swept dunes but also woodlands, wetlands and orange groves. A nine-hole par three course, lighted for night play, can be ideal for beginners. A driving range and practice area are also available. The resort easily accommodates large groups. Its more than 248,000 sf of meeting and banquet space includes three large and four smaller ballrooms.
Along with 265,000 sf of meeting and event space, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa features two PGA tour certified golf courses on-site. Designed by Pete Dye and Greg Norman, respectively, the courses are located on 2,800 rolling acres and are watered by an eco-friendly, closed-loop irrigation system. Golf instruction includes two, three and five-day schools for golfers of all skill levels.
Meeting options include 40 indoor and outdoor venues with 52 maximum breakout meeting rooms, a nearby ranch for a uniquely Texan meetings experience and a 5,000-sf pavilion. Other features include a 9-acre waterpark, lazy river and hiking and biking trails.
The two courses of Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, near San Diego, California also offer outstanding experiences for meeting attendees. One is a links-style course with fast conditions, while a second is a parkland-style course with an emphasis on accuracy off the tee. Along with traditional golf lessons, attendees can improve skills with a robotic swing trainer.
Planners may choose from 46 meeting rooms with 110,000 sf of meeting space available. Facilities include an event center with a ballroom, breakout rooms and a state-of-the-art learning center.
Trump National Doral Miami offers 643 rooms on an 800-acre resort. It offers more than 100,000 sf of meeting and event space including several large ballrooms. A popular attraction is a moonlight golf experience, where a putting green is transformed into a glowing miniature golf course and players, including novices, use glow-in-the-dark golf balls. Night driving and putting contests are also held.
Located on Georgia’s Southeastern coast with 5 miles of private beach, Sea Island resort features three championship golf courses. One course, Seaside, is an ocean-side links course bordered by dunes, wildflowers and bunkers. Players find that the changing winds offer an interesting challenge. Recent improvements include new cottages, an oceanfront pool and pool house, and an 18-hole putting course. Earlier this year saw the addition of a 17,000-sf golf performance center. The resort offers 42,000 sf of indoor meeting space. Groups up to 500 can be accommodated.
Last, but not least, South Florida’s Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Florida offers a Rees Jones-designed private course located a short drive from the hotel. The club recently completed $8 million renovation and added its first formal clubhouse. Originally completed in 2000, the 18-hole, par-72 course has been highly rated in golf magazines. It features a variety of native Florida trees and outstanding water features.
The resort offers more than 83,000 sf of space to support both indoor and outdoor events. The resort’s second-floor ballroom level underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation last year.
From supporting recreational interests to promoting meeting goals, golf offers planners a variety of opportunities. “Golf as team-building can be a great option,” Buck says. “Regardless of experience or skill level, you can find something for everyone, whether it be a quick lesson with a golf pro, a few swings at the driving range, or play a full 18 holes.” He says groups can use golf in exciting ways for interactivity or incentives for attendees such as long-drive or closest-to-the-pin contests.
Good planning should also take into account that while golf may be among the country’s most popular pastimes, it’s not for everyone. If group activities are planned, they should include options for those who are unable to hit the links or who are simply not interested.
To gauge individual interest, an easily executable strategy is to survey participants during the registration process and ask if golf will be a part of their plans. If not, alternative activities should be identified.
Carter says a simple strategy for planners is to allow extra time for participants to get ready for their tee time after the conclusion of meetings.
“Many attendees will need to change clothes, get their clubs ready and want to putt or warm up on the range,” he says. “By allowing some extra time in the schedule, people will not feel rushed and enjoy their round more.”
Along with golf outings, the overall experience can be enhanced with related activities or giveaways.
“A golf resort would be a choice venue for many people just for the opportunity to get a few holes in between meetings,” says Shelley Grieshop, creative writer/public relations director for Totally Promotional in Coldwater, Ohio. “But if you truly want to make your event memorable and interesting, infuse the golf theme into the itinerary.” That might mean posting golf quotes in conference materials or offering golf-themed gifts or prizes.
An all-out approach might include steps such as inviting a personality from the golfing world to serve as a speaker, or asking keynoters to incorporate golf jokes or anecdotes in their presentations. Even without such efforts, planning a meeting at a golf resort can be a win-win proposition. It could draw more participants than would otherwise be the case, and attendees may go away satisfied with the experience and more likely to want to attend future events. C&IT