Golf tournaments can bond coworkers, foster healthy competition and provide extensive networking opportunities. Tournaments also offer productive fundraising opportunities and give employees, VIPs, C-suite execs and incentive-award qualifiers the time and place to play and relax.
Of course, nothing says relaxation like time in a spa, a luxury well deserved by all who work hard and positively impact their company’s bottom line. Looking for a setting for your meeting or incentive program? Consider some of the top golf and spa resorts from coast to coast and beyond. Certainly, golf and spa resorts provide the perfect destination for golf tournaments. But they meet the needs of planners and attendees in many other ways, too. Here is an inside look at select resorts from the planner’s point of view.
The RSM Classic is an excellent fit at Sea Island Resort on the Georgia coast. The PGA Tour event is held on the Seaside and Plantation golf courses. “Sea Island Resort aligns very well with our firm and our brand,” says Joy Demme, director, national meetings, with RSM US LLP, an audit, tax and consulting firm. “At RSM we value excellence, teamwork, respect, integrity and stewardship, and these are all attributes that Sea Island values as well.”
During the week of the Classic, the company brings in approximately 500 guests, though not all arrive and depart simultaneously.
RSM has partnered with the resort since the tournament began in 2010. “When we made the decision to become the title sponsor of this PGA Tour event,” Demme says, “we knew we could not be holding the tournament in a better location, given the spectacular views, amazing golf courses, award-winning accommodations and first-class culinary team.”
“Sea Island Resort aligns very well with our firm and our brand. At RSM we value excellence, teamwork, respect, integrity and stewardship, and these are all attributes that Sea Island values as well.”
— Joy Demme
The meeting space is excellent as well. “Sea Island Resort has a wide array of venues that can be used for meetings and evening functions. And, while the golf is plentiful, there are many other activities to choose from, including horseback riding, fishing, skeet shooting and the ever popular state-of-the-art spa and tennis facilities.”
Sea Island has multiple lodging options, and Demme notes that function space is convenient, regardless of accommodations. “If you are not staying right at the hotel where the function will take place, the shuttles Sea Island runs between the hotels make it easy to get around.”
Naturally, the resort’s golf courses are a huge asset. “During the week of The RSM Classic, we host rounds of golf on the Retreat and Plantation courses. Both receive rave reviews from our guests, and the golf staff is great to work with,” Demme says.
“And while we work with many people throughout the resort, our two main points of contact, Reint Venker, director of national sales, and Erik Klette, our conference services manager, ensure that the planning process is as easy as possible. The catering, décor and AV teams are fantastic to work with, too. They’re innovative, creative, and they listen to your needs and strive to provide options that will not only fit your budget but also impress your guests.”
While Demme notes that there are always challenges when planning a large event, she says a solid relationship makes all the difference. “Because of the relationships we have built with Sea Island Resort over the past several years, it is much easier to discuss challenges and potentially mitigate issues before they arise. Having that continuity has been invaluable to us as we plan each year.”
One potential challenge is that the resort, on the coast of Georgia, does require added travel time, however Demme sees that as an asset, noting that its location “is one of the things that makes it the gem that it is. It’s true that it takes some time to get to the Golden Isles from the airports, but the travel time is worth it to enjoy one of the most spectacular and welcoming resorts I have ever had the opportunity to visit.”
Sea Island Resort, surrounded by five miles of private beach, is billed as the only resort in the world to achieve four Forbes Five Star awards nine years in a row.
The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is known for its striking setting, range of upscale accommodations and three excellent golf courses. Sasha Samuel, coordinator of the annual Messenger Cup, a tournament that draws 300-plus and raises money to assist those in need in many countries, calls The Broadmoor ideal for this event and its corporate sponsors. “The Broadmoor is a five-star, five-diamond resort that can properly host our VIPs during the event. The lodging options provide a wide variety of suites for our group as well,” and, she adds, proximity to the Colorado Springs airport makes travel seamless.
“The golf course is a major part of our event. Our golfers know their stuff, so to have them be challenged during the tournament is important. The resort has options for non-golfers, too, including zip lining, biking and other sports. At the spa, the staff is excellent, and treatments are updated often to keep things fresh. Above all,” Samuel says, “it’s The Broadmoor staff that keeps us coming back. Everything is always taken care of with precision and excellence. In the off chance it’s not, they make it right.”
Mark Schick, CEO of Master Mechanical, an HVAC company, is both sponsor and participant. He says it’s a good fit for his company “to be part of something that involves rescue of the exploited and that reaches the world. Oh, and the golf? It’s pretty great.”
He’s played in the tournament the past four years, even after knee surgeries. “I have been fortunate to play at amazing courses all over the world, but for me, this tournament has always been a respite and something I absolutely look forward to every year.”
He loves staying at The Broadmoor, which he calls “amazing due to its history, accommodations, cuisine, recreation and staff,” but notes it’s “the depth of the friendships that have been forged because of participating in the Messenger Cup” that mean the most.
Danny Snipes, president of The Extraordinary Group, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs achieve success, is another corporate sponsor. “We enthusiastically support Messenger International as they teach, reach and rescue people globally,” he says, adding, “Of course the golfing experience at The Broadmoor is fun, challenging and memorable.”
For others considering corporate sponsorship of a golf event Snipes says, “People work diligently in business to succeed, so when they give their earnings and block out time on their calendars, it’s important they come away refreshed, feeling appreciated and that they are making a difference. That’s what The Broadmoor and Messenger International do so well together.”
Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia, purchased earlier this year by Escalante Golf, is another East Coast option. Lansing Building Products held its annual sales meeting there in January.
Fred Mullins, Lansing marketing manager, says the location is excellent. “We’ve had our meetings in Savannah, Myrtle Beach, locations in North Carolina and other places, but we feel that Kingsmill really wants us and values our relationship.”
The sales meeting has been held at Kingsmill for the past four years. “We continue to choose Kingsmill for several reasons,” Mullins says. “The customer service is excellent. Our associates feel they are valued as guests, and our needs are met with courtesy and promptness. Additionally, the resort doesn’t have that hotel/conference feel and the cost is competitive with other locations. Finally, Kingsmill has great grounds and views.”
Mullins has high praise for the staff. “Everyone is wonderful to work with. I regularly saw the general manager, sales manager and event manager during our four-day event. They’re accessible and checked in on us often. The event staff is first class. They listen to our desires and make them happen. If a need arose, I could find someone quickly to assist me. There was consistent communication in the preparation stage to make sure our needs were being met. Kingsmill’s lodging is also top notch. The rooms were renovated recently and are comfortable, relaxing and quiet.”
Mullins says Kingsmill also offers variety, comfort and a modern feel in its meeting space. “Our daily meeting was for 150 people and the room easily held that number. We had several smaller breakout sessions, and there’s a continuous break station located nearby.”
Although the meeting rooms are a couple of minutes away from lodging, Mullins says the resort has a free shuttle for attendees who don’t want to walk.
All functions were held on property where Mullins says the food is excellent. “We had three meals catered, two dinners and one lunch. One dinner was for 325 people. The wait staff served all guests quickly and professionally. We also used the buffet at Elements restaurant for breakfast and lunch a couple of days and the restaurant easily handled 125.”
As for AV, Mullins says, “Since we have been there four years, the AV staff has our meeting needs memorized. In fact,” he adds, “you see the same Kingsmill employees repeatedly, which gives you a sense of friendship and trust.”
Mullins’ one suggestion for planners is to make a site visit. “Because Kingsmill is not your typical meeting venue,” he says, “I suggest a site visit to get a true feel for the property. And even though our group stays on property, there are lots of activities available in the Williamsburg area.”
Waste Management Renewable Energy brought 129 attendees to Kingsmill in 2016 for its annual conference. Mary Heckaman, senior EA/event planner, also calls the resort a great fit.
“Williamsburg has access to three airports, plenty of rental cars and transportation companies,” she says, “and the meeting space worked well. It allowed nice space between participants as well as ergonomic chairs and state-of-the-art AV.”
The fact that Kingsmill is a self-contained property is a plus. “Our meetings are intensive so it is a positive to have business as well as leisure activities on property,” Heckaman says. “I don’t need to rave about the golf course or spa as they receive accolades from many sources. The housing is a favorite as most rooms are a condo setup with living room, full kitchen and bedroom. Extra bedrooms can be added for flexibility.”
In addition to cost, amenities and great meeting space, she says, “The resort provides free transport to historic Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, which is great for families in attendance.“
And then there’s the staff. “There was Scott Russell, my morning latte boy; he had them there every morning like clockwork. Michelle Lotts, planner extraordinaire, was full of great ideas and alternate plans. We worked with the kitchen on last-minute items I forgot to include — who forgets chocolate? And our AV crew was unbelievable. We will never go without teleprompters again.”
Spouses and families at this meeting are invited to participate in all meals, making logistics paramount. “All of the food was delicious. I cannot think of one thing my group did not like or complained about,” Heckaman says, adding that staff came through on efficiency as well. “Two buffet tables and four lines is an example. They figured that out after the first meal.”
Because Williamsburg and Kingsmill are such family-friendly destinations, they’re a good fit for meetings that include family. ”My attendees loved that the meeting rate was available three days prior and after the event,” Heckaman says. “There’s so much to do with all of the pools on property and playgrounds. The rooms are all freshly updated and very clean. There are also three- to four-bedroom cottages along the river, which I definitely recommend for VIPs.”
One downside was the outside transportation company. Heckaman says she’ll use a different one for the next meeting, which will be this year. “I’m pretty fussy, and we are going to be repeating our business at Kingsmill in 2017.”
Northwest of Tampa in Palm Harbor, Florida, Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort, stands out in a state loaded with golf resorts. Elsevier, a global information analytics company, brought 400 attendees to Innisbrook in January for its national sales meeting. Yazmin Zayas, senior manager, exhibits and events, says the resort was able to provide the large breakout space needed as well as two separate buildings for two separate groups.
“The food is outstanding, and the chef will work with you if your guests have any special needs,” she says. “PSAV provided our AV and did an amazing job with our general sessions and made it a memorable production for the attendees.”
Among the standouts on staff were Cindi Thomas and Ron Long. Zayas says there were a lot of last-minute requests for dinners in the resort for the free afternoon and Thomas came through. “She was able to get everyone accommodated seamlessly. She is truly a pleasure to work with.”
Also of note was John Harrison in sales who, Zayas says, made the experience from that end extremely easy, including contracts. “But the entire staff will work really hard to accommodate your every need,” she says. “They’re helpful, knowledgeable and made our experience memorable.”
One consideration to keep in mind is that meeting space is a walk or shuttle ride from guest rooms. “Work closely with your events team and provide a schedule of events ahead of time so shuttles can be scheduled appropriately,” Zayas suggests. “Most rooms are within walking distance of meeting space, and it’s a nice walk on a cool, sunny day. But you need to alert attendees of this so they schedule their time accordingly if they’re walking.”
Additionally, she says, the resort’s distance from the airport is important to consider. “While the resort is a great venue, the airport is a bit removed and there’s traffic in the area. If you are doing anything off-property, take traffic into consideration. That said, I think the resort offers everything you need without having to step outside.”
Finally, Zayas notes, “Hiring a good DMC to manage your transportation is key to making the transition between airport and resort easier. Also, alert guests of weather conditions a few days before the meeting. Keeping them informed will help them pack the right clothes and make the meeting experience better. You can never give your attendees too much information.”
Farther afield, The Westin Playa Bonita in Panama City, Panama, also offers corporate groups a base in which to meet and play golf. Tina R. Ulm, president of TRU Incentives Inc., worked with Chief Buildings, a Nebraska-based metal-building manufacturer, to create an incentive program for 248 at the resort in February.
“Panama is a wonderful destination for groups looking for warmth, sunshine and culture,” Ulm says. “Our group prefers inclusive or all-inclusive properties and this Westin worked on an inclusive budget that was very acceptable to us.”
She calls Panama’s climate in the first quarter of the year exceptional and says the area offers rich cultural opportunities. The group held a private function at Miraflores Locks overlooking the Panama Canal, which Ulm describes as “an amazing event location.” But it wasn’t the only wow factor.
Ulm says participants were awed by the old town within Panama City, the golf, ruins, rainforest, peacock bass fishing on the canal and interactions with local indigenous people. “All of my VIPs and some top customers played golf at Tucán Golf Course,” she adds. The DMC based at The Westin Playa Bonita arranges golf for hotel guests at the Tucán Golf Club, just north of Playa Bonita.
The hotel’s Sensory Spa by Clarins features a Polar Cold plunge pool, herbal sauna, 13 treatment rooms and a hydrotherapy circuit.
As for the service, she says, “The hotel team did a great job. Gabby Herrera and her team were amazing to work with and always went the extra mile. Everything is very easily accessible at this property. The décor is nice and AV is wonderful to work with — almost a one-stop planning event. And it’s very cost effective for such a great destination.”
While Ulm’s one caveat is to avoid Carnival time — Panama has the second largest Carnival celebration in the world — she encourages planners to consider the country. “Your participants will enjoy far more than sunshine,” she says. “And the locals are beautiful people as well.”
The 16,000-acre Streamsong Resort in Central Florida received golf accolades in April from Golfweek, which listed Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue as the No. 2 and No. 3 golf courses to play in Florida. They bested 27 other Florida golf courses on the list. Built around the contours of former phosphate mines, the courses feature rolling elevation changes, native grasses and stunning views of ridges and the distinctive surrounding landscape — a delightfully distinctive golf experience unlike any other in Florida.
The new Streamsong Black championship course, designed by Gil Hanse, will debut this fall. Hanse also is the architect of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and co-designer of Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland. With the addition of Streamsong Black, the resort will become the only location in the world where guests can enjoy three distinct courses designed by four legendary architects, including Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw of Coore & Crenshaw and Tom Doak of Renaissance Golf Design. And the resort plans to add a second practice facility, clubhouse and restaurant to serve guests playing Streamsong Black.
Streamsong Resort features 228 guest rooms, 25,000 sf of indoor and 40,000 sf of outdoor meeting and event space, five dining options, conference and event facilities, the grotto-style AcquaPietra Spa and infinity pool. Streamsong’s Clubhouse includes 12 guest rooms, a restaurant and bar, an award-winning golf shop and meeting space with breathtaking views. In addition to golf, guests can enjoy such activities as bass fishing, sporting clays, nature trails and tennis.
Owned by the Oneida Indian Nation, Turning Stone Resort Casino, on 3,400 acres in Upstate New York, is truly a destination resort with five championship golf courses, two spas, more than 20 dining options, a 120,000-sf casino, Showroom, 5,000-seat arena and several nightlife venues. The resort’s Golf Dome features 40 hitting stations, two simulators and a short game practice area. The Sportsplex next to the Golf Dome has four indoor and four outdoor tennis courts, and two indoor racquetball courts. There are a total of 707 guest rooms in four onsite hotels and more than 125,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space. The Clubhouse at Shenendoah offers three banquet rooms with fireplace and large balcony overlooking the 10th and 18th holes.
The championship Shingle Creek Golf Course at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando underwent an innovative redesign by Arnold Palmer Golf Company. A new, open-air covered pavilion for 19th-hole events is part of the mix.
On Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast, The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club debuted the Jack Nicklaus redesign of its on-property championship golf course last fall. C&IT