For decades, business professionals have recognized the need to connect with each other outside of the conference room. While late night ‘wining and dining’ is still a prevalent relationship-building tradition, corporate meeting planners are continuing to embrace the greens — incorporating golf programs into their corporate and incentive travel plans.
In fact, golf was always used to entertain, but the level of amusement has gone beyond golf and food and beverage and it is now an integral part of creating long-term, mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships.
Christi Braak, meeting planner and executive administrative assistant at PCL Construction, recently planned a golf program at Shingle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, FL on May 4, 2019. Approximately 80 attended, however PCL could’ve had up to 200 people, so picking a course and after-round facility that could coordinate those numbers was important.
“PCL hosts an annual golf tournament for all employees each year,” Braak says. “What enticed me to reach out to Shingle Creek is the proximity to our main office and the knowledge we have of the course and the staff.”
Shingle Creek Golf Club is onsite at the beautiful AAA Four Diamond Rosen Shingle Creek, which features more than 1,500 guest rooms. In addition, the facility offers more than 490,000 sf of state-of-the-art meeting and event space, including a 95,000-sf, column-free ballroom. The par-72 championship course, redesigned by Arnold Palmer Design Company, lies along historic Shingle Creek, headwaters to the Florida Everglades.
“What enticed me to reach out to Shingle Creek is the proximity to our main office and the knowledge we have of the course and the staff.”
Shingle Creek Golf Club prides itself on its team building, incentive and appreciation golf programs. Private and group instruction can be provided on the course, off the course, or a combination of both. Groups can foster team dynamics with competitive golf activities on green grass or a carpeted meeting room floor. And Shingle Creek’s top golf instructor, Brad Brewer, can demonstrate to attendees the most common swing flaws and how to quickly remedy them so golfers can have more success during their round. Shingle Creek Golf Club’s professional instructors provide helpful pointers during pre-round warm up to participants on the range and putting green. In addition, attendees can enjoy a 30-minute computerized swing analysis session and private lessons to help participating golfers feel better prepared for their upcoming round.
Because the PCL group of golfers features skill levels of all types, PCL created teams that have an A, B, C and D player, and they play scramble ball, allowing for the players to play the best shot.
“From my experience with golf events, meeting planners should make sure they start planning months in advance for the event. Many courses fill up quickly during the prime times of the season, and finding that perfect day and time can be tricky to coordinate,” Braak says. “Visit the venue and get a walk through of what happens where. Make sure the guests are clear on where they need to be. If all this is planned from the beginning, the event should run smoothly.”
North America’s naturally diverse landscape, which includes rolling river valleys, dense forests and glacier-carved lakes, provides the perfect backdrop for numerous golf destinations.
Take Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort, in Palm Harbor, FL for example. This award-winning resort features four championship golf courses, and was recently one of only six resorts named the “2018 Best Golf Resorts in Florida” by Golf Digest. It is also considered among the top-75 golf resorts in America. Designed by Lawrence Packard, the four courses at Innisbrook offer diverse playing fields, including championship layouts featuring up to 70 feet of elevation change.
As the golf arena continues to evolve, golf course owners and operators recognize the need to customize their offerings to help make golf events memorable for all involved. Set in the Cheyenne Mountains, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO makes a concerted effort to entice all members of a group — golfers and non-golfers alike — to participate in various activities to make a memorable experience for all. The Broadmoor Invitation, which began in 1921, ensures the spouse of the golfer engages in unique activities throughout the event. These may include menu planning with a Broadmoor chef, pickleball round robin, stair climbing at Seven Falls, falconry, bowling and Bloody Mary’s, a farm-to-table picnic, a hike to Cloud Camp, scarf making and mimosas.
Of course, The Broadmoor’s two iconic courses are ranked among the best golf courses in the world. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Donald Ross, these award-winning courses are ideal for golfers of all levels. And after a round or two of golf, attendees can enjoy visiting together in the 185,000 sf of event space within The Broadmoor’s exquisite meeting areas.
Many golf aficionados want to experience new or redesigned courses that they may never have played before. That’s why more golf courses are upping their game and breathing new life into their long-standing golf courses. For example, the new Phoenician Golf Course at The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, in Scottsdale, AZ has recently opened after a 10-month redesign. In addition to rerouting the course and developing new holes, the re-contoured fairways and rebuilt green complexes have transformed this golf course into a preeminent course just waiting to be played. Located amidst Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, the golf course also features a renovated and expanded 19th Hole dining venue — the perfect place for meeting attendees to gather after a round.
Everything is in front of the golfer, with no surprise bunkers or blind hazards. The course plays to a par-71 and offers four sets of player-friendly tees ranging from 4,594 yards from the forward tees to 6,518 yards from the championship tees. Complementing it are The Phoenician Golf Shop and locker rooms, which were also renovated and expanded.
Omni Barton Creek in Austin, TX recently underwent an extensive, $150 million renovation and expansion that started in November 2017, says Todd Raessler, general manager.
“Additionally, taking inspiration from the lush landscape of the Texas Hill Country, the property’s overall design highlights the history and sweeping views of this iconic destination, while providing a true oasis that creates a relaxing haven for all guests,” Raessler says. “At every opportunity, the design team worked to bring the essence of the outdoors inside with one-of-a-kind artwork featuring local foliage, floor-to-ceiling windows and natural materials embracing the Hill Country landscape.“
The work at the 4,000-acre resort wrapped up in May 2019, and its four championship golf courses — one designed by Austin native Ben Crenshaw, another by Arnold Palmer and two by Tom Fazio — are ready to challenge golfers of all skill levels.
In addition to golf, the 493-room resort offers 52,237 sf of indoor meeting and pre-function space with a new Conference Center complete with 16 meeting rooms, the 14,532-sf Brazos Ballroom, the 8,240-sf redesigned Darrell K. Royal Ballroom and a 5,556-sf Pavilion space with retractable windows for a true indoor/outdoor space. Finally, the resort boasts 23,955 sf of sweeping event lawns that allow guests to experience the surrounding scenic views firsthand.
While Florida, California and Arizona are often thought of as the best golf locales, Wisconsin offers golfers of all skill levels an array of inviting, challenging and breathtaking courses. From formidable courses that test skill at every hole to wide-open courses with fairways designed for high-handicap, weekend golfers — the Dairy State has it.
Among these courses, The American Club in Kohler, WI is a historic 100-year-old gem encompassing four golf courses. In fact, the four award-winning, Pete Dye-designed courses — The Straits, The Irish, The River and The Meadow Valleys — offer a wealth of opportunities for golf programs for groups of all sizes. And The American Club’s tournament division staff frequently works with meeting planners to help plan a variety of tournament-style events, specialty games and contests.
Of course, Pinehurst in North Carolina has long been synonymous with “all things golf” and offers the ideal golf getaways for corporate and incentive groups. With nine — that’s right, nine — courses, Pinehurst is a golf lovers’ paradise and has hosted more championships than any other club in the country.
In addition to hosting traditional types of group golf events, attendees can face off against Pinehurst’s finest in contests that pit attendees against one of Pinehurst’s golf professionals. For non-golfers in the group, Pinehurst’s disc golf program combines golf with Frisbees and offers a unique challenge all its own. Of course, serious golfers in the group can enjoy golf academy lessons, clinics and corporate golf schools. And Pinehurst’s professional golf speakers can address corporate and incentive groups to talk about the history of Pinehurst and how to conquer the resort’s famous greens.
And when it’s time for intimate, large or formal gatherings of the group, Pinehurst offers a plethora of awe-inspiring venues to hold various types of meetings or soirees.
The Carolina Hotel offers more than 61,000 sf of indoor meeting space and 22,000 sf of outdoor function space, while the Holly Inn offers five unique meeting spaces — the Camellia Room, Evergreen Music Room, Gardenia Room, the Library and Magnolia Room.
If a winter corporate meeting or incentive trip is in the works, there are a slew of winter golf destinations that can satisfy any attendees’ need to hits the links. And better yet, many of these golf destinations appeal to a variety of budgets and interests — for golfers and non-golfers alike. As previously established, award-winning courses can be found across the country.
At issue for many meeting planners who want business professionals to hit the links together is finding golf courses that meet the needs of players of all levels. When business professionals golf together, each person has different needs and wants different challenges. Many resorts offer shorter, executive-type courses ideal for players new to the game. Here, the fairways are not necessarily the flat, open fairways found at traditional par-three courses. Rather, the executive courses have good terrain, including bunkers, water hazards and trees.
Courses are also offering more business-focused amenities. Today’s business golfers have access to computers, wireless internet, private dining, lavish locker rooms, catered functions, caddies and/or forecaddies, dual logo merchandise opportunities, fitness programs, concierge services, limousine services and tournament services — almost anything a meeting planner can think of can be provided.
And golf courses are now working hand-in-hand with meeting planners to make golf outings special for attendees. These may include amenities such as a personalized coordinator for group outings, group clinics from PGA professionals, prepaid food and beverage coupons to give to attendees, pro shops with merchandise from a PGA Tour stop, catered meals and personalized prize packages.
According to Craig Dooley, senior vice president at SDI Meetings and Incentives, SDI does a mix of golf-centric and golf-included programs throughout the year in a wide variety of destinations around the globe.
“For example, we have done a number of more golf-centric programs at The Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. There we have had about 24 golfers in a group, out of about 150-200 total program participants,” Dooley says. “Two of their more famous courses are one where the Ryder Cup is held and another where the Scottish Open is held.”
Dooley also orchestrated golf events for 100 to 125 golfers in private tournaments at Wailea Golf Club in Maui, one starting at 8 a.m. on a leisure-focused program, and another occurring in the afternoon after their business meeting concluded.
“Golf was available to attendees throughout the program at their leisure and when schedules allow,” Dooley says.
For SDI’s clients, every group tends to have a number of die-hard golfers who enjoy the experience of a new course and look forward to the leisure activity while they are on a program.
“When a program is in an area known for golf, such as Scotland, even those less-than-die-hard players want to play for the unique experience that particular course will bring and have a story to tell,” Dooley says.
SDI accommodates non-golfers by ensuring there are ample alternative activities, such as other sports, local exploration, spa or leisurely enjoying the property.
“For SDI, it’s important to know the ins and outs of the specific golf courses we are planning to book, so we personally know what to expect and can educate and assure our guests ahead of and onsite what the experience will entail,” Dooley says. “Meeting planners should know when a course opens its books for future bookings and know its cancellation policies. Also be sure to know the details on course fees, caddy requirements, cart usage and rental club types and fees. As with any program, having firsthand knowledge well in advance ensures you avoid any surprises and deliver the best possible experience.”
Ken Schmalz, managing partner at S&A Event Services in New Milford, CT orchestrated a golf event at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, CA for 220 total guests. The guests included 30 internal attorneys, 150 clients and 40 spouses for a client-centric industry conference hosted by a law firm for their clients, investors and developers in the world of global energy and project finance issues. The event included two days of golf as well multiple activity options for non-golfers.
Pelican Hill Golf Club offers programs for a variety of group sizes, from dual course buyout tournaments to smaller corporate groups. The facility’s ocean-view golf academy caters to groups by offering custom instruction programs to help golfers improve their game.
What’s more, the Golf Pavilion and Pelican Grill restaurant offer nearby venues for gathering before or after a group golf event.
“The golf component of this event has always been an integral component that helps attract the right C-level demographic,” Schmalz says. “We run a one-day tournament and a second day of golfing on their own at a more leisurely approach.”
Schmalz says it’s important for meeting planners to understand the meeting and networking objectives, including skill levels and the variety of golfers in order to plan the right format, have the appropriate on-course festivities and contests, and determine what sponsor-branding opportunities might be available and impactful.
“Make it organized but fun,” Schmalz says.
“Fun” certainly is the name of the game at French Lick Resort, where attendees can enjoy two world-class golf courses designed by Pete Dye and Donald Ross. And while the exquisite nature of these courses can’t be beat, the fun that comes with the various group golf activities makes it a memorable experience for all. In fact, French Lick Resort’s team of golf professionals work with meeting planners to build golf activities into any group or business agenda. From a golf scramble with a cocktail hour to long-drive and putting challenges to goofy golf activities with unique twists on each hole, there is a wealth of opportunities for meeting planners to incorporate golf into any event at French Lick Resort. Some groups add “bang” to their golf program by pairing a golf scramble with an afternoon at the resort’s outdoor shooting range.
Trump National Doral Miami also offers some of the country’s most unique golf programs. Located on an 800-acre tropical oasis, Trump National Doral boasts four distinctly unique courses, including the legendary The Blue Monster — one of the most challenging courses available today. In addition, attendees can enjoy the state-of-the-art LED practice facility, a cutting-edge club-fitting lab and the new Rick Smith Golf Performance Center. Meeting planners can also give group attendees a once-in-a-lifetime Twilight golf experience. Popular with golfers and non-golfers alike, this fun-filled activity gives players the experience of golfing at Trump National Doral with a unique and exciting twist. It is also a great team-building interactive activity that involves a combination of fun and a healthy competition.
Regardless of the location and type of links chosen for a group event, corporate and incentive golf programs are as much about enjoying the surrounding landscape as they are about birdies and bogeys. Nature lovers will enjoy the mountainous views, unspoiled beaches, and pristine countryside found amidst many of the nation’s golf courses. Attendees can also take a day off from swinging their clubs and head into one of the culturally rich cities near a number of splendid courses. And when the golf program comes to an end, attendees will leave knowing they tackled the championship courses and journeyed along the paths taken by the great heroes of the past who played the same fairways and conquered the same greens.C&IT