Site Selection: Playing to WinJune 1, 2014

Why Meeting at Golf and Spa Resorts Is Back in Vogue By
June 1, 2014

Site Selection: Playing to Win

Why Meeting at Golf and Spa Resorts Is Back in Vogue
What could be better than a round of golf at The Broadmoor amid the splendor of the Rocky Mountains? Credit: The Broadmoor

What could be better than a round of golf at The Broadmoor amid the splendor of the Rocky Mountains? 

Golf and spa resorts have always been popular choices for planners but they took a big hit during the recession. Boasting glorious green spaces and sumptuous spas, these luxurious properties are back in vogue and are not resting on their laurels. From coast to coast, these properties continue to upgrade and refresh their unique combination of world-class championship golf courses, specialty spas, grand guest rooms and ample meeting space.

That’s good news for planners charged with site selection reponsibility who turn to these resorts not only for memorable meetings and incentives, but also for golf experiences, which enhance networking and relaxing spa treatments, which recharge and pamper attendees.

Planners find all of the above in properties such as the 379-room AAA Four Diamond PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. That’s where the regional headquarters of a large company held meetings in 2013 and has another meeting set for June 2014. The company, which elected to remain anonymous, selected the resort after some of its South Florida branches met previously at the property and raved about its amenities and service.

The PGA National Resort offers 40,000 sf of self-contained conference space and 90 holes of championship golf on five courses, including the famous Champion Course, site of the PGA Tour Honda Classic and other pro tournaments.

The company’s three-day meeting at PGA National Resort last August included 73 senior account executives. Golf was a big reason for choosing the property. “Golf was definitely utilized, and it was a big bonus,” says the regional headquarters’ meeting planner. “A lot of us extended our stay for two days to have an organized Saturday morning tournament. We did our own foursomes, and the PGA helped us set up and get us going.” As the June 2014 meeting drew nearer, the planner said the attendees began asking for extensions so they could stay the weekend to play more golf.

While golf is a potent draw, the planner favored the PGA National Resort for other key reasons as well, including meeting space. “We used one ballroom, the Bella Lago (one of the PGA’s newest ballrooms), for the meeting, ordering catered morning buffets and lunch,” says the planner. “I did snack breaks at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and there was a lot of space toward the back of the room for them to roll in the trays with the power bars, cookies and drinks. The ballroom was located near the golf course so people could walk outside and see the greens during breaks. But it was far enough from the main lobby, bar and restaurant to be secluded.”

There’s No Substitute for Good Service

Excellent service also was a big factor. “They respond very quickly during planning,” the planner says. “If I send an email, my phone will ring within 10 minutes with more questions about what I asked or an answer. I plan meetings year-round with different hotels, and as the meeting approaches, agendas and the number of attendees will change. They are very good about booking more rooms and extending stays.”

The planner offers the following example of the PGA National Resort’s quick turnaround service. “On my drive from Fort Lauderdale International Airport to the resort for the meeting, I got voicemails that more people would be attending a dinner and either adding or canceling days,” says the planner. “I called the PGA and said ‘I have to change the numbers of rooms and restaurant reservations.’ I got a call back 10 minutes later that it was done. It was great.”

Dade Paper, based in Miami, selected the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa for a meeting in March for 400 of the company’s managers, executives, business partners and their guests, according to Laura Craven, director of communications and marketing. Dade Paper was impressed by the four championship golf courses accessible to the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast’s largest full-service beachfront resort. Attendees had their pick of Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, Links Golf Club and Baytowne Golf Course, which features three golf holes located in front of the Hilton Sandestin.

Away from the fairways, attendees pampered themselves in the Hilton Sandestin’s Serenity by the sea spa, which was ranked 26 in the Condé Nast Traveler 2013 Readers’ Poll “The Top 270 Spas in North America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and at Sea.”

While Dade Paper has met at spa and golf resorts previously, it was the company’s first time at the Hilton Sandestin. “The No. 1 reason I choose golf and spa resorts is to have everything in one building and keep people on-property,” says Craven. “When we use convention center space and you have to have a second hotel, you have to go back and forth. From a planner’s perspective, it’s nice to have everything in one place.”

“The No. 1 reason I choose golf and spa resorts is to have everything in one building and keep people on-property. From a planner’s perspective, it’s nice to have everything in one place.” — Laura Craven

The Hilton Sandestin’s meeting spaces were just right. “They had the best of all the things I was looking for so they won the bid,” says Craven. “They had the right specs for meeting space. The main ballroom was the right size. Another ballroom where we had our luncheon was the correct size. All of the numbers lined up. It was on the beach, and that’s a nice draw.”

Dade Paper chose the Hil­ton Sandestin 18 months before the actual meeting as the property was undergoing a four-month, $12.5 million renovation. The project included refurbishment of all 200 Spa Tower rooms and a redesign of the indoor pool and main lobby.

Serenity by the sea Spa also received a facelift, adding a new color scheme, carpet, all new paint, nine new spa beds and zero gravity lounging pedicure chairs with hammered copper bowls.

Renovated Properties Are More Attractive

The renovations were an additional enticement. “We knew everything was going to be in great condition,” says Craven. “I asked them from time to time if they were on schedule. They were always right on the money in terms of the construction schedule. I visited the property three months before the meeting and had a tour of everything as it was being worked on so I had a comfortable feeling. They were done a month before our event.”

Some groups are so enthralled with golf and spa resorts that they return year after year. In June 2014, a major corporation held its fourth consecutive yearly meeting at the The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The resort is literally the company’s favorite property. “We have a website that allows employees to register for the meeting and select from 15 different locations. The Broadmoor is usually the first one that shows up,” says the meeting planner who wishes to remain anonymous.

Last July, the company held a three-day meeting for 400 managers and executives at The Broadmoor following its $57 million expansion and makeover. Attendees were impressed by the redesign of all guest rooms and suites. The Broadmoor’s two new restaurants — Ristorante del Lago, an Italian eatery, and Natural Epicurean, which serves natural and organic food, were well received by the group.

Attendees also got their fill of golf. “It’s always a huge hit with the executives. We didn’t have any golf tournaments, we just let them play,” she says.

The group enjoyed The Broadmoor’s three courses — the East Course; the West Course, a challenging course that combines the original 1918 design with the 1964 redesign of Robert Trent Jones Sr.; and the Mountain Course featuring renovations by Nicklaus Designs, which appeals to a range of skill levels and handicaps. All three courses offered attendees gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains.

Most of all, the group soaked up The Broadmoor’s relaxing environment. “Once you get there, you basically forget about the rest of the world,” says the planner. “You don’t have to go off-property because they have everything there, even a bowling alley. They always love the pool and spa. The restaurants were phenomenal.”

Service is always a major calling card of golf and spa resorts, and especially so with The Broadmoor. “I have been in this industry over 30 years and, nationally, I have to say it’s one of the highest service-level properties I have ever worked with,” observes the planner. “They make the guests and those who work the program feel like family.”

The Broadmoor’s superb service stood out when executives requested space for last-minute meetings they needed. “Generally, we take up over 80 percent of The Broadmoor’s meeting space,” says the planner. “One evening, our executives said they needed to have a meeting from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and they told us at 8 a.m. The staff found the room, turned it around and had it ready by 9 a.m. When I say they turned it around, I mean the setup, food and beverages, and AV.”

In addition, the resort caters to the smallest needs, including special diets. “We have people with food allergies,” says the planner. “They even go so far as to have the chef sit with them and go menu by menu what they can and can’t eat, and provide them with specific menus to meet their needs.”

The Broadmoor’s meeting space was made to order for the company’s black-tie banquet. “We held our banquet in the International Center Meeting Room, which we turned around in about four hours after a day of meetings,” says the planner. “People couldn’t believe they were in the same room. The International Center has two sections to it. At one end, we made our cocktail reception. On the other side was the banquet area. The centerpieces and table settings were over-and-above beautiful. We covered the walls in sheer beige draperies with up-lighting. We had 8- to 10-foot-tall, see-through cylinders with floating candles inside them and a live band.”

Golf and Spa Resort News

Groups who book stays at PGA Na­tional Resort & Spa before September 31, 2014 will be eligible for the property’s “Free Golf/Free Spa” meeting incentive. Groups that book at least 100 room nights, each occupied on a peak night, can choose a complimentary round of golf or a 50-minute Swedish or facial massage at the 40,000-sf Spa at PGA National.

The AAA Five Diamond, 250-room Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, located on Florida’s northeast coast, reopened its Beach House in March after a thorough renovation. The Beach House’s 20 oceanfront rooms and suites received new king and queen beds, oversized windows, designer furniture, custom art work and carpet and draperies. The Lodge & Club’s new swimming pool also reopened in March. The resort’s Ocean Course, which opened in 1928, offers golf-related group functions such as “closest-to-the-pin cocktail receptions” and “putting green coffee breaks.” The Inn & Club offers 17,000 sf of meeting space and the Lodge & Club provides 13,000 sf of function space and seven meeting rooms.

The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa near Fort Lauderdale has opened its Heavenly Spa by Westin. The 14,000-sf facility offers 10 treatment rooms as well as a halotherapy salt steam room, a Vichy shower and a relaxation area with a “Wall-of-Rain.” The Westin offers 998 rooms and over 200,000 sf of flexible function space, including a 50,000-sf Great Hall. Golfers will enjoy the Westin’s par-72 course dotted with royal palm and banyan trees.

The 204-room Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, California, ramped up its golf appeal by opening its 7,000-sf terrace-like Golf Pavilion last year. The Pavilion is located conveniently near the resort’s two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses, one of which has three holes along the ocean. The Pavilion complements Pelican Hill’s 20,000 sf of meeting space and accommodates up to 500 people for receptions, outdoor barbecues and seated events for up to 300 guests.

Additionally, Pelican Hill offers seasonal Golf Academy programs led by Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Glenn Deck.

The Spa at Pelican Hill includes 22 private treatment rooms, a full salon with a private salon treatment room and ample areas for rest and relaxation in the luxurious Aqua Colonnades, complete with herbal steam rooms, saunas and saltwater Roman soaking tubs.

Also situated in Newport Beach, Island Hotel Newport Beach is a five-diamond, four-star luxury coastal hotel featuring 292 guest rooms and suites, more than 23,000 sf of event space, the largest ballroom in Newport Beach, a spa, fitness center and resort-style pool.

In addition to The Resort at Pelican Hill and the Island Hotel, the Irvine Company Resort Properties owns and manages Hotel Irvine Jamboree Center, an independently owned lifestyle hotel; the Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine, featuring a challenging, Tom Fazio-designed public golf course; and several marinas in Newport Harbor and Northern California.

As part of an earlier $57 million expansion and makeover, The Broadmoor’s 6,300-sf Chey­enne Lodge features a new exterior design with split logs and timbers. The makeover also includes a new look for the Golden Bee restaurant and bar, a new activity center in Broadmoor West, and the redesigned and expanded West Lobby Bar.

The Westin La Cantera Hill Coun­try Resort in San Antonio, Texas, debuted its new Westin Workout Fitness Studio. The facility features fluorescent lighting technology to help energize guests’ workouts. The resort opened Henrietta’s, a grab-and-go restaurant, and is adding the San Xavier room, a new meeting space.

The historic, 483-room Omni Homestead Resort, located in Hot Springs, Virginia, offers legendary golfing at its Old Course, built in 1892 and boasts the oldest first continuously used tee in the nation. The Omni’s Cascades Course, host to several PGA Tour contests and USGA championships, features stunning views of the Allegheny Mountains. The property offers 72,000 sf of meeting space and activities such as archery, falconry, kayaking and carriage rides for the romantic.

The 1,500-room Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando features the Shingle Creek Golf Club with an 18-hole course and five sets of tees. The club’s customized website helps groups plan and track golf tournaments. In addition, a GPS system helps organizations spot golf sponsors and pass out tournament notes. Golfweek named the Shingle Creek course “One of America’s Top 40 New Courses.” The course was designed by David Harman and features fairways and waterways stretching along Shingle Creek. Golf lessons are available from the Brad Brewer Golf Academy. Rosen Shingle Creek features 490,000 sf of function space.

A prominent Northwest Native Ameri­can-owned resort is the 370-room Tulalip Resort Casino, located just a 30-minute drive from Seattle. The AAA Four Diamond property, operated by the Tulalip Tribes, features several tribal touches including 25-foot house posts hand carved from a 1,000-year-old red cedar tree. Meeting space totals 30,000 sf and includes the 15,000-sf Orca Ballroom and several breakout spaces. All meeting rooms include Wi-Fi, LCD projectors and drop-down screens. The Oasis Pool is located next to the meeting areas and serves as a unique function space.

The philosophy at Tulalip Resort revolves around a profound reverence for nature and a respect for balance of mind, body, heart and spirit. This sense of harmony endures in T Spa, their exquisite Seattle spa oasis. A luxurious 14,000-sf sanctuary, where guests indulge in stress relieving deep tissue massages and native inspired spa rituals and therapies including steam rooms, cedar saunas and grotto showers. Golf is available nearby at the Battle Creek Public Golf Course and the Cedarcrest Golf Course.

Château Élan, located in Braselton, Georgia, north of Atlanta, is a popular meet­ing des­ti­na­tion that offers cham­pi­onship golf, a full-​production win­ery and a Euro­pean health spa.

The 3,500-acre con­fer­ence des­ti­na­tion, where French provin­cial and South­ern hos­pi­tal­ity com­bine, features a golf course designed around three lakes and two winding streams. There are also villas within walk­ing dis­tance of the Château Élan club­house where the pro shop and golf grille are located.

Golf options include three short course options, golf tournament hosting, hourly golf lessons, a Dave Pelz golf school as well as night golf shootouts

The newly renovated spa at Château Élan offers specialized spa options, such as the signature antioxidant winery treatment.

The Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head, South Carolina, host of the RBC Heritage, which is held annually on the resort’s Harbour Town Golf Links, opened its new Plantation Golf Club, which includes gathering space for large incentive groups (up to 125) with private balcony access. The new Beach Club, opening this summer, has a rooftop bar and private gathering/banquet space to host up to 150 guests.

Recently, golf legend and course designer Jack Nicklaus made one of the last in a series of scheduled visits to the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Baha Mar before the course and the resort open in December 2014. It is one of only a handful of Nicklaus Design courses located in the Caribbean.

“We are proud to be home to a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, one of the premier golf courses in the world. It is part of the collection of diverse, world-class experiences that Baha Mar will offer,” said Paul Pusateri, Baha Mar’s COO, in a statement. “These experiences, along with the superb hospitality of our team, will put The Bahamas on the world stage in a way that has never been seen before.”

During his recent visit, Nick­laus inspected final details on the golf course, which has been grassed with saltwater-tolerant Platinum TE seashore Paspalum grass and is now in the grow-in phase. The 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course at Baha Mar boasts ocean views and a picturesque peninsula green. The golf course is designed to offer “two courses in one,” with the front nine holes providing dramatic play, while the back nine holes wind through inland forest and native habitat.

“I feel blessed that golfers around the world have shown an affinity for our course designs, and Baha Mar should only perpetuate that,” Nicklaus said. “Travelers are going to come to Baha Mar for the casino, the world-class hotels and the beautiful water. We also believe that they are going to enjoy the golf experience that we will provide. While most of the golf courses in The Bahamas are designed on smaller pieces of land and, as a result, are fairly tight, there is plenty of room to play golf on this course, and it will appeal to golfers of every level. Better golfers will appreciate the strategy and the shot values, but every golfer should love the playability and aesthetics of the course.”

The Radisson Fort McDowell Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, will rebrand as the We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center, effective September 30, 2014. Honored as one of the best golf facilities in the country by Golfweek, the resort features two award-winning 18-hole courses designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (Saguaro) and Scott Miller (Cholla).

The new We-Ko-Pa Resort & Confer­ence Center features 246 guest rooms and suites, and luxurious spa treatments at the Amethyst Spa.

Designed by golf legend Greg Norman, the award-winning course at Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club is recognized as one of the most scenic oceanside golf courses in the Caribbean and renowned for its challenging fairways. A golfer’s paradise, prevailing tradewinds promise new experiences with each game.

Sandals offers all-inclusive Caribbean golf resorts on some of the most challenging and prestigious golf courses in Jamaica, St. Lucia and the Bahamas.

Final Thoughts

Golf and spa resorts are ideal for incentives and meetings that seek an idyllic, self-contained paradise to focus on business or pleasure. While the resorts are a plus for golfers, those who aren’t big fans of the fairways can find a range of other entertainment and self-pampering activities during their free time. C&IT

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