When insurance and financial advisers invite clients or prospects for a round of golf at the Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, or the Village Club of Sands Point on Long Island’s North Shore, they almost always play to win, to gain the respect of their golf partners to show they are as proficient on the greens as in business.
For many insurance and financial firm representatives, networking on the golf course is an important part of their professional and personal lives. Any avid golfer will attest to the fact that you learn quite a lot about someone during the round, and meeting planners have long known that getting their groups onto the greens at out-of-town conferences and meetings is not only good for their mental and physical health, but it’s good business as well.
“For me, a business conference or meeting that includes golf offers the best of both worlds,” said Brian Boder, a financial adviser for Northwestern Mutual in New York. “It is a sport that I truly enjoy playing, even by myself, so if I am golfing with Northwestern colleagues, or prospective clients, and the sun is shining, and the resort course is groomed and not crowded, then the business we may talk about on the course becomes a pleasurable activity, and the world is great.”
After the difficult years during the recession, when the media was scrutinizing every corporate meeting for over-the-top-expenses, meeting planners for insurance and financial firms are cautiously beginning to book client and employee meetings, seminars, workshops, incentives and other events at resort properties that offer the three amenities that foster relaxation, relationship building and client/prospect networking — gaming, golf and spa.
Although most meeting planners do not make the spa or casino amenity a major component of their resort event, these group activities often become morale boosters and offer amazing networking opportunities when arranged correctly and in good taste.
The following resorts are all able to offer those important three amenities that help transform routine conferences and meetings into productive, healthy and engaging events.
The Crest Insurance Group stayed at the 246-room We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, in March 2016, with approximately 25 brokers and their spouses. “With offices in Tucson and Scottsdale, we needed a convenient, yet, somewhat secluded location to have a broker meeting,” says Jason Prosser, vice president of the Tucson-based Crest Insurance Group. “This was the first time in a while we had a joint family/business function, so We-Ko-Pa was perfect for all who attended.”
The first day was dedicated to golf, with a scramble tournament in which almost all of the brokers participated. The golf course was in excellent condition, the greens were great, and the course was not too tough, but not too easy either, so everyone had fun. This was followed by dinner that night, and an early morning meeting for two to three hours on Saturday at the Wassaja Conference Center, which offers 25,000 sf of meeting and event space.
Prosser said that all the recreational amenities offered by the property were well suited to the individual brokers and their spouses or significant others. “The participants and significant others who did not want to play golf were treated to a spa or massage treatment. Plus, the pools, hot tubs and casino were a bonus for everyone.”
The Fort McDowell Casino, adjacent to the resort, offers 150,000 sf of casino space. The casino’s Lucky 7 Saloon offers free entertainment nightly, and five dining venues provide everything from sushi to New York-style deli to the variety of the Red Rock Buffet.
We-Ko-Pa’s Clubhouse is oriented to take advantage of the many spectacular views of the McDowell Mountains, Red Mountain, Four Peaks and the Superstitions. The two 18-hole championship courses, Cholla and Saguaro, designed by golf course veterans Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Scott Miller, have been named “Best Resort Course” in the country by Golfweek magazine. Rolling fairways surrounded by Arizona’s desert environment provide a memorable golf experience.
At the Amethyst Spa and Fitness Center guests can choose from a variety of indigenous spa therapies including the sweat lodge stone massage and Amethyst facial.
For meeting planners who want to arrange offsite events, the resort is convenient to horseback trail rides, cattle drives and themed cookouts at Fort McDowell Adventures, a private 25,000-acre desert recreation area only minutes away.
The resort is managed by, and maintains close cultural ties to, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, and the name “We-Ko-Pa” means “Four Peaks” in the language of the Yavapai Tribe.
Another Scottsdale resort appealed to Bloomington, Illinois-based Country Financial. “Talking Stick is an amazing resort, there is so much to do on the property,” says Jeff Koerner, senior vice president of agency at Country Financial. The firm was at the resort last October for their Sales Team National Advisory Council meeting. “The meeting rooms are very professional and the PSAV team was responsive to all of our needs. The casino and golf are both onsite, and the dinner, as well as the beautiful view, at The Degree 270 are amazing. It was also very helpful to us that the property assisted our attendees with coordinating transportation to Topgolf.” Topgolf is an indoor entertainment complex featuring hitting bays and golf games using computerized golf balls to track shots.
Talking Stick was booked for Country Financial’s event by California-based Lynette Owens & Associates. “The Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale offers great rooms, meeting facilities, and golf and spa amenities for many of our financial clients, plus it offers a casino that is as nice as any casino hotel in Las Vegas,” says Debbie Grassi, vice president of sales at Lynette Owens & Associates. “It is wonderful for those companies that do not want the distractions of the Las Vegas Strip and the competition from other large city-wide conventions. The meeting space at Talking Stick is centralized and easy to get to, and outside function space and their Degree 270 venue offer great views of the Scottsdale Valley and beautiful sunset views of the Arizona mountains. Golf is on-property, which makes easy coordination for tournaments and other golf events.”
The 496-room Talking Stick Resort, offers nightly entertainment, excellent dining venues, spa services, a popular casino, and cultural displays of the Pima and Maricopa tribes. Standing 15 stories high the hotel is the tallest building in Scottsdale, providing spectacular views of the city and the surrounding mountains from guest rooms and the top floor Orange Sky Restaurant.
The Talking Stick Golf Club, adjacent to the resort, offers two professional courses managed by Troon Golf. The North course is a Scottish links-style course with deep bunkers, while the more traditional South course has tree-lined fairways and four holes with water hazards.
The 240,000-sf Casino Arizona boasts not only more than 700 slot machines, but the largest poker room in the state.
The 14th floor Spa at Talking Stick has 11 treatment rooms with services inspired by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s culture, located within a luxurious and soothing setting.
The hotel’s conference center has more than 113,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space with the flexibility to accommodate groups up to 2,000 participants.
Entertainment options include a 650-seat Showroom offering live entertainment; the Degree 270 weekend nighttime club; a Players Sports Bar; and Shadows — an elegant martini and cigar bar.
“The Coeur d’Alene Resort was an amazing venue for Northwest Farm Credit Services to celebrate our employee breast cancer survivors and breast cancer awareness volunteers meeting last August,” says Jennifer Rohrer of Northwest Farm Credit Services in Spokane. The 338-room Coeur d’Alene Resort is located in the scenic lakeside town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “The staff was so friendly and treated us like family, which included picking up the group at our home office and having a delicious lunch ready for us when we arrived. We had some of the best spa treatments we had ever received. All-in-all it was a phenomenal experience from start to finish.” Rohrer and Northwest Farm Credit Services sponsored with the American Cancer Society and used the golf course for an event called Coaches vs. Cancer Golf, an annual tournament and fundraiser that is held at the resort’s Stensgar Pavilion at the Circling Raven Golf Club.
Coeur d’Alene Resort’s Circling Raven Golf Club course is located on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, on the other side of the lake. Golfers can drive there from the resort in five minutes, or take the shuttle boat across the lake in about seven minutes. The course’s famous Floating Green on the 14th hole is one of the best known in golf. Golfers who arrive by the wooden boat are greeted by their personal forecaddies, and the lake makes a spectacular backdrop.
The par-71, 6,803-yard course, designed by Scott Miller, features stunning lake views from all 18 holes and is contoured so golfers are not able to see other golfers. There’s also a 6,500-sf clubhouse and a practice course that occupies 25 acres.
The 15,000-sf Spa Ssakwa’q’n, with hot and cold tubs, features a heated pool area, which is open to the sky year-round. Because of the golf course and the increase in year-round business meetings, the spa has seen an increase in the number of male guests, who now comprise 35 percent of the spa’s business, while the national average is just 20 percent.
The resort offers more than 32,000 sf of conference, exhibit and meeting space in 25 meeting rooms, including the beautiful Hagadone Event Center with its 11,000 sf of indoor/outdoor function space overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene.
“Beau Rivage is an excellent resort with great amenities,” says Dan Gleason, president of Associated Risk Managers South in Madison, Mississippi. The 1,740-room Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, an MGM Resorts International property, is located in Biloxi on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast “They know how to take care of you, from the poolside service to the top-notch spa and exercise facilities,” he says. “The meetings facilities have flexible space for big general sessions to small breakout venues, and the staff is great to work with, too. Fallen Oak is a fantastic golf experience, it is really much more than just an excellent golf course.”
The Beau Rivage Fallen Oak Golf Course hosts the annual Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic with the best players on the Champions Tour. Unique among Gulf Coast courses, Fallen Oak features dramatic elevation changes, which course designer Tom Fazio incorporated among the more than 4,000 oaks, magnolias, pine and other hardwood trees that join the ponds, streams and wetlands that frame the course.
Aside from the elevation changes, and Fazio’s design tactics of using the DeSoto National Forest and all its natural elements as a template, the multimillion-dollar course also features gently rolling terrain and pecan orchards. Each year all three tournament rounds of the Mississippi Golf Resort Classic are broadcast live on the Golf Channel.
Beau Rivage has recently completed several enhancements in the resort’s 85,000-sf Mediterranean-themed casino, including a redesigned High Limits salon.
The award-winning Spa and Salon at Beau Rivage offers more than 100 services in 21 treatment rooms and many innovative treatments, including the exclusive Art de Beauté Body Treatment, available at just five spas nationwide.
“MGM Resorts International operates some of the finest resort spa facilities in the world, and the newly renovated Beau Rivage Spa and Salon is no exception,” says Natalee Lynch, director of spa and salon operations.
“I chose Rocky Gap because of the central location to my Erie Insurance agents that operate in western Maryland,” says Jason Arndt, district sales manager for the Maryland-based company. “After reviewing the facility online, and speaking to folks at the property, I just knew this place would deliver! The executive boardroom and private dining room were great for our formal meetings with agents and also for several informal gatherings.”
Located in western Maryland’s Allegany County, Rocky Gap Casino Resort overlooks Lake Habeeb and Rocky Gap State Park, and is about eight miles from Cumberland, Maryland. The property offers 198 guest rooms and suites, a conference center and a 24-hour casino.
Rocky Gap’s golf course is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and the scenic vistas and mountain lake provide a perfect backdrop for the award-winning Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. The Rocky Gap course was included in Golf Week magazine’s list of the best courses to play in Maryland, and one of the best casino courses in the country.
The property provides more than 10,000 sf of indoor and outdoor space, including the 5,000-sf Allegheny Event Center offering lake views.
The Spa at Rocky Gap Casino Resort has Spa Day Packages that range from 50 minutes to four hours of various treatments, including 12 different massage options.
Some attendees might be surprised that Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip, with 3,960 guest rooms and 300,000 sf of meeting space, offers the opportunity for a round of golf. Hotel guests can book a tee time at Cascata, which is 30 minutes away. The scenic par-72 course winds among streams, canyons and lakes. “Cascata is the perfect location for a corporate golf outing,” says Eric Dutt, vice president of golf operations at Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas. “This Rees Jones-designed course has been a top 100-rated facility since it opened, and now groups can take advantage of this exclusive course, beautiful clubhouse and unique outdoor spaces to create a memorable golf experience.”
The Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace has 48 treatment rooms that can be utilized by small to large groups, and can easily accommodate a buy-out.
Owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, is the largest resort casino in North America, with four AAA Four Diamond hotels and 150,000 sf of meeting and event space, including the largest ballroom in the Northeast.
The Lake of Isles Golf Club, part of the Foxwoods resort complex, features the Rees Jones-designed North Course, which is built around 900 acres of woodlands and a 90-acre lake. The club’s 4,500-sf ballroom features floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the lake.
The Fox Tower has the 21,000-sf G Spa and Salon, which includes a eucalyptus steam room, sauna, waterfall whirlpool, indoor lap pool and full-service fitness center. The Grand Pequot Tower’s Norwich Spa has a whirlpools, steam room, sauna and lounge area.
Of course, Foxwoods offers extensive gaming facilities as well, with the only $1 blackjack tables in Connecticut and the largest poker room on the East Coast.
At a large financial group meeting at the property in February it was too cold for golf, but the group did use the resort’s spa services and the gaming facilities. The attendees participated in the Casino 101 activity, where the resort arranges for blackjack tables and dealers, and roulette wheels in one of their private rooms away from the casino. The dealers can provide either a casual, educational experience for the participants not familiar with gaming, or run it like they do in the casino for experienced gamers. Either way, Casino 101 participants are always playing for sponsored prizes or points. No cash is ever involved during the off-casino group events.
Mohegan Sun, located in Uncasville in eastern Connecticut, will debut the new Earth Tower this fall that will add meeting space and another 400 deluxe guest rooms to the resort’s current 1,200-room Sky Tower. The Convention Center at Mohegan Sun offers more than 100,000 sf of meeting and function space, and the 10,000-seat Arena can be transformed into another 30,000 sf of exhibition space.
A short drive from the resort, the Mohegan Sun Golf Club’s 18-hole championship golf course is open to all resort guests and the public. The course was originally designed by the late architect Geoffrey Cornish, now remembered as one of the country’s most renowned and prolific golf course designers.
The 20,000-sf Elemis Spa offers a wide range of treatments and services in its private treatment rooms, a full-service hair and nail salon, state-of-the-art fitness center and separate aerobics room.
The Warren Group, a long-established, Boston-based real estate and financial information firm, holds two annual trade shows at Mohegan Sun. “We will continue to return to the property due to the overall exceptional service they provide,” says George Chateauneuf, the firm’s director of business media. “Our conference and banquets managers work diligently with us to ensure our events run flawlessly and that our expectations are exceeded. The convention center is ideal for our needs, the meeting room locations work well, and the hotel rooms are spacious and clean. Our attendees and exhibitors tell us all the time how thrilled they are to be onsite and how much they enjoy staying at the hotel. This positive feedback ensures we’ll be returning for years to come.”
Caesars Atlantic City’s newly renovated second floor has the largest contiguous gaming area in Atlantic City. Located on the boardwalk side of the casino is the Asian gaming area called Palace East, with a design layout influenced by the direction and the placement of elements to influence players’ luck and to create the luckiest seating in the gaming pit. The 1,144-room hotel, with 28,000 sf of meeting space, also houses Qua Baths & Spa featuring the natural, healing powers of water in three distinct pools.
Just 15 minutes from Caesars Atlantic City is the Atlantic City Country Club, one of the oldest and most prestigious country clubs in the country, and open to hotel guests. This famous course is where the term “birdie” is said to have been invented, and where high-profile golf professionals and celebrities, including Arnold Palmer, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Bobby Jones and many others have played. The present 6,577-yard course, designed by Tom Doak, has a challenging layout and picturesque coastal views. The original 1897 clubhouse is still part of the now renovated and expanded facility that is used today. The Country Club’s Grand Ballroom offers banquet seating for up to 260 guests.
The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa and the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel are close to Traverse City, on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Both properties are under the same ownership, but are separate businesses located just eight minutes’ drive from each other. There is no onsite gaming at the Grand Traverse Resort, but complimentary 24-hour shuttles run between the Turtle Creek Casino and the resort, offering no-wait rides between the properties.
Both hotels and the casino are owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. With three professionally designed, 18-hole golf courses (The Bear — a Jack Nicklaus signature course, The Wolverine — a Gary Player signature course, and Spruce Run — designed by Bill Newcomb) and a two-story, 7,000-sf full-service resort spa, the Grand Traverse Resort complex offers great amenities for insurance and financial groups (one firm recently returned for its 29th visit). For groups or family-oriented meetings and incentives, there are resort homes on the golf course as well as one-, two- and three-bedroom condo accommodations.
Flying into Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport, just seven miles and a free shuttle van away from the Grand Traverse Resort, is one of life’s most rewarding travel experiences. The terminal is Arts and Crafts/Frank Lloyd Wright-style inspired and reflects the openness and natural setting of the Grand Traverse region. The terminal complex is reminiscent of a north woods lodge, complete with a stone fireplace, often lit with a flickering fire on cold or snowy days.
Michigan produces 70 to 75 percent of the tart cherries grown in the United States, and the Traverse City area — the Cherry Capital — grows most of them. In July and early August, the countryside around Traverse City is dotted with stands, markets and u-pick signs offering cartons of sweet, dark cherries, a perfect field trip for a business group looking for a relaxing and unique break from meetings — which, of course, would add a fourth option to the winning trifecta. I&FMM