With the ongoing frantic pace of life, corporate professionals continue to seek ways to alleviate stress and rejuvenate their minds, bodies and spirits. As a result, many meeting planners are considering golf and spa resorts as the ideal venue. Not only do these locales offer exemplary meeting spaces, but they also provide ample amenities to work and play.
For Sheri Trotter, senior vice president of Programs & Special Events at Williamsburg, Virginia-based Snow Companies, Kingsmill Resort, in Williamsburg, offered her 300 attendees what they wanted in a resort for the company’s annual Employee Appreciation Party.
“We are a local company and we needed an exceptional venue for such a special event to honor our employees for a job well done,” she says. “The water view is magical. It provides a certain level of peace when on breaks or when having a meal and, after hours of meetings, that is a great respite. And it automatically comes with every package.”
Kingsmill has two 18-hole golf courses — The River Course and The Plantation Course — and offers the Golf Channel Academy. The Spa at Kingsmill offers facials, massages, body wraps, and salon and beauty treatments, as well as wellness and body treatments.
“Kingsmill is a location where your group will get the business done and will be able to relax as well,” Trotter says. “The amenities offered, the environmental beauty and the attention to detail from all aspects makes a well-rounded meeting/event.”
She adds, “We used a considerable amount of the event space at Kingsmill. The flow is exceptional, ambience is lovely and the service is always spot on. Now, let me tell you about the food. It isn’t your typical conference facility food; it is so much more. It is fresh, creative, plentiful and always good, really good. The culinary crew is very good at what they do.”
Craig Dooley, president at SDI Meetings and Incentives, says golf and spa resorts offer a memorable experience for meeting attendees. As Dooley explains, every meeting and event, no matter the size, requires the basic components — the building blocks to make it productive and valuable for the attendees and the organization.
“The environment in which you wrap those basics are what make good and productive meetings/events great and memorable experiences, and resorts with golf and spa services allow the planner attractive ways to do just that,” Dooley says. Regardless of destination, two of the more popular activities tend to be the spa — and by extension the trendier ‘wellness’ — and golf, so resorts that offer them can help to increase attendance with one or both of them appealing to the attendees.
Krista Emmons, CMP, operations manager of Meetings & Events at Travel Leaders Corporate, has planned both high-level leadership conferences and incentive groups at golf and spa resorts. As such, Emmons says that if leisure activities are incorporated into the meeting or event, hosting an event at a golf/spa resort can help reduce costs as the events are on property, eliminating additional costs of transportation.
“In addition, golf/spa discounts, inclusions and additional concessions can be negotiated during the contractual phase,” Emmons says. If leisure events are optional, the location provides easy access for free time activities for attendees or for potential guests who are not participating in the official program.
Sarah Pinkowski, CMP, meetings manager of the Meetings & Travel department at Enterprise Holdings Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri, recently held an event at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida for about 650 attendees. She looks for venues that provide a high level of customer service.
“Our events are primarily for our employees, and Enterprise has high customer service expectations of its employees, so we look for partners that also value and deliver it well,” Pinkowski says. “Rosen Shingle Creek has been a reliable partner to us since they opened their doors. They know our attendees, anticipate our needs and deliver in every area of their hotel. Their meeting space is ample and allows us to deliver content in a comfortable learning environment. And their culinary and banquet teams work seamlessly together to deliver exceptional dining experiences to large groups. They have fantastic guest rooms, various restaurants, unique shops, a relaxing spa and a beautiful golf course — the total package. In addition, we are able to keep all of our attendees under one roof due to their expansive footprint.”
With the help of Rosen Shingle Creek and Hello! Florida teams, Enterprise Holdings designed two evening events. One took place after the awards ceremony on the Gatlin Terrace, the other took place in the pool areas. “The Rosen’s outdoor areas, exceptional staff and delicious food and beverage options achieved our goal of allowing attendees plenty of time and space to connect with each other but also gave them the chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful fall Orlando weather,” Pinkowski says.
Pinkowski stresses that golf and spa resorts tend to have unique spaces to host a variety of events with varying group sizes. In the past, Enterprise Holdings has arranged golf tournaments and spa activities for different audiences and meetings. “We’ve included a chipping or putting contest with an outdoor reception,” Pinkowski says. “Having these options on property gives variety to our planned activities, and saves time and money in transfer fees versus other off-site options.”
Golf and spa resorts are great destinations for meetings and events mostly because they offer built-in connection activities. Heather Pilcher, CSEP, CMP, CEO and executive producer at Blue Spark Event Design, says her clients consistently tell her that if you can spend 5 1/2 hours on a golf course with a potential or current customer, you provide an opportunity to make a stronger connection with them. “It’s important to help your attendees bond over a common experience, whether it be getting refreshed or relaxed in a spa together or by lifting the competitive spirit at a game — that even the most unathletic folks can play,” Pilcher says. “Plus, there’s always driving the golf cart if you want to connect, but don’t want to play. Whether the event is small or large, both activities are great options for conference attendees.”
Having a meeting or event at a golf resort sets the tone for a meeting. As Carolyn Davis, CMP, owner at Strategic Meeting Partners LLC in San Diego, California, says, compared to a meeting in a downtown convention hotel, a golf- or spa-oriented event speaks volumes as to what an attendee can expect. “These resorts lend themselves to a more health-conscious meeting,” Davis says. “They speak to wellness through exercise and relaxation.”
These resorts lend themselves to a more health-conscious meeting,” Carolyn Davis
One such resort is Sea Island, a golf resort in Georgia that has been providing memorable golf experiences since 1928. In addition, the island resort offers 42,000 sf of flexible indoor meeting space for groups from 5 to 500, as well as a wealth of outdoor meeting venues. Two of Sea Island’s golf courses — Seaside and Plantation — are the site of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic.
“Courses are beginning to understand the dynamics of meetings and events, and are tailoring their offerings to accommodate differently skilled players and non-golfers in the mix,” Davis says.
Twice a year, The OrthoForum, a national physician specialty organization, holds conferences to allow attendees to engage in activities that advance each group’s presence in its local and regional market through benchmarking, innovation, business ventures, networking and best practices.
According to Tina Cakmes, director of conferences, The OrthoForum is a loyal customer of The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, California — having a conference at the resort annually since 2014, with attendance ranging from 200 to 500. “The OrthoForum members always prefer first-class accommodations, top-notch service starting from pre-conference planning, to ease of check-in, excellent banquet service and unmatched customer service,” Cakmes says. “The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel always exceeds our expectations.” As Cakmes explains, after long days in meetings, these types of resorts provide OrthoForum attendees with many options to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of a golf/spa resort.
“This allows them to be refreshed and productive for the next day,” Cakmes says. “We have always enjoyed using a golf/spa resort for our meetings, even though we sometimes alternate to a city location. We find that the hustle and bustle of the large city can take away from the focus of the meeting, and even affect attendance at our evening social events.” Cakmes suggests meeting planners take advantage of what the resort has to offer in their planning. For example, Laguna Niguel has such spectacular weather that “The OrthoForum is able to plan all of our meals outside, looking over the California coastline.”
Because of its ocean proximity, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel features spa treatments borrowed from the ocean to restore balance and nurture the body. The spa features marine collagen, sea salt, smoothed beach stones and seaweed among other natural ingredients.
There is also a collection of top golf courses located around the resort, though many guests choose to play at the adjacent Monarch Beach Golf Links only minutes from the hotel. Among the few ocean courses in the area, Monarch Beach offers a Scottish links-style course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. that presents players with sweeping ocean views.
Located about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, and tucked within the Topa Mountains, lies the Ojai Valley Inn — a favorite among meeting planners looking for an exquisite golf/spa meeting venue. The resort recently introduced The Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn, a 20,000-sf epicurean event center, connecting world-class food culture, indoor/outdoor settings and various events.
The Ojai Valley Inn’s year-round activities include golf on the George C. Thomas Jr.-designed 18-hole championship course and unlimited use of the resorts’ driving range, a full-service tennis center with four hard courts, and swimming, or lounging, at four heated swimming pools and whirlpools. The Inn’s 31,000-sf day spa is the focal point of the resort and boasts two pools, a fully equipped workout room, mind and body studio, spa boutique and an artist’s cottage.
The Southwestern U.S. offers a wealth of spa resorts that have made a name for themselves within the corporate and incentive travel industry. Once such property is The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale. Together, The Phoenician and The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician — the property’s AAA Five Diamond/Forbes Five Star boutique hotel on the resort grounds — can accommodate meetings of all sizes and needs. Combined with the resort’s breathtaking setting at the base of Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale Arizona, the property is able to host signature events designed to exceed each group’s expectations year after year.
And to make the attendee experience that much better, The Phoenician and The Canyon Suites recently completed an extensive three-year transformation — the largest in the resort’s 31-year history. The property was refreshed, with a redesigned main lobby, lounge, pool area, guest rooms and retail corridor; new restaurants; a premiere, three-story Phoenician Spa; a new, two-story construction, The Phoenician Athletic Club, featuring a 4,600-sf fitness center with tennis and pickleball courts, and a restructured 18-hole golf course.
Redesigned and rerouted, The Phoenician Golf Club is an 18-hole course that creates more of a contiguous pattern of play and showcases the beauty of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. There is also a new Club Car featuring the ‘Shark Experience,’ which allows golfers to stream music, live sports, news and entertainment and Greg Norman golf tips. The Phoenician Golf Club also offers updated locker rooms and a refreshed 19th Hole snack shop.
Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale, Curio Collection by Hilton also offers top-notch golf and spa amenities. Its two courses — the 6,811-yard North Course and the South Course, at 6,726 yards — feature boulder formations and other natural, Sonoran Desert terrain that offers challenging play for golfers of all skill levels. In addition, players can get a lesson taught by expert PGA- and LPGA-certified instructors. Attendees looking to relax via a shamanic tipi, meditation labyrinth, organic garden and/or reflecting pond should visit the 33,000-sf spa, which offers 24 treatment rooms, a spa café and learning center.
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, Colorado 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. Recently, The Broadmoor announced that they would soon be offering a luxurious trade show and exhibition hall. Set to debut this spring, the more than 110,000 sf of exhibition space and associated breakout rooms will continue The Broadmoor’s reputation of being a top destination for events.
Of course, The Broadmoor’s two iconic golf courses are ranked among the best 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.
Paulina Curto, manager of the Meetings & Events team at Cvent, says that golf/spa resorts continue to be popular options for meetings and events simply because they typically offer such a wide range of unique offerings and activities. Additionally, many attendees like to blend their business events with their leisure travel — ‘bleisure’ — and booking a venue that caters to a family or leisure vacation can encourage greater event attendance.
“For larger groups, golf/spa resorts offer more options and greater flexibility in accommodating a wide array of needs and schedules while, for smaller groups, these types of resorts often host exclusive experiences like private tee times, custom fitness classes or spa parties — ‘sparties’ — where smaller groups get the VIP treatment in a private area of the spa. The options are endless,” Curto says.
So how can meeting planners make a golf and spa experience not only productive but also pleasant? Dooley suggests the following:
• Pre-block spa and golf tee times to allocate to your attendees.
• Use the event’s web registration system to gather interest and finalize participation.
• Negotiate spa and golf discounts for your group.
• Identify optional wellness activities related to the spa that can be offered as group activities, such as yoga or meditation sessions.
Also, check any routine maintenance for golf courses, especially if considering a shoulder or low season. Are they aerating the course? Reseeding? And if the property is holding a tournament, what are the fees? For the spa, ask about the number of treatment rooms. If you have a large group and going to the spa is going to be a part of the event, make sure the property can accommodate your needs during your time frame.
“Know your audience,” Pinkowski says. “If this is something that would further engage your attendees, then it becomes a great opportunity to collaborate with the venue’s team. Relay your goals and objectives and allow them to create ideas that will work best with the space based on what they’ve done in the past. They are most familiar with all the options available to you so keep communication open when changes happen so that they may adjust accordingly. And give them your vision but allow room for the ideas to grow in order to fully impact the attendee experience.”
Curto says it is important to compare group size with resort size. If you’re hosting a smaller group, you don’t want them to feel overwhelmed in a huge resort and, on the flip side, you might not want to host thousands of people at a boutique resort that may not be able to accommodate everyone’s unique needs.
“Look at offerings and accommodations. If you’re hosting a group that is more focused on wellness, are the spa offerings unique enough and do they offer enough treatment rooms to accommodate your guests?” Curto asks. “If they are a more active group, are there enough tee times, fitness classes, etc., to support all attendees?”
And don’t forget to look at shoulder season or off-season opportunities. Room rates can skyrocket during a resort’s high season, and golf/spa appointments can be more difficult to schedule. If your event dates are flexible, ask about off-season rates. During a slower time period, your guests will enjoy a more exclusive VIP experience on-site and have greater flexibility in scheduling the activities that fit within their agendas.
“Don’t forget about the attendee experience. As an event planner, it’s hard sometimes to remove our preferences from the planning and sourcing process,” Curto says. “While we may think a golf/spa resort sounds like a great idea, if the event is more about getting business done and prioritizing face-to-face meetings, then any golf and spa offerings really don’t matter and the focus should be on finding a venue that has an incredible event space that supports more engaging and impactful meetings.” C&IT