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The EMG Events guide to planning a successful golf day
Over the years, EMG Events have organised and run hundreds of golf days for businesses small and large, from informal small groups to corporate scale away days and everything in between. We like to think that we know the ins and outs of organising and delivering a successful corporate golf day.
We have developed this Golf Day Guide to share some of the knowledge we’ve built up over the years and to give you some insight into some of the things that go into organising and running a successful corporate golf day.
You can either read our Corporate Golf Day Guide below, or download it using the following link.
The first step of a successful golf day is setting objectives about what you want the golf day to achieve. This allows for better budgeting, more concise planning, and better measurement.
These objectives don’t have to be overly complex, but the more refined they are, the better you can gauge the success of the golf day.
Why hold a golf day – some objectives
Objectives for holding a golf day could include:
- Building client relationships – a golf day presents an excellent opportunity to spend quality time with clients over a shared interest, allowing for the development of business and personal relationships in an informal environment
- Team building – likewise, spending time over a shared interest can help build teams, developing inter-team and inter-department relationships across the company
- Rewarding clients & teams – make the event special enough and it can be used as an incentive / reward for clients and staff
- Fund raising – potentially combining all of the above, but also raising funds for good causes as well as developing your brand.
Interlinked with the above could be a range of other objectives such as increasing brand awareness (making more people aware of your brand), brand development (associating positive values with your brand), product launches, social media exposure / content generation and more.
It’s important to note that many of the objectives of a golf day will be “soft” (i.e. hard to measure in the short to medium term – like client goodwill for example) and this needs to be reflected in the measurement of the effectiveness of the golf day.
This is where experience helps. If you’ve never organised a golf day, it’s hard to estimate what an appropriate budget will be.
For a basic golf day, the number one cost will be the venue (the local course will be much cheaper than a Championship course - often by an order of magnitude), but there are a lot of other costs which are often overlooked when initially budgeting for a golf day.
For example, basic costs would include; Venue, Catering (refreshments, dinner & drink), Entertainment (during downtime and dinner), Prizes and Event management (planning, organising and on the day itself – which can be significant).
Other costs, depending on how much you want to push the boat out, could include; Branded giveaways (shirts / golf balls / jumpers / umbrellas etc.), Venue branding (if the venue allows for it), Photography (professional not amateur), Pre & Post Event Marketing, Accommodation & Travel.
Most golf days can be held for a modest budget, but the sky can be the limit.
The guest list for your golf day is going to be key, and ideally, you want to get an idea of who you are going to invite as soon as possible.
The key objective here is to match your corporate golf day experience to your guest’s expectations – in terms of venue, location, and experience on the day.
Giving your guests a better experience than they expected will not damage your brand (it might cost more though) but giving them a bad experience will.
Also, is the guest list going to be purely golfer orientated or will it be open to non-golfers (friends & family etc.) – if so, what have you got planned to keep those people entertained.
Defining the structure of your golf day early in the planning process is critical, as this will impact venue selection and much of the planning of the day itself.
Things to consider here include:
- Start / finish times – too early a start and people might have difficulty getting to the venue in time, too late and you might run out of daylight (especially during the winter months)
- Dinner / prize giving – what time and where. Does the venue have an appropriate facility for a formal / informal dinner and what time should this be - too late and people might not hang around for it, too early and a formal style sit down dinner might seem inappropriate.
- Tee off times – sequential teeing off the first tee sounds great in principal, but in practice can lead to lots of waiting around for your guests both before and after their round. This can be mitigated by providing start times for guests and something to keep them entertained after their round. Other options to consider are a 2 tee start (half from the first and half from the 10th) or a shotgun start (where all the players start at the same time on a different hole) – but these are dependent on the availability of the course.
- Competition format – there are a lot of different formats available, and the selection of which one to use depends in large part on golfing ability of your guests. Ideally, you are looking for a format which is both challenging and entertaining for your guests as well as keeping their interest for the whole round regardless of their ability. Popular formats here include Stableford and Texas Scramble which can keep the competition going to the last hole.
Side competitions can also be incorporated to maintain interest – such as “nearest the pin”, “longest drive”.
Getting the venue right for your corporate golf day is key.
You need a venue that is appropriate for your guests as well as for your brand (i.e. the local course might not be suitable if you’re a wealth management company inviting CEO types), with the right facilities for what you want (i.e. function room / ballroom etc.), in the right location (you don’t want people travelling too far) and within your budget.
Make no mistake though, if your targeting hard to reach high value guests holding your golf day at a premium venue can make the world of difference to attendance - an invitation to Royal St. Georges would be hard to turn down for any golfer.
Other things to consider would be the availability of non-golf attractions if your considering inviting non-golfers (i.e. resort / spa) and if a large event, the possibility of exclusivity.
It is worth noting that availability, especially for large groups, can be an issue. Early booking is a must.
Always have a backup plan for your golf day.
There are a lot of things out of your control which can affect your golf day, from extreme weather to a second or localised lock down. Be prepared for it – have a plan B, whether that’s a straight cancellation or rearranging the golf-day to a different date and ensure you have a communication strategy in place to inform your guests – you do not want them turning up to a deserted venue.
Also, consider Event Insurance for your golf day to cover the financial downsides if the worse happens and it has to be cancelled.
A large part of a successful golf day is how you invite your guests and then subsequently manage those invitations.
Ideally, you want to send out your invitations as early as possible to get the date in peoples diaries, even if the fine detail is not available. Asking someone to spend a day out of the office is a big ask, the more notice you can give, generally the better.
Not everyone will come
Not everyone will say yes. Acceptance levels vary significantly from as high as 90% to as low as 60% depending on industry type, venue, date, time of year etc. Only experience can really give you an insight as to what the acceptance rate will be.
Best practice is to have at least two lists – primary / secondary. If your primaries cannot make it, extend the invitation – but you need to do this early enough, so people do not think they have been invited to “fill in” numbers.
Invitations need to be chased (and often chased again) to confirm response, and its good practice to regularly remind those that have accepted so they do not forget.
What to communicate
The invite process also needs to communicate key features of the golf day (time / date / location) as well ascertaining if guests have any special requirements (dietary) and the like.
What many people overlook, is that the invite is not just an invite (if only things were that simple). The invitation has to sell the golf day (enthuse and encourage people to attend) and it has to reflect and support the brand values of the hosting business.
Every step of the invitation process needs to be viewed from a marketing perspective. From the initial invite, the acceptance process and any chasing and reminders.
The invitation process is a key part of the experience, and for those guests that cannot attend, the only part of the experience.
If you want to have any branded items at your golf-day (golf balls, polo shirts, sweaters, umbrellas, and the like) now’s the time to think about it.
A lot of corporate wear and branded items will have a lead time of a couple of weeks, if not more. Whilst you can find shorter lead times, you usually pay for it with a premium price or reduced range.
If you were feeling adventurous you could even individually personalise items for each guest (monogrammed polo shirts for example).
On the day itself, there is only one thing you need to focus on – the experience your guests are having. Your golf-day is your brand for the day – it needs to impress, and it needs to be professional.
First step is to double check everything. Literally everything – from the smallest detail up. Something as small as a misplaced place name for the after-golf dinner can spoil the experience of a guest.
When the guests start to arrive – even the ones which get there early – make sure each and everyone has a personal welcome, ideally from a friendly face or a senior member of the team. There is nothing quite like a friendly welcome, and that first impression will last.
If you need to confirm dietary requirements (there is always a change), handicaps and distribute score cards and freebies (if you have any) – now’s the time. Also, you need to explain to structure of the day, so everyone knows where there meant to be and when – personalised itineraries would be the gold standard.
Don’t leave them with nothing to do
You are host to your guests throughout the entire day. So, if there is any waiting time either before the golf or before the dinner, make sure you have something for them to do - ideally hosted by a friendly face.
Do not expect guests to hang around doing nothing, some won’t.
Team selection and names
There are a myriad ways of creating teams for your golf day depending on your guest list and your objectives.
You can mix and match guests from different businesses (networking opportunities abound) or keep guests from the same business together. Ideally though, if you are hosting key clients it would be beneficial to have their account manager or a senior manager within the team.
Bear in mind, this team selection should follow through to the seating plan for the dinner.
Also, take the opportunity to name teams creatively, either for light heartedness or to reinforce your brand or products.
On the course
Make sure all your guests know the competition rules (including longest drive / nearest the pin / hole in one if you are running them) and are fully kitted up (trolleys / buggies / score cards / scoring devices) before they hit the first tee.
Also, make sure guests know where refreshments are available on the course and where any toilet facilities are. The ideal is to have a refreshment station at the half-way mark.
If you are going to “brand” only one hole, the 1st is usually the one to go for. Likewise, if using a photographer – take the picture here whilst people are raring to go on the first hole..
As mentioned above, once your guests have finished their round, make sure they are not waiting around doing nothing before the dinner / prize giving.
Potentially the highpoint of the day – dinner and prizes. This is where you get everyone in the same room where you can thank them for participating, reinforce your corporate messages and relive some of the highlights.
It doesn’t have to be formal, a BBQ during the summer is just as effective. The key though is timing.
You do not want to have your guests waiting around with nothing to do waiting for dinner, some will not. The trick is to provide entertainment for those guests which finished early, or you could consider something like a Shotgun start where the field will finish at the same time.
If you are considering a more formal dinner, thought has to be given to when this will start and how long a period between end of play and the start of dinner – this can be a bit of a balancing act during the winter months due to daylight.
If a more formal dinner – the seating plan is key. Ideally by team, and ideally with an account manager or similar on each table (after all, you are promoting your business). Guests will be expecting a speech or two about the business, so use this as an opportunity to reinforce the objectives of the day.
And to keep guests engaged right to the end, consider an after-dinner speaker. Depending on your choice of speaker this could be the key draw for some.
A golf-day is a competition – and all good competitions have prizes.
You can do a lot with prizes that can keep your guests engaged throughout the day. There are the obvious ones like overall winner, runner up, longest drive nearest the pin etc. but you can also have booby and alternative prizes (for example, best dressed golfer) which can keep those less gifted players engaged. There is no limit.
In terms of prizes, the best advice is to have prizes that guests would actually want to win. You can’t go far wrong with a decent set of clubs. To off set some of the cost, consider having sponsored prizes.
Go big or go home
Why not offer a really big prize? You can easily get hole in one insurance for up to £50,000 for a modest premium, giving you the ability to really offer your guests a prize worth winning.
These extras are not required, but they can make the difference between a great golf-day and a truly memorable golf day for your guests. Some of these have already been mentioned, and are dependent on the venue and availability:
- Event website – having a dedicated mini-website for the golf-day can help significantly in generating enthusiasm for the golf-day, collating invitations as well as providing a channel to distribute post-event media
- Electronic scoring / electronic leaderboard – make it a proper tournament with live scoring on the big screen
- Buggies for all – everyone loves buggies
- Photos and videos - traditional and aerial
- Branded clothing / memorabilia / equipment – make it personal with goodies. The better quality of goody, the greater the chance it will be used, and this softly reinforces your company brand each time they use the product
- Branded holes – banners and boards on the tees, branded flags on the green
- Club cleaning service – get those clubs in top condition
- Professional coaching – either before or after the golf, some time with a pro to sharpen the swing and putt
- Computer swing analysis – have your guest’s swing analysed
- Trick shot show – see what can be done with a golf ball
- Putting & longest drive competition – give your guests something to do whilst their waiting before or after the golf.
If your catering for non-golfers on the day there is a wide range of other activities that can be arranged, from spa treatments (if the venue allows) to golf lessons to, well, just about anything.
Even for a modest corporate golf day there’s hundred and one things that need to be planned and organised. It’s the nature of the beast that something will, unfortunately, slip through. Experience is key to identifying these slips so its critical on the day to keep track of all the things that went well, and those that didn’t for future reference.
For example, one of the things often overlooked is travel and accommodation. If you are inviting guests from far and wide they might have difficulty in getting to the venue for an early tee time, likewise they may have to leave early to get home. Also, you have to think about how guests will travel home safely after the dinner. Accommodation, for at least some guests and / or your team, may have to be thought about.
Relating back to the objectives of the golf day, it is important to measure the effectiveness of the golf day. Absolute measurements may be hard to attain immediately (for example an uptick in customer orders), but there are a range of proxy measurements which can be used to estimate the success of the event.
All guests should be followed up, ideally with a short questionnaire or similar, to not only thank them for making the event a success, but for their thoughts and opinions on the day.
Likewise, all aspects of the event should be reviewed – what went well, what didn’t. What can be improved, what can be dropped.
These processes will give your business confidence in running a similar event again.
A successful corporate golf day can deliver significant tangible and intangible benefits to your business – from developing relationships with key clients to building ever more effective teams and lots more besides. But they do take effort to do well.
Familiarity and experience counts for a lot in organising and managing events like corporate golf days and knowing venues, suppliers and the common pitfalls of golf days can make the process run more smoothly and more importantly more cost-effectively.
Unless you have experience of corporate golf days EMG Events would always recommend that you talk to someone who has had experience of delivering a successful golf day before you take on the challenge.
EMG Events is quite happy to discuss, obligation free, your corporate golf day with you, we can give you ideas and suggestions how to make your corporate golf day a truly memorable one, and if you would like, manage the whole process for you. From our experience, having a professional event manager run an event like a corporate golf day not only delivers a more professional event but often is significantly more cost-effective to the business.
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Get in touch with EMG Events to find out how we can make your corporate golf day the success it deserves to be.