By Greg Gerber

With weather getting warmer and days getting longer, now is the time to start planning a golf outing for your organization. Whether it’s a way to connect colleagues, raise money or just have fun, here are some important considerations to make your event a memorable success.


What you hope to gain through the event will influence planning. Whether creating networking opportunities between staff and customers, build- ing awareness of a product or service, or improv- ing relationships among staff, start by envisioning the ideal end results.


There will be a big difference in tone and atmo- sphere if the event targets people who frequently golf, those who haven’t picked up a club in years or a combination of skill levels.

“Above all, planners must keep in mind their guests’ overall experience and enjoyment,” says Justin Gephart, director of sales for Destination Kohler, home to Whistling Straits Golf Course. “Golf por- tions should be challenging enough for experienced players, but also a day of fun for those who are not.”


Are you hoping people will disconnect from the office for a day of fun, or will the tournament kickoff a conference where people are there to collaborate? If people can’t drive to the venue, then you’ll have to factor in logistics and transportation costs. However, the bus trip to and from a course can be used to talk about a new product or provide an overview of the organization.


If you’ll need assistance to pull off a successful event, consider who you’ll ask to serve on the planning team. Golfers will be helpful in evaluating a course, but highly organized non-golfers can be invaluable in running a smooth event. Someone skilled in networking can help recruit golfers to participate.


Even if an organization is picking up all costs, consider selling sponsorships by offering promotional placement on signage, invitations, and even an opportu- nity to address the crowd or host a hole. The more exposure a vendor receives, the more it should cost, such as covering bar costs vs. supplying a raffle prize. If the event is a fundraiser, make sure costs are covered with money left over to support the cause.


The Midwest’s wacky weather can disrupt your best plans. Not having a backup plan is an overlooked element of a successful golf event, says Matt McQueary, director of golf sales and marketing at Big Cedar Golf.

It’s best to have an alternate date for two reasons. First, the same weather system may be in the area the next day, and it’s often hard for local people to take two consecutive days off from work, he explains.

“Be sure to put a soft-hold on another date one month later,” McQueary rec- ommends. “Courses are often booked in advance. So, if your June event is rained out, you may not be able to reschedule to a later date.”

When selecting a venue, he encourages planners to choose a location with a large indoor meeting space so alternative activ- ities can be planned in case of rain.


Food and beverages are an important aspect of successful golf tournaments. Some people prefer breakfast before heading out, while others want lunch served afterward. The key is to allow plenty of time for play before sched- uling meals. Serving lukewarm food that was ready an hour before players arrive will create a bad ending to a great day.

Gephart encourages planners to account for the event’s entire food and beverage offering, including on-course service. Preferences of each group make a difference in planning for enough beverage carts to be staffed and stocked appropriately. Bringing in a local craft brewery, restaurant or food truck to provide refreshments at a hole can also be a nice touch.


Most 18-hole rounds will take 4 to 4 1⁄2 hours with experienced golfers on a familiar course. Tournaments employing a full 120-plus player “shotgun start” with everyone beginning at once can actually take up to 6 hours because golfers don’t play at the same speed or skill level, says McQueary.

To speed play and ensure everyone ends around the same time, he suggests imposing rules like picking up a ball and moving on after a double bogey.

Courses can also adjust speed of play by moving tees forward to accommodate shorter drive shots by casual golfers, explains Greg Bishop, general manager of the PFAU Course.


Golf is a great way to spark conversations, so plan a good mix of team members to encourage mingling. Skill level isn’t as important as personalities, says Don Helinski, director of operations at Forest Dunes Golf Club.

“The person who cares about score, rules and etiquette won’t mesh well with someone who is always on the phone or talking during someone’s backswing,” he explains.

“The bigger the tournament, the less intimate it can be and it’s difficult to accommodate everyone,” he adds. “Plan time for quality interaction among teams and players. Ideally, eight to 12 teams of four or five players works best. For really large groups, set up 16 teams, not 18, to avoid slowing play.”


Often with tournaments, there are two or three players in contention for lowest score. The challenge is to keep others interested, too. That’s where contests can help, especially those offering a combination of skill and luck.

Awarding prizes for being closest to the pin is popular and so is longest putt. Gephart suggests fun contests that anyone can do, such as chipping golf balls into a bathtub to earn a prize.

Golf outings are a great way to bring a group together to develop or strengthen relationships, offer an escape from the office and take time to celebrate achievements. With these 10 tips in mind, you’re event is certain to be a success.


While most large communities have a golf course or two, here are five of the Midwest’s best links, experienced in hosting group events.

  • Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wis.
    Site of the 2020 Ryder Cup and several major championships, Whistling Straits boasts two golf courses designed by Pete Dye. The Straits Course is set along the majestic shores of Lake Michigan, while the adjacent Irish Course offers striking features reminiscent of layouts in Ireland featuring ponds, grassland and dunes. Destination Kohler’s golf courses and other amenities, including a 500-acre wilderness preserve, the Kohler Waters Spa, and five-star accommodations at The American Club and The American Club Carriage House, provide a gracious and flexible setting for a memorable guest experience.
  • Forest Dunes, Roscommon, Mich.
    Located in lower Michigan, Forest Dunes offers five golf courses, three of which rank in America’s Top 100, according to Don Helinski, director of operations. The Loop is an 18-hole reversible course using the same greens and fairways; however, direction of play changes daily, which requires a completely different navigation strategy. Onsite, Lake Ausable Lodge is ideal for smaller groups with 11 standard rooms and two suites. Large groups stay in two- and four-bedroom villas as well as three- to five-bedroom cottages. Enjoy a meal in the Adirondack-style clubhouse.
  • Big Cedar Golf, Ridgedale, Mo.
    Created by the founder of Bass Pro Shops, Big Cedar Golf offers five courses, including Payne’s Valley, the first public golf course designed by Tiger Woods and TGR Design. The most challenging is Ozarks National, which is carved into the Ozark Mountain landscape. Offering 317 private accommodations, Big Cedar Lodge has space for groups of all sizes. Multiple on-site restaurants ensure a variety of formal and casual dining options, including a dinner cruise aboard a 62-foot luxury yacht.
  • Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio
    Home to three different courses, Firestone Country Club hosted the 2021 Bridgestone Seniors Players Championships as well as other professional golf tournaments over the years on the South Course. However, North Course hosted the American Golf Classic and World Series of Golf. The club offers lodging options with standard and premium rooms as well as villas. Options for formal and casual dining include the club’s infamous cream pies.
  • PFAU Course, Bloomington, Ind.
    With 147 bunkers spread over 18 holes, Indiana University’s PFAU Course has hosted many Big 10 championship golf tournaments. That makes it a big draw for people wanting to play on courses used by touring pros. When the round is over, players can relax and enjoy a drink or pub-style dining options in the 5,000-square-foot clubhouse.