Ben Hunter grew up in Burlington, Iowa, not too far from Spirit Hollow Golf Course. Now living in Indianapolis, he orchestrates an annual golf outing back in his hometown.

“The course is four and a half hours away from Indianapolis, but for what we spend to go there, it is one of the best values around,” he explains. “Spirit Hollow is consistently ranked in the top three for Iowa courses. It’s a challenging course with everything we need right there. Plus, we don’t pay a lot to enjoy the experience.”

Hunter has hosted as many as 54 individuals for his golf excursion, but he tries to keep it in the low 30s to make it more manageable. Players rely on the resort’s shuttle service to take them to the local casino. At the resort, participants run a tab the whole week rather than paying for food and drinks every time.

Spirit Hollow is also more challenging for Indiana players who may be accustomed to golfing on relatively flat ground. “Unlike many golf courses in Indiana, the terrain at Spirit Hollow is very undulated. There are multiple elevated tee boxes where you are required to drive the ball 80 to 100 feet down to the fairway,” says Hunter.

A big benefit for event planners is the lack of staff turnover at the resort. “We see the same people every year,” Hunter confirms. “The staff knows what we like and need, and they have everything ready for us.”

Hunter sets up competitive play so golfers can earn points for both individual and team performances. Pairing players with different people each day lets them play against various skill levels. On the last day, players ranked in the top 30% face off in a four-hole shoot-out to determine the winner. “Spirit Hollow allows the other participants to take carts out to watch the shoot-out, which adds to the excitement. Later that evening, the resort puts on a big barbeque for us,” he recounts.

Hunter encourages meeting planners to ensure a photographer can capture pictures of the pairs, extracurricular activities and a big group picture to remember the excursion.

Many golf courses offer more than just traditional golf as well. “We enjoy Shankopotamus Golf Academy because some guys can be hitting balls on the lighted range at night, while the rest can be watching a jumbo TV on the back veranda or playing cards,” he says. “Participants like bouncing around to various activities or talking with others.”

He cautions planners not to schedule too many golf rounds so there’s time for social activities. “When we first started, we played 36 holes a day. Today, we don’t play more than 27 holes and often just 18,” acknowledges Hunter. “Players don’t want to be forced to play golf all day. They want time to socialize, too.”