By Steve Watts

Golf courses are sometimes referred to as links — as in one hole being linked to another hole and then another hole, etc. Golf has also become a link between people. Many enduring friendships and business relationships have been “linked” and nurtured on the golf course.

Brothers and sisters and whole families have been linked by golf, and it extends well beyond that to neighbors, business associates and other acquaintances. Spending a few hours together without interruptions on a beautiful day and in a beautiful place can be soothing to the soul.

Beyond those close-knit relationships, the golf course also readily provides a link between business owners, associations, wholesalers, retailers, their employees and their customers — even competitors. And the corporate golf outing has become a common and successful business tool throughout the country. The golf course has especially become a link for corporations, and many times,they are linked to charitable causes.

Shotgun starts and scramble formats have made corporate outings an important part of the golf course business and numerous businesses have made it a core part of their public relations programs. Companies have discovered that it is an enjoyable outing for both its employees and its customers and linking the two together results in improved relationships.

Many charity groups have also discovered that a shotgun-start golf tournament is a good way to raise funds and encourage annual donations. That type of shotgun tournament attracts many groups that are not usually associated with each other, but they come together because of a common interest in a particular charitable cause.

At an 18-hole golf course, the ideal number of golfers for a corporate event is 144 players. That allows for two foursomes on each hole. If the number gets higher than 144, it creates a problem of slow play. While the ideal number is 144 players, a golf course can also hold shotgun starts for smaller groups. The smaller groups need to plan on early morning tee times — around 8 a.m. — so that it doesn’t interfere with the regular play of the golf course.

The scramble format is designed to accommodate players with a wide range of handicaps and can include both men and women in the same grouping. Players tee off from different tees based on handicap. The group then chooses the best tee shot and each player hits the second shot from that position. Again, the group chooses the best shot and plays the third shot from that new position. The same holds true on the putting green where everyone has a chance to make the putts.

It is true that a good scramble score is dependent on the team having someone who hits drives long and straight, but during the play of a hole everyone hits every shot — and even the novice golfer can be helpful to the team from shot to shot and especially on the putting green. Everyone can putt and even the best putters, excluding “gimme” putts, generally miss more often than not.

In order to host large corporate outings, a golf course must have the ability to host 144 players for a luncheon after the golf, and that requires a good kitchen and dining area and the trained personnel to prepare and serve the meal. Many golf courses do not have such facilities and that limits their corporate outings to small groups.

For the last nine or 10 years, John Campos, of Diversified Insurance Group, has been using corporate outings at golf courses to bring many aspects of the insurance industry together.

“We hold a golf outing every year and it is one of the best things we do. It mixes management, staff and customers in a fun, relaxing environment,” he said.

“The key to a successful golf outing is that everyone needs to have fun,” Campos said, “and the scramble format allows golfers of all skill levels to have an enjoyable time together. New friendships are made and everyone looks forward to the event every year. The scramble format makes it comfortable for the novice golfer and is still a rewarding experience for the best golfers.”

Most outings have closest-to-the-hole and long-drive contests on selected holes that add interest and fun to the day.

“Having a golf outing is an ideal way to build relationships with others in the industry, and mixing them together in such a fun environment is good for everyone,” Campos continued. “The customers like it, the employees like it and making friends with one another on the golf course makes the day-to-day business transactions more enjoyable.” 

“Choosing a good site for the event is critical. It makes all the difference,” Campos said. “The location is important. It sets the tone. We like to go to places that have a special beauty to them. Distance isn’t that important when you are going to be spending most of the day anyway. In fact, car- pooling with other associates is part of the camaraderie that is created.”

“The golf course facility is very important, but golf course management is the most important part of putting a corporate outing together. Being wanted and welcomed and going to a place that is well-trained to organize shotgun start tournaments makes a big difference in the success of the day,” Campos concluded. “Of course, the food is also critical. A good plate of food and a full stomach makes everyone feel good about the day. The customers and employees mix and chit-chat and soon forget the bad shots and exaggerate the good ones — and friendships are enhanced. It makes business more enjoyable for everyone.”

Corporations that would like to enhance their public relations with their customers and employees should give serious consideration to a golf outing. It has proved successful for many companies.

Steve Watts is the general manager at Talons Cove Golf Course in Saratoga Springs.

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