How to run an efficient, organized golf tournament

Mike Benzie,
Want to organize a golf tournament? Here are some basic steps with help from a PGA Professional.

Published: Wednesday, July 01, 2015 | 7:57 a.m.

During the last decade at the Country Club of Landfall, PGA Professional Sara Bush has helped organize, oversee and direct golf tournaments that appealed to a wide scope of participants. The 45-hole facility abutting the Intracoastal Waterway in Wilmington, N.C., has played host to the NCAA Women’s Division I Championship, the N.C. Amateur, and an annual college tournament that attracts the best teams in the nation.

Bush and her staff have also helped run dozens of charity fundraising tournaments during that time. Through this experience she’s honed a clear step-by-step process helpful to anyone who plans to run a golf tournament, of any size or nature.

Follow these steps to help ensure a successful event that runs efficiently.

Identify a Goal: Determine what you want to accomplish. Is it to name a city champion? Raise money for a foundation? The tournament organizer needs to have a clear focus on this topic and keep in mind that the average golf course facility looks to book events 8-12 months in advance.

Find help: Running a golf tournament can be a daunting task for one person. Organize a group of volunteers, meet, sit down and iron out the potential details. Appoint committees to look at social functions, prizes, dates, potential sites, transportation, food and beverage, or any other area relevant to the tournament.

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Cost and Format: Determine what type of format best suits the event. Perhaps it’s best ball, maybe a scramble is better. Find out what it’s going to cost to hold your tournament at various courses in your area, and choose the one that fits your budget. Decide on a reasonable entry fee, and when settling on that figure, try to put the focus more on tournament sponsorship. Don’t expect to generate your profit via the entry fee. It’s a competitive market for the average golfer. The committee must be clear on the type of event it wants to have. Making the day about the experience will generate the revenue.

Advertise: Decide the best method to attract players. Social media, press releases, tournament flyers, cold calling large companies and email lists can all work. Develop a web presence early. Advertising can be a time-consuming aspect of planning a tournament. “It can be very overwhelming unless it’s a clearly thought out plan,” Bush said. “It’s critical you get it right the first time.”

Names, News and Numbers: An efficient system of receiving applications is a must, Bush said. If there’s going to be a tee gift such as a golf shirt, ask players to list their size on the entry form. As entries roll in, communicate with the facility and let them know how many golfers you’re expecting. Use the website to send out teasers about golf, the tournament or anything newsworthy. Continue to organize the volunteer base, making certain you have people to handle spotting, beverage cart, registration, silent auction or any other activities planned. More is better, but only if there’s clear organization.

Turn loose: In the week leading up to the golf tournament, allow the experts to call the shots. Have all your information regarding food and beverages in the week of the event (a couple days out). Turn to the experts. Have all your information together. Make their job run smoothly. Some committees almost “over-organize,” Bush said. With all the legwork done, feel confident you can let the pros handle the final details.

Make it the first of many:After the event runs smoothly, follow up with all participants. Pass along how much money the charity raised via the tournament. Arrange to have the tournament on the same course at the same time the following year if it is successful and well-received.

In general, as a tournament organizer, try not to overpromise and underdeliver. Have people pay when they sign up if possible, via PayPal or other internet secure methods. Set realistic fundraising benchmarks. Everyone feels better when a goal is reached or surpassed.

While the bottom line is important to the tournament organizer, participants are more likely to return if the entire day is a fulfilling experience. Some people are interested in the social aspect while others are focused on the golf aspect. Whether it’s a guest speaker or cool prizes, try to develop a unique idea to help the tournament stand out in the minds of the participants.