Tips on Running a Successful Golf Tournament

Running a golf tournament requires time, dedication, communication and numerous sponsoring companies. Here’s a checklist from Mike Dixon, a partner at Intrepid Marketing Group, who has put together tournaments for the likes of golf legends Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange and Dave Love III, as well as NFL stars Torry Holt and Dre’ Bry, and has handled the public relations and marketing for the well-known Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic for 17 years.

Send out formal invitations
A personal letter always makes the recipient feel special and ensures a good turnout. “Invites are really important because if you create a personal invitation and send it out well in advance, the attendance works out nicely,” says Dixon. “We usually send them at least a month in advance and then do a follow-up asking whether the person is attending.”

Set a budget and respect it. 
Golf tournaments are unique in that the biggest expense, and the first on the list, is the cost of the round. After that price is set, it’s time to figure out the other details of food, drinks, gift bags, prizes and anything else that is being provided. 

Consider food and drink carefully. 
Alcohol and food get very expensive. Ask yourself, “How much food are you going to give somebody on the course, how many drinks are they allowed to have before they start paying for their own, how will the food get from the clubhouse to the volunteers on the course, and who wants what food?” Dixon says.

Don’t forget the giveaways (and of course, you wouldn't.) 
“Golfers are notorious for appreciating goodie bags,” Dixon says. “Yes, they may be giving money to charity, but they will always ask, ‘What’s in the bag?’ ” Intrepid takes ordinary hats and embroiders the players’ names onto them; it’s more sophisticated and people are more likely to wear the hat after the tournament. The key is to add some- thing that sets your company apart from the other sponsors. “People oftentimes give out golf balls with the company logo on it, and those balls are gone before the third hole,” he says. “I like to give one golf ball; that way it’s more significant and they won’t go and hit it into the trees.” Other options are towels, divot tools, T-shirts, polos, visors, golf tees and yardage measures.

Offer great prizes. 
Always incorporate contests and prizes into the tournament, so participants have several things to shoot for. “Have a prize for the person who hits the longest drive and gets closest to the pin, and if you want to get people back together at the end of the event, I recommend some kind of giveaway or trophy so people will stick around, eat the food and hear your message before leaving,” Dixon says.

Trophies for the winners are always well received, especially if they can be engraved and personalized. “It’s about getting your message and your branding out,” Dixon says, “so if I can get something that’s nice enough that someone will put it in the lobby of their company, we are noticed. We also give out new equipment such as golf bags, drivers, other clubs or something of that nature.”

Divide and conquer.
Running large tournaments often requires several dozen teams that are each dedicated to a different task. “For the Jimmy V Golf Classic, the staff and volunteers are working on this thing 24/7, year round,” says Dixon. “There’s an exec director and marketing team who work full-time selling sponsorships and other logistics. We have meetings year round and have groups specifically designated to golf operations, the events that surround the tournament (concerts, dinners, etc.) and groups who handle PR and marketing.”