Bringing Your “A” Game – Hosting The Best Golf Tournament Possible

By Phil Immordino, President and Founder GTAA

We have had the opportunity to work with and talk to thousands of tournaments throughout the U.S. over the past 25 years. We have found that the average tournament only nets $5,000, but is that the only determining factor in judging a golf event? Is it all about the money or is it about experience? Golfers are the real deciding factor. Do golfers enjoy your event and do they keep coming back? That is the big question.


To determine what is a great golf tournament we have to ask ourselves several questions:

  1. Did the golfers have a great time?
  2. Will they be back next year?
  3. Do they tell others about their experience?

If we can answer these questions we will know whether we have a great event or not.

In this article we will discuss several topics.

  1. What is a great golf tournament?
  2. What are the key ingredients?
  3. How do we get there?

After talking with many golfers and tournament organizers we have found what they believe is a great golf tournament. The following is what golfers are looking for in a great event.


Great Golf Course

They want a golf course in great condition. One that is not too difficult and they can play well. Staff that is friendly and helpful. A 4 to 5 hour round, with a fore caddy if possible.   

Great Gifts And Prizes

A quality goodie bag or player gift package that might include a golf shirt, hat, balls, glove and towel. Gifts that they can use and remind them of your event and all golfers want to walk away with something.

To Be A Winner

Winners come back. Golfers love to win. Make sure that everyone is a winner, whether that is 1st, 2nd or 3rd or with an on course game or contest such as; closest to the pin, long drive or putting contest.

Great Food And Beverage

Golfers love to eat. Spend a little more on food and it will go a long way. They will talk about the food. Pay for their drinks, it makes a great impression.


Golfers want to take the day off of work, play golf and call it work. Promote the event as a way to meet other people in business. Insure that during the day everyone gets a chance to meet one another. Try a mixer during the awards ceremony.


A great experience includes the whole day. Starting with a smooth registration process, clear instructions, time to warm up, stretch, and talk with others. A clear scoring process and not waiting too long to get the results and a fun and upbeat awards ceremony.

Now that we have identified what makes a great golf tournament, now the question is how do we get there? What does it take to make this happen? All of this takes money and manpower.


Your secret weapon to making all of this happen is having a volunteer committee that is willing to work. We have found that all successful events have one thing in common, a Volunteer Committee. They are the secret to your success. The right team will contribute to all of the key areas; selling bigger sponsors, recruiting more golfers and acquiring great gifts and prizes.

When putting your committee together there are some important things to look for in individuals.

Heart – Good people that give with the right motives.

Willingness – To do what it takes to be successful.

Ability – The skills that you need to recruit golfers and sell sponsors.

Experience – Working on other events and dealing with people.

Availability – To be at meetings, sell sponsors, recruit golfers and be at the event.

Relationships – Contacts with golfers and sponsors.


Everything costs money. The key to being able to afford the things that make your golf event memorable is selling enough sponsors to cover the costs. The way to sell bigger sponsors is to give them a return for their investment. What sponsors want is to make money from your event. They want more customers and more sales. If you can help them increase their business through your event you will sell more sponsors. Offer sponsor packages that work, packages that give them maximum exposure and the ability to sell products and services.


The way to cover most of your expenses is through golfer registration fees. You want to keep your registration fees affordable yet at the same time offering value. Your goal is to fill your field and cover your expenses. A formula that you can use to make that happen is this: Take your expenses per golfer and then charge 10% more. For example: Green fees $75, food & beverage $25, and gifts $25 per player, totaling $125. You should charge $135. As you build your event you can increase these rates as long as you increase value.

When planning your event you want to bring your “A” game. If you makes sure to give golfers what they are looking for they will keep coming back year after year.

Keys to Selecting a Golf Course and Negotiating the Best Deal

An arts organization in Scottsdale Arizona produced a Golf-A-Thon at one of the nicest golf courses in the country, a private course that charges $250,000 for membership and guests pay $250 for green fees. This non-profit organization was able to use this golf course for free.

Lesson 1: You can receive if you ask.

This group was able to get the course for free by going to the owner and asking him to be on the board of the group. Because he was on the board he was able to offer the course for free for their event. It was a win-win for everyone because the golf course received tremendous exposure in media for their contribution.

Lesson 2: Get all details of the contract in writing.

A small non-profit organization in Tucson made a major mistake when they secured a golf course. They reserved the course at a great rate, but forgot to ask an important question. Is there a minimum amount of golfers for the rate that they were quoted? Because they did not know all of the details of the deal, they were short the minimum number of golfers and the rate was higher than originally thought. Additionally, they forgot to calculate taxes and gratuity, both on the golf and the food. The profit that they had predicted was cut if half. Avoid this mistake by getting all of the details of the contract in writing and ask as many questions as you can.

Choosing a Golf Course

Choosing a golf course is one of the most important ingredients of a successful event. Your golfers will always comment on the course, good or bad. It is part of the tournament that they will remember. If you have a bad course, it will be hard to get them back next year.

When looking for a course, ask yourself these key questions.

  1. What is the driving distance for the golfers to the course?
  2. What is the skill level of the golfers and the course?
  3. Are our golfers attracted to a new course or traditional?
  4. Does the price of the course correlate with the entry fee of the tournament?


The best golf course for a fundraising event is a free golf course. How do you find a free golf course? Relationships are the key. When developing your committee, take time to analyze your contacts. Seek out individuals that have some tie to a golf course. They could be the owner, manager or employee. Most courses will plan 1 to 4 free tournaments per year. You can contact the course directly, although having an inside source will give you a better chance.

Season, Dates and Prime Times Dictate Price

The highest course rates will be charged during peak season and for the prime times that golfers desire to play golf. Every market is different, but will have four different rates to correlate with the seasons. The highest rate for the season with the best weather, the lowest rate for the worst weather or off-season. The best rate for a tournament is the shoulder season. The shoulder rate is charged during the unpredictable seasons when tourism is down and golfers do not play as much. Keep in mind that the course conditions may not be at their best during this time. The off-season time will have the lowest rates. Additionally, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are always the busiest times for a golf course. Monday through Thursday will offer the best rate for tournaments.

Golfers Choice

What do the golfers want? The only way to know for sure what golfers want is to do a survey.

What Golfers Look For

  • A Good Value – A good golf course at a good price.
  • Course Conditions – A course in good condition.
  • A Challenge – A course that is not boring and flat.
  • New Courses – One that they have not played.
  • Good Service – Golfers want to be treated special.
  • Good Food – Good food is a must.
  • Drinks Available – Cart service is very much appreciated.
  • Many Contests – The more contests the better, they’ll have fun.
  • No more than a 5-hour round – They do not want to spend all day there.
  • Friendly Atmosphere – Fun people add to the experience.

Contracting With the Golf Course

Do not agree to have a golf tournament without a contract in writing signed by agents of the tournament and the course. Do not depend on verbal agreements. Put everything in writing before you commit to the course. Here are a few of the key items that should be on a contract: date, location, contact person, services offered, cost per player, tax, gratuity, deposit due, total amount due and date when final count is required. Most importantly…how many players are to participate in the tournament?   

Golf Course should include the following “extras” in the contract:

Cart                             Golfer’s name on cart

Range balls                  Rules sheet

Gift certificates           Free foursome to be given as a prize

Contest materials        Drink service

Bag tag                        Hang sponsor’s signage

Pairings sheet              Scoring of the tournament