Golf tournaments are great for most ages, allow participants to spend time outdoors getting to know one another, often raise money, and so much more, making them one of the most fun sports-related events to plan. Not sure how to organize a golf tournament for a charity, fundraising event, or social outing? We’ve put together this step-by-step guide to help you do exactly that.
With more complex activities and scheduling than some other event types, learning how to organize a golf tournament will require some advanced planning. Issues such as player health and safety as well as weather concerns and golf cart maintenance make the process challenging — even for experienced event professionals.
Before getting started, keep in mind that every tournament — and every planner, golf course, and golfer who may enter — are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But by exploring the information in this post, you’ll be on your way to getting it right from the get-go thanks to expert tips, detailed instructions, and other relevant advice.
Learn how to organize a golf tournament in 7 easy steps
1. Think big picture
Consider each of the following questions as you begin the planning process.
Question 1: Who is this event for?
Before you start organizing a golf tournament, consider the people who will attend and the format they’ll most enjoy. For example, if your golf tournament is a fundraiser for a children’s charity in which children participate, you may want to stick to a smaller number of holes. Or, separate the kids from the adults with the option to play mini golf instead.
Question 2: Why are you organizing this golf tournament?
Once you have your audience and a general idea of what the event should look like, you’ll need to clearly define your event goals. Many golf tournaments center around a financial goal. You may also choose to measure success according to the number of participants, player satisfaction, or as a dry run for future iterations. But no matter what, the “why” is critical.
Question 3: How much will it cost?
How much will it cost to host the event and how much will it cost for people to attend? To answer both of these questions, list all of your expenses and draft a budget. Get a quote from your top preferred golf courses as well as caterers and event staffing agencies. After, assess what other expenses you’ll need to cover. Venues may offer banquet tables and other large items, but you may have to take care of decor and signage.
As for ticket pricing, it’s tempting to estimate how many people will attend, but this method isn’t always practical. Instead, determine how much you’d need to charge an approximate number of participants (i.e. 0-25, 25-50, etc.) in order to make a profit after expenses. Keep in mind that you may offer extra opportunities for donations through activities such as raffles, silent auctions, mulligan purchases, and so on.
You should also include a portion of your unallocated funds for surprise last-minute expenses.
2. Choose your venue
No matter what format you think you’ll do, having a team of professionals will make all the difference. “Choosing the right golf course team will make the process smoother,” says event planner and marketing expert Kinsey Kandray. In an interview with Social Tables, she said little details such as making sure your chosen course uses email for communication (“you’d be surprised how many don’t”) are important.
Not sure where to start looking? Explore the Cvent Supplier Network to find, request, and book venues — golf courses included — all across the world.
3. Pick your team
No matter how experienced you may be at planning other event types, there can be a big learning curve when you first learn how to organize a golf tournament. And if you’ve never played golf before, you’ll want to bring in someone who’s familiar with the sport, advises Kandray. They’ll be able to better anticipate player needs, give you the lay of the land when choosing a venue, and help make sure your vision is realistic.
You’ll also want a good volunteer team. “There’s no way that I could have done those days without (my volunteers’) help,” says Kandray. Look for dedicated volunteers who have the availability and can be counted on to show up.
You’ll also want to determine the best way to communicate with your team once everyone is on board. Tools such as Social Tables’ event diagramming software make it easy for event organizers like those that run the Phoenix Open to organize and arrange all of their event venue layouts both indoors and outdoors.
4. Choose your date
“Planning ahead as early as possible will help you get the best dates and tee times,” says Kandray. “That way your day can go exactly as you envisioned it.”
Check for expected weather while you’re at it. Too much rain or heat will require a backup plan. While this may be difficult to do months in advance, having a general idea of annual trends will help you map it out. And keep in mind that other events may affect venue availability in your area as well, so it may be a little more difficult during things like peak wedding season.
5. Plan other offers
It’s important to keep in mind that golf alone is great, but golf with fun extras is even better. Players are already spending a lot of money on your charity or fundraiser, so it’s respectful to show your gratitude with activities such as a post-round BBQ. Coffee, donuts, and warm breakfast sandwiches are also great ideas.
You may also want to include souvenirs people will actually use. Practical items such as golf balls, reusable water bottles, and high-quality golf hats are all welcome. If you can, prioritize the design over plastering your logo all over everything. People will always remember where they got it from, but they might not want to wear it if it makes them feel like a walking billboard.
Add some funny challenges, games, and superlative awards to the mix for the actual golfing portion while you’re at it. Some fan favorites include:
- Longest Drive. Select a dedicated hole — preferably a long par 4 par 5 with minimal hazards — and award the individual(s) who hit the ball the furthest on that hole with a prize at the end of the day.
- Closest to the Pin. Similar to the Longest Drive, this is awarded to the individual(s) who hit the ball closest to the hole from the tee on a selected par 3.
- Best Clothing. Silly costumes are encouraged, especially if there is a theme for the day.
- Best Mulligan. Whoever loses the most golf balls is the winner.
- The Tree Hugger Award. A prize for whoever hit their ball into more trees than holes during the day.
- Helicopter Ball Drops. According to the fundraising experts at OneCause, “participants enter the contest by purchasing a golf ball with a unique number on it. Then, at a designated time, you drop a large number of golf balls onto a golf course from a helicopter, crane, or cherry picker. The owner of the ball closest to the hole wins a prize!”
- Silent Auction. Give players one ticket included in their main event pass so they don’t feel like they have to get their wallet out over and over again.
6. Promote and sell tickets
Now that you’re getting the hang of how to organize a golf tournament, it’s time to discuss getting people to your event through the power of event marketing. The good news is that if you’ve ever planned an event before, the following strategies will be at least somewhat familiar to you, as they are all-around great tips for any campaign.
Start by creating a website, choosing an event registration app, or listing your event on a third-party event website so potential players can find you. This should include all event details and make next steps easy to follow.
Some tools to help promote the page include:
- An email list and newsletter provider
- Social media accounts
- SMS texting
- Posters, flyers, and postcards
- Press releases
- A list of local news outlets and potential promotion partnerships
If you have a small marketing team, start by drafting an email newsletter campaign for your existing list that contains a:
- Save the date message
- Ticket-release countdown message
- Start of sale message
- Reminder message
- Time is running out message
While you’re at it, set up your event registration emails to include a confirmation, reminder, and upsell for any additional paid activities.
Pre-schedule social media content that includes photos, videos, graphics, and polls leading up to your golf tournament. Content such as behind-the-scenes planning, charts showing how close you are to fundraising goals, and videos showing off the course are all great ideas to include.
Send text messages to those who have given permission to receive them. Send at least three, but no more than five, to keep your subscribers from unsubscribing. The first should be to announce the sale, the second should be to send an early-bird sale link, and the third should be a low-ticket warning.
If you have the budget, printing hard copies of your golf tournament advertisements is always a good idea. Share them with your chosen venue, in your local hotspot community boards, and with event stakeholders.
Gather your local partners and collaborators to help you spread the word. Share press releases online and in local newspapers. Post on physical bulletin boards. Rope some event sponsors or partners into the promotion strategy too.
7. Strategize day-of management
Always, always, always have back up. Friends, family, and loved ones are great people to have on call if a volunteer calls out sick. You can also enlist extra helpers from your own office.
Ask your venue for detailed information on what they can and cannot help you with during the tournament. Get names and contact information for your golf course’s point people. If you can, meet them ahead of time to put a face to the name. Discuss expectations and let them know how much experience you have running golf tournaments.
Have health and safety equipment available such as first aid kits, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen. Stock your venue with water bottles and refill stations so no one gets dehydrated. Offer shady umbrellas, extra raincoats, and bug spray to participants. Triple check that all accommodations have been made for those with disabilities.
And last but not least, remember to post proper signage. There may be other players on the course or other events happening simultaneously. It’s extremely important to have clear signage that states information players will need throughout the day. Offer course maps, tournament instructions, and directions on your website and printed out to hand to people in person.
Now you know how to organize a golf tournament!
“Golf outings sort of plan themselves once you have the marketing out there,” says Kandray. “People just love golf!”
Up next, explore our extensive list of outdoor event ideas — many of which can apply to golf tournaments as well.