Events can be a key revenue driver at golf courses for many reasons, however, they are often overlooked by management.
It makes sense. Running a golf course demands that operators wear many hats.
So, being concerned with optimizing event management strategy often falls to the wayside behind member services, golf operations, restaurant management, and pro shop management.
However, this lucrative field should not be ignored. Golf courses are proven event hosts since they regularly host tournaments. In fact, this strength gives the public confidence in their overall event hosting abilities.
Plus, golfers and non-golfers alike know that golf courses typically are home to luxury amenities, attractive banquet halls, and beautiful natural scenes. So, it’s not a surprise that many golf properties make for popular event spaces.
With 57% of millennial golfers saying that socialization and events are an important part of their golf experience it’s more than clear that running quality events and tournaments are central for long term success in the golf industry.
Events and hospitality management is not an easy field. You are in the tough business of making people happy.
So, here’s a refresher guide that covers everything you could possibly need to know about tournaments and events at golf courses.
Does your golf course host private events?
Your clubhouse, the beautiful natural views that surround it, and the experience your staff has with serving guests and hospitality make your golf course a prime location to host events of all shapes and sizes.
Common events that are well suited for golf courses
Event management can be a very lucrative revenue stream. People care about making their events memorable and are willing to pay a premium to ensure that everything goes perfectly.
If you have a clubhouse with a banquet hall, lounge, or even a wedding ceremony space, you should be pushing to generate these kinds of reservations.
This free white paper breaks down event management strategies for a variety of events.
Don’t be naive, event management is not simple. As we’ve said earlier, making people happy is not easy, especially when they are stressed out about successfully pulling off their event.
There are many best practices to follow when putting together your event management rules, guidelines, and overall strategy.
Key golf course event management factors:
Aligning these factors will help your staff and guests know what to expect when putting on an event at your golf course, and help to ensure that any event planned on your property goes smoothly.
What really makes an event special is the people who make it possible.
One bad customer interaction is enough to sour the entire day.
That’s why staffing is key to hosting an excellent events. You’ll need a strategy for attracting, training, and retaining quality staff members who know how to make guests happy.
The Events Coordinator is the person most directly involved with any tournament or event hosted at your golf course, and will ultimately be responsible for ensuring that satisfaction with any event hosted at your facility is high.
This key person will plan and execute tournaments, manage group bookings, and coordinate with external event planners.
Your events coordinator will be your go to for planning and scheduling any event on your property, including coordinating with support staff, restaurant staff, and management as needed.
Events coordinators need to be outgoing, social, and welcoming to all guests. For this role, hospitality skills are incredibly important, especially when it comes to directing guests, handling comments and criticism, and going above and beyond to create incredible experiences.
The events coordinator will be responsible for creating a schedule for each event or tournament at the organization and for aligning the entire operation according to the needs for each occasion on the schedule.
On event days, the events coordinator will be present to ensure signage, directions, and scheduling is clear for guests to understand. The events coordinator will also brief any involved staff members to ensure the operation is ready for the influx of guests.
If want to sell event space you need event planners, wedding planners, and the public to be aware that your golf course is a wonderful place to host an event.
In other words, you need an event marketing strategy.
To be successful at implementing an event marketing strategy you’ll need to put together a campaign to ensure that information is easily accessible and awareness is spread wide.
Components of an events and hospitality marketing strategy
Each of these components is part of the event space buyer’s journey. Any marketing plan you develop for your event marketing strategy should contain a few if not all of these aspects of an event space rental marketing plan.
If you are serious about renting out your golf course, clubhouse, banquet hall or other spaces as event spaces, you absolutely need a dedicated event rental section within your golf course’s website.
Your website is the first place that anyone who is interested in renting your space will look, so you need to have an appealing page that showcases your beautiful facility and makes booking rental at your space very attractive.
Make sure to include photographs of previous events, testimonials and a clear breakdown about your space with important details about sizing, capabilities, and services.
Don’t put anything about pricing. Rather, invite a prospective booker to call and book a walk around, where these details can be discussed in person.
Remember that having a well-optimized event focussed website page helps to increase the chances of your facility showing up if someone searches for events space in your area on Google.
Adding an online event reservation tool can help with making event space rental frictionless, especially if your online reservation provides a user friendly interface and online payment options.
Word of mouth is the number one way that you will book events at your golf course.
So many events, especially weddings, involve such a high degree of emotional investment. That’s why trusted friends and family have a major influence when choosing a space for these important, once in a lifetime, events.
Word-of-mouth plays a big role in developing relationships with event planners too. These close-knit colleagues will speak with one another and recommend your space only if it was a great experience.
One bad experience for an event planner can ruin his or her entire business, so don’t cause them problems or they will be sure to talk about the negative experience with their colleagues.
Generating good word-of-mouth is simple: put on stellar events, go above and beyond to solve problems, and maintain clear communication.
Easier said than done, but really, the only way to get the word out that your business is an excellent place to host events is by, well... hosting great events!
Social media and digital marketing is a strategy that can generate event space bookings, however, you will need to put together a well thought out campaign in order to generate booking intent.
Social media is a great medium to share testimonials and stories about past events that were a success. Make use of good pictures and tell the story about how your facility made someone's event very special.
If you have a pay-per-click strategy on social media on Google Ads and are experienced with running these kinds of campaigns, you may want to target keywords for event space searches in your area.
Remember that many people who attend events at your property will take pictures and post them online to their personal social media accounts. Take advantage of this phenomenon by creating and promoting your photo friendly spaces. Then, encourage visitors to use a branded hashtag in their posts by subtly placing the hashtag on signage, and key attractions.
Instagram friendly photo ideas:
Building and branding these picture friendly spaces is a great way to delight guests, especially young people who are looking to take their next “cool” instagram post.
Do this only if you know what you are doing and have been successful with pay per click campaigns in the past since these campaigns can be very expensive.
Congratulations, clearly your marketing is working! You’ve got some interest and now you have someone who wants to take a look at your space to see if it will suit their needs.
Before you start booking events, you first need to successfully close some sales. So, the first step for generating venue bookings is to put in place a sales strategy.
Your sales strategy begins with building a small team of events focussed staff, who are experts in selling event space and coordinating with planners and guests to effectively pull off an event.
For our purposes, we’ll call this person the “Events Coordinator”, however, this position may have many different titles like Hospitality Manager, or Restaurant Manager.
Generally, whoever is in charge of managing events and booking space rentals will also act as your events sales staff.
When an event planner is interested in seeing your venue they will inquire and book a “walkaround” at your venue. It should be your event coordinator’s goal to book and close as many of these as possible.
During the walkaround your goal is to wow the event planner, who may also bring along the stakeholders in the event (the bride and groom, for example).
How to showcase your golf course venue during a walkaround
Once the walkaround is complete, say thank you and let them know that you will follow up in the coming days. There will be a lot of details to confirm and sort out before your event space is booked and cheques are cashed.
To speed up the process of generating a signing and to reduce any possible confusion, you and your events coordinator must develop an event space booking policy.
This policy will clearly lay out all of the terms and conditions for renting your space for any event.
For anyone to rent your space, they will have to agree and adhere to all of the conditions set out in the booking policy. Booking policies may vary from event to event but there are some general policies that will be consistent across all bookings.
Your event space booking policy may include:
As part of any contract that you put forward for renting your event space, make sure your policy is clearly stated and agreed upon by both parties.
Of course, some parts of your booking policy may be negotiable. Often event planners will ask that you waive your vendor and catering requirements if they have their own preferable vendor.
The problem with this is you don’t want to risk the reputation of your facility by going with an unknown vendor who does not know the layout, limitations, and requirements of your facility.
Be very careful and do some due diligence to make sure any unknown vendors can be trusted. You may also charge a fee for not using your preferred vendor.
Common types of preferred vendors:
Requiring event space renters to stick to your preferred vendors is the best strategy for ensuring that your events will go as smoothly as possible. Plus, if you require that your kitchen staff be hired for catering and alcohol, you can generate incremental revenue.
Once both parties agree on the policy, price, and contract, you should have a signing! Congratulations!
Private and semi-private golf courses often play host to member events.
Typically we see two kinds of events, private events that are only open to members of the club, and semi-private that open the club to members of the public.
Private events are built to create value and exclusivity for private members. Typically, the kinds of events are special evening dinners with events and activities that may follow a tournament.
Private member event ideas:
Semi-private events open the club’s doors to the public and allow non members to visit the premises. These events represent a great opportunity for golf clubs to showcase the club to prospective new members.
Semi-private event ideas:
No matter what event you host, remember that your goal is to increase member engagement with your club. The members who enjoy your events and attend over and over are more likely to renew their memberships every year, so make sure your events are appealing and fun for your member base.
Most events are not unlike a private banquet, except the events coordinator is responsible for booking the event and will take on the role of an event planner. Most often your events will take the form of a catered banquet following a golf tournament.
Your key person will be your events coordinator, who will work with the kitchen and front of house staff to ensure the event goes smoothly and all guests are satisfied. Ideally your events coordinator will have some experience with event planning, so you can be confident that any member events planned at your golf course are exceptional.
Creative ideas for non-golf member activities:
To make sure your events are catered directly for your member base consider involving members in an events committee. Allowing key members to plan and give input into your event offerings is valuable for understanding member needs.
There are plenty of software tools that can help you book more events and manage them better.
Golf course management platforms also help operators schedule and plan events with calendars, online booking, payment, and registration.
Online booking tools can help with generating more bookings by reducing friction with a simple interface and a clear display of available times. These tools especially ease booking for less complicated events like corporate meetings and small banquets.
You may also benefit from listing your golf course on event rental marketplaces online like Breather. Similar to Airbnb, these websites allow customers to book meetings and event spaces through an online interface where property owners can list their businesses.
However, make sure you have an updated schedule and a very clear policy on the kinds of events that can reserve your space and what expectations and usage policies must be met.
Event management is not an easy field. From marketing to sales, to execution: keeping everyone involved happy and ensuring that everything runs smoothly is extremely difficult.
The good news is that, with good processes, clear policy, and good communication between you, your events coordinator and your customers you can benefit from the value that your property has to those who are looking to host an event.
If you don’t think you are generating enough bookings or revenue from your event space it may be time to rethink how your event management strategy.
Take a close look at your business and compare and evaluate how each element within your strategy works. Chances are there are areas where your business can optimize.
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