How to Plan an Insurance Industry Golf Event

By Carl Mahnke | August 8, 2005

The job description of property/casualty agents and brokers can on occasion include “golf event planner.”

Typically insurance professionals turn to event experts, but sometimes budgets and time don’t allow for the hiring an event planner. In either case, insurance professionals will benefit from a review of the fundamentals of producing a golf event.

Insurance professionals planning on using a third party golf-event management company should be prepared to pay between $2,000 and $10,000, plus expenses for a one-day event. Fees as high as $30,000 are not unheard of for golf events scheduled over a few days and involving more than one golf course. Flat-fee or per-golfer is the basis of most charges, but some golf planners will offer their goods and services a la carte, and this can save money. The host hotel and golf course are both also great sources of advice on planning.

Every year, hundreds if not thousands of insurance industry golf events are held across America, and history has demonstrated that agents and brokers can produce very successful golf events, ranging from the Connecticut Young Insurance Professionals annual golf tournament, the largest insurance industry golf tournament in Connecticut, to the IBA Tournament of San Diego to the annual Trusted Choice Big ‘I’ Junior Classic. (Tiger Woods won this prestigious tournament in 1990 and 1992 as a junior golfer.)

Value of events
The insurance industry stages so many golf events because in today’s fast-paced insurance industry, forging stronger relationships and attaining new lines, agents and policyholders is instrumental to the success of an agency. Golf naturally builds camaraderie, and agencies and insurance companies recognize the value of golf in team building, networking and entertaining clients. Golf events also enhance meetings, incentive travel trips and almost any company outing. Given golf’s popularity, golf outings and golf-related activities have become an effective way to bring agents, brokers, companies and current and perspective policyholders closer together.

From a relaxed round of golf to a highly competitive challenge match, participants will range from novices to “scratch” golfers. (A male scratch golfer can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots. A female scratch golfer can reach a 400-yard hole in two shots.) Generally, players are categorized according to four levels ranging from A to D, the lowest level being reserved mainly for beginners.

One of the first steps in assuring a successful golf event is deciding on the format, of which there are many. Expert golfers and duffers will equally enjoy some formats, while other formats are strictly the domain of those well-versed on the links–and serious about their scores. Insurance golf events generally mix the two, which is fine as long as this is planned out and all participants know what to expect.

Fortunately, golf is primarily played in groups of four, or “foursomes.” This lends itself to paring up golfers of different skill levels. This will take some time, but by requesting each participant’s handicap, the top and bottom level golfers can be spread out among the foursomes. The result can be good, fun and competition for everyone. This will bring people back to your golf event year after year.

Key fundamentals
After establishing each participant’s aptitude for the sport, there are some other fundamentals that are critical to selecting the best format for your golf event.

What is the goal of the event? Incentive, client appreciation, or social.

How many participants will be playing? It might sound like stating the obvious, but the number is essential for choosing the best golf event format.

When will you send invitations? Generally, everyone that participates will enjoy the event, but it will have its strongest impact on avid golfers, who by definition try to golf frequently and are often invited to charity, business and club events. Invite them as early as possible–before they book another golf event on the same date. Remember to request RSVPs with a deadline. Also request information on each participant’s rental needs (anyone need left handed clubs?), handicaps, preferred tee times, pairing preference and special dietary needs. This will allow time to match up competitive foursomes. Online registration is increasingly appreciated, and plan on having registration staff on site the day of your event.

What time will you tee off? You want to make sure your players can finish before dark or by cocktail hour if your event has to fit in to an overall convention schedule.

What will the weather be like? Lots of non-summer events are played in the desert where it can be too hot to play in the afternoon sun–even in the fall and spring.

Will many participants be from out of town? Golfers traveling overnight to play in your golf event will appreciate it if you negotiate special rates with area hotels and transportation companies.

For many participants traveling to the event, the golf tournament will only be part of their trip. With this in mind, consider a headquarters hotel near nightlife and convenient for the region’s major attractions.

What is your budget? Consider that many participants play in golf events held at upscale courses and featuring fresh lunches, hosted refreshments on the course, event gift bags (logoed tees, golf balls, golf shirts and hats), custom scorecards and towels, impressive awards and post tournament live entertainment. Having a photographer and/or videographer onsite will ensure participants will remember the event. If appropriate, you may also need a spouse’s program.

This all adds up, and greens fees in the $250 to $275 range at high-end golf resorts are becoming increasingly common. Consider partnering with vendors and selling “hole” sponsorships to pay for your golf event.

Finally, make sure you have a rain plan and that all your vendors and participants are aware of it–and on the time that you’ll make the decision about using that plan.

Now you are ready to select the format best suited for your event.

Add some fun
You can have fun with the format of a golf tournament. The Scramble, Best Ball, Odd and Even, Blind Hole Match, Nassau (Best Nines) Tournament, One-Club, Practice Green Tourney, and Callaway are among the many options for increasing enjoyment in a tournament.

All types of tournaments can be enhanced by simple side contests, including hole-in-one contests, driving contests, longest drives, shortest drives, straightest drives, closest to the pin, and longest putts. Hole in one contests can offer very high-end prizes, so purchase hole-in-one insurance, if needed.

Prior to the event, many participants might wish to partake of golf clinics ranging from “New Player” to “Refining Your Short Game” to “Golf Etiquette.”

Finally, well in advance of your golf event, send confirmation e-mail or letters. This communication should include driving and parking directions, details of onsite rental equipment availability and associated charges (and accepted means of payment), where to meet at the club, whether practice time will be available, and full schedule.

Have fun!

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Insurance Journal West August 8, 2005
August 8, 2005
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