Tournament Tips

Learning the Golf Lingo:

Level of Play:
This is an informal way of allowing people to indicate their typical score in a round of 18 holes. You may choose to require that each team have an A, B, C, and D player. This will prevent teams from “stacking” a bunch of “A” players onto their team and dominating the tournament. For most tournaments, however, some level of “stacking” is expected, and has been adopted as part of the game. For most fun or social events, no level of play indication is required. If there are large prizes for first place, you might want to keep things competitive. You can ask your local professional about fun ways to score a tournament that will allow everyone to stay on an even playing field. Ask about the Callaway or Peoria scoring system.

String is another popular option to make extra revenue for your tournament. String is charged by the foot, typically $5 per foot. You provide mini scissors and a foot of yarn, and each team is allowed to use this yarn as an extension to their putt to the hole. For example, a team falls 4 inches short of the hole. They will cut 4 inches of yarn off and throw it away, the ball is now in the hole. Be careful with the use of string, however, if you sell too much string to each team, you can see tremendously low scores come in. I would try to limit it to 1-3 feet per team. You can do this by selling the yarn by inches. For two feet of string per team, each person can purchase 6 inches of string. Remember, market value for 1 foot of string is about $5, so charge accordingly. If you want to, you can sell this at the registration table the day of the tournament. With that money you raised, you can either put that money toward your charity or take it to the Pro Shop and purchase additional door prizes and gifts.

Mulligans are do-overs. Mulligans are also the most popular way to make extra revenue for an event, which will normally always go toward prizes and gifts. A typical tournament will allow people to purchase mulligans either individually, or by the package. For example, 1 mulligan for $5, or 3 mulligans for $10 (maximum is 3 per person). If you allow teams to purchase mulligans, you can expect significantly lower scores. Some people are likely going to cheat anyway, might as well make them feel better about it by charging them money to do so.

Entry Fee
Entry Fee is the price you want to charge the participants. You should consider the total cost per person, plus any other fees you may incur during your preparation for the tournament. Typically, entry fees will be comprised of the addition of anywhere from 0-30% on top of the cost per person to allow for prizes and entertainment. Nowadays, people expect a certain amount of prizes and entertainment (this includes food and beverages) to be included depending on the purpose and cost of the event.

You should approach each tournament with the goal to provide 30% of the field with prizes. Meaning out of 100 players, 30 will receive a prize or a gift. You should then expect to raise some funds through sponsorships on your own by selling space on the site, as well as hole sponsorships.  This money is usually always spending money or charity money. Each tournament organizer must predict the market value of ad space on their site page and hole signs. It is different depending on size of your tournament, demographics of participants, and purpose of your tournament. It is not unheard of to have 50-100% of the participants receive a prize – those absolutely keep people coming back.

Handicap Index
In layman’s terms, it is pretty much the average over par a person will shoot for 18 holes of golf. A Handicap Index is the USGA's service mark used to indicate a measurement of a player's potential ability on a course of standard playing difficulty. It is expressed as a number taken to one decimal place (e.g., 10.4) and is used for conversion to a Course Handicap. If you do not understand what a handicap is, than more than likely, you do not want to require one. It is required, for most competitive tournaments where the majority of players who would likely want to compete with others, to have a handicap. Even if you require a handicap from your participants, you should always get a USGA member number from them to validate it. This will avoid angry players who played against “sandbaggers” (AKA “liars”) during the tournament. Most people do not keep an USGA handicap. It requires 20 scores to have a legitimate handicap, and 5 scores for a “trend”. Trends are rarely accepted in competitive play.

Use your hosting golf course as an ally.

First, you are supporting your local golf course by allowing them the chance to earn your business through:

  • Additional tournament services they offer
  • Special tournament pricing on products from major vendors they carry
  • Expertise and knowledge from golf professionals to help you run a smooth event

Second, Golf Courses offer:

  • Better Pricing than anywhere else since vendors discount items for golf courses by up to 20% for tournament merchandise.
  • Discount Retailers are limited, and cannot advertise merchandise for less than “Minimum Advertised Price."
  • Most logo items are offered at no additional charge. This means you can get a quality Callaway or Titleist logo ball for less than you can get a regular ball elsewhere.
  • Golf Professionals are involved in the ordering process with you and are there to ensure that your requested merchandise is exactly what you expected and are looking for.
  • Golf Professionals are experts of the game and can give you great advice on what participants would expect in a quality tournament.
  • Ordered merchandise is sent to the hosting golf course a few days before the tournament date. This saves you a ton of time since you do not have to shop around, guess on what participants want, then lug the merchandise around until the day of the tournament.

The Perfect Event

If it’s a “fun-raiser," then participants would expect “goodies” at the event such as provided lunches, drinks, range balls, awards, prizes, goodie bags, etc. All can be sponsored by corporate America and your creative mind. Again, make sure you cover your costs in the asking price.

Make sure you offer a variety of products at various price points.

Only a few companies have the budget for high priced items, so offer a range of products that allows “mom and pop insurance” to sponsor. Example: Buick Dealer – Callaway 12-ball Leather Logo Caddy ($7800 for 144), vs. Mom and Pop Insurance – Callaway 2-ball Logo Business Card Holder ($880 for 144.)

Know your market value by understanding the demographics of your participants and sponsors. A city council tournament will bring more potential sponsors with bigger budgets than a church tournament. Know what products your participants would like to receive (hint: "real" golfers will not hit a cheap off-brand ball, even if it is free.) Golfers seek “value in the experience” over “cheapest way out," so make it an experience.

Cheapest Way Out (80 players if you’re lucky):
$50 entry fee, includes round of golf ($40 green fee + cart), awards to top 3 teams ($10 awards.)

Value in the Experience (144 players, full shotgun start):
$70 entry fee, includes round of golf ($40-$50 green fee + cart), range balls (included), lunch (BBQ buffet), free drinks on course (sponsored), awards for top 3 teams, longest drive, closest to the pin ($15 per person awards or prizes), door prizes ($5 yields $720 for golf products for prizes; 30% of field should get prizes – 43 people get prizes averaging $16.75.) 

Either way, double the green fee is about the most you can charge for an entry fee. No one will pay $70 to play at a run down municipal course with a green fee of $18.

The More the Better
You are unlikely to get sponsors for a “Cheapest Way Out” tournament. You are likely, however, to get sponsors for a “value in the experience” 144-person, full-shotgun tournament. More value = more people. More people = more sponsors. More sponsors = more prizes. More prizes = more value, etc.

Understand your purpose for the event. Is this a “fund-raiser” or “fun-raiser”?

Make sure you set the asking price high enough to cover cost: tax, PayPal (2.9%+$.30 per transaction, if online payment is accepted), etc.

If you offer the same package to multiple sponsors, make sure it makes sense for the participants and the sponsors.
Example: Who needs two of the same hat with a different logo on it?

If you want to make an impression, offer custom logo products provided by the hosting golf course. Almost anything is customizable now, so there are a variety of ways for you to make a big splash.

Many online services offer complete tournament services – online website, email invites, social media, online registration, sponsorship banners and advertising, and start to finish tips.

Hidden Trails is here to offer you...

The best possible experience in running a tournament.
Bag drop, curb check-in, and club relay to each participant's assigned cart.
Sponsor sign placement and removal.
The Golf Pro and Food & Bev. Manager are accessible 24/7 for consultation.
Scorecards, cart signs, hole assignments, check-in sheets, and scoreboard are all taken care of by our professional staff.
Food and beverages available from the moment the first person arrives, to the moment the last person leaves. We have two beverage carts available, full bar, full breakfast, lunch and dinner catering offerings, plus full menu options made to order throughout the day and delivered to participants on the course.

If we fail in any of these areas, please let us know at