Invitational tournaments are a great way to showcase your club, add a little revenue, and in some cases, drive membership. Some are sold out every year. Others seem to struggle to fill even half the field. The difference? It’s a combination of many things: consistency, planning, communication, and memorability seem to top the list.
If your club has struggled with attendance the last few years or maybe just needs to drive a little more revenue from the event, the following compilation of ideas may be just the spark you need to make the tournament better:
1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. – Within 90 days, go ahead and send your first announcement out. Many players plan vacations and family obligations at least this far in advance, if you don’t, something else may take the weekend they could have played. Send another reminder at 60 days, 30 days, and then once per week until the event starts. This should be done via email. If you have a Facebook and Twitter page, same thing goes.
2. Compare your player list with other clubs nearby that also hold invitationals. If you work together, you will probably catch players that may not have otherwise played.
3. Reward – Give $20 off for players who recruit first timers. This is cheap marketing.
4. Have multiple divisions and a goal to pay 1/3 of the field. Make sure the divisions and tees are explained before the event starts. Nothing worse than having scratch players compete against those who received strokes or forty- year olds having to compete against college kids from the championship tees.
5. Consider having a club manufacturer set up a tent for a demo day on the range. This may aid in selling merchandise later and will raise the profile and feel of the event.
6. As tee gifts go, think about giving things that have long-term marketing value. T-shirts and good quality hats can be worn for years. Balls are lost in days. Another consideration is to simply give each player a credit of $20-25 in your pro shop. Many will end up picking logo’d items they will happily wear for years.
7. Get a sponsor – I’ve seen one club do this consistently every year. $500, $1,000? A title sponsor, like a car dealership or popular eatery elevates the ‘feel’ of the event. It also brings in money that takes little labor from your staff. Win-win.
8. Serve breakfast and lunch. I know, I know, it raises the price and you think your pricing is what keeps people from playing in your event. It doesn’t. Cheap events that aren’t memorable keep people away. A good meal and a little camaraderie always makes for a better event.
9. Solicit members juniors to caddy for the weekend (13-18 years old is a good range). A nominal charge more than cart fee is a treat that many don’t ever experience. Bonus if the caddies wear club bibs.
10. As course set-up goes, more will come back if they are able to shoot a decent number with a few more forgiving pins vs. tucked pins and high rough.
11. Solicit members to help as spotters on holes where players frequently lose balls or have slowdowns. I played in an invitational a few years ago that did this and can still recall how the members kept thanking me for playing in their event. This says ‘cohesive membership’.
12. Announce players names via a P.A. System. This adds flair and memorability.
13. Make the tournament an ‘Open house’ for competitors for the weekend. I know one club that does this and many competitors take their whole family for dinner or a day at the pool. This is a great way to showcase the club and drive membership.
14. If space allows, offering lockers to competitors for the weekend is a nice touch. Again, anything that gives the players a member-for-the-weekend feel helps in recruitment for a possible membership.
15. Create a membership special for the weekend only.
16. Give every player ‘pro shop bucks’ (or come up with another creative name) for soft goods like shirts, pants, pullovers, etc. Make the ‘bucks’ look like money and offer discounts like $15 off every $50 spent. People will feel like they have to spend it if they have it in their hands vs. a random sale in the pro shop.
17. Update tee times, weather changes, scores, and special announcements via your social media pages. Nothing worse than having every player call individually for the next days tee times or for weather delays.
18, Designate a staff member to take pictures during the event. These should be posted to your social media sites immediately after play. I bet a box of Pro V’s your website hits and social media visits will be at their highest during this week.
19. If you have a list of players from last year, your club should stay in touch with them at least quarterly throughout the year with newsletters. It takes 6-10 exposures before a guest becomes a member. Every touch counts.
20. Send personal hand-written thank you notes to the playing competitors at the conclusion of the tournament. It takes about a minute or so to write but will leave a powerful impression. Bonus points if you offer a discounted or complimentary ‘replay’ round with the note.