Golf is still at the fore for meetings and incentives—but golf events can be a little different than in the old days.
Golf outings, while always popular among a certain subset of meeting, event and incentive participants, seemed to be waning a bit before COVID hit. But the sport has surged in popularity lately as the early COVID rules about social distancing made many other activities taboo. The number of people on the course in the U.S. grew more than 2% year over year in 2020, which was the largest net increase the sport had seen in 17 years, according to the National Golf Foundation. A fair number of those players were new to the sport, which saw the largest increase in young and newbie players since a young Tiger Woods won his first Masters in 1997. And that growth didn’t stop in 2020 — in fact, the sport has continued to reach 20-year highs into 2023.
Does this mean it’s time to plan a little putting for your next event? Prevue asked Ed Schmidt, Publisher of The Golf Travel Guru, to take a swing at the latest in golf trends for meetings, events and incentives.
Prevue: What are some of the more popular types of golfing events you’re seeing now for meetings and incentives?
Schmidt: For serious golfers, the 18-hole tournament with prizes for low rounds (net and gross) is still desired. To join skilled golfers with beginners, the scramble format is still one of the best ways to promote socialization away from the meeting rooms. Time is of the essence, though, and an increasing number of planners are going to 9-hole tournaments, par-3 course events, skill challenges and putting contests. Incorporating food and beverage in a creative way with cocktail stations helps elevate the frivolity of the event and makes newbies feel at ease and more likely to participate.
Prevue: What about “pseudo-golf,” like disc golf, footgolf, fungo golf, pitch and putt, snow golf, urban golf, etc.?
Schmidt: It’s important to note that golf is consumed in many different ways beyond the traditional 18-hole round, especially with younger demographics who have been introduced to the game in a variety of ways from golf simulators to disc golf and multi-sensory driving ranges. Among some of the more engaging events dotting itineraries these days include putting contests with cocktail stations, skills challenges with launch monitors, golf trick shot artists, night golf with glow-in-the-dark balls and simulator golf tournaments in a golf-themed ballroom.
Prevue: What other golfing trends are you seeing now and for the near future for golf for meeting and incentive groups?
Schmidt: Perhaps the most important trend in the past decade is the emergence of “entertainment golf” experiences such as flashy high-impact driving ranges Topgolf and Drive Shack, Tiger Woods’ Popstroke featuring 36 holes of championship style putting holes, and X-Golf, a simulator-centric golf venue. These multi-sensory, interactive golf facilities with locations throughout the U.S. have provided ideal, non-intimidating venues for planners to get neophytes interested in the game as well as offering seasoned golfers a fun and challenging experience. In addition, all of these venues are experienced at planning food and beverage for groups and many have on-staff meeting professionals adept at executing a wide variety of events.
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