The member-guest tournament at most clubs takes on the importance of the World Series or the Super Bowl as the club’s “happening” of the season. With this in mind, I thought it fitting to write about a few of these I knew to be spectacular in their own way and quote some of the leaders who organized these events.
Brian Stewart, John Marino’s Assistant Pro at Old Chatham Golf Club in North Carolina credits Peter Millar and their local representative, Cameron Macphail, with providing incredible one day turn around on a favor that consisted of a club-logoed ¼ zip sweater in the participant’s choice of color and a pair of bit-loafers – sized and ordered on Friday and handed out on Saturday. Each member and their guest were given a personalized bag tag upon arrival. Following golf on Saturday there were drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres along with “The Jolly Jester” (the magician, Kevin Dawson) providing entertainment as awards were decided upon.
Chris Kenney at The Patterson Club in Fairfield, Connecticut also credits Peter Millar with making the favor at his event a huge hit. The company set up a separate shop in the locker room lounge representing some of the more exotic categories of the line and allowed each participant to use a $250.00 credit toward their shopping experience. Leather score card holders embossed with the club logo were also handed out. Michael Bulger, Chris's first assistant prepares a cheat sheet with the member and guest names and the home club of the guest prior to the event. Everyone on the club staff receives the sheet and the golf staff, in particular, have fun all week prior to guest arrivals quizzing one another on the participants names and where they are from. There is a stag dinner and short game competition on Wednesday evening to kick off the week’s worth of festivities and a cocktail party on Thursday evening that includes spouses. Chris astutely pointed out that some of the things that impressed him the most at this year’s tournament were the repeat guests from years past who obviously look forward to coming back and the compliments he receives about his staff making the guests feel as though they are at their home haunt. The week is organized so that each member of the golf staff has an opportunity to spend time with each of the guests and the satisfaction for Chris is watching everyone at the cocktail party take the time to introduce their spouse to his entire group.
Greg Glover at 3 Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming has a very high-end event but he initiates the service aspect of the event before it begins with something that costs nothing. He explained that “Once the field was set, I personally called every guest and welcomed them to the event. I talked to each of them for just a couple of minutes, welcomed them to the event and asked if they had any questions, concerns or special needs before the event started etc. etc. Not only did the guests enjoy that but it blew the members away as well because as soon as I got off of the phone with the guest they immediately called the member and told them about it.” Each guest was provided a locker with a personalized name plate and a dozen Pro V golf balls embossed with their name, and by flight they were provided with both a solid or striped shirt in their locker. At the end of the event, each participant is presented with a Dell Streak Tablet loaded with a 3 Creek Ranch app which allows members to make dinner reservations, tee times, book lessons, etc. The guest’s tablets were loaded with their favorite movie to provide them with something to watch on the flight out of town and a copy of the tournament booklet. The flight winners were awarded relic six-shooters with the club logo engraved on the grip. The plaque that holds the pistol is engraved with “The Invitational” and bullets are inserted to represent those beaten in the flight. The bullets were handed out upon arrival with losers having to hand winners their bullet at the end of a match but no one knew the significance until the plaques were presented.
Eric Williams, Bud Sass's first assistant at Ocean City Golf Club in Berlin, Maryland credits John Flynn and Rick Morrell for the outstanding success and appreciation of the Footjoy/Titleist shop that is set up for participants to cash in certificates: any shoes, clubs, etc that aren’t available on site John and Rick see to it are drop-shipped. The competition and the way it is organized is unique; first of all, the pari-mutuel is significant and the Round Robin format ends with 14 teams in a play-off with the rest of the field as the gallery creating true tournament pressure. Thursday is practice day but you can choose to participate in a Par 3 tournament giving the event an Augusta-like flavor. Friday evening is “The World’s Greatest Putting Contest” with its own special format and pool prize. This is another one of those events that gets huge word of mouth and has grown incredibly in both size and value since Buddy arrived 15 years ago. The club looks at it as an opportunity to drive membership and industry image and does not concern themselves with budget as they do for other events. A result of this effort and mind-set has been 100 new members over the last 13 years having been previous guests at this event.
I would like to thank everyone above who contributed the features of their tournaments. Most Invitationals are outstanding and have their own distinct and compelling stories. In an effort to enhance this aspect of club life don’t hesitate to share some exceptional characteristic of your tournament in the comment section.