Formatting for Maximum Return

Written by Chris Werner. Posted in Shark News

You have secured the golf course.  Now you need to know what format best suits your event.  Do not let the course tell you what format to choose.  See for them a Scramble is always best – it is easy to manage and lets them open the course to other players sooner.  So while it might be great for them it may not be great for you and you are the customer.

Choosing a tournament format can make or break your event.  Some formats invite participation from all levels of golfers others generate more cash.  So think about what ‘success’ means to you and your event.  (BTW did you know that there are nearly 100 different formats for golf outings?)

Ask yourself these 2 simple questions;

What is the purpose of your event?
What is the caliber of your golfers?

There are only 4 real purposes for golf outing and certain formats tend to be associated with them as follows:

  • Fundraising – Scrambles and modified scrambles, team events
  • Entertaining – Scrambles and best balls, team and individual play events
  • Networking - Scrambles
  • Competition – Individual and team stroke play

Just like there are many different formats, there are many types of golfers.  They range from “Once a Year” players to “Social” players to very serious “Competitive” types.  We suggest that you consider your ‘field’ when choosing your format, Handicap – Someone with a USGA Index, serious golfers

Once A Year & Social Golfers – These folks don’t really care about scoring so a Scramble or team event is fine with them.                         

Competitive Golfers – These folks are serious players and expect something “more” - maybe a Best Ball or Individual play format.
Different players like different formats. If you understand how these formats work and the desires of your golfers, you cannot go wrong. Here are some different formats for you to consider.

Scramble - This is a great format for a variety of skilled golfers.  A foursome will play together as a team.  Everyone hits their own ball from the tee box.  They will pick the best of the four drives.  The other three will pick up their ball and hit their second shot from there.  Everyone hits their second shot and picks the best one and hits their third shot from there.  This is continued until the hole is finished and generates one score for the team on each hole.

Modified Scramble - This format is liked by golfers who want to play their own ball yet still keep up the speed of play.  It is similar to scramble in that everyone hits their drive and the best one is chosen.  The second shot is hit from there.  The difference is each player plays his own ball in from the third shot in.  The best score is taken on each hole and the total on all 18.  This is also a team effort.

Best Ball - This format is for better golfers who like to play their own ball. This is also a team effort.  Everyone plays his or her own ball throughout the whole round.  The team will take the best score on each hole and add up the total for the 18 holes.

Stroke Play - This is the basic and simplest way to score a golf game.  You just take the total strokes.  The winner is the one with the lowest number of strokes.

Handicapped / Flighting - This format keeps the playing field even.  Frequent golfers have established a rating with the USGA called a handicap.  In simple terms it is the average score of a golfer over par less 20%.  Flighting is where you group the players by their scores with winners in each flight.


If you find that over time your field is getting smaller or stagnant then it is quite possible that golfers are tired of doing the same old thing year after year.  The easy fix is to change from one format to another and announce it with great fan-fare!


Well then time to shake off the old format and move to one that can generate more money.  Here are a few suggestions.

Pro-Am - This type of event puts a professional golfer with amateur golfers.  Typically there is one pro in every foursome. Using this format you can charge more for the foursome.  Add in a chance for the Pros to make money and the event can get even bigger!

Celebrity - This format uses groups comprising one celebrity and three or four amateurs.  Using this format also generates more than your typical registration fees.  You’d be amazed at how quickly local “celebrities” will jump at a chance to play.

Night Golf - This is a unique format that is played at night with glowing balls.  This is a lot of fun and typically played on an executive course. It opens up your playing field to non-golfers again resulting in more registration fees.  Yes, these events are ‘restricted’ to a certain time of year and some courses will not even consider them.

Golf-A-Thons - This format can be a major fund-raiser.  Get forty golfers start at 8:00 AM and play all day.  The goal is to play at least 54 holes of golf (many play twice that.)  Prior to that day, the golfers raise pledges per hole – set the target at $50. With this formula your event can gross anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 for your organization.

At the end of the day, choose wisely when settling on the format and don’t let the course tell you want is best for you.  They don’t have any ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to your fundraising success.



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