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Golf Tournaments

Golf tournaments should be well-planned, organized and marketed.

Charity golf tournaments are used for fundraising. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Charity golf tournaments are used for fundraising.

Golf Tournaments

Charity golf tournaments are increasingly popular fundraising tools. Golf is a sport with many diehard and casual fans, so charities can benefit by tapping into that passion for a good cause. However, organizing charity golf tournaments is hard work and requires a significant time commitment. Golf Event magazine says that the organization of a golf tournament should begin six to nine months before the event. A successful charity golf tournament requires passion and commitment.

Basically, charity golf tournaments work this way: A non-profit group pays a fee to use a golf course, and then it sells entry spots for a charity golf tournament, in addition to soliciting sponsors who buy a hole. Sponsors get to promote their companies at the tournament, and they often donate items.

The Two Ten Footwear Foundation Charity Golf Tournament Tool Kit, a website devoted to non-profits, points out that there are some reasons not to hold a charity golf tournament. Hosting a charity golf tournament to alleviate a company budget crisis is usually not a good idea because of the amount of time a charity golf tournament takes to plan. Similarly, it's important to take a hard look at the budget. If the amount of money a golf tournament will make does not exceed its expenses, then pulling the plug might be a better option due to the amount of work involved.

Why Do It?

The work involved will pay off if it benefits an important charity. Golf Week describes charity golf tournaments as a big business and says that the number of tournaments has grown over the last 20 years -- about 140,000 charity golf tournaments bring in more than $3 billion a year and involve 15 million players. The groups that hosted the events brought in $650 million in total revenue, and some groups that hosted multiple events per year brought in several hundred thousand dollars in revenue. Golf has been used to raise money for charity since the 1950s. Some examples of successful charity golf tournaments include the Jimmy Fund, which runs charity golf tournaments and has raised $60 million for cancer research, and Play for P.I.N.K., a Florida charity devoted to breast cancer research that now runs charity golf outings in 18 states. Keep in mind, however, that revenue can be far more modest for smaller charities holding annual events.

Key Planning Steps

Key steps to planning a successful charity golf tournament include:

  • Choose objectives/goals for the tournament. Is the goal to raise money for a charity or to gain recognition or something else?
  • What is the target audience?
  • Develop a written timeline
  • Select a date
  • Create a budget
  • Solicit sponsors
  • Identify celebrity golfers
  • Identify volunteers
  • Create an organizing committee
  • Select a site

Golf Event also suggests the following:

  • Select a golf format (number of holes and so on)
  • Make site visits
  • Develop a media strategy, and publicize the charity golf tournament early
  • Assign a volunteer to coordinate each specific task
  • Pick one key point person for the tournament

Many more steps are involved, however, from marking the course to planning aid stations to selecting food to determining the handicap system. People interested in planning a charity golf tournament can find checklists and pointers on many websites. The Golf Tournament Association of America provides tournament consultants, educational seminars and tournament planners. Great Games for Golf publishes a detailed checklist to help people who want to plan a charity golf tournament. Golfregistrations.com has a checklist.

Golf Digest Tournament Planner suggests that charity golf outings should be organized in this order:

  • Set up an organizing committee. Often, charity golf tournaments are run with several committees whose responsibilities range from finance to sponsorships.
  • Identify financial goals. Map out how revenue will be obtained and offset with costs.
  • Develop sponsorship packages. Sponsorships generally contribute the most revenue to charity golf tournaments.
  • Outline player costs, such as for food and welcome bags.
  • Create a website, which will assist in publicity and fundraising.


Organization and Management

Creating a key organizing committee is important, as is adhering to a detailed timeline. According to the Two Ten, most organizing committees have 510 members and are set up seven months before the charity golf tournament. The best committee members have their own connections in the community, which is useful when trying to attract attendees and sponsors. Southland Golf magazine says most golf tournaments are successful when committee members with connections use them to attract players. Simply mailing invites to a charity mailing list is unlikely to generate enough interest. Thus, choosing the organizing committee is not only one of the first things planners should do, but also one of the most important.


Don't start creating a detailed budget until after a course is selected, as the costs will vary. Consider the hidden costs, such as greens fees and insurance. Golf Event suggests breaking down the budget into specific areas, such as revenue targets, the number of sponsorships needed and at what donation levels and the number of players needed to reach revenue goals. Southland Golf says many charity golf tournaments average 120 players and do not sell out. Thus, a planner of a charity golf tournament should base the budget on a realistic projection, not necessarily on a sold-out tournament.


According to Golf Event, tournaments have better success obtaining sponsorships if the planning group has prominence or prominent backers and credible associations with other groups or affiliations with other charity fundraisers in the community.

Other ways to maximize revenue include:

  • Gain publicity through press releases and other media attention.
  • Accept online donations.
  • Increase the number of players. Typically, charity golf tournaments ask each player to raise a certain number of pledges. Offering prizes to the players is a way to stimulate fundraising.
  • Bring in prominent players whose names can attract corporate donations.
  • Incorporate contests, raffles or auctions into the charity golf tournament.
  • Hold a fundraising dinner.
  • Charge registration fees.
  • Solicit donations for as many items at the tournament as possible.
  • Consider a barbecue. These cost less than sit-down dinners.
  • Have an early start time to allow for other revenue-producing events (such as auctions).

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