Golf may be back in Southern California, but for many golf club officials and tournament organizers, there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Between unclear governmental policies, cautious course operators, and player safety concerns, there’s a lot to consider as we transition towards tournament golf. While you may not be able to throw a full-fledged tourney like usual, we’ve put together some pointers on how you can hold events that will keep your members engaged.
Booking a course
Due to different counties having different restrictions on group play, you may have trouble finding a course that will allow you to book a block of tee times. Here’s a few alternatives:
Individual tee times – If you still want everyone to play on the same day, you can have everyone book their own tee times and send in their scorecard at the end of the round. Just make sure you plan the event early enough to give everyone a chance to book their time before they fill up.
“Flex” tournaments – This may be a great time to bring a new format to your group. Flex Golf Tour has pioneered a new tournament concept: golfers sign up for a tournament that takes place over a month and play at their own availability. This allows you to avoid the “group” format (players just need at least one other player to attest their score) while still hosting a competitive event.
Bottom line: just make sure your events abide by course/county guidelines so we can get back to “real” tournaments sooner.
If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to digitize your tournament registration process. For those clubs with the premium version of USGA Tournament Management, you can perform online registration through that software. If not, one option is to use a site like Eventbrite where you can collect RSVPs and payment all in one place. (Heads up: Eventbrite does charge a fee for collecting payments. You can have players RSVP for free on the site as well.)
Another option is to simply have players RSVP by email and collect payment through any number of online payment apps. Griffith Park Golf Club is running skins games where players book their own tee times and pay skins through Venmo. Not only does it make it easier to track who’s paid, but it also makes it easy to distribute winnings back to players after the round.
If you are able to hold an event more closely resembling a typical tournament, you’ll find that you still may need to make some adjustments. In all likelihood, shotgun starts will not be viable for the foreseeable future. Some courses may not allow carts at all. You should also consider eliminating any games that don’t allow for social distancing or avoiding common touchpoints, such as closest to the pin and long drive contests.
Most importantly, make sure you communicate all the guidelines outlined by the course to players, both for their own safety and to reinforce the idea that tournament play is safe during these times. In addition to rules out on the course, players should know how soon they can arrive before their tee time and whether practice facilities will be available. We also suggest reminding players that they should bring their own tees, pencils, ball-marking pens, hand sanitizer, mask, drinking water, and any other items they may need out on the course.
As you’re likely aware, some of the changes out on the course (altered cups, no bunker rakes, etc.) have affected the way the game is played. Thankfully, the USGA has provided guidance on how to administer competitions under the Rules of Golf with these alterations.
The final hurdle is figuring out how to keep and collect scores. One great option is the USGA Tournament Management software (free version available for SCGA clubs). With TM, you have access to an entire library of tournament formats, integration with GHIN to seamlessly factor in handicaps to net events, and an event website where players can find tee sheets and leaderboards.
If your club is able to upgrade to the premium version of TM, you’ll also have access to live scoring through the mobile app. If not, there are still easy options for players to send in their score electronically. For example, the Birch Hills Men’s Club has players keep score through an app or paper scorecard and simply email the scores to the tournament manager.
While we may not be back to the times of large tournaments and gatherings at the 19th hole yet, you can still find ways to keep your club members engaged and playing together (at least in spirit). As long as we all continue to abide by the rules in place for playing safely, we’ll eventually be able to return to our favorite events.
For more details on hosting events, check out the SCGA COVID-19 Guidelines for Competition.