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Thinking Outside The Tee Box
Games, Gimmicks & Themes for Memorable Charity Tournaments

By Eric Tracy

Editor's note: This month we conclude our 3-part series on How To Run A Successful Charity Golf Tournament written by KFWB Radio sportscaster, Eric Tracy, aka, The Mulligan Man. Tracy's extensive experience is drawn from more than 300 charity golf tournaments in which he's played, organized or served as the Master of Ceremonies. Next month our listings of local charity golf tournaments returns.

By Eric Tracy

Remember as a kid being invited to someone's house for a birthday party. Your mom made you get all dressed up, bring a present, promise to act polite. Maybe this is a stretch, but what do you remember most about those parties?
The games.
Think of that the next time you're inviting a golfer back to your charity event. What will he have remembered when it's over - especially when it's time for him or her to decide on whether it's worth the time and effort to come back?
We know the economy isn't in great shape right now, and they say they'll be less discretionary dollars available in 2002. That means we all have to do more with less. But desperate times don't necessarily call for desperate measures.
You just have to think outside the tee box.
For reasons too numerous to mention - none of them good -- most charity golf tournaments do the same old thing every year. You know the scenario. You arrive and someone hands you a goodie bag with a golf shirt and a hat. While in line for registration, someone else sells you two mulligans. It's a "scramble" format with a couple 'closest-to-the pin' competitions, maybe a 'longest drive' hole. After a 6-hour round of golf, a too loud Master of Ceremonies conducts a too long raffle. He hands out trophies, thanks everyone for being there and you go home.
Maybe it wasn't so boring the first time. But if you're having trouble filling your field, 'being boring' could be part of the reason.
Out of my personal bag of tricks, here are some games, gimmicks and themes that can help spice up your event, not necessarily sugar-coat it.

Charity golf tournaments sell extra shots, (Mulligans), that are used at the golfer's discretion on the course. They are proven revenue producers and they're pure profit. This year, do something different.
Sell a throw: Instead of selling two Mulligans for $20, sell one Mulligan and one throw. So anywhere on the course a golfer can choose to "throw" the ball, which is very handy for deep sand traps or nasty chip shots. Just that little twist is sure to bring a laugh - and probably a few extra dollars.
There's also a Mulligan string: This 3-foot piece of yarn, give out with a pair of children's craft scissors, can be used to improve a lie, sink a putt or move a putt. However, each time the string is brought into play, that length used must be cut off. When all the string is gone, it's gone!

The "scramble" format is used predominantly in charity golf tournaments. Meaning, everyone tees off, the best shot is chosen, and everyone plays the shot, down to the putt. However, in my recent poll of numerous golfers who play in multiple tournaments every year they almost universally say they are tired of this. Try what's called a modified scramble. Here, the best drive is chosen, but from that point, each golfer plays his own ball into the hole. This allows individuals to feel they've actually played the course, rather than ridden the bag of the one really good player in the group. This modified format is actually quicker, which helps cut down on the time on the course - which was the other universal complaint expressed by golfers.

Ever try to tee off wearing a sombrero? If your tournament is in early May , try a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Give each foursome one of these famed wide-brimmed straw hats (the one in the photo cost $6 ) and make one golfer wear it on every hole. The hat rotates through the group. It's a great change of pace and makes for great conversation.
If your tournament is near the 4th of July, have a "red, white and blue'' theme. That's not only the color people are asked to wear, but it spills over into the format. Teams play from the red, white and blue tees, changing each hole.
My favorite theme was a tournament near Thanksgiving. The entry fee for this event, to help feed the hungry, was $200 plus a frozen turkey. That night, a homeless shelter was well fed.

This creates a real sense of team camaraderie and is something that isn't just won by the foursome that shoots the best score over 18 holes.
Consider 'The Pink Lady'. Each team is given one pink ball. This ball has to be used on every par 3 and par 5 hole. One golfer plays the Pink Lady from tee-to-green and has the responsibility to not lose it. Since the ball rotates between team members, this means on a par-72 course, each player in a foursome would likely play it twice. (Note: The golfers, when playing the Pink Lady, will not be involved in the team competition on that hole. He only plays The Pink Lady). The score of the Pink Lady is kept separately. The team with the lowest combined score with The Pink Lady wins. But lose the little lady, and you're out of the running.
A twist on this idea would be a having a team member play one of the 4 pre-selected par-4 holes with only one club, from tee through holing out. Each team member plays one of the four holes and it's his choice what club to use. The team with the lowest combined score on the one-club holes wins the prize.

Multiple flag sticks: On one specified green -- usually a par 3 - have three or four pins put on the green instead of one. It looks like a cinch birdie, because it doesn't matter which hole you eventually land near. But looks are deceiving. Tricky pin placements can be a great equalizers.
Sell a post: On longer par 4, place a post in the middle of the fairway at the 150-marker. If a team doesn't get a good drive, they can buy the post for $5 a player. So instead of playing from a short or poor drive, everyone hits from the 150-marker instead.
Most gross: Many tournaments have 'Net' and 'Gross' winning teams. But it's always a great laugh when you award a team, "The Most Gross" - namely, the highest score. Remember to be creative in what you give a team for this dubious distinction. I've seen everything from ping-pong paddles with the name of the award and tournament on a brass plate to cellophane wrapped buckets of range balls designed to help the team not earn the award two years in a row. One time, they even gave out really bad yellow jackets to each member - kind of the anti-Augusta green jackets given to the Masters' winners.

Whatever you come up with, even if it's a variation, it's all about thinking outside the tee box. Make it up. Make it memorable. And you'll make more friends and money for your charity.

For more information on running your charity event, contact Eric Tracy at erictracy@earthlink.net

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