Golf is arguably the sport most closely tied to tradition – but a new way of utilizing golf as a fund-raiser is cropping up.
The customary golf outing designed to raise money for charitable causes ranging from cancer research to school booster clubs to political campaigns has pretty much been mapped out as playing an 18 hole scramble, serving dinner and drinks, and bidding on a few auction items. That business model has proved to be very successful for decades but for one drawback – it can take a lot of time.
Some area courses have seen a growing interest in shaving at least a few hours off the participants’ time commitment by hosting 9-hole events instead.
“The two biggest factors in having events are time and money,” said Alex Coss, general manager of Eagle Eye Properties in Bath Township, northeast of downtown Lansing. “With a 9-hole outing you can work until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, play golf, eat dinner, and be home at a nice hour to see your kids before bedtime. And the participant feels like they get in a good day of work at the office, too. I wouldn’t call it a new trend yet, but it sure is a nice option to consider.”
Eagle Eye and Hawk Hollow hosted a 9-hole event May 21 for more than 200 people backing the Michigan State House Republicans. In the past couple years, Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow has hosted about two dozen 9-hole outings.
Jay Eccleton, general manger of The Emerald in St. Johns, north of Lansing, said he started offering the scaled back version as early as 2007. He sees it as a win-win for course owners trying to improve late afternoon tee times that are generally harder to fill, and for organizing groups that wish to keep participation fees lower. But he has also seen other positive results. “A lot of courses, especially after a big shot gun event during the day, at around 3:00 are pretty dead,” Eccleton said. “The percentage of filling those tee times is pretty low. I began offering 9-hole outings so I can reduce the price for the organization and they can offer golf at a lower cost to the participants.
“The nice part about it is you’re in and out,” he continued. “A 9-hole event is generally two-and-a-half hours and you’re done. You can gear them more for a Friday or Saturday night event, make it more festive. You’ll get more of the people out for fun with their friends than the people out for score. “The organization can usually raise the same amount of money but they gain some exposure to the people who wouldn’t normally take eight hours out their day to play 18 and eat. It’s really good for company outings too where the staff can enjoy an event after work.”
Coss and Eccleton agreed that the 18-to-9-hole “profit margin” is about the same for the charity group after expenses. Eccleton said a 9-hole event plus dinner can save golfers between 25-50 percent compared to 18 and a meal.
In early May, The Emerald hosted a charity outing for Peter Kurncz IV – a three-year old boy who organizer Kate Livingston said was diagnosed with medulloblastoma brain and spinal cancer in February. “I have never put one on before, but have played in them once or twice,” Livingston said. “I am not a huge golfer, so I think the 9-hole is a nice way for people who aren’t big golfers to participate in this type of fundraising event. I was quite pleased with the amount of money we made ($8,000) considering there wasn’t a ton of outside work to put into it. We are planning on doing it again next year and having it be an annual event.”
Eccleton concluded: “It’s just a new way at looking at the game of golf, reinventing the outing business.”