Dawn Mercer: Conduct Fun Events to Entice Participation and Gain Exposure

Dawn Mercer is the PGA Director of Instruction at Innsbrook Resort & Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida.

In 2013 I realized that most of the golf events that we offered, especially pertaining to women, were aimed at the serious golfer and were intimidating for the beginner or high handicapper. I changed that and began to host women’s 9-hole events called “Tips & Sips.” We have a shotgun start at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, with players either picking their own teams or me pairing them up. I’ll place new participants in my group. They get 40 percent of their handicap and we utilize a format where the game is your best four-hole net score consisting of one par-3, two par-4s and one par-5 score. After the round, you pay one dollar to the low four-hole winner. The event also includes a putting challenge where the players keep track of any three, one or zero-putt holes during the round. Following play, players pay 50 cents for any three putts and receive playing cards dealt down for every one putt and two cards for a zero putt. You play a blind poker hand for the putting pot. This format has been successful for me because when you play only a four-hole score, they don’t have to play out holes they might be struggling on. Additionally, the putting game offers a chance for everyone to win and have something to get excited about around the green even if they’re having a bad hole. I offer any Rules advice and instructional tips after the round based off what I witnessed playing with them, which turns into future private lessons.

The event, which takes place at sporadic times during the year depending on interest, costs $14 (the usual nine holes with golf car fee) and has usually featured two-to-four foursomes, with a lot of the same people coming back. About 20 women who are now in our women’s organization got their feet wet through this program. Others found women they were comfortable with and have continued to play with them on their own via recurring weekly tee times. It also helps bring business to our course during slow times, especially Wednesdays at 3 p.m. during the summer. Our food & beverage department gains revenue from the food and drinks the players have afterwards, while the golf side gains revenue for the green fees and through merchandise we seek to purge by selling it to the women at a discount. A couple years ago before Christmas, we used this program to help move $1,000 worth of merchandise.