Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club


How to run a tournament (safely) at your course this summer


Joshua Dalsimer

Being a golf industry “lifer,” the club I play at routinely either asks my advice or at least includes me in most discussions as it relates to the golf operation. Normally, these talks revolve around whether or not to include an embroidered hat as part of the member-guest gift pack. But this year the discussions were more serious and nuanced. In short, how to save our golf season?

It’s a question with few definitive answers. Golf is now being played pretty much everywhere in the United States, but cases are rising in almost two-thirds of those states. Certain state and local guidelines also vary in terms of gatherings. But for now, let’s assume golf can be played with certain safety guidelines in place. Let’s also assume that as we’re in July, golfers want to play as many of their normal events as humanely possible. Below are some ideas on how you can do that. Hopefully it will provide some thought on how you can apply some of these measures—and competitions—to where you play.

The Saturday 2-Ball

Under normal circumstances this is a terrific opportunity to meet and play with people you otherwise wouldn’t. Sign up, the pro makes the teams and the foursomes, and you play a best-ball, full-handicap competition. The adjusted version of this is simply to sign up with a partner and choose another twosome you’re OK playing with. In short, it can be your regular foursome. The thought being for people to be comfortable with whom they are playing. Those without a game can still sign up as a single and be paired up, but it spares those still a little skittish from being outside their comfort zone. Normally a shotgun start, it’s now done using tee times to reduce crowding.

The 9 and Dine


Ah, the hit-and-giggle crowd loves their 9 and Dines. At our club that means a scramble followed by a terrific dinner on the patio surrounded by other couples, where the cocktails and conversations flow equally and easily. Although couples still make their own teams as before, the Dine portion now depends on what is allowed. If outdoor dining is OK and you have the room, that’s great [although table of no more than four is recommended]. If outdoor dining is not possible, audible to the “To-Go Dine” with a food order placed beforehand and picked up to-go after play. Again, tee times instead of shotgun start.

The Member-Guest

Oh my, what to do? The premier golf social event of the season at a time when “social” is only used in conjunction with “distancing.” Not exactly a good atmosphere for the event. The suggestion here is if your member-guest is scheduled for July, look for a later spot on your calendar where you can slot it [or swap it with another event]. Although there is no guarantee the member-guest can come off in late August, it buys another six weeks or more where things might be slightly better, allowing for guests to travel, while you feel more comfortable possibly having them in your home and perhaps in some of the social aspects of the event. Buying time is key for this event to have any chance at all of coming off. Note: Also be aware of quarantine restrictions from out-of-towners coming from certain states. This might be the year to bring a local work buddy instead of your brother from Florida.



The Annual Calcutta

How do you match the excitement of picking teams? How do you do the auction or the parimutuels? Well, time to get creative. For the team draw perhaps consider a drive-in movie type setting where a portable large screen [you can usually rent these] is set up and the pro conducts the draw while participants view from the safety of their cars or standing in a socially distanced manner. As for the auction, that can be done either in the same manner or via a Zoom meeting with payment issued via PayPal or Venmo.

For parimutuels, have one person serve as point person and have participants email their wagers and Venmo or PayPal their payment rather than the traditional method of writing out a ticket and providing a ticket stub. As for the golf, if you have a large turnout and the number of carts might be an issue, consider having two “waves”—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It not only frees up the number of wheels but reduces the number of people on the premises at one time.

Other events typically found on the golf calendar can likely be played without much adaptation. If you have a best-ball match play event, an individual handicap match play event or league play spread out over the season, there really isn’t anything that needs to be changed. Ditto for the club championship. Sure, the gathering of people that adds so much to these events likely will be absent, but the golf can continue. Given the times, we all should be very thankful to at least have that.