Splendor in the Grass – a reunion golf primer

by Jeffrey P. Wallman

I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons on the golf course from my dad who forced us to play by a strict interpretation of the rules. He taught us that if you got a bad break you’ve had to take your medicine. Take your medicine, stand tall, and by all means, “Let ’em know you came to the party.”

Needless to say, the second my own boys were old enough to swing a club they joined our family golf outings. They always wanted to play with Gramps. They’d grab a club and run to the ball. “Did you see that one, Gramps?” They’d puff up and feel the thrill of a good shot. But after a bad break, well, there was Dad telling them to take their medicine, stand tall and “Let ’em know you came to the party.”

You can tell a lot about a person by how they react to problems that arise during a round of golf. Of course, the grand game is a great stress reliever, invigorating each participant in a way that few games can. Plus, it’s a great excuse for getting people together. But most important, golf is a sport that builds character by teaching good values, like perseverance and patience. How many other sports force the participant to call a penalty on oneself?

No one is immune to bad breaks. Once when the great Walter Hagen was playing in a exhibition and after playing into a bad lie, his caddy remarked, “Gee, sir, I’m sorry that you’ve had such a stroke of bad luck.” The great one replied, “That’s true, son, but it is there that my ball lies, and it is there that I will have to play it.” In the face of adversity, Hagan stood tall.

Golfers bond in a way that few sports allow. Plus, with handicapping it’s one of the few games that anyone can truly win. Perfect for reunions. Grandparents, women and children, when properly handicapped, have an equal chance of winning, even against a seasoned veteran. So as part of our annual review, here are some tips for organizing your reunion golf event.


First, know your budget and number of participants. This can significantly narrow your search. It’s not necessary to play on the most expensive course. Just make sure that it is well-kept and provides appropriate facilities for your group. The emphasis should be on fun and socializing.

Pick a course that matches your group’s expertise. This requires you to know each participant’s skill level. For more experienced golfers provide a challenging course. For the uninitiated, easier is better. When in doubt, pick a course that is, shall we say, forgiving; on the easy side.

Try to be flexible on dates and times. The cost of playing on Saturday morning can be prohibitive. As a general rule, you can get on a decent public course for about $50 including green fees and carts. Budget another $25 if you plan to provide food, beverages and souvenirs. Some hotels, like Hyatt, have a Kids Play Free Program, so resort courses can be affordable, too.

Golf do’s and don’ts

  • Do watch every shot.
  • Do dress appropriately.
  • Do know the contest and rules of the day.
  • Do stand tall after a bad shot.
  • Don’t use a cell phone.
  • Don’t lose your temper.
  • Don’t throw clubs.
  • Don’t swear, brag or complain.

Facility Staff

Screen staff at each course that passes preliminary inspection. They’ll be happy to help set up your event. You’ll probably include golfers of different skill levels so use staff to structure an event that allows everyone an equal opportunity to have fun. They can also help you set up group lessons for beginners — a great way to get everyone involved without the pressure of a big match.

The staff will also be able to help you understand the course’s policies. These may include a payment schedule, cancellation policy, last minute changes, additional fees, minimum group requirements, provisions for walkers, dress code, rainchecks, and, whew, spike requirements. Don’t forget to ask about food and beverage service, cart availability and locker facilities. Use the staff. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises on the day of your golf event.

Travel time and payment policies

Pick a course that doesn’t require more than an hour travel time. If you use group transportation, plan a trivia contest or provide golf tips during the trip. Set a starting time so that participants can leisurely check in and warm up.

Payment policies vary from course to course. Usually you can set up a master account. Ask for discounts! And, remember, you’ll probably have to make a deposit. It is not unusual to pay 10% at the time of the reservation and 50% thirty days prior to the event.