The task can be daunting, but there is a shortcut. The Golf Digest Companies Research Dept. contacted dozens of corporate meeting planners across the U.S. and asked each of them for advice on finding the right location. Furthermore, the planners were asked to provide their personal favorite locations for business meetings.
From a list of more than 100 golf resorts, we narrowed the selections to the Top 18 Places to Meet, based on such criteria as utility of meeting space, quality of golf, climate, and the type of services offered (see chart on the following pages).
It should come as no surprise that the majority of golf resorts selected for the Top 18 came from such Sunbelt states as Florida, Arizona, and California. Although most meetings are held indoors, the temperature outside is crucial to the selection process.
Another key ingredient for selection was the quality of golf. Several of America's Top 75 Golf Resorts, as ranked by Golf Digest, made the Top 18. Those not making the list but worth noting include The American Club in Kohler, Wis.; The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.; and The Equinox in Manchester, Vt. If not for seasonal temperatures, all could have made the list.
The ease of getting there also played a role. Otherwise, such hot spots as Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica--home of the White Witch golf course--would have made the list.
"And when you do get there, you want everything close by," says Lynne Schueler, meeting planner for Principal Financial Group. "I love when the course is right there. You meet in the morning, grab your golf shoes, and go."
While planners debated the importance of such criteria as the quality of the golf and other activities for nongolfing attendees, they all agreed on one thing: "No matter what the size or importance of the event, you must visit the site before booking the meeting," says Susan L. Cherney, of the Washington (D.C.)-based Courtesy Associates Inc.
While scouting, take note of everything from the amount of traffic on the way to the resort to the ease of getting around the property to the quality and range of room availability to the the on-site staff's attention to detail. You don't want the CEO staying in a standard room while someone from the mailroom is in a suite.
Technology also has become an issue. For a computer-savvy company, making sure the meeting rooms have such necessities as high-speed Internet connections and other power requirements can be the key to business presentations.
The size of the meeting also factors into the selection. For a smaller meeting, intimate settings like The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, N.Y., or Quail Lodge Resort & Golf Club in Carmel, Calif., are often better choices. "You don't want your guests to feel like small fish in a big pond," one planner says.
"The key, as any event planner worth his or her fee knows," says Sandi Vargas of Event Access, a San Jose (Calif.) meeting planner, "is that no matter how great the property has been in the past or how highly it is rated, you must be sure there are no surprises." By Ron Kaspriske