Is there a masters degree in OGGT (Organizing Golf Group Trips) or something? All my training as an IT project manager did not prepare me for the numerous and delicate issues I just faced organising a golf trip for 8 of my friends and I. OMG !
Just to give a clear picture, I live in Paris, 2 of the guys in our group are based in Germany and the rest live in the UK and Scotland. Most of us have families with kids (that all have vacation at different times). The German guys have to travel a lot for their jobs, and well … the french guys usually have a scheduled strike they can’t afford to miss. So when I proposed this years trip, everyone said ‘Great idea!’ and kept very quiet. Waiting to see who will pick up the daunting task or organising. As the saying goes, ‘If you suggest it, you end up doing it’.
My take away: Agree how long the trip is going to be and then make a ‘take it or leave it’ proposal that is within flying / driving range.
It took me about 2 months but we finally booked the trip and now I am looking forward to a great short vacation in March 2014. I learned a lot in the process and that’s what I want to share with you. Basically, I found my 5 biggest pains in the neck were linked to the questions: When? Where? How to get hold of them? How much? How to nail down the trip and accept an offer?
The first point to clarify was WHEN to go. That always helps decide where to go and at what price. What followed were 42 emails, over 60 text messages and countless phone calls. About
the only thing that was missing from our message repertoire was the use of carrier pigeons! Eventually a couple of options emerged. To finally nail down the dates we ended up using doodle.com, an appointment alignment website which I always find incredibly useful. We decided March would be a good time to get away from the cold and start preparing for the new season in Europe.
My take away: Open 2 polls in doodle. The first to nail down the month, then follow up with specific date proposals.
I sent an email out with a couple of suggestions that might suite the weather conditions. I expected everyone to respond by saying they couldn’t care less as long as the golf was good and they served cold drinks at the bar. How wrong I was. I got things like:
Indian Canyons, Palm Spring, California? Oh no, I just spent a business trip in LA there two weeks ago.
Wokefield park, London? Oh no, I don’t like bad food, bad weather and Mary bloody Poppins!
Sola, Rogaland, in the Nordics? Oh no, I can’t stand saunas and in March it’s still -20 degress during the day.
Tucker’s Point Club, Bermuda? Oh no, we’re gonna get lost in this triangle.
My take away: Agree how long the trip is going to be and then make a ‘take it or leave it’ proposal that is within flying / driving range. If anyone doesn’t agree, they can get the buy in from the group for their own suggestion.
3/ Getting hold of the group
During the whole process, the thing that was probably most frustrating was trying to get feedback from everyone. The social media, texts and email really make us feel close together but when your are waiting for urgent feedback from several people, things change dramatically. I found myself having to contact certain people individually in order to close open points that needed a consensus (Jean Pierre, is that a french thing or is it just you?). Also, I was working on it outside office hours and I noticed that just the one hour time difference between continental Europe and the UK made a difference. I mean, globalisation is probably a good thing but I can’t imagine trying to get a group aligned canadian online casinos across 5 different time zones…
My take away: You probably know the guy that is going to be least responsive. Plan for it! As soon as the email is out, give him a call and inform him his feedback is needed. And use a mobile collaboration tool like www.stimmapp.com. That way people can respond to your requests while they’re on the move.
4/ How much
This can be a sensitive topic because not everyone in your group will be willing to invest the same amount in a golf trip. A shuttle to and from the golf or a hired car? Tee off before 7AM or not before 10AM? All inclusive resorts or bed and breakfast only? There are multiple factors that can affect the price and you need to know each persons expectations.
I know my group pretty well and we’ve been on trips together before so I already had the feeling that everyone would be satisfied with a four star hotel with breakfast included, shuttle service included and early tee off. Henry in Swindon was hardest hit by the recession so I gave him a call before contacting the travel agent, just to make sure he was still comfortable with that arrangement. He was, so I went ahead to contact the travel agent.
My take away: If you are going on a golf trip together, you probably know the lowest common denominator in your group. Use that as an upper limit! Everyone will enjoy it if you can all afford it, the ones that can’t will hate it if they have to struggle to cover the costs.
5/ Nailing down the offer
Having got everything I needed from our group, I set about contacting a travel agent. I started with one of the online package dealers since we had selected Spain and they are usually pretty good for that region. I sent an email with all our requirements and promptly got the response that one of the courses we wanted to play will be closed for the period we were there. The cost including shuttle had gone up considerably and early tee times were not available for the dates we requested. 12 emails and 5 phone calls later, we had an offer from the travel agent for requirements we could all agree on. After all the hassle, I did not hesitate to accept the offer and inform the rest of the group how much each one would have to pay.
A week later Henry sent me a link to a special offer from a rival travel agent that was about 20% cheaper that the offer we had accepted for roughly the same service!
My take away: No matter how much extra stress it is, it’s worth requesting a quote from multiple travel agents. They sometimes have great ideas about what you could add to make your trip even better and you might even get it at a lower price!
Planning a golf trip can be a real hassle. If you want your group to get as excited as you about the trip, give them the chance to participate in the planning process but make decisions for the group when you have to. And always contact several travel agents … you might be surprised by the results!