How to host a Golf Tournament during a pandemic

Sam Scott March 25, 2021

Last fall, we almost canceled the Young Life golf tournament due to COVID-19, and I’m certainly glad we didn’t. If you’re hosting a tournament this spring, below are some tips from our experience.

The golf professional at our local country club told me that our 2020 fall golf tournament was the most fun he’d ever had playing golf, and on top of that, we raised more money than we ever had before; all of this in the midst of a global health crisis and financial recession.

Like everyone else, the pandemic has caused our local area to rethink what’s “normal.” We’ve pondered questions like: How can we raise much-needed finances in order to reinforce our dwindling budget? and How much is too much to ask of leaders and donors in this time?

If you’re on staff with Young Life, I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of golf tournament resources, so I’ll skip the fluff and head straight for the filet of how our incredible committee and volunteers pulled this off during a pandemic.

First, a little background on the decision to move forward with the tournament.

We made the call for three reasons: (1) to offer people in the community something fun and safe to do, (2) to not lose important momentum and excitement from past tournaments, and (3) to raise some funds as we approached the end of the fiscal year.

With hefty safety precautions in place, we went ahead with the tournament. 

Here’s how we structured it —


We reduced the golfer fee by $25 (to $100 per golfer) to make the tournament more accessible during a financial recession. We also reduced the various sponsor prices for the aforementioned reason.

Tournament Format

The format of the tournament was a Best Ball Scramble, meaning that every member of the foursome hit their drive from the tee box, and the spot of the best drive was used as the mark of everyone’s next hit. Due to the pandemic, instead of a Shotgun Start, where everyone tees off from different holes at the same time, we scheduled Tee Times, where each foursome teed off from Hole One at fifteen minute intervals. Because of this, the registration area was clear of non-essential golfers and volunteers. All golfers and volunteers wore face coverings when interacting with each other throughout the day. (P.S. — At the end of the day, golfers said they loved the Tee Time format, so when “normal” returns, we won’t be returning to a Shotgun Start.)

We provided lunch for every golfer. Chick-fil-A donated sandwiches, and they were delivered to golfers on the course by masked volunteers.

In addition to lunch, we had a snack cart driven by a masked volunteer armed with extra masks and hand sanitizer. All snacks were individually packaged (peanuts, beef jerky, crackers), and the volunteer served golfers one at a time. Water coolers were spaced sporadically throughout the course with a bottle of hand sanitizer next to each.

In a “normal” year, we host a buffet style dinner at the conclusion of the tournament, talk for a few moments about Young Life, and announce prize winners. This year, we didn’t host a dinner, and we instead announced tournament winners on a Facebook Live event that evening. To share about the mission, we created story boards for each hole. (See images below)

A Young Life Twist — Tee Box Club Games

During our tournaments, we think it’s important to incorporate some classic Young Life fun for the golfers to gain a feel for what Young Life is all about. At three of the tee boxes this year, we had volunteers running games similar to those you would play at your local club. At one of our holes, we had an axe throwing target with different areas of the target marked off with various sections: prizes, stroke rewards, and stroke punishments. Each golfer had the option to to throw an axe. If they chose to throw, and the axe didn’t stick in the target, an automatic one stroke punishment was added to their score for that hole. If the axe was thrown and stuck in the prize section, the golfer had their pick of a gift card for a free appetizer at a local restaurant or a Young Life golf towel. If the golfer stuck their axe in the +2 or -2 sections, the foursome added or deducted two strokes to their final score for that hole. In between each golfer, the axe handle was sanitized.

Over the years, we’ve hosted tee box games such as —

  • Name That Tune: if you correctly guess the song played off a small portable speaker, your team tees off from the women’s tees.
  • Pick a Box Challenge: teams selected Box 1, 2, or 3. Inside was a punishment and a reward — i.e. hit with the opposite hand, but start the hole from a mere 100 yards away from the pin. Foursomes selected their box together, and they could pick a second box if they didn’t like their first choice. If they picked a second box, they were stuck with that punishment/reward combination.  
  • Costume Roulette: foursomes wore something silly from the Young Life closet in order to tee off from the women’s tees.
  • Heckle Cart: this is by far the “game” that was most talked about at the end of the tournament. My friend Dylan and I dressed as COVID-19 Security Guards in neon security shirts, and drove with megaphones yelling at golfers while they teed off. Occasionally, we would squirt golfers with water guns labeled as “hand sanitizer,” and jump out of the cart with two yard sticks to measure the distance between golfers. 
  • Hole-in-One Prizes: purchased by one of our committee members, we had five hole-in-one prizes available through this website. It’s a great addition to the tournament because it’s fun to tell golfers they might win a free car!

All in all, hosting a golf tournament amid a pandemic can be fruitful way for you to kick off your new fiscal year in the black. We had 112 golfers at our tournament and 0 issues with COVID-19. While doing your part to create a safe space for everyone involved, your local area can raise the necessary funds to support your eternity-changing work with kids in this time that is far from “normal.”

I’d love to talk about how you can do this in your area. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to talk more.

Photos courtesy of Greg Isaacs.

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