Over 250,000 people attended the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club, which ran from  September 27 to October 2 this past year. While half of the attendees were from Minnesota, approximately a 25% were from other states, and another 20% were from Europe. In the clubhouse, Hazeltine served 5,000 local, national and international guests over this 6-day period. While similar in many ways to other events, it was the most complex event in club history.

Know Your Audience: Understanding the audience is key to any event, but particularly when dealing with high-profile, international events. Dining habits, timing and preferences vary considerably across international borders. Appreciating your audience and their unique expectations are key to delivering a successful event. For the Ryder Cup, we provided hospitality for the players and caddies, the players’ families, friends, and managers, VIP event attendees, and for 650 guests of the PGA.

Know Your Event: Similar to understanding your audience, understanding the purpose of the event—and specific components of the event—drive the design of the space, the menu and the service. Each audience of the Ryder Cup had a different need depending on the day and time: relaxation, privacy, fueling up, networking, etc. Each had different service needs, and required adjustment depending on how a team or player was doing.

Think Globally, Act Locally: Given the audience and the variety of purposes, our strategy included comfortable, private spaces with “homey” touches. This required temporary construction, credentialed access and security, additional soft seating and team-inspired d├ęcor. The food had to be both healthy and hearty; offer variety while meeting specific dietary requirements and restrictions; appeal to an international palette, but feature local favorites, like Minnesota honey, Minnesota root beer, wild rice, and Honeycrisp apples. Food labeling was necessary because for many, the food was “foreign.”

Plan Events Meticulously And Nimbly: Planning for this event began several years in advance, with many on-site visits from both the PGA of America and PGA Europe. In addition to overall event planning, specific requirements (like gluten-free and nut-free options) as well as preferences (like a player’s dislike of garlic) were identified. Contingencies—like weather delays—had to be considered and planned for. And the event plan was frequently reviewed/revised because the players are added to the team up until just days before the event.

Expect The Unexpected: Flawless execution was possible because of the comprehensive, detailed plan. But flexibility was key: moving up a breakfast by an hour because press meetings went long and teams left the hotel without eating; finding “HP Sauce” which was a last minute must-have for the European’s morning eggs; and maintaining a “quiet space” in the VIP lounge so one of the jet-lagged celebrity guests could nap are just a few examples.

A nightly huddle to assess what went well and what to change, and to thank and rally the staff were key to maintaining an enthusiastic team for the duration of the multi-day event. And delivering professional, authentic, Minnesota Nice service left an impression on all guests, regardless of whether they were local or international.
 
Ruth Glaser is the Senior Director of Sales & Marketing at Hazeltine National Golf Club, where she has served since 2010, and was co-Chair of the Corporate Hospitality Committee for the 2016 Ryder Cup. Her favorite parts of the Ryder Cup were wearing some truly spectacular American flag pants; working with nearly 300 volunteers from all over the world; and a win by Team USA, in that order.

International Live Events Association (ILEA) is the new name for the International Special Events Society (ISES). ILEA represents and supports more than 5,000 members globally - event professionals who do business together, share knowledge, nurture talent and progress the live events industry. For more information on how an ILEA professional can help you with your event, please contact info@ises-msp.org.

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