Adjourning to the golf course for the afternoon is a long-standing tradition at meetings and conferences. But it isn’t the only way — or even the best way — to simultaneously unwind and connect.
For one, golf is a difficult game, and those who don’t play aren’t likely to give it a shot during the company sales meeting. It’s also pricey: The median cost for a round at a private course is about $50, but at a high-end resort it could be much more, For example, courses at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples in Florida cost around $295 and, at the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, almost $350. And that doesn’t include cart fees, caddies and gratuities.
Here are five ideas for group activities that may be more inclusive and less expensive.
This fast-growing sport has nothing to do with condiments.
Pickleball has been around since 1963, yet this mishmash of badminton, tennis and table tennis has taken off like a sprinter in the last five years, fueled by retiring baby boomers wanting an easy and social sport. According to the USA Pickleball Association (usapa.org), about 6,000 pickleball courts exist nationwide, and 100 are added each month. Most are in public parks, but some notable resorts, including the Pinehurst in North Carolina, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan and the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, have added them. Also, a tennis court can easily be turned into a temporary pickleball court, or a local CVB can help find available public courts.
Got a lawn? Grab a racquet or a mallet.
Lawn sports are perfect for fair-weather meetings at a hotel or resort with greenspace. Combined with cocktails and snacks, they are an easy-going option, requiring minimal athletic skill. And today’s possibilities go far beyond traditional favorites like croquet and badminton. Cornhole is a favorite at picnics, family reunions and tailgates and can be played just about anywhere, including a long hallway. It requires little more than an arm and an aim. Lawn versions of traditional games like checkers, chess and dominoes can be found online, as well as some wacky options like Flickin’ Chicken, where players toss a rubber chicken at a target.
Got an ax to grind — or throw?
Hurling a hatchet at a target is not just for Vikings anymore; the 35-and-under crowd is flocking to venues to sharpen their ax-throwing prowess. Urban Axes, Flying Axes (www.flyingaxes.com), Bury the Hatchet (www.burythehatchet.com), Bad Axe Throwing (www.badaxethrowing.com), Battle Axes (www.battleaxesky.com) and other chains are opening locations across the country. Ax throwing is wisely done in a controlled environment with “ax-perts” to monitor and train participants. Some venues also have a bar. The cost varies from chain to chain; a two-hour session at Bury the Hatchet is $40.
Pingpong’s back in a big way.
If you grew up playing pingpong, aka table tennis, in the basement, you’ll be thrilled to know that pingpong clubs are popping up all over the place. Some, like Portland, Oregon’s Pips and Bounce (www.pipsandbounce.com), are for-profit ventures. The best-known of those is SPiN, founded by actress Susan Sarandon with locations in New York and other major cities. These venues combine a cool bar with pingpong tables for lively, noisy social occasions. The list (butterflyonline.com) is even longer for table tennis clubs. These no-frills spots take the sport more seriously with league play, but many also book special events. Pingpong is the great equalizer: Eighty-somethings routinely take down teens in a sport where strategy and mental sharpness trump strength and athleticism.
Bowling is still rolling.
More people bowl each year than play golf, and if your meeting is in a midsize or larger city, odds are good that at least one of the country’s 5,000 bowling alleys will be nearby. Some hotels and resorts also have their own alleys: There’s the six-lane Pluto’s Alley at the French Lick Springs Hotel in Indiana; the upscale Rec Room at the Kimpton Cardinal in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and the 50-lane alley at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. Many alleys are aiming beyond blue-collar toward a hip crowd, adding upscale bars, better food and gimmicks like “cosmic” and “disco” bowling. The unfashionable, required shoes are still cheap to rent. Where else can you have so much fun for under $50 per group of four?