Among the many lessons learned from the pandemic is the importance of human connection. Planning activities that bring people together and promote relationship-building is crucial, especially given the new focus on wellness.
“We’re seeing teams finally coming back together in person for the first time in a long time, and some even coming together for the very first time as so many changed jobs during the pandemic,” says Shelby Taylor Kolb, director of marketing and public relations for Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Ga. “So many now are also working remotely, with colleagues spread out in a variety of locations. Having them all come together, break the ice, and spend time making connections outside of Zoom or the office is important.”
Heather Herrig agrees. As president and chief event strategist at Every Last Detail in Atlanta, Herrig recognizes there is only so much networking that can be done in 15 minutes between sessions. Building true comradery takes thoughtful, strategically planned activities that require teamwork to accomplish a common goal.
“If you really want to break down barriers between co-workers and have people bring more of their selves, it’s the only option,” Herrig says. “When people are partaking in an activity together, that’s where the most effective relationship-building happens.”
Beyond par for the course
Golf has historically been one of the most popular teambuilding activities. Kimberly Bean, owner of KBT Creative Support Services in Brentwood, Tenn., says offering the opportunity to tee up and play a round often is a requirement for her clients. “Whether they do it or not, they want it available,” she says. “It’s definitely a must-have for some of my groups.”
The drive for golf increased during the pandemic because the outdoor activity provides space for social distancing. But many destinations and resorts are going a bit off course, taking a swing at tweaking the traditional links experience to expand the pool of participants.
Florida’s Ponte Vedra Beach is a renowned golf hotspot with some of the best courses in the country, including the legendary TPC Sawgrass championship courses. The oceanfront community has added activities that provide the general feel of the sport without the time and financial commitment of traditional golf.
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club offers Shoot for the Pin, an game in which players tee off from the first hole of the renovated Ocean Course and aim to get the ball across a lagoon and onto the ninth hole’s island green.
“Shoot for the Pin is a favorite activity for groups, as it fosters friendly competition and teamwork and provides a casual setting for networking,” says Craig Schoninger, director of sales and marketing. “The activity is less about skill level and more about teams working together to strategize tactics, encourage their teammates, and build rapport between colleagues.”
Then there’s Myrtle Beach. The South Carolina city calls itself the “Seaside Golf Capital of the World” for its more than 100 golf courses. But it also claims the title “Miniature-golf Capital of the World,” due to its 50 mini-golf courses with themes including pirates, dinosaurs, and the jungle.
Two Texas spots—JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa and Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk—have added Topgolf Swing Suites. The suites feature indoor interactive game simulators for golfers and non-golfers. Golf fans can play tournament-style games, including a golf scramble format, allowing teams to play the front or back nine on multiple virtual courses. Other virtual games include zombie dodgeball, hockey, baseball, football, and carnival games such as breaking plates, popping balloons, and knocking down pins.
“Topgolf Swing Suites allow groups an opportunity to mingle with each other, bond as they participate in a fun activity, and enjoy food and beverage service for lunch, happy hour, or dinner while lounging in comfortable seating,” says Vince Waddill, director of event management at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. “The space can host intimate or larger groups and can be reserved to ensure everyone can be together.”
With an award-winning golf course, Barnsley Resort offers opportunities to pair golf with other experiences. For example, guests can shoot nine holes of golf and then shoot some sporting clays. The resort also includes a nine-hole disc golf course on which players toss a flying disc at targets throughout the property.
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in Cambridge, Md., has introduced another twist on the sport: Glow Golf. The glow-in-the-dark game brightens the night with colorful LED-lit golf balls hit toward inflatable targets. There’s also a putting green with glowing flags and a miniature-golf style layout.
“It’s a very memorable activity, and returning groups ask for it year after year,” says Abby Messick, the property’s director of golf. “Groups are choosing to use Glow Golf as an after-dinner fun event for both golfers and non-golfers alike. It’s a teambuilding activity that gives attendees the chance to have fun, cheer each other on, and most often, have some fun banter as they challenge each other to hit the targets. We add music in the area, and it creates a party atmosphere at the end of a long day of meetings.”
Teambuilding with a twist
While golf in its myriad forms maintains its popularity, a variety of new and different activities have taken the field for some friendly fun.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas, offers a wet-and-wild challenge: Taking a spin on the FlowRider Wave Machine. The surf simulator creates a barrel-less wave for surfing and bodyboarding. After a tutorial from the resort’s “FlowPros,” participants partake in friendly competition with categories including best trick, longest ride, and best wipeout.
At Barnsley, the Barnsley Bullseye Challenge lets teams rotate through three activities: axe throwing, archery, and air rifles. “It’s a great team competition because they work together, as various team members have different skill sets,” Kolb says
In Macon, Ga., the ball is in the planners’ court when it comes to choosing activities. Try axe throwing at Maniaxe Throwing or rock climbing at Macon Rocks, as well as more traditional activities such as group bike rides with Bike Walk Macon and kayaking and canoeing on the Ocmulgee River with Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions.
At Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts in Orlando, Fla., guests can channel their inner pirate with an unconventional shipbuilding endeavor. Team members work together to build a boat using only cardboard, foam swim noodles, scissors, and tape; the boat must be able to float in a pool while carrying a team member.
“It requires teams to use skills like delegation, strategy, collaboration, creativity, and trust,” says Jim Curtis, director of sales and marketing. “Teams immediately bond over the competitive nature of the activity. It works well for all types of groups, but we find that corporate groups love it due to its competitive and collaborative elements. It’s a fun activity for us to facilitate, too, because you see that competitive spirit come through and people having an absolute blast.”
Hunt down some fun
Scavenger hunts encourage attendees to get out and see a destination. Visit Macon offers a scavenger-hunt app for a fun and inexpensive way to explore the city.
“At the very center of Georgia is a beautiful city designed to feel like a city within a park,” says Hannah Hartman, marketing manager for Visit Macon. “On this fun-filled Macon scavenger hunt, we make a loop around downtown in search of storied buildings and cultural attractions amidst all the tranquil green space.”
Barnsley Resort’s location on more than 3,000 north Georgia acres provides plenty of room for scavenger hunts and even offers a survival skills challenge. “We have historic ruins and various gardens all onsite, so we can create fun activities that really showcase it all and allows them to explore the property,” Kolb says.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort on the South Carolina shore offers what it calls The Amazing Nature Race. Teams travel the island on foot or by bicycle solving clues, overcoming obstacles, and meeting challenges. Each team gets a backpack filled with supplies for the race to be first.
SmartHunts designs hi-tech scavenger hunts for corporate teambuilding events throughout the country, including in more than 20 Southern cities. The hunts can be branded to an event using corporate logos
and customized content, and the firm can create a multimedia presentation of photos and video clips from the hunt. SmartHunts provides Apple iPads for groups from 20 to numbers in the thousands and uses text messaging for surprise roadblocks, QR codes to unlock hidden missions, and a live leaderboard. Typically, the hunts incorporate a tour of cultural and historic landmarks telling the story of the destination, says Bryan Burns, the company’s founding partner and COO.
“It’s usually about a three-hour program that starts off with an icebreaker and quick training session, and then teams go out
and participate in the hunt,” Burns says. “Then we bring them back at the end for an award ceremony. It’s a great opportunity for bonding and introducing people who may work together but have never met in person. We often have companies that use
it for conflict resolution, as well.”
Hit the beach
Beach-themed activities offer memorable fun in the sun. Margaritaville Lake Resort Lake Conroe-Houston in Texas gets in
the game with beach bowling, in which coconuts serve as bowling balls and pineapples as pins.
Kiawah guests can participate in the Super Beach Olympics. Various stations set up on the beach challenge individuals and teams with physical and mental activities, from eating challenges and giant beach foosball
to trivia questions and obstacle courses.
“What makes [our] activities great is that they are rooted in place,” says Bryan Hunter, the resort’s public relations director. “Each activity allows guests to immerse themselves in the whole natural aspect of the island while also working together and building comradery.”
Along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Sand Castle University offers one-hour group lessons in the art of building sandcastles. Sand Castle 101 classes in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach teach tricks and tips for building sand structures, then participants compete
to see who can create the better build.
No matter what the activity, relationship-building through recreation teaches teamwork, forges friendships, and offers
a lasting value beyond the play.
As Barnsley’s Kolb says, “It’s really all about helping groups foster deeper connections through the activities and helping them build stronger teams by instilling some trust and comradery.”