Image of tournament operations manager on Rocket Mortgage Classic course.

Mastering Home Renovation Like A Pro: An Interview  With Dan Foley

6-Minute ReadPUBLISHED: June 06, 2022 | UPDATED: June 08, 2022


A project build of any size involves crafting a plan, finding the right team, gathering materials and getting to work.

And any project build, especially one from the ground up, needs a big-picture visionary like Tournament Operations Manager Dan Foley.

As the official build sponsor for the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic Tournament, Rocket Loans got to go behind the scenes with Foley to learn about tackling large-scale projects, and how homeowners can apply professional methods when planning out their own project. 

Image of Foley standing under course hospitality structure.

Meet Rocket Mortgage Classic Tournament Operations Manager Dan Foley

After spending his entire career in the operations side of golf, Foley feels at home preparing the course for its incoming golf athletes and enthusiasts.

"I’m essentially in charge of everything on the course that comes alive for the big event," says Foley. "All of the vendors, the build itself, the communications with the [Detroit Golf] Club ... the easiest way to describe it is calling myself the designated set designer of the tournament."

And the best sets are meant to be seen on a grand scale. Having Rocket Mortgage Classic fans back in the stands after over a year is what Foley believes will make his 2021 prep work even more worthwhile.

"The number one focus and thing about this year is having fans back," emphasizes Foley. "I’m excited that people are ready to come back, watch and just have a good time out on the course."

How The Tournament Comes To Life 

The Set Up

Pulling off a professional golf tournament is no small feat. The project timeline varies depending on the course layout and tournament restrictions.

This year, with fans back in attendance, Foley estimates the entire build (including pre-event set up and post-event tear down) will take up to 80+ days (almost three months) with a 2,000 person team — not including the 1,000 additional volunteers assisting during the actual event.

"When we get approval from the city to start the building, we go as fast as we can," says Foley. "For this year, we started the loading and staging of materials in early April to go live in July"

When it comes to the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the main building materials include over 1,000,000 tons of steel, 1,000,000 feet of electricity wire, 150,000 square feet of hospitality flooring, 150,000 sheets of plywood, 40 electric generators and (of course) lots of turf.

Image of course during initial stages of tournament build.

How To Set Up Your Big (Or Small) Project For Success

As an expert at ensuring professional golf events run smoothly for years, we knew that Foley could share key takeaways for anyone planning big-picture projects. Here are Foley’s top five keys to success:

1. The Importance Of Having A Vision

Like most things, any project starts with a dream: a practical guide to set goals, measure objectives and make decisions.

Or, in the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s case, a great way to stay on course.

"You’ve got to start with what you hope to see in the end and work backwards from there," advises Foley. "And it’s not just when the build starts, but even a year before. Early on we think about what the best fan experience is for people, where people congregate and map out the build from there."

For Foley, it’s important to constantly research, visualize and adapt his vision throughout the year. In the off-season, Foley and the Rocket Mortgage Classic team travel to different professional golf events around the country to help guide inspiration. "It really makes a difference when we watch different course elements [landscaping, pinch points, gridlocks, etc.] at each event and think about how we can uniquely bring them all together," says Foley.

"Above all, we really want our fans to get excited and consume as much golf as they can in one time."

2. Learning From Past Wins!

It can feel amazing to work on a big project from the ground up. When mapping out your project, find inspiration by asking yourself: "What worked well in the past?" or "How can I make this my own?"

Since the Rocket Mortgage Classic course has different elements every year (2019, 2020 and 2021), it’s helpful for Foley to use prior Rocket Mortgage Classic course success to inspire future ones — especially when remembering ideal layouts and keeping great camera shots and seating in mind. A great example is Area 313, which allows fans to support a local charity while also viewing the action on not one, not two, but three different holes.

3. Constant Communication And Planning

When it comes to any project execution – big or small – communication, timelines and planning are essential.

"There are so many moving parts," says Foley. "And they all matter. That’s why having good communication with the different stakeholders, keeping everyone informed and ensuring everything is organized all make a big difference when piecing together our end result."

4. Keeping A Timely Schedule

When it comes to keeping a team on schedule for a project build, Foley recommends setting up weekly meetings and updates with contractors.

On average, Foley works with over 175 vendors and 3,000 employees and volunteers. During weekly meetings, Foley optimizes his contractors’ time by checking in and asking for any necessary suggestions or recommendations.

"A golf tournament builds from nothing [ground level] to everything," says Foley. "There’s no wall-to-wall arena in place when getting started. That’s why keeping track of our venders, and hearing what they have to say, is so important – they’re what brings this fan event to life."

5. Leaning Into The Resources At Your Fingertips

For Foley, the best building resources are sometimes right in front of him. "At the end of the day, you don’t know what you don’t know,” says Foley. "Bringing in local tour professionals and contractors familiar with the area help make sure that everything is properly built on schedule."

But like most plans, Foley and his team’s vision doesn’t come without any unexpected hurdles. "Whether they’re discovered when breaking ground or undergoing fire inspections, there’s always something to add or revise for the event," says Foley. "Sometimes it involves integrating an additional staircase or ramp last-minute to meet the criteria ... but as long as you stay on top of things, there’s no hurdle too big."

Image of steel and building materials at staging area.

Rocket Mortgage Classic Build Advice To Home Renovators

When it comes to starting and managing a project of your own, Foley recommends not overthinking your plans. Instead, create your own timeline and put your attention into moving forward in smaller (and manageable!) increments.

"It’s always helpful to ease into the build and team size as I go," says Foley. "Not having everyone all together, on-site at once lets me manage the chaos and focus on what needs to happen in the project’s moment, one a piece at a time."

And if your home improvement project seems to keep growing in management and size, consider how a personal loan could help balance any upfront costs.  

Crafting An Expectation, But Handling Your Reality

Foley also acknowledges that homeowners need flexibility and a willingness to change their original plan if something comes up in the process. "Something on a map or in your head might look really good on paper," says Foley. "But at the end of the day, it’s not staying there. It’s normal to go back and readjust your layout once you get a feel for space and how a project should come together. Don’t ever be afraid to do things differently."

Bird's eye view of Rocket Mortgage Classic golf course.

Final Thoughts

From laying out a golf course vision, to troubleshooting the unplanned sand pits along the way, Foley is the master behind bringing the upcoming Rocket Mortgage Classic event to life.

Now, you can lean on Rocket Loans to gather home renovation ideas and master bringing your own project to life. 

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