There are lots of formats and it really depends on if you want fun competition, or something a little more.
The better players are typically going to place high, there's just no getting around that. The difference is what your new/lower skilled players walk away with.
For a huge range of skills between players, I'd go with pingolf. It solves two problems. First, your good players may not have long games because they will get their scores early in the game. Next, your newer players will get more time on the game. Thus a percieved better value. I'm a really bad golfer in real life, so trust me, my cost/stroke is always a 'good deal'.
In my league, we play a linear format using the Arcade Tournament Manager software. There is a warm-up hour and then it's game on, first game played on each machine is the only one that counts. It's fun and social, but you are still out there trying to play well.
I also run a bi-weekly tournament. This is done during the week and we don't really want to be there all night. It is single elimination, best of 3. It's also random seen and random draw, so you can't follow the bracket to see who you will play next (until later when it's just you and one other player). This would help your newer players in a double elim format so they don't have to get matched up with top players every single time.
One thing with how you have seen games go on, I would not let a single person play 4 games at the same time on a machine in qualifying. That seems like bad form IMO. Play a game, then get in line if you want to play again. If there is no line, then feel free to play another SINGLE game.