There are few topics that get golf course owners/operators more emotional than 3rd party tee time booking systems. Some operators think they’re the devil incarnate… some think they are useful tools… but almost everyone has an opinion.
Let’s step back and look at the issue without emotion.
Why do millions of golfers go to 3rd party tee time booking systems like GolfNow, Golf18, TeeOff.com and others?
There are at least two reasons… CONVENIENCE and PRICE.
It is really convenient to be able to use a single website to book tee times on lots of different golf courses… one user id/password, one user interface, no time spent hopping from website to website. And I think we can all agree that making golf more convenient is a good thing… it might just make the difference between a golfer booking a tee time and getting out to play vs. experiencing one of those dreaded coulda/shoulda/woulda played days.
3rd party sites like GolfNow are notorious for offering discounted prices that attract bargain hunters. Let’s face it, very few things draw a crowd like an opportunity to buy something at a steeply discounted price. Of course, many course operators have mixed feelings about this strategy… if golfers get addicted to bargain basement prices it’s hard to get them to pony up the rack rate and pretty soon you’re on the race to the bottom of the price curve. This issue has been exacerbated by the combination with a barter system that incentivizes organizations like GolfNow to get something… anything… for tee times that are about to expire.
Then let’s talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to 3rd party tee time booking systems… disintermediation. That’s a mouthful of a word that gets at a simple question… whose customer is it anyway? If a golfer buys a tee time on your golf course through a 3rd party tee time booking site, are they your customer or the 3rd party tee time booking site’s customer? Be careful out there, golf course operators… the national 3rd party tee time booking sites are spending big $$$ building their brands and they are determined to occupy the #1 place in the hearts and minds of golfers… potentially leaving you out in the cold or giving them major leverage in their future negotiations with you.
Let’s throw in a few more facts before we stir the pot:
About half of all tee time inventory at US public golf courses goes unused… supply and demand are out of sync.
1%-2% of US courses are closing every year and very few new courses (about 10 a year) are being opened.
If every one of the 25M golfers in the US played just one more round of golf per year at an average of $40, the average public golf course would yield approximately $100,000 in incremental revenues.
Most golfers play more than one golf course… we did a survey of handicap scores posted by golfers registered with a number of upper tier public golf courses in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market a few years ago and determined that avid golfers play an average of 8-12 different courses each year and play almost 50% of their golf away from their ‘home course’.
About half of all public golf courses in the US participate in one or more 3rd party tee time booking systems… that means that half don’t.
About 2/3 of all public 18 hole regulation golf courses in the US offer online tee time booking on their own websites… that means that in the Internet-infused age of 2018, you can’t use the Internet to book a tee time at 1/3 of the public 18 hole regulation golf courses in the US.
Combine all of the facts in this ‘tee time stew’ and what do you get?
IMHO, we can sum up the current situation as:
3rd party tee time sites are UNSATISFACTORY for most golf course operators… even the courses that participate in them frequently complain about the terms… and many have the sinking feeling that they are slowly but surely being dis-intermediated into commodity status.
Tee time booking is INCONVENIENT for golfers who care more about WHERE they play than about WHAT they pay… it’s too balkanized.
For golfers simply looking for the LOWEST PRICE, things are pretty good… a few of the more prominent 3rd party sites do a pretty good job of teeing up those 80% discounts.
So let’s congratulate ourselves… we’ve created an environment where the only people who are satisfied are the customers who are dead set on paying prices that aren’t sustainable.
If you’re satisfied with the current situation, you can stop reading.
But if you think we can do better, let’s get to work.
It’s time to turn 3rd party tee time booking upside down.
The IGDB concept is all about making things better for golf course owners/operators AND for golfers… win-win.
The IGDB is a marketing co-op that enables golf course operators to:
Convert $100M per year of cost into $100M of revenues
Promote YOUR brands, not 3rd party brands
Gain control of the largest database of golfer contact information on the planet
For golfers, the IGDB is mostly about CONVENIENCE… let’s give the golfers who are willing to pay a fair price for playing the greatest game ever invented a method of making tee times that is so simple and convenient that they wind up playing a little more often. And, if they can score an occasional discount, even better… but the focus should be on VALUE… not just price.
This is doable, folks… join us on the journey… we’ll be posting updates on IGDB progress on a regular basis but we need your feedback, encouragement and participation to make this happen… if every golf course operator just puts a little more in you will get a LOT more out.