Chapter 4: A Mulligan

Are tee time wholesalers good or bad for the golf industry?

 

John Hakim and Zeb Welborn at the Social Golf Course Book Launch Tournament

John Hakim and Zeb Welborn

  • Jay Miller

    Johnny & Zeb, I don’t want to pitch in – but I have to. I operated 5 courses in my career, one that was named the 2011 National Golf Course of the Year. My business model was: fair price for a great value, customer service, knowing my golfers, promotion of the game in my community and surrounding community, community and public relations (now social media as well) hiring people like you to guide me thru these quick changing marketing times, and trying new innovative methods monthly.
    I also had three 3rd party tee time companies connected to my tee sheet, playing on my terms – not theirs. I massaged my primary tee sheet at least 3 times a week, I ran specials, but also raised my rack rates in 2011 – our best year. I knew every golfers E-mail address from every 3rd party tee sheet company that booked at my courses. I did have to barter times, but I also set the lowest price the companies could sell that bartered time, therefore I was never embarrassed. I grew my database from 300 in 2007 to over 13,000 by 2011. I grouped my database into categories, we sent out E-mails weekly and made sure we followed up. My goal was to make the golfer come back as their local course.
    3rd party tee sheets did revolutionize the way golfers book tee times and shop, however that is my point. In the late 90’s the average public golfer played 4.
    different courses annually. Now the average public golfer plays 9 different courses a year. Just think, of one of those courses followed your strategies, they would pick up 1500 new rounds a year for 7 years straight.
    The only way 3rd party Tee Time Companies will die is all golf courses have to stop providing inventory. Since the time your book was released, 2 more national T time companies announced their plans beginning this summer, 6 social sites for golfers (E harmony of Golf to Golf Along to Facebook types) – have opened. I believe that the 3rd party ship has sailed and it is not going to disappear. 1000 more courses will close by 2020 because of lack of play and also water problems, and those who make a fair profit will be those that follow the principles of your book on the marketing side, grow the game in their communities and offer a fair value for the price.
    You guys answer the question for us readers. Because of everyone being so social thru technology, there will always be websites selling tee times, selling instruction, selling coupons and even selling burial sites on golf courses. It simply depends on if the operator is going to serve two masters, or be the master.

  • Zeb Welborn

    Jay,

    Love that you ran things on your own terms. It’s my sense that not many in your position do. Email collection is extremely important for golf courses in today’s day and age and many do not retrieve emails from those third parties, as you mentioned, which is a shame.

    Yes, as you mentioned, I’ve seen it from personal experience that an additional 1500 rounds a year is not out of the norm.

    And I love your statement about golf course operators serving the master or being the master. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be the master.

    Zeb

  • John Hakim

    Love the reply Jay…especial about working with third parties on your terms. However, the only true path for the golf course industry to take is to completely liberate themselves from any third party tee time wholesalers getting a piece of their action. Never giveaway customer relationships and never giveaway brand integrity. Never let the tee time wholesales convince you those barter tee times are worthless. Everything has value. If I was a golf course, I’d give discount offers and even free golf at times to my loyal customers as a way of appreciating them. I’d give free tee times or exclusive discounts weekly on social platforms to build followings/engagement and appreciation for my golf course pages on those social platforms. I’d work with platforms that extend my golf courses direct intentions to build customer relationships and online presence. As Jay said…BE THE MASTER.

  • Jo Maes

    75% of golf courses don’t even have an online booking engine … I represent GolfSwitch / OpenTee in Europe and we provide golf courses with booking engines so they can master their own destiny … most of them think it’s a magic wand and it will al be fine now but not many of them really work their engine to generate business. For the ones that don’t think it’s necessary to have an online engine, think again. We also have a ‘3rd party’ division with Golfhub, OpenTee and now also Shotzoom with 6.5 million opt in golfers / users … this is to drive rounds of golf to the course … and we don’t drive you to barter. It’s on the course’s terms … we just provide a network that benefits all. As long as all the golf courses sign up to GolfNow, the rest of the tee time vendors will want to get the same from you as you give to GN which perpetuates the barter issues.

    Golf had it too good for years when the course ruled and as a golfer you were supposed to be honoured you were ‘allowed’ to play (and pay) … these times have changed, the golfer is more savvy and is a consumer … courses complain about losing members but in many cases treated members with disdain. I remember paying a hefty fee to play a particular course in Ireland when all over the club house and even on the tee I was told ‘Visitors MUST play of the green tees’ regardless wether you were a scratch player or a 24 hcp player. I have the money in my pocket and there is a lot of choice so it’s up to you to find ways to get me to come to your course.

    • Zeb Welborn

      Jo,

      Definitely agree that golf courses need to work to get golfers to play their golf course. Exceptional customer service is a key ingredient in the social golf course and we hope more golfers value their customers and build an excellent experience.

      Zeb

  • John Berg

    I think the most important is the play time on the holes. I have been so frustrated by teeing off at the right time, only to be behind 5-8 groups a few holes later, all drinking passing the time. Seems more and more the golf course is becoming the latest version of the speakeasy.

    • Zeb Welborn

      John,

      What do you mean the latest version of the speakeasy?

      Zeb

      • John Berg

        Privately held drinking parties.

      • John Berg

        Most courses are now bars on the course.