“Taking Your Golf Back Series”: A Guide to Building Direct Bookings and Stopping Competitive Displacement

The “Taking Your Golf Back Series” is a six-part article series that was delivered throughout 2020 by John Brown, CEO of Brown Golf.  These articles are aimed at educating the market on the key fundamentals of returning your golfer to direct booking channels and eliminating toxic barter and third-party channel relationships which create competitive displacement.

The series of articles navigates a multitude of topics on how the industry became engulfed in the barter model and provides insights on how your club can reclaim its rightful position as the direct contact to YOUR customer.

If you have ever questioned barter, third party tee time distribution or your technology provider, than you owe it to yourself and your golf club to read through the articles in this series.

The summary below highlights, just a few, of the key takeaways from each article in this series. The articles provide greater detail into each subject and if you are interested in learning more, please visit www.BrownGolfManagement.com/news to read any of the individual articles.

Taking Our Golf Back – Article #1:  Introduction

  • National Golf Course Owners Association – publishes “Beware of Barter”
  • Tee Time Coalition – publishes “Bill of Rights”
  • Business example helps define the principals for taking your golf back which are own your customer data, own the direct relationship with your customer, and always own your lowest price in a channel you collect 100% of the margin.
  • Brown Golf takes the lead by reviewing real data and improves its business by taking our golf back

Taking Our Golf Back – Article #2: Barter and Today’s Current Marketplace

  • Recaps how GolfNow entered the technology arena and acquired more trade
  • Analyzes language around trade times. Is a trade time really a trade time or is it much more?
  • Discusses GolfNow and the acquisition of its largest competitor EZlinks
  • Analyzes how GolfNow’s superior size, scale and reach may allow them to sell the newly acquired EZLinks trade
  • Learn the litmus test for all golf course operators which is “does my point of sale platform and tee sheet provide open integration?”

Taking Our Golf Back – Article #3: Giving Away the Keys to Your Golf Course Inventory

  • Introduces rate channel analysis
  • 4 mistakes a club is making if it trades
  • Outlines what a “Hot Deal” is and how it is positioned
  • 4 opportunities to take your golf back

Taking Our Golf Back – Article #4: How Barter Agreement Language Could Be Sinking Your Profits

Article provides overview of key terms and concepts in a barter relationship:

  • Barter / Trade Time(s) defined
  • Online Rate Parity – what does it mean?
  • Booking Engine – free is not free if you value your data
  • Agreements / Auto Renewal Language – know when you are about to sign up again!
  • 7 steps to taking your golf back

Taking Our Golf Back – Article #5: GolfNow is Cable, and it is Time to Stream

  • Analyzes the fear of leaving GolfNow
  • Recaps a survey of golfer booking behavior:
  • 6700 online golfers surveyed
  • Customers are willing to alter their behavior and book directly

Taking Our Golf Back – Article #6: GolfNow vs. Golf Course and the Battle for Market Share and Attention

  • Analyzes historical GolfNow market share versus overall public golf rounds
  • Introduces concept of competitive displacement which outlines what has happened in the golf industry over time with third party tee time providers
  • 3 questions every course owner / operator must ask themselves

In closing, if you are a golf course owner or operator who believes in the principals of this series and is looking for a viable solution to transition to a better business model please contact us directly.


John Brown – CEO, Brown Golf

jmbrown@browngolf.net – 717.439.2080

GolfNow vs. Golf Course – The Battle for Market Share and Attention

In 2019, GolfNow was affiliated with more than 7,000 golf courses. Ezlinks distribution platform teeoff.com was affiliated with approximately 3,000 courses. GolfNow facilitated worldwide some 17m rounds of golf in 2019. This number is up from 3.8m rounds of golf in 2009. In December of 2019, GolfNow acquired EzLinks and if you visit golfnow.com today the number of golf courses they work with currently is 9,000. How many rounds are possible in 2020 by GolfNow with this major acquisition?

Article about 2009 GolfNow Rounds:


Article about GolfNow acquisition of Ezlinks and 2018 & 2019 data:


Why would anyone critique a business that is delivering that volume of golf rounds to golf courses? If you are receiving reports that GN rounds are growing at your facility level, that is because in all likelihood they are. Growing from 3.8m rounds to 17m rounds in ten years is no small task. Their data says they are growing, and they are. Are they helping your business?

There is a major statistical flaw with any assumption this growth has helped our industry. Public golf rounds are not growing. Per Pellucid Corporation reporting (https://www.pellucidcorp.com/), public rounds dropped from 372.2M in 2009 to only 344.2M in 2019 in the United States. It is hard to know exactly how many of those 17m rounds were sold in the United States. However, by visiting golfnow.com you can see the vast majority of the courses featured are in the United States. How is it that GolfNow is growing its market share in the face of shrinking public golf rounds? Who is being impacted? There can only be one answer, the golf course owners and operators are being impacted. One scenario, that can explain what is happening in our industry is competitive displacement.

“What is competitive displacement?”

“Competitive displacement is the act of convincing companies to make a shift from their existing solutions to yours.

Competitive displacement businesses capitalize on the mistakes, mishaps, and missed opportunities of their competitors.

Organizations utilize competitive marketing tactics and campaigns to shift loyalty.”

For more information on competitive displacement please see the article below which describes this concept in detail.

The golf industry has been historically poor at collecting golfer data and marketing to their customer. Through a combination of national network distribution, acquisition, and owning the lowest rate, one company GolfNow has managed to capture 3.5M unique worldwide users that booked 17m rounds. The right questions to ask are as follows:

Is this third-party bringing in new golfers?

Is this third-party making golfers play more often?

If the answer is yes, don’t you think total rounds would be growing?

If rounds are not growing, and our market share is shrinking, are we simply just displacing our organic customers into third party channels?


How does competitive displacement occur in the golf space? Anytime a club loses one of the following:

1.) 100% ownership of its customer data

2.) 100% assurance their customers will not be remarketed to their competitors

a. Jay Karen, President of the NGCOA has posted two articles that clearly outline the marketing efforts which draw your customers away from your course and to GN.

i. Does your marketing partner use your golf course and tee times as part of their biggest promotion of the year, and you get $0 from it?

ii. Why golfpass may be the worst thing for golf courses since barter.

3.) 100% control and ownership of the lowest price in the market

Then, inevitably in time, the displacement of your customers will occur. Your customer’s data will be in someone else’s hands, they will re-market to those customers to advance their business, and they will achieve pricing loyalty by offering the lowest price. Any club that barters is subscribing to competitive displacement in the golf space. In a season, perhaps the impact is minimal, but over the course of many years, you are subscribing to a weaker business model.


So here is a scenario, every golf course owner in the country is brought to a meeting in 2009. We are told the following facts.

1.) Public Golf Rounds will drop in the next ten years from 372.2m rounds to 342.2m rounds in the United States.

2.) Approximately 800 Golf Courses will close in the next ten years in the United States.

3.) Through third party distribution, you will have access to 3.5M unique golfers who will book more than 17M rounds of golf worldwide. However, your market share will not increase. In fact, it will decrease.


Would the owners and operators sign up for such a Macroeconomic impact? I doubt yes, but this is the world we live in right now. When you give your data away, your lowest price, and when your historical market share is shrinking then it is time to take your golf back!