GolfNow is cable, and it’s time to stream.

We are four articles into our “Taking Our Golf Back” series. The articles to date are largely geared toward educating the market about the detrimental nature of barter golf. There is an undercurrent in the industry that is tired of allowing third-party platforms like golfnow.com and teeoff.com the ability to own their lowest price, own their customer data, and then remarket to their competitors. The future of online tee time bookings will drastically change as owners and operators are provided more solutions that combat these major flaws in the online tee time booking industry.

In the past five years, cable subscribers’ numbers are in free fall and the “cord-cutting” movement is upon us as it relates to TV viewership. Consumers view streaming services as less expensive, more convenient, more options, more flexibility of viewing on multiple devices, and overall a better experience than cable TV. The numbers indicate that more and more viewers are making the switch. See Nasdaq article for more information on this topic:

I made the switch six months ago and I could not be happier. However, I had been thinking about the switch for three years. So why did it take me so long? The same reason golf course operators and owners stay on GolfNow. It was fear. I was afraid:

  • I would lose my favorite channels
  • I would not have access to live events
  • I was uncomfortable with smart TVs
  • I was uncomfortable with understanding the streaming services
  • I did not want to deal with the hassle of canceling my current cable relationship

However, once I understood the technology, options, pricing, capabilities, and other consumer’s experiences it was an easy decision. Many parallels can be drawn between my experience leaving cable television and my experience leaving golfnow.com. I knew it was the right decision for years, but fear kept me entrenched longer than I should have. As I learned more, received more data, and became more open to other solutions I was able to conquer the fear of leaving both. The “Taking Our Golf Back” article series is written with an intent to arm the industry with the necessary information to conquer the fear of leaving third party tee time platforms. In June of 2020, we surveyed 6,700 golfers about their online tee time behavior and the results were telling.

The Survey GolfNow does not want you to see:

In the last 12 months, have you booked a tee time through an online channel?

  • Yes 79.3% (5,316 people)
  • No 20.7% (1,387 people)

For golfers that answered they had not booked online, they were asked the following:

Do you check internet pricing before calling the golf shop?

  • 45.7% (634 people) Use the internet to check pricing before calling for a tee time
  • 54.3% (753 people) Do not use the internet to check pricing

What websites do you use to check pricing options?

  • Course Website 54.7%
  • GolfNow.com 35.5%
  • TeeOff.com 7.7%
  • Others 2.1%

Survey Notes: A powerful statistic is 20% of golfers have not booked a tee time online in the past 12 months and of those golfers, 45% have checked the internet for a courses inventory before they call to make a tee-time over the phone. Of that 45%, over half are checking the courses website and not a third party, meaning they are looking at one course’s inventory and not several. This behavior speaks to a mindset of a golfer deciding which course they want to play and then evaluating where they can book a tee time for the lowest rate. They are not looking at multiple courses and then deciding on the best deal. They are focused on one course and then finding the best deal at that course.

When asked why they do not book online? – Multiple answers were available for submission.

  • I enjoy the personal touch of talking to someone (892 people)
  • To avoid added fees (309 people)
  • I always get a better deal when I call the golf shop (220 people)
  • Too difficult to book online (160 people)
  • Security Reasons (112 people)
  • 265 other reasons were disclosed

Survey Notes: It appears golfers still do appreciate the personal interaction with the golf shop over online bookings. A good thing for all of us.

 

For golfers that answered they had booked a tee time through an online channel were asked the following:

Which online channels have you used to book a tee time? Multiple answers were available for submission.

  • 4,016 people said they booked on a course’s website
  • 3,682 people said they have booked on GolfNow.com
  • 1,446 people said they have booked TeeOff.com
  • 43 people said they have booked on Supreme Golf
  • 82 people said they have booked on other sites

Survey Notes: More golfers book on a golf course’s website then on golfnow.com. So why are we allowing GolfNow to sell their “hot deals” on our golf course website’s booking engine? When they list their “hot deal” on your golf course website they are redirecting an organic customer of the golf course. That customer visited the course website because of the branding and reputation of that course in that market. The customer traffic goes to the course website, sees a “hot deal”, buys the “hot deal”, and the course likely receives $0 income while GolfNow is paid for that trade time. Assuming in this hypothetical GolfNow is using the “hot deal” to sell it’s trade.

If you think about this in terms of numbers as it relates to our survey, 6,700 golfers filled out the survey, 4,016 golfers are going to your course website for inventory, if we had GolfNow booking engines and “hot deals” on our course website that would translate to 4,016 times that an organic customer was exposed to a “hot deal”. In all likelihood that “hot deal” will be very appealing as the lowest price.

When that deal is purchased, the redirection of revenue occurs with the golf course receiving $0 and GN receiving payment for its trade. In a addition, GolfNow in all likelihood collects this customers information and you have turned an organic customer to the club into a customer that GolfNow can now re-market other “hot deal” opportunities on golfnow.com.

If you found lower pricing on the course’s website versus a third-party, would you book directly with the course?

  • Yes (97.8%)
  • No (2.2%)

If the golf course’s website had “daily deals”, would that encourage you to book with them directly?

  • Yes (96.7%)
  • No (3.3%)

If a golf course you like to play was no longer found on GolfNow, would you still find a way to book a tee time at the course?

  • Yes (94.3%)
  • No (5.7%) – (94% of these golfers answered yes when asked if the golf courses website had lower pricing that they would book directly – leaving only 18 people that said No to both questions)

Survey Notes: Another powerful set of questions displays that if a golfer is familiar with your facility there were only 18 times out of 6,700 surveys that a golfer answered the above questions with a No for both questions. Meaning if the course offers daily deals there is only 0.2% of the total golfers that would no longer play your facility if not listed on golfnow.com.

Drilling down on the question of which online channels had been used to book a tee time, we discovered the following:

Of the 3,682 people that stated they had booked through GolfNow, 806 people stated this was the only channel they had used to book a tee time.

Of these 806 people:

  • 96.5% of them said if the pricing on the course website was lower than what was found on GolfNow, then they would book directly with the course.
  • 97% of them said if the course website had their own daily deals, they would be encouraged to book directly with the course.
  • 89.5% of them said they would book directly with the course if they were no longer found on GolfNow

Of the 1,446 people that booked on TeeOff.com, only 120 of them stated this was the only channel they had booked online.

  • 98% of them said if the pricing on the course website was lower than what was found on TeeOff, then they would book directly with the course.
  • 97% of them said if the course website had their own daily deals, they would be encouraged to book directly with the course.
  • 88% of them said they would book directly with the course if they were no longer found on TeeOff.com.
  • 2,267 people stated they find prices “not including daily deals” are lower on the third-party site
  • 1,628 stated they are only after the “daily deals”
  • 214 people stated because of the Loyalty/Rewards Program

Survey Notes: These two questions are immensely powerful to understand. If we combine the golfnow.com and teeoff.com information then of the 6,700 golfers surveyed, there are 926 that primarily book on either golfnow.com or teeoff.com as their current buying behavior. You could assume that 13.3% of available golfers might not see your inventory if you were not listed on these platforms. However, if you offered your lowest price on the website then 97% would be willing to change their booking habits! What does this mean, you can convert the most loyal third-party tee time customers with the lowest rate in the market. Consumers that book on third party platforms are price sensitive and you can draw them back by offering your own price breaks. If you protect against giving away your best rate you naturally curve the reliance on third party tee time platforms.

When asked how much does pricing play on what channel you book your tee time through, on a scale of 1 – 10, the average was 7.21

  • 51.8% of people are more concerned with the price rather than the time of day they play
  • 48.2% of people are more concerned with when they play rather than the price

Survey Notes: I have seen this response returned in multiple surveys. About 50% of golfers are more concerned with time of play, and 50% are more concerned with price. There are two distinct groups for every golf course to market to.

The survey results indicate that a golf course with the correct strategy of maintaining its lowest price on its website can and will attract golfers that engage exclusively on third-party platforms. Furthermore, of the 6,700 participants in this survey, only 13.3% primarily used golfnow.com or teeoff.com. Almost all are willing to alter their behavior if a course provides the lowest price on its website. There is no indication from these results that a course should give away its customer data collection opportunity and its lowest price via barter. Do not be afraid to leave third party tee time platforms, golfers will find your course!

I am happy to share this survey with other operators. I encourage other operators to send the same questions to their database and get feedback from their customers. Share the results on LinkedIn and lets all be transparent about what our customers feedback is as it relates to online tee time bookings. I genuinely believe that we are all in this together, and if we can compile this feedback from golfers, I think we will have a better understanding of the real value of third-party tee time distribution.

Sincerely,

John Brown

CEO – Brown Golf