It sounds simple enough. Golf courses have unsold tee times available, so discount agencies sell them to consumers at a bargain price. Everybody wins, right? After reading our companion pieces by contributing writer Shane Sharp and TravelGolf.com president Robert Lewis, readers were quick to add their opinions.
With the recent barrage of discount tee-time services available, golfers arefinding it easier than ever to secure inexpensive green fees. But as Sharp reports, many course owners claim the services are training theconsumer to devalue the product. And in his editorial, Lewis follows by reminding course owners that heavy reliance ondiscount services could have potentially harmful long-term effects. Feelfree to add to thediscussion, and we'll post selected emails below.
I totally agree with you on the pricing structure. I tried running a golftour and almost every course wanted me to give a bigdeposit andpay more than their rack rate to hold an event there. This industry is notwilling to work with anyone. If I owned a course my permanent tee timeswould get the biggest discountbecause they are there every week for 20+ weeks. Then for $5 more I wouldcharge groups of 12 or more. Lastly I would charge the last minute golfer $5or $10more for calling less than 1 week in advance.
I would want to know how many customers to plan for so that I could have theappropriate number of people scheduled to handle demand. This will helptherebottom line more than anything else.
Glen Flanagan, Waukegan, Ill.
I think courses need to be more creative in attracting golfers. When Idesign awebsite for a golf course I tell them it is a tool they should use to bringingolfers. They should establish incentive plans and programs to establishcustomer loyalty. One of the best things I get them to do is establish anonlinemembers database where they can send out a last minute email to their onlinemembers announcing last minute deals on green fees, dinner and golfspecials, orproshop discounts. Make ALL your customers feel like members and they willplaymore often.
Dale Stranaghan, BCGolf.com Inc.
I support that your comments that discounting conditionsour customers to want discounts all the time. And since most courses inScottsdale that are high-end have to get a minimum of double the roundsnecessary to try and accomplish their goal, but it's actually three times as manyrounds to make there dollar per round.
Most high-end courses don't need todiscount based on getting play. They just need to provide the equal amount ofgreat experience that people pay for where they play. Most affluent travelersand golfers will pay the rate if the experience, customer service and amenitiesare the very best. SO come up with ways to add value instead of discounting. Discounting hurts us all in the valley of the sun. Our destination is notMyrtle Beach. Scottsdale has the best collection of high-end daily fee coursesin the world, so let's not devalue our product. Provide value and service to meetyour standard rate.
Russ Norris, TPC of Scottsdale
I think the main problem is that the golf course industryis way, way overbuilt, having been sucked in by the boom decade of the90s, andfees are completely out of reach of the average middle class golfer likeme,particularly in a recession that may well get worse when many ordinarypeopleare losing their jobs.
There are plenty of gorgeous high-end daily fee courses here, like PB Dye,Whiskey Creek, Bulle Rock, and Raspberry Falls, with fees between $75 and$145.But who the hell has that kind of money to blow on a round of golf, atleast ona regular basis? I might play one of them just once, to see what it waslike,but I can't afford them on a regular basis, and I don't know many peoplewhocan, at least not when they are paying out of their own pocket.
For me, a course like the Maryland-National Capital Parks and PlanningCommission course at Needwood, with greens fees of $33 for 18 walking onweekends, is as high as I can go. Yet I am a dedicated and seriousgolfer whohas played for 40 years, all over the world, in Nigeria, Kenya, India,Venezuela, and I try hard to play once a week. I will only play where Icanwalk (carts are not golf). But even at the walking rate at Needwood,that'sgoing to be $135 a month. That can be a pretty unfair drain on a modestmiddleincome household, and if only one person is enjoying the benefit, it'salsopretty unfair.
So, while I sympathize with the business model principles that the authoremphasizes, I wonder if they're realistic. The only way that keepingrates upand high will work is if the industry takes a conscious decision toshrink itsmarket to the high income segment only. And doing that will mean a lot ofcourses will have to close because there just won't be enough peoplearound withthe income level needed.
I don't know what the answer is, and I'd certainly love to play on someof thosegreat courses, but it seems to me that it's more likely there will be abigshake-out over the next few years. Maybe the best strategy, instead ofpushingfees back up, would be for everyone to bring their fees down to morerealisticlevels all the time 7/24. While this might shave profits to zero, atleast itwould keep courses alive and open during the recession, and save lots ofjobs in the industry.
Kris Atchley, Rockville, MD
In this article the author writes that course rateintegrity is in jeopardy by discount tee time offerings and last-minutebrokerages of spots. I think that he is seriously putting the cart beforethe horse in thissituation. Course owners plan very strongly to figure out what rates theyshould charge to customers; they're not simply drawn out of a hat.
However, some of those rates, especially in the destinations mentioned inthearticle (Las Vegas, Scottsdale) are probably pretty high, relativelyspeaking,and they deserve to be. Maintaining lush fairways and green greens inthoseclimates is very difficult... and water costs a fortune!
I find no difference between airlines offering last-minutefill-up-the-planefares in order to make some money back on their seats that wouldotherwise havegone empty, and yet nobody has claimed that these last-minute fares areruiningthat industry. The bottom line is the bottom line. . . Instead of lettingthe course gounoccupied with no income at least the courses are making SOMETHING, andthatcould keep them in business. Some money is better than no money at all.
I've booked full green fees in advance going on vacation to both LasVegas andScottsdale, and I got the time and days I wanted exactly, without hassle,andI'm treated by the course better. Discount fares on airlines get you thecheap seats, discountedinternet-bookedhotels get you a room by the ice machine, and discounted golf tee timesget you12:30pm tee times.
Arbon Reimer, Golden, Colo.
I found this article interesting. Yet it left mewishingthere had been more effort put forth in presenting a more in-depthanalysis onthe part of the author in terms of quantifying whether or not discountinggreenfees erodes rate integrity.The article suggests golf is a costly product due to design, building andmaintenance factors. It would be interesting to understand a golfcourse'sbusiness model in terms of how they scale their operations when decidingon aprice structure to make a 'fair' profit.
The article left me thinking I should fell pity towards some of thegolfindustry that wants to regulate prices. Perhaps the industry should digdeeperin assessing their balance sheet and look for ways to scale operations.Indoing so, I would like to think that we end up with a win/win - reducecosts andincrease revenues for golf courses while satisfying excess inventory(unused teetimes) by bringing more players to this great game via cheaper green feesthusgrowing the sport.
Mark Schobinger, Austin, TX
Of course, I realize that this publication is apromotionalmouth-piece for the golf industry. I found it quite humorous! Thecomplaints ofgolf course administrators sounds eerily like the airlineindustry. Perhaps youshould go to Congress and ask for a bailout, too? Let's Face It: overheadis too high, ridiculous prices are charged at somecourses, demand is down....the industry is going to have to live withit. Somecourses are going to fail, financially-speaking. Goodness knows there areenough finance guys out on the courses-talk to them! They'll tell you thesame thing!
Steven Deeley, South Pasadena, Calif.
Article makes good sense in general, however, itfails tonote the extraordinary inflation in daily green fees. In my judgment, $150+daily fees are one of the main reasons courses go empty. Unless you relyon justthe high end tourist, (probably plays each course in the area just once),oryou areon a company paid outing, the average local player is just going to cutthenumber of times he plays if the rates remain too high. The demand in notelasticand there is a top end value for money for most players. If course ownersapplythe articles logic, then they would do well do well to rethink how muchbeing amember for the day is really worth. At the end of the day, how manyroundsplayed at what average price over what period would probably evolve abetterrate base. Keep up the good work. TravelGolf.com is a welcome newsletter.
Michael Gurley, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Why don't the golf courses themselves just offerdifferentrates for different times so that those who want to pay the full rate canplayat the premium times? To my mind, even though we're getting more andmore golfcourses across North America, we're actually getting fewer courses thatthe"ordinary Joe and Jane" can golf at. Why is it necessary to get a smallloanjust to play 18 holes of golf at a nice course? Owners have to rememberthatthe players are just renting the time on the course, not buying theproperty!Maybe a few less luxuries are in order so that golf can remain a pastimeforall people and not just the well-to-do.
The same goes for all of the golf equipment and supplies that areamazinglyoverpriced. Who really needs to have a $500 driver and a $200 putter toget ascore around 100 or even 70? In order to even "look" like a golfer thesedays,the new patron of this "sport" has to take out a loan to get all theequipmentand clothes necessary to play. If the golf industry expects to make golf anational game for the generalpopulation, they better make some changes soon or they will lose the massaudience.
Norm Walls, Ontario, Canada
As a "greens supervisor" and a greenskeeper for 10 yearsin British Columbia, I have seen a good golf course lay empty two to threedaysa week because the management wants to keep their prices high, therebyfinancially restricting the "clientele" the course and its owners have to"put up with". When I travel (frequently to the Southwest United States),theonly courses my partner and I can afford to play are those who participateindiscount programs.
We are grateful for the opportunity to play some of thenicest courses in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, at a time in ourliveswhen we could never afford the incredibly high green fees for regular playatthese courses. There is a place for "discounted tee times" and I wouldencourageGolf Course Managers and the public as well to support the "USE" of coursesinstead of having them sitting empty at certain times.
Dennis Collet, British Columbia
Are you kidding me? With a glut of golf coursesnationwide, a slowdown in the number of rounds played, and a static numberofgolfers, you bet courses better discount! It is just like airtime on aradiostation. .unsold time, stays unsold, or unused rooms or no passengers onairlines. Better to get something rather than nothing.
As to "training" golf consumers to devalue the product. BUNK! Providebetter service in the shops,quit treating us like cattle, and lower the price of your $5 hotdogs whileyouare at it. The problem of too many courses, and too few golfers is going toaround for AT LEAST 5 more years, so get used it. $80 rounds for municoursesare a thing of the past. Shops better find was to bring added value to thegolf experience, and not worry about getting the highest per roundpossible. Golf is golf, whether played at Pebble Beach for $375, (you canwalk on Pebble thesedays, no advance tee time necessary, or your local muni. . . .18 holes, plentyoffun, and maybe a chance for a decent score.
If the industry tries toOVERVALUEwhat a round of golf is to Joe Blow, they will kill the golden goose, evenworse than the moronic manufacturers who think we still will pay $500 for anewdriver when the knockoff comes from the same factory.
CB Maxwell, Monterey, Calif.
After reading your article I can now see why we get second-class treatmentwhen we get discounts. We recently played Dragon Ridge and were treated bythe pro shop as if we had the plague. Four of us have played together forover 20 years, and we enjoy going to new courses and not paying what we feelis somtimes overpriced courses. Attitude drives more golfers away fromcourses.
Keith Stell, Redlands, Calif.
I continually drive by the private and semi-private clubs here in Ottawa and see lots of open fairways. We wouldn't need worry about this problem if the golf courses/professionals think about their green fee prices. Do you think it might be too expensive? A brand new course just opened here to $100 +/-. This may come as a shock to some but the average joe cannot afford this. I would love to be challenged by superior courses and I shoot in the low 80's. Three cheers for discount tee times.
Gary Dougherty, Ontario Provincial Police
I don't feel sorry one bit for these golf courses. Here inArizona, especially in the summer months, these golf courses LIE to you, andtell you that their in excellent shape, only to find out the greens andfairwaysare all full of burnt out, or full of fungas. And then they've got the ballsto chargeyou $35 bucks or more for 18 holes.
Keith Peterson, via email
Vendors must remember that the buyer ultimately sets the price!
Art Schwartz, via email
Prices go up and down and any harm either way is part ofthe cycle. Figures don't lie, but liars figure. Of course the courseownersfeel it harms the product, the consumers don't feel any pain though. Whentheprices go up it sure does hurt the consumer and do the owners reduce pricestoease our pain? Hell no!
Ken Otsubo, via email
As a new resident to Arizona, I find the article aboutdiscount golf borders on the greed of the course owners. After living inNorthCarolina and playing golf there and in Myrtle Beach, S.C. , I find the greenfees inthe Phoenix area high for the value.
The condition of the so-called top courses leave a lot to be desired in thesummer and paying top dollar at 100+ degrees on a poorly conditioned courseleaves much to be desired. While some courses are good, they are not all$100+values. Let the discounts continue.
Warren Laing, via email
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!