By Ronnie Miles, NGCOA Director of Advocacy
Today the role of a golf management software (GMS) provider is becoming more integrated into the day-to-day operations of our golf courses. Not so many years ago, an owner or operator would purchase their point-of-sale (POS) system from one company and website design and management from another. Another company provided merchant processor (MP) services. Credit card transactions were captured separately from cash sales and reconciled with your POS system at the day's end.
While managing multiple contracts with different annual renewal dates was a pain in the you know what, this was the standard way of managing our business. Then POS providers began to offer the golf industry systems that integrated many of these services. Initially, these included a tee sheet and their POS system, which provided more streamlined business transactions between the customer and the golf course and reduced the number of contracts the golf manager had to navigate. Some providers even offered to design and support the golf course’s website. This integration of software became known as Golf Management Software (GMS). Many GMS providers began to permit integration between their software and the merchant processor's software, enabling full integration of all financial transactions. However, two contracts remained in place due to separate providers (GMS and MP).
During the pandemic and the shift from cash transactions to credit cards, merchant processors and the banking industry realized a windfall of revenue, as credit card transactions accounted for over 90% of business transactions. However, while the cash business has rebounded, it remains the secondary form of payment.
GMS providers saw an excellent opportunity to take advantage of this revenue channel from credit card transactions by negotiating partnerships directly with merchant processors, thus limiting access to those outside their partnerships. Some owners reported that these new agreements have resulted in some lowering of MP fees, but at the same time, others have reported it has limited competition within the marketplace.
Golf course owners and operators realize that the most important business transaction to their bottom line is with their merchant processor, as they control the flow of money going into their bank accounts. If your POS or tee sheets are down, you could still operate your business. But with customers transitioning away from cash, not accepting credit cards (unless you have the old manual swipe machine) would be a disaster for the golf course. So you must control who services your merchant processing transactions. As you know, the lowest price does not guarantee the best value. Remember, your GMS provider and merchant processor work for you. Making the decision to switch providers is not an easy one.
Should your GMS provider not offer you access to your preferred merchant processor, you always have the option to process credit card transactions outside your GMS provider’s network. As before, you would need to reconcile your transactions at the day’s end.
NGCOA published a white paper that offered guidance on choosing your merchant processor. While this document was published in 2017, many recommendations remain valid today. Make sure you understand your contract and agree with its pricing plan. Seek multiple bids if your chosen POS provider permits. Know how to get out of your contract should you have a cause. Most importantly, audit your monthly statements to ensure you are being charged in compliance with your contract.
The NGCOA Advocacy Department cannot recommend providers, but should you need assistance understanding your statements or experience inaction by your provider, call me at 843-471-2714 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.