5 Ways to Increase Direct Tee Time Reservations


5 Ways to Increase Direct Tee Time Reservations (and Stop Relying on Third Party Marketplaces)

By Brent Miller, Director of Sales and Marketing, Brown Golf

Third-party marketplaces have their place. If your golf course is in a higher sought after golf destination… and less than 2 years old… and you are competing with a popular golf trail or a well established name brand golf course… and you don’t have a booking engine on your website… then a third-party marketplace is perfect for you.

That might sound a little harsh but, the fact of the matter is that the impact from the exposure that third party marketplaces can provide for most golf courses is over. The age of the internet has been upon us for decades now and most golfers know where they want to play, and where they are going to play… no matter where the tee time is available for sale.

See our survey data supporting this claim here.

Sure, golfers still visit marketplaces to book tee times but, that is only because golf courses have signed an agreement that allows third parties to control the lowest rate.

Whether it’s price parity or the floored out “daily bartered deal," if a customer can find a lower rate for the same product or service on another service, they will tend to purchase from the third party and not from the source. Unless you’ve got Bezos’ money, you’ve likely done the same with other services in the last month.

The issue is that once you’re in the third party marketplace, they are extremely proficient with scare tactics that make you think if you leave their platform, your business will tank. The largest third party is, after all, owned by Comcast and if you’ve ever called them to cancel your TV service, you know how good they are at making you feel like you’ll be back to watching black and white reruns of Gomer Pyle in no time if you continue with your decision.

While watching TV and making business decisions may have different values attached, the tactics these third parties deploy to hook you are one and the same… And, while it may be scary to make the leap, as golf course owners and operators that have “gone to streaming rather than paying for cable TV”, we have multiple cases that show your business can still thrive without.

The biggest hurdle to overcome is that third party marketplaces have had plenty of time to capitalize on the opportunity the golf industry presented them. And while it’s surprisingly easy to decrease the reliance on such marketplaces, there is really only one requirement to remove your golf business from the grasp of marginalized tee times and bartered relationships… It’s called elbow grease.

Golf professionals, really to no fault of their own, have allowed to become lazy and rely on these marketplaces to do all the work of selling tee times for them. The problem with this is the competitive displacement of your customers, margins on every tee time sold, and bartered agreements that sound good on paper but really cost a significant amount more to your business than most realize.

Check out our Barter calculator to see how it impacts your golf course.

We understand that freeing up your professional golf staff to provide better service and tend to the daily business is super important. The pill that is not so easy for us to swallow is giving up hundreds of thousands of dollars to allow this privilege.

To be honest, this is one of the main reasons we started GolfBack and one of the reasons for this very article. So without further adieu, here are 5 ways to increase direct tee times and reduce the reliance on third party marketplaces.

1. Control the lowest price

The lowest price is power. When it’s known by golfers that the lowest price can now be found on “your_club”.com, this will be their go-to for booking tee times. 

When you no longer have to deal with price parity and can post your own “daily deal” that you receive 100% of the revenue, at times that coincide with your daily utilization levels, you will automatically begin to reduce the need for a third party marketplace.

2. Provide golfers with incentives to book direct

Consumers love getting more value for the price they’ve paid and golfers are no different. For ages, the likes of drawn-out loyalty programs have been the tactic to encourage repeat play and direct bookings. 

However, we have surveyed many golfers and most are simply not interested in rewards programs that have no value until the 15th time they have utilized a service.

These findings are why we developed our instant rewards system. Golf courses that utilize our booking engine can customize up to five rewards that golfers can choose one during the checkout process.

This provides golfers with an instantaneous added value for booking direct while providing golf course owners with an automatic upsell to increase the average per round or introduce golfers to a new product or service at the club.

3. Improve your website SEO

With organic search being the primary source of website traffic, the main benefit of improved golf course SEO is that it will increase your visibility to potential customers.

  • Increased website visibility leads to more website visits.
  • More website visits leads to more direct sales.
  • More direct sales leads to better margins.
  • Better margins leads to more revenue for your golf course.

In today’s modern age, it’s no secret that improved SEO is good for any business. What many people don’t know is that better SEO won’t happen overnight but, getting started now will increase your chances of showing up higher in the search results.

4. Increase your golfer database

The more golfers you have in your database, the better your chances are at selling them an alternative service you offer. 

In order to reduce the need for tee time marketplaces, golf courses should focus on growing their databases with quality contacts and should be putting systems in place to automatically capture this information. 

Gathering contact information at the checkout counter is a good practice but, by focusing on capturing this information throughout the interactions the customer has with your business prior to their tee time, you can decrease the strain on your staff and collect more data in the process.

5. Collect more data

Collecting more than just a name and email can go a long way to help you understand who your customers are…

To be clear, we are not advocating to know your customers to the point where it gets creepy.

However, knowing what motivates your customers to book, where they are located, and what channels they are using to book when they play your course can allow you to truly know your customer more so than the name and email a third party marketplace will give you. IF, they share any information at all.

(The GolfBack system collects valuable information from the golf course’s website, POS, & booking engine and compiles it into a central marketing CRM that then provides automated marketing tactics based on what you’ve learned about each customer.)

Brent Miller is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Brown Golf. For more information on GolfBack, click here