Cooler days and dwindling daylight harken the decline of the golf season in most of the country. Sure, there are the squirrels frantically gathering the last nuts before the snow flies, and why you'd want to discount your rates to these people who just have to play is beyond me, but I digress.
The fall season leads to winter and the "show season" in January. I expect the PGA Merchandise Show and the NGCOA Golf Business Conference to be as much celebration as business, grand gatherings of friends and colleagues separated for two years by a deadly (and ongoing) pandemic. So keep your vaccination card handy, and don't throw away your masks – we'll all need them for some time to come. But I digress again.
Since my early years at EZLinks, I've marked November 1 through March 1 as golf's "selling season," especially for technology. Golf courses shut down or substantially cut back, providing time to reflect, plan, and determine if the technology used the past year, particularly Point-of-Sale systems, is adequate for future growth and potential changes. Many PoS vendors will be lined up on the convention center floor primed to demonstrate all the great things they can do to make your operation more efficient and possibly more profitable. Recent press releases indicate there might be more choices than ever before.
I have a collection of past PGA Merchandise Show directories. I know, I know. I've heard what you're thinking from my lovely wife too. The 2020 directory shows 12 PoS exhibitors, the same number as the 2015 directory – but they're all not the same. There's been additions, subtractions, and consolidations, plus a few that do not exhibit at the show.
Apparation LLC's annual tee time booking survey identifies several other PoS companies not as widely known and without appearances at the PGA show. A reasonable estimate is a total of 20 in the market, plenty of choices, and enough to make PoS shopping a daunting task.
The churn begs the question - how many system providers can the industry support? Why do so many people (Entrepreneurs? Fools?) think we need another system? Where do they expect to derive their growth and success? After all – and this is critical – there is no organic growth. Sure, there are the small "mom and pops" out there still on paper and cash registers. But for the most part, the only growth possible is stealing business from others. And that's a tough way to succeed, especially if the primary sales proposition is, "We're cheaper than the others."
Recent press releases add two more to the mix, plus another out of Canada with one of the strangest intro videos I've ever seen.
First, Tiger Woods and TGR ventures are affiliated with a new golf PoS from Heard Holdings. It recently raised $10 million, a nice start but far short of the $57 million Bryan Lord, Teesnap's founder, once claimed was spent by Allegiant Airlines developing that system. The product is a restaurant PoS expanding into golf and hospitality. Woods is quoted in an article, "[We're] excited to partner with Diameter as we look to introduce Heard to the restaurant industry and the golf hospitality business, which has relied on antiquated systems for far too long." I don't expect Tiger to demonstrate this new system at a future show, but surely his name attached to it will garner attention.
And "antiquated?" Heck, it's not like they're all running on Commodore 64s.
Another new entry is Eagle Club Systems, founded and developed by former Teesnap employee and PGA member Tyler Arnold. If you go to the website right now, you can sign up to be a beta tester of the tee sheet/booking engine, point-of-sale, inventory, and reporting all "FREE." Oh, wait, you'll also pay a 3.5% credit card processing fee. So it's free with a fee. Arnold told me he developed his system because all others are way too expensive, and he'll eventually offer 99% of what others have at 1/3 the price. A respected golf PoS executive told me, "I can tell you cheap is more expensive than quality."
Then there is Birrdi Golf from Canada. Given the toddler wandering into the video frame in a parka, maybe it should be "Brrrrdi" Golf instead. For $200 a month, you get a tee sheet that integrates with Square's retail PoS. Square's PoS is "free," but you have to purchase Square's hardware, and it charges 2.6% plus $.10 per transaction. So again, not really free. Square has a solid retail PoS system but is not designed for golf's many eccentricities, like rain checks, credit books, tournament deposits, and more.
My discussions with others in the space boil down to one question: What revolutionary functions or features will set apart newcomers entering the market? Frankly, we can't think of any, and we may be just too close to see the forest for the trees. True, Tesla has revolutionized automotive with electric vehicles, so maybe a golf PoS system can do the same. But from what I've seen, no one has. On the other hand, the legacy providers have seen it and, for the most part, done it, serving thousands of courses over the last 25 years. Experience has great value. So does having the resources to scale both development and service. Look - your PoS is the system that runs your business. Choosing "cheap" is like putting a four-cylinder engine in a Rolls Royce. It still looks impressive, but it's not going to get you very far.