PGA Tour, EZLinks forge new company to compete with GolfNow

The PGA Tour is entering the world of online tee-time booking via a new deal with Chicago-based golf software company EZLinks Golf, Inc. in a move that is expected to challenge GolfNow, the market leader.

The PGA Tour is now a substantial owner of the newly forged affiliate company EZLinks LLC, in a deal finalized last week, according to EZLinks LLC CEO Gary Cohen.

"It can be a game changer because it gives golfers and courses a real choice," Cohen told Golf Inc. Magazine.

EZLinks has rebranded its consumer website as TeeOff.com by PGA Tour. The site already serves more than one million golfers, 1,400 courses and 22 countries, making it the second largest online golf reservation site, behind GolfNow. But those numbers still pale in comparison to GolfNow, which is owned by NBC Sports Group and run through its Golf Channel network. GolfNow serves more than 2 million golfers and works with more than 6,000 courses. 

“Do they believe that golf operators are that naïve and can’t see through to the real motivation of a money grab trying to split the $150 million Golf Channel has garnered?” golf business strategist and author J.J. Keegan wrote on the Golf Convergence blog.

EZLinks is hopeful that the PGA Tour’s marketing muscle will ramp up bookings. Initial marketing plans include national television and radio campaigns.

“A core mission of the PGA Tour is to grow the game by leveraging our brand name, media assets and golfer reach to drive participation at every level of the sport,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement. “We believe the creation of EZLinks Golf LLC will have a positive and direct influence on inspiring play at the recreational level.” 

The PGA Tour and EZLinks have been advertising partners since early 2014, according to Cohen, who will continue to head the existing leadership team. 

“The logic of the coming together of these parties is strong, so this just started to evolve over time,” Cohen said. “With the additional amount of marketing awareness the Tour brings and the credibility it brings … it helps to create a more vibrant marketplace and I think that will help lift all boats.” 

The PGA Tour’s public and resort Tournament Players Club facilities will transition its software operations to EZLinks Golf 360 later this year. 

TeeOff.com by PGA Tour also utilizes EZLinks24, the industry’s largest tee-time call center, which services golf course clients by answering calls. 

Cohen said the name EZLinks LLC was chosen to retain the brand awareness the company has built during the last 18 years.

“It’s a continuation of EZLinks as you knew it, except now we have added this great marketing muscle of the biggest brand in golf,” Cohen said. “By having the additional resources that come with this deal, we should be able to continue to invest and enhance our investment in [our technological] tools for the golf courses.” 

EZLinks launched its first electronic tee sheet in 1995 and this year, it debuted EZLinks Revolution a cloud-based point of sale golf system. Eight of the ten largest management companies use EZLinks software at one or more of their courses, including Troon, ClubCorp, Billy Casper Golf, KemperSports, Century Golf/Arnold Palmer Golf Management, American Golf Corp., OB Sports and Marriott Golf. 

"TeeOff.com by PGA TOUR will expose our courses to millions of golfers, promoting the message of additional play and creating a more competitive marketplace,” Troon Golf CEO Dana Garmany said in a statement. “This is good for golf.”

EZLinks, which has 225 employees including 100 full-time staffers, will likely be hiring new employees in its software and marketing department in the coming months, a company representative confirmed. 

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