Brown Golf Management launches online tee time platform

  • John Brown and Jason Harsh

By Hil Anderson

Golf course owners and managers who have placed their trust in online tee-time platforms have a new option for taking reservations that gives them a greater degree of direct control over rates and retention of repeat customers.

GolfBack was launched in 2020 as a separate partner entity by its creator, Brown Golf Management. The turnkey reservation tool was developed to provide management at the 25 courses Brown manages with a system that gives each course direct control over how it interacts with local golfers, how customer data is collected, and also how their tee times are priced on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s built around the containment of your customer,” said John Brown, CEO of Brown Golf Management. “The low hanging fruit is your existing customers.”

GolfNow has long dominated the tee time marketplace and drawn the concern and ire of golf course owners and the National Golf Course Owners Association for its bartering options.

That concern grew even larger a year ago when NBC Sports Group, which owns GolfNow, acquired its largest competitor — EZLinks Golf. With the acquisition, NBC controlled an estimated 90% of the golf industry’s aggregated, online tee time inventory. 

The NGCOA released a study in February 2020 that was critical of tee time bartering, arguing it was not in the best interests of golf course owners and operators. The report did not call for the end of online tee time bartering. But it did advocate a change in how tee time companies do business. The report recommended that courses retain control of their tee sheets and of the rates they charge.

GolfBack hopes to do that. It gives managers autonomy over adjusting the price of a round, allowing them to set their own limits on lowering prices while also making the most of sunny days when demand is higher.

“The course has total control over their best rates,” Brown said. 

Brown said that while the advertised price for a round is certainly important to customers, golfers are also inclined to look at the quality of the course and location in deciding where to book a weekend round.

“Most golfers think first about the course that they want to play,” he said, “and if you provide them with the right value, they will come back.”

GolfBack also features a built-in weather algorithm to help guide pricing decisions and can also accommodate advertising, social-media communications and specials, such as merchandise and food-and-beverage perks, when a reservation is booked. Special “Daily Steals” may also be offered through GolfBack as an enticement to customers who might decide to forego mowing the lawn on their day off and hit the links instead.

The user-friendly system also sports a data-collection capability that goes beyond names and email addresses. It also gives the course operators direct access to valuable information about customers’ preferences, such as cost considerations, scheduling preferences and what they seek in amenities. Brown’s view is that a customer is more likely to answer a detailed online questionnaire if they are confident their feedback will go directly to the course where they are playing rather than into a third-party platform’s database.

Brown said reluctance to provide feedback “hasn’t been an issue.”

“Where there is apprehension is when they don’t see value,” he added.

The PGA of America and Supreme Golf, a tee time marketplace and golf course software company, announced in the fall that they had partnered to launch a new booking marketplace called PGA Tee Times. It is expected to launch in early 2021. 

The product is designed to gives golf course owners and PGA Professionals a new option for managing tee sheets and inventory and provide golfers the benefit of knowing they are getting the best rates available directly from the course.

 “Our relationship with Supreme Golf will provide important new options to golf courses looking to sell tee time inventory, while also making it easier for people to get out and play,” said Seth Waugh, CEO of PGA of America at the time.

 PGA Tee Times will be developed on Supreme Golf's GolfBook technology platform that connects directly to a golf course's tee sheet. This marketplace will be open to all tee sheet providers.  

Supreme Golf is waiving all tee sheet integration fees to ensure all golf courses have the ability to list their tee times for sale on PGA Tee Times through their existing tee sheet provider.  

“A key component for both the PGA of America and Supreme Golf is our ability to create a marketplace where every golf course in America is welcome, without having to change their tee sheet software to participate. Supreme Golf will provide PGA Member Courses several new features,” Wride said. “This starts with the best available fees for services across our entire product offering.”

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