Third Party Tee Time Booking Systems:
This article is written by Johnny LaPonzina, President of Professional Course Management, who has successfully owned, operated, or managed 19 golf courses in South Florida during his career. He is a Past President of the South Florida PGA and a member of the South Florida PGA Hall of Fame.
I’d like to take this opportunity to address PGA professionals not only in the South Florida section, but every PGA section in the country of my major concerns of the current jeopardy and threat to our public golf course industry with third party tee time booking agents.
In PCM’s 30 years of owning, operating, or managing golf courses in South Florida, we have faced numerous obstacles and challenges including: hurricanes, economic slowdowns, aging demographics, an overabundance of golf courses, and a gradual decline in the growth of the game of golf. Having said that, the current dilemma and real imminent danger to our golf courses is giving one, two, or multiple barter times to third party booking agents with no floor as to what they can charge for a round of golf while selling these barter times.
This arrangement is destroying the very core and integrity of golf courses in their ability to price their rounds of golf fairly and in relation to the revenue that’s required to maintain their
courses and keep them open. Numerous golf course management companies, municipalities, and public golf course owners have expressed their outrage and objections to barter times being sold for as much as 80% ‐ 90% off the regularly posted prices. In South Florida alone, two
or three barter times per day are sold at quality golf courses for rates as low as $5 per round for green fees and carts. We are training our customers to go online where they find hundreds of tee times available every day at rates which in some cases are discounted as much as 90%.
These barter tee times are now competing for our customers on an uneven playing field. For example, a course may have a posted rate of $35 and the consumer can pay $5 or $6 for that same round of golf by booking it online through a third party booking agent. Our ability to price our courses fairly and equitably is being destroyed and challenged by these practices. While
the barter time prices may be profitable for the third party booking agent, they are severely effecting what the perceived value for a round of golf really is.
I believe the explosion and growth in these barter tee time practices is a serious and imminent threat to every PGA golf professional’s job and to every public and municipal golf courses ability to price their course fairly and equitably to ultimately survive. Trading golf tee times for marketing or other services can be costly and create long time problems for our industry. We are causing severe damage to our credibility to our regular customers who now expect to play golf with an 80% or 90% discount to retain their loyalty. Further, it helps destroy our resort and tourist play by eroding in season rates and profits which are necessary to keep the doors open.
All public golf courses need to be aware of the severity of this problem and with cooperation the problem can be fairly resolved. If a golf course feels that they are generating enough rounds to warrant giving away a barter tee time, then all they have to do is put a floor on the
price that the barter time can be sold for and that price should be the same as your public rate that any golfer would pay to play. Competing for golfers then becomes an even playing field.
I strongly feel that as an industry we must address this issue as it surely will be a destructive force to our golf business. Many golf courses in South Florida understand this issue clearly and have taken steps to resolve it. If the barter tee time prices are not controlled with a floor on their price, then courses should consider delisting with that third party booking agent. In the end, if the third party booking agents have no barter times, they have no business.
I’m asking all PGA golf professionals at public courses to cooperate with a united front to help resolve this issue and make third party tee time booking agents a real partner rather than a severe liability to our golf course industry.
Johnny LaPonzina, President Professional Course Management Office: (954) 433‐8800