Using technology that improves course management practices can help operators increase revenue. By Mike Stetz
Want to maximize revenue at your golfcourse?
Did you major in math? That might help, given the variables involved, such as course capacity, optimum starting intervals and market segmentation.
But even if you create a top-notch strategic revenue-enhancing model, a host of influences can still disrupt your plans. Golf courses don’t exactly run like Swiss watches.
The entire day’s schedule can be thrown off if an early foursome is late for its tee time. And if a group of golfers is playing too slowly, it can bog down the pace of play for everyone behind them.
What if your course is designed for more advanced players but a bunch of beginners were enticed to play because of discounts you offered? All of that — and more — can derail an operator’s revenue potential.
However, there is good news regarding revenue enhancement, thanks to continued advances in technology. The tools keep getting better and more encompassing to include key elements such as tee-sheet management, dynamic pricing, pace of play, data collection and marketing.
Such tools are more important than ever, given that many courses have had to shed employees in an effort to maintain profitability, said Mike Hendrix, vice president of business services for online tee-time provider GolfNow.
Today’s golfers have increasing expectations. They don’t just want a quick and easy tee-time reservation system, he said. They
want a response if they write an online review.
“There are not enough hours in the day to do what the consumer expects,” Hendrix said. So companies such as GolfNow are focused on filling that gap, as well as helping courses enhance their revenues.
“There are myriad tasks we can do,” Hendrix said.
GolfNow runs the world’s largest tee-time marketplace, as well as providing a host of management and operational tools for golf courses. It recently released GolfNow Plus Vision, which allows courses to see what their competitors are charging in real time and make immediate price adjustments in response. Some courses have a reputation for offering great value and may want to protect that standing, Hendrix said. Some don’t want to be the most expensive but aim to be nearly
“This helps them fulfill their strategies,” he said.
Courses can also add revenue by simply knowing how customers are making their reservations, Hendrix said. If they’re using mobile devices, they’re doing so for convenience and aren’t as price conscious as those who search from a desktop computer.
“Every day, we’re in the field trying to help golf courses understand their options and how effective they are,” Hendrix said.
GolfNow isn’t the only technology provider looking to provide better services. EZLinks, is another industry leader that continues to bolster its offerings.
Many operators are embracing dynamic pricing, which allows them to charge a higher price for days and times when rounds are in greater demand.
While that tool has been around for some time, operators today can get even more sophisticated programs to maximize revenue. Last year, EZLinks released EZTee PRO, which gives operators more options.
“Today the feature continues to be gamechanging for our course operators, with the best operators in the business automating price changes, varying rates to encourage larger booking windows and assessing market conditions to drive demand with specials or rate shifts,” said Ken Devlin, EZLinks’ director of business-to-business marketing.
“Of active users, 60 percent employ multiple strategies to optimize price.”
By using the “days in advance” strategy, courses can offer the best prices to those who book further out, as well as to last-minute golfers. That way, operators create both a stock of incoming players and an inducement to attract players for times about to expire.
EZLinks allows courses to use dynamic pricing beyond online reservations, which make up only about 20 percent of a typical course’s bookings. Most tee sheets don’t have that versatility, Devlin said, so the majority of tee times aren’t necessarily being sold at their highest potential.
He pointed to Lanier Islands Legacy Golf Course, which used the “days in advance” strategy to increase its year-over-year website rounds. This method increased overall rounds by 49 percent and increased the average daily fee by 11 percent.
“The numbers have been pretty dramatic,” said Brian Conley, director of golf at the Buford, Ga., resort.
It’s not a complicated system, he said. It’s a matter of educating the software to follow the rules set up for dynamic pricing.
For example, the resort competes against a number of daily fee courses in the area. Conley found that he could be more competitive in attracting daily golfers by charging less if and when slots are open. That’s inevitable, since the course is not always filled by golfers staying in the resort.
“We can fill in the gaps,” he said. Before implementing the system, he tried to set prices himself.
“I was in front of a computer all day.” Not any more, he said. “Once it’s set, it goes.”
Devlin said the use of automated dynamic pricing has grown five-fold since 2012.
Some courses have complained about how these services are provided. Often, the system-management companies also seek tee times to sell at their own rates. GolfNow and EZLinks both offer this model, and some courses have been concerned about losing control of their inventories. However, many say the trade-off is worth it, considering the value they get.
It’s not just golf-management-system companies who are helping courses with revenue enhancement. One company, Tagmarshal, is getting positive reviews for its data-collection system that helps courses spot pace-of-play problems.
Tagmarshal, which is based in South Africa, attaches a GPS tracker tag to either the cart or the bag to track players on the course. This allows course marshals to see in real time how pace of play is unfolding. They can spot trouble spots and look for solutions.
It’s currently in use at the site of the 2017 U.S. Open, Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. The system has helped the course reap an extra $115,000 in revenue because of faster play. EZLinks is among the companies using this pace-of-play technology.
“We recently signed an agreement with them where the pace-of-play data they collect will flow through to our EZEngage marketing platform, and operators can then segment and target golfers with a specific offer to reward them for faster play,” Devlin said
Tagmarshal is a golf course intelligence and pace-of-play management solution that turns pace into an asset. The system uses small “tags” clipped onto golf bags or installed on carts which transmit geo-location data. Industry-leading algorithms identify risk groups with accurate, objective support to alleviate pace challenges before they arise. Public, private and resort courses using Tagmarshal realize substantial returns on investments through improved on-course experiences achieved with less staff as well as increases in daily rounds. Impactful and easy-to-use data analytics, weather data integration and geo-fencing complete the offering.