My Concerns of Third Party Booking Agents in the Golf Industry
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 the past President of the South Florida PGA and a member of our 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 allowing barter times that are given to third-party booking agents with no floor as to what they can charge for a round of golf at your course.
This policy 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 they need to generate 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 can be 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 can be as much as 90% discounted.
These barter tee times are now competing with our own golf courses for 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 affecting what the perceived value for a round of golf should be.
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 inventory for marketing is creating 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 get their loyalty. Further, it helps destroy our resort and tourist play by eroding seasonal rates and profits which we all depend on.
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 a barter tee time, then all they have to do is put a floor to the price that the
barter time can be sold for and that price should be the same as your public rate that any golfer walking in would pay. Competing for golfers then becomes an even playing field.
I strongly feel that as an industry we must address this issue as it will be a destructive force going forward. 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 to their price, then courses should consider delisting with that third party booking agent. In the end, if the third party booking agents have no courses, 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 potential benefit rather than a severe liability to our golf course industry.
Johnny LaPonzina, President
Professional Course Management
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