Knowledge Library

Destination golf pivots strategies during pandemic

Oct 26, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has been both good and bad for the golf industry. On the plus side, tee times are booked solid. The down side is reduced food and beverage revenue due to state and local restrictions on dining, as well as limitations on how special occasions, like weddings, can be hosted.

But as the pandemic persists and the seasons shift for golf courses across the country, perhaps one of the more pressing issues on the minds of many operators located in destination markets is the expectation of a drop in seasonal tourist business due to travel restrictions – both real and perceived.

The latest GolfNow Industry Roundtable, moderated by GolfNow’s Vice President of Sales Jerramy Hainline, discussed these issues and more with three experienced industry leaders from around the country – John Bixler, General Manager of Celebration Golf Club outside of Orlando; Steve Leonard, General Manager of the 36-hole Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale; and Chip Smith, owner of Atlantic Golf Management, which manages four courses and a restaurant in and around Myrtle Beach, S.C. Each shared his unique perspectives on the state, and future, of the game during the hour-long discussion. All three facilities are located in warm-weather tourist areas that are popular with golfers, especially during the upcoming winter months. With international borders currently closed, they’re all adjusting their marketing plans and budget expectations.

Bixler said Celebration Golf Club is bracing for the loss of its international clientele from Europe and Brazil who come for Orlando’s theme parks, golf courses and sunny weather. “We are shifting a lot of marketing efforts to drive markets in the Northeast and Midwest,” he said.

Smith echoed that approach for Myrtle Beach, which relies heavily on Canadian snowbirds. “We are spending a lot more resources going after the Northeast and Midwest, looking at Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Chicago,” he said. “They still can drive in and spend a week or even months in our winter rentals. It is our lowest price time of the year, so we can get very aggressive during that time period.

“We can advertise a $69 per night (package) for golf and room, because it’s an inexpensive time of year. We are ramping up that side of it, getting more aggressive to replace the Canadian market that we’ve enjoyed for so long but don’t have now.”

Leonard said Scottsdale already has experience dealing with the pandemic in high season since the original U.S. wave hit in March during its busiest time of the year, baseball spring training. Not only is Talking Stick still hoping to attract golfers from as far away as Chicago and Seattle, whether they fly or drive, it is also marketing to locals more than ever.

“We are fortunate, too, that we have a large population here in metro Phoenix Arizona and a lot of avid golfers,” Leonard said. “We’ve been focusing really not just on the outreach for the drive-in markets and snowbirds and the leisure traveler, but also ramping up our loyalty programs and attracting the residents here and trying to make sure we are backfilling anything we may be missing from the leisure traveler with our loyalty program, players club and Talking Stick card.”

Unfortunately, charity fundraisers and group outing business have taken a serious blow in 2020. Bixler said it’s been a 50-50 split on whether an event scheduled for this year has been held or postponed. For clients that have hosted events, Celebration figured out how to send out a fleet of carts and serve buffets within COVID-19 protocols to keep people safe. Auctions to raise money have generally been moved online. Fortunately for Bixler, as Florida has eased restrictions, Celebration can host full events again.

“Everyone is thinking outside of the box on how they can still get people here to play golf to participate and to donate money,” Bixler said of group outings. “That’s something every industry is seeing right now. You’ve got to get a little creative. … We are going to continue to evolve as this evolves.”

Leonard emphasized that “THE ISSUE” facing operators heading into the winter season is how to handle single-rider carts. Talking Stick adjusted its pricing strategy this year, so that golfers can choose between a single-cart rate, a shared-cart rate and a walking rate when they book an advanced tee time. It also purchased 24 pushcarts to encourage walking. Leonard said if too many people want single carts, then facilities are going to face inventory issues. “In order to accommodate as many people who want to play golf, operators and golfers are going to have to work together,” he said.

Technology has been a key part of dealing with the pandemic, most notably the rise of pre-paid tee times. Smith said one of his courses will replace the beverage cart with the SmartPlay app through GolfNow’s G1 software that allows golfers to order food and drinks delivered to them on the course. “We are going to experiment with that, and a couple of the communities that have large resident populations in there, if we can perfect it on the golf course, we may even deliver it straight to the homes,” Smith said.

Leonard admits that his 2021 budget forecasts are on the conservative side with the status of spring training up in the air. But positives have emerged. He said area resorts, hotels, courses and attractions are working together now more than ever to market the region collectively. This approach of a ‘rising tide raises all ships’ has been a signature of Myrtle Beach for decades.

“As I like to say it, the consumer, when they come into town, they don’t know who owns what golf courses or who operates the golf,” Smith said of his competitive market. “They just want to have a good time and play the golf courses of their choosing. We have always done a good job of packaging with each other as it benefits everyone involved.”  

Smith shared a heartwarming story of one member who has, when picking up a to-go order, twice left $1,000 tips for the wait staff. Men and women’s golf groups have also taken up collections to be shared among the staff. “That really brought our communities together and made us all feel as one,” Smith said.

Bixler’s most positive takeaway from the pandemic could have the greatest impact on the future of the industry. He said lesson business at Celebration’s golf academy has grown 64 percent and club sales have more than doubled from 2019. “We’ve had an immediate increase in not only lesson package purchases from new players but former players who came back to the game,” he said. “It is just growing immensely.”

To watch the full roundtable discussion CLICK HERE

Rising popularity of golf simulators can generate extra revenue

Oct 19, 2020

Huntingdon Country Club is enjoying its 100th anniversary in 2020 by celebrating the past while looking toward the future. Despite the ongoing health pandemic, the semiprivate club has welcomed new members and experienced a boost in rounds, creating a solid year for the bottom line. But an unexpected revenue-generating opportunity also has turned into the icing on Huntingdon’s celebration cake.

While the best-maintained greens in the area are reason enough to keep golfers coming back to Huntingdon CC, the club’s not one to rest on its laurels. Their decision to renovate an old grill room in a historic section of the clubhouse – and install a Full Swing simulator in the space – also has been a real game-changer this year.

“It really is a great enhancement,” said General Manager John Cook about the golf simulator. “It is offering extra value for the members. They are able to play golf year-round.”

Cook, a long-time member of the Huntingdon CC, was hired as the general manager in 2019 when new ownership took over the club. When he started exploring the idea of renovating the club’s old grill room, he found a large storage area he didn’t even realize existed. It was the perfect size for a simulator, 12 feet by 30 feet with 10-foot ceilings. The bar area of the grill room is highlighted by the wall of champions, a display that celebrates all past champions at the club. It inspired the grill room’s new name, the Champions Sports Bar and Indoor Golf.

To modernize the facility, Huntingdon CC bought new appliances for the kitchen and new furniture for the bar. The entire room was repainted to match new flooring. Two TVs hang on the wall in the bar, and there’s another in the simulator room. After researching which simulator to buy, Cook settled on Full Swing with the updated E6 software. It allows golfers to play some of the world’s best courses, such as Pebble Beach Golf Links, Bethpage Black and Oakmont.

The new bar and simulator room debuted late last December. The winter leagues that started in February surpassed Cook’s expectations by attracting 20 two-person teams. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the bar and the league in the spring but Cook already had seen its potential. A new season will begin again in January and Cook has high hopes that the leagues will gain in popularity.

“My original goal was 10 or 12 two-person teams,” he said. “They like the bar. They like to play golf in the winter. It only takes an hour to play nine holes. It definitely will grow.”

Cook has already seen a difference in his own game: “It feels like real golf. It has helped my game tremendously. I would not touch a club until April (in the past). Now I play November through March.”

The simulator is also open to the public to rent by the hour. Families and businesses can rent out the entire bar for birthday parties or corporate events. A new menu serves pub-style food centered around appetizers and other items that are quick to make – pizza, chicken wings, soups, nachos and more. In addition to golf, the Full Swing simulator offers a variety of other games, where participants can pitch a baseball, hit slap shots at a hockey goalie or throw dodgeballs to knock out zombies.

“It’s like playing video games on your own big-screen TV,” Cook said. “That brings a family atmosphere. I’ve had members bring their kids out to play games. We want to promote that more. We can get 50 people in bar comfortably. With the way it is remodeled, it feels like a very nice tavern. From club standpoint, it is a source of additional revenue in the off-season. It helps us to brand our country club in the community that this is a great place to come. It is a key part of our future business plan.”

Click here to learn more about how GolfNow can help you unlock revenue potential by bringing a Full Swing Golf Simulator to your clubhouse.

PMP Boosts Exposure for Destination Golf Markets During Health Pandemic

Oct 13, 2020

The travel industry has been on shaky ground as of late due to the ramifications of COVID-19. Traditionally flooded with out-of-state visitors checking in with golf clubs in hand, some golf resorts and top courses throughout the U.S. have seen the flow at that tap slow to a drip and now are looking at alternative solutions to fill the gaps.

Some good news was heralded in by the National Golf Foundation, whose data revealed that traveling golfers’ desire to play different courses during the health pandemic has not waned, but now they’re getting to the course by car rather than by air. Two out of three golfers said they will be driving to their next destination this year – even up to seven hours – which has grabbed the attention of marketers now busy shifting their marketing efforts to accommodate a more regional and local focus.

For any golf course looking for that extra marketing edge to help fill its tee sheet and heighten its presence within its market, GolfNow’s Premium Marketing Program (PMP) is a time-tested, enhanced solution.

“PMP is gaining a stronger foothold in the marketplace,” said Jennifer Hanson, National Sales Director for GolfNow Partnerships. “It targets the right golfer at the right moment with the right message to drive traffic to a golf course’s booking engine on GolfNow.

“These additional eyeballs, paired with a high conversion rate, leads to more bookings and, ultimately, more revenue for the participating golf course,” she said. “Our partnership goal is to drive more local traffic to your course, as well as help you stand out to the traveling golfer unfamiliar with the courses in your area.”

Eligible partner courses who invest in PMP benefit from a wide array of advantageous placements and optimized positioning on both GolfNow and Teeoff. The clearest advantage is top placement among the search results seen by golfers when shopping online in a particular market. That top placement has enough prominence to be a real advantage. Other added benefits, like Instagram take-overs, assistance with stay-and-play packages through Golf Advisor, and opportunities for exposure on GOLF Channel’s Morning Drive, are reserved for PMP participants. The product-development team at GolfNow has tweaked and improved the program steadily, using performance analytics along with feedback from course operators. The revenue record over that period tells a powerful tale of effectiveness.

“I realize a lot of courses don’t have the resources, time or expertise to stay on top of their marketing, which makes it more imperative to use the Premier Marketing Program,” said Joe Dahlstrom, Chief Operating Officer, Paradigm Golf Group. Paradigm manages a portfolio of more than 15 private, resort and daily fee golf facilities throughout the U.S., including Bali Hai Golf Club in Las Vegas, Nev.; Dobson Ranch Golf Course in Mesa, Ariz.; Palm Beach National Golf and Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Maui Nui Golf Club in Hawaii.

“For no out-of-pocket expense, you can have some of the industry’s best marketers keep your property top of mind through digital, social and email campaigns,” he said. “In addition, being part of PMP gives you access to top quality data and the ability to reach new customers with special offers, branding messages and more.  We have had huge success with the program.”

PMP golf courses are part of an exclusive group, with just over 1,300 enrolled in the program. Being a good fit is all about how engaged and energized an operator is, and whether the course’s strategic ideas align with the concepts on which PMP is based.

A welcome destination for golfers since 1972, Palmbrook Country Club in Sun City, Ariz., has never been a course to rest on its laurels, making it a great PMP partner. “The PMP program has been great for gaining access to golfers that we weren’t exposed to before,” said Director of Golf Mark Kruse, who joined the PMP program in July. “It also broadened our reach with golfers online and our social media platforms have gotten more popular since we started.”

PMP courses are also featured in daily emails to the platform’s golfer database, which are geo-based. A major benefit is appearing in the “Best Bets” email—this is exclusive to the PMP level of partnership and when you land in that spot you are the only option the golfer—arriving with cash in hand and intention to buy a tee time—will see.

“That’s 100 percent share of voice,” says Hanson, with emphasis on the once-weekly email, “which by any measure is a huge value.” In addition to that exclusive Best Bets positioning, participating courses also gain access to the “Book Early” email. It spotlights PMP partners and is delivered to golfers’ inboxes based on their booking behavior and similar course interests.

To learn more about the PMP program, click here


GolfNow Industry Report: October 27, 2020

Oct 26, 2020


GolfNow Industry Roundtable: The Challenges Brought on by COVID-19

Oct 26, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists and seasons shift for golf courses across the country, one of the more pressing issues on the minds of many operators located in destination markets is the expectation of a drop in seasonal tourist business due to travel restrictions – both real and perceived.

The this GolfNow Industry Roundtable you'll hear discussion on this issue and more with three experienced industry leaders from around the country:

  • John Bixler, General Manager of Celebration Golf Club (Walt Disney World Resort area outside of Orlando)
  • Steve Leonard, General Manager of the 36-hole Talking Stick Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
  • Chip Smith, owner of Atlantic Golf Management (manages four courses and a restaurant in and around Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

Booking Engine Best Practices Tip of the Week: Your Voicemail

Oct 26, 2020

Booking Engine Best Practices Tip of the Week:

Use your voicemail outgoing message to drive after hours phone traffic to your course website booking engine for 24/7 reservations.

Learn more about the GolfNow Booking Engine for your course. 


Metro Detroit’s Boulder Pointe Golf Club rebounds with record increases in online rounds and revenue through golfnow pre-paid technology

Jun 25, 2020

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 24, 2020) – As golf across the northern U.S. rebounds and golf clubs throughout Michigan begin to welcome back golfers in record numbers with the help of GOLFNOW pre-paid technology, Boulder Pointe Golf Club stands as a leader in metro Detroit, enjoying a record 190 percent, year-over-year increase in online rounds sold year to date.

During this time, Boulder Pointe also has seen its online revenue more than double year over year, making it the online rounds leader among golf clubs in the entire Detroit market.

A long-time GOLFNOW partner, Boulder Pointe first began posting rounds inside GOLFNOW’s industry-leading tee-time marketplace in 2013 and has incorporated additional technologies and services over the subsequent years. The golf club also utilizes GOLFNOW Reservations point-of-sale and booking engine technology, Premium Marketing Program, Answers telephone service, as well as professional guidance with inventory and revenue management through the GOLFNOW Plus service.

In order to adhere to safety protocols issued by the state of Michigan in April due to COVID-19, Boulder Pointe also began utilizing GOLFNOW’s pre-paid technology, which allows golfers to book tee times and pay online in advance.

“We have had a great working relationship with the GOLFNOW team for several years – they listen to our needs and respond quickly to accommodate,” said Rich Morgan, PGA, Director of Golf and Head Professional at Boulder Pointe Golf Club. “From our Orlando contacts to the local and regional management team, all of our needs are exceeded. We were able to completely shift our tee sheet to 100 percent pre-paid in a matter of two days, which allowed us to continue to expand our golf revenue while maintaining lower staffing levels.”

Morgan also points to the recent Memorial Day weekend as an example of the power of pre-paid. Rounds sold online represented 67 percent of the total revenue generated by Boulder Pointe over the holiday weekend, compared to 29 percent in 2019.

GOLFNOW Partners with Edgewood Tahoe, joining leading Lake Tahoe golf course with world’s largest tee time distribution platform

Jun 09, 2020

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 4, 2020) – GOLFNOW today announced a new partnership with Edgewood Tahoe Resort, providing its golf operation with GOLFNOW technology and services to help the resort build its golf business as California continues to reopen for golf and beyond.

As new members of the GOLFNOW distribution platform, Edgewood Tahoe now will benefit from the industry’s leading tee-time booking engine technology, as well as inclusion within the world’s largest distribution marketplace. The partnership also introduces millions of golfers who regularly use GOLFNOW to search for and book tee times to the premier-destination golf course in the Reno-Tahoe resort area.

A George Fazio design, the golf course at Edgewood Tahoe is regularly rated among the Top-100 courses in America and it is situated in one of the most picturesque settings in the country, with spectacular lake and mountain views. It also is the host course for the annual American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament.

“Edgewood Tahoe is excited to continue and grow the relationship with the NBC family of companies,” said Randy Fox, Director of Golf, Edgewood Tahoe Resort. “Since 1990, Edgewood Tahoe, along the NBC Sports and GOLF Channel have worked closely to build the American Century Championship into the premier celebrity golf event in the world. Now, this new chapter will benefit golfers with the convenience of booking their golf at Edgewood Tahoe through the GOLFNOW platform.”

Edgewood Tahoe Resort also will participate in GOLFNOW’s Premium Marketing Program, which provides a wide variety of marketing benefits, including optimized positioning and promotion on the GOLFNOW website.

Fairfax County, VA., Park Authority partners with GOLFNOW as it reopens for golf

Jun 02, 2020

County Phases in its Eight Golf Courses with GOLFNOW Technology; Pre-Paid Tee Time Technology Included in Safety Protocols

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 27, 2020) – As golf courses reopen across the state of Virginia and adjust operations to safely welcome back golfers, the Fairfax County Park Authority has partnered with GOLFNOW to connect its portfolio of eight golf courses with the millions of golfers shopping for tee times within the industry’s leading online marketplace every day. The Park Authority also will utilize GOLFNOW technology and services to help reopen and manage its golf business.

As new members of the GOLFNOW distribution platform, Fairfax County golf courses now will benefit from the industry’s leading tee-time booking engine technology, as well as inclusion within the world’s largest distribution marketplace. GOLFNOW also will provide marketing support and call center assistance as part of the partnership. As the Park Authority continues to implement protocols to ensure the safety of its staff and customers, GOLFNOW technology has provided a “touchless” option for Park Authority customers, allowing them to book and pay in advance online.

“The re-openings have gone smoothly and we’re seeing a significant increase in tee-time utilization,” said Todd Johnson, manager, golf enterprises, Fairfax County Park Authority. “We’re seeing a lot of new faces from GOLFNOW, as well as people coming back to the game as a great recreational alternative during a time when there aren’t a lot of choices. From a safety standpoint, our customers and staff are appreciative of the GOLFNOW pre-paid option.”


Downloadable Resources

Chapter 6 - Procurement

The Playbook - Chapter 6

Feb 20, 2019

Time to think outside the procurement box

Group purchasing brings new profit possibilities to golf operations. Courses can stock up on products they already buy, as well as others they need at a significant cost savings. With significant cost savings and ability to earn points toward tech, satisfied golf courses see enough savings to make a difference. 

chapter 1

The Playbook - Chapter 1

Jan 17, 2019

Who doesn’t want to book more rounds and generate more revenue?

And while you’re at it, let’s solidify your position in your marketplace and start operating at peak efficiency. Private club, daily fee, municipal or resort course — all have the same goals in these competitive times. Finally, there’s one go-to source to help golf operations learn and activate best-practices throughout their operations.

The Playbook - Chapter 2

The Playbook - Chapter 2

Jan 17, 2019

Best practices for having the right product at the right time for the right price.

What started with the airline and hotel industries is spreading to restaurants, theaters … and golf courses. Dynamic pricing is the inventory strategy courses are using right now to maximize revenue.