The 2021 Tee Time Wars

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One would presume that every public golf course in the United States offers online tee times. Indeed, every golf course has a Facebook and or Instagram page.  For sure, every golf course has at least some Internet presence.  It is 2021.  Everyone must be online.   Correct?

In a comprehensive study released by Apparation LLC on June 15, 2021, the answers will surprise you.

Apparation has compiled the most extensive database (www.theigdb.com) of golf courses in both the U.S. and Canada.  The company’s founder is Mike Dickoff, a former Accenture Partner.

The scope of the survey comprised 13,353 golf courses that represented all public golf courses except those with less than 9 holes and putting courses.   The research team then googled each facility to locate the golf course on the website and then clicked on book tee times to identify the vendor.

Sounds tedious.  It was.  Here is what they learned.

  • 26% of U.S. 18-hole regulation courses and 44% of all public do not have online tee time booking capabilities.
  • There are a couple of legitimate reasons why some 18-hole regulation courses don’t have online booking.
  • Some are resort-destination facilities requiring a hotel stay, with tee times reserved during that process. Think Bandon Dunes, Kiawah, Pebble Beach.
  • There are courses in the hinterlands where always-on, broadband Internet access has yet to connect.9-hole, Executive, and Pitch/Putt courses are dominated heavily by walk-up play that is an impulse decision.
  • A cloud-based POS is more effective than a server-based system. For one vendor, who has many server-based clients, the response time to determine tee time available was over 20 seconds.  The process of booking a reservation could take several minutes.    There is a lesson here for a golf course operator.
  • 1,218 public golf courses don’t have a website.
  • 969 golf courses only have a Facebook page, many of which are not updated regularly.
  • 350 golf courses can only be found by “word of mouth.”
  • The average posted green fee rate was $61. Note that NGF survey concluded that 18-hole prime time rate with a cart is $51.
  • There are 70 firms that provide online booking and/or POS software to golf courses. There are 45 firms that offer websites.
  • Capitalism creates/capitalism destroys. The leading software firms, by market share, are:
TEE TIME BOOKING 2021 2021 Share 2021 Wins 2021 Losses Net Change Attrition %
GolfNow 3,280 33.5% 100 350 (250) -8%
ForeUP 1,003 10.0% 240 31 209 21%
Lightspeed 696 6.2% 119 14 105 15%
Club Prophet 618 6.5% 57 17 40 6%
Teesnap 463 4.4% 33 76 (43) -9%
Tee-on 429 3.8% 2 3 (1) 0%
Clubessential 142 1.2% 15 9 6 4%

Source:  Apparation, LLC 2021 Tee Sheet Wars Survey

Note 1:  2021 course totals may not reflect the entire customer base of the vendor, i.e.  Software licensed beyond US, Canada not included in totals.

It is interesting that GolfNow and Teesnap appear to have lost market share while ForeUp gained significantly.

I believe that in a decade, nearly all of these firms will be gone either through acquisition or liquidation, as will golf course pro shops as we know them today.  Tomorrow’s golfer is going to book, pre-pay, check-in, order food, score, place bets, determine yardage and green slopes, and post handicaps through a mobile app.  The formal “POS Counter” of today will be gone.

Here is a controversial prediction.  A PGA Section will break State Golf Association’s hold on handicapping and develop their own app with the knowledge of the PGA of America but without their expressed consent but also without their objection.  That app will include broad-based functionality challenging many of today’s software vendors.

That is what I think.  I would enjoy hearing your perspective. Comment below.

For those seeking extensive analysis of this topic that shares a few of the same themes as this blog, Harvey Silverman published a more exhaustive article in the June 9 edition of the NGCOA Golf Business Weekly, seen here.

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