A Letter from Steve Burke, CEO NBC Universal, …that will serve GolfNow well

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In today’s world, a press relation crisis is hard to control because it can so easily go viral.

The key is “act swiftly and decisively using all platforms to communicate with the public.   Most importantly, companies that made mistakes must sincerely accept responsibility for the actions….”[1]

Whether it be Johnson & Johnson’s cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules or Chipotle’s challenges, each demonstrated how proactive leadership addressing the crisis could be very effective.

Golf Now would benefit greatly from studying these historical lessons.   If they had acted professionally acknowledging their mistake, they might have nipped the negative criticism they have been taking since July 7, 2016.

Unfortunately, they have compounded their error.

Martin Luther King stated it best, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

As background, during June, Golf Now conducted a Business Users Conference they taped. The 1 hour and 15 minutes broadcast was posted to Vimeo with no security rendering it in the public domain.  That video contained a 2-minute rap song about the boat load of trade times GolfNow sells parodying OT Genasis music video, “Coco” which flaunts cocaine and a perverse culture.

Upon seeing the GolfNow’s Vimeo video, we posted a blog on July 7, 2016, “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Has Been Exposed” that has now been read over 2,300 times.

Jay Karen, Executive Director of the NGCOA, wrote an insightful piece, “The Hubris of GolfNow and the Seek for Symbiosis.”

Harvey Silverman, a top marketing consultant, posted his thoughts “A Boat Load of Angst,” stating, “Even the best companies find ways to make themselves look foolish. It’s often inadvertent, but usually, reveals something the world does not know or confirms long-held suspicions.”

From these postings, we have heard from management companies, leaders of Associations, and many throughout the industry describing GolfNow’s behavior as “disgusting, obnoxious, appalling.”

When GolfNow learned of our July 7 blog, there seems to be no introspection. They launched a witch hunt trying to determine how it was leaked and even if their internal communication network was hacked.   I can only imagine how chagrined they were when it was learned they failed to password protect the posted video which probably should have never seen the light of day – even amongst their employees.

As copies began to pop up on the Internet, they were aggressive in suppressing those videos citing a violation of copyrights.   Note Vimeo license states,


It seems that they have a double standard of using the copyright laws to prevent their publication while perhaps violating the artistic license and copyrights of OT Genasis.

Their belief that they can suppress the video is folly. We know of more than ten firms that have represented to us they have a full copy of the GolfNow video.

If NBC Universal, Golf Channel and GolfNow had acted properly, they could have turned their giant PR loss into a major win.

Steve Burke merely had to publish the following message:

“The game of golf is founded on sounded principles of honesty, respect, and judgment.   The game of golf is the only sport without a referee relying on the integrity of the player to call a penalty on themselves.

At NBC Universal, we believe these same principles apply to the business of golf and are calling a penalty on ourselves.

Our conduct in recording the skit, “We Sell a Boat Load of Tee Times”, while innocent in its original intent, we apologize to those who were offended. We further acknowledge that our attempts to suppress the public distribution of this video were misguided.

GolfNow’s lack of transparency ends today.  Here is a link to the June GolfNow Business Conference: (video link to be inserted here).

We encourage you to watch it. It represents our vision on how we can grow together this wonderful game of golf into a vibrant industry that creates entertainment and recreation for a large segment of the world’s population.

This video highlights our training programs, the evolution of our technology, and our focus on opening the door to the 87 million people[2] in the United States that watch golf who haven’t played and to the 37.4 million people[3] who currently don’t play but have an expressed an interest to do so.

We will collectively benefit by creating a welcoming environment to our sport and are committed through our television programming and our software applications to enhance the enjoyment of the game for our mutual customers.

Donna Horvath, the owner at Honeybrook Golf Course, last week in NGCOA Accelerate wrote, “we get bogged down on the day to day operations and don’t make the time to look up and form a vision of where we want to be.” At GolfNow we have done the same with our myopic focus on selling trade times.

In equity, we offered golf course owners an option of providing us trade times in which we took the risk of creating a marketing channel by which we could be compensated for the services we provided in advance.  Because we have been successfully in creating a national platform, we are very sensitive to those who now question the return on our investment. We are a public company and should be celebrated for what we have achieved.

However, capitalism creates, and capitalism destroys. It is important that we will listen to your our customers to ensure our mutual long-term success.

Therefore, I have directed our staff to:

  • Fully comply with the NGCOA/PGA of America Best Practices Statement.
  • Offer clients the option of canceling their contract without penalty.
  • Offer cash prices for an annual license to those clients who elect to continue to use our world-class software and support.
  • Suspend our “hot deals” marketing program.
  • Cancel the launch of our “golf bids” program.
  • Offer trade times at 75% or greater of the course’s posted price.
  • Allow golf courses the ability to post tee times to our website at prices they solely deem appropriate.
  • Suspend the practice of providing commissions/rebates to management companies who introduce us to their clients.
  • Create an NGCOA/PGA Audit Committee to review our business practices for the next 24 months and to report to the industry our compliance thereto.

We realize that these changes will have an adverse financial impact in the short-term, but we will make this investment hoping to fully rebuild for the long-term our trust with you so together we can grow the game and the business of golf together.”

What will be very telling is how GolfNow proceeds from here. Do they compound the PR blunder they have made or do they act responsibility for the collective benefit of the industry and themselves?

If you would like to mitigate the impact of trade times on your golf course, we can help you in many ways.  The highest value can be secured by enrolling in our Webinar series starting September 15, 2016.

You will be guided through the JJ Keegan+ WIN process of 7 steps and the accompanying 21 templates that are incorporated in “The Business of Golf – What Are You Thinking?” 2016 Edition with new insights to be released August 15. The principles were tested by 20 leading golf course managers operating 60+ golf courses.

The result will be the financial potential of your golf course will be known and a path for your success clearly defined.

You have a choice – you can be a silent casualty while others capitalize on your investment and labor or you take control of your future success. Vote Now.

[1] HTTP:’’www.businessinsider.com/pr-disasters-crisis-management-2011-5?op=1

[2] National Golf Foundation, “2015 Golf Business Symposium – State of the Industry”, Slide 15.

[3] National Golf Foundation, “2016 Golf Business Symposium – State of the Industry”, Slide 16.

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