Can You Help Me Out: Part 2 – The History of the Significant Transactions and Events in the Golf Software Industry

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The summary presented below is a high overview of the significant “transactions and pronouncements in the golf industry over the past 40 years within North America.  We are confident that some transactions and events may have been inadvertently omitted in that the event was not material enough to garner the attention of the author.

However, given the fluid nature of the industry and the vast majority of these firms being privately held, we believe that the list fairly states in all significant and material respects the principal events that have influenced the industry.

Though every reasonable attempt has been made to confirm the information herein, no representations are made, however, that the list is accurate.  We appreciate those who provide us with updated information such that, in time, the list will be more accurately reflect the transactions and significant events in the evolution of the golf software industry.

The author of this list accepts no responsibilities for any inaccuracies contained herein.  The reader assumes complete and sole responsibility relying on the data presented below.

1984

1984:  CASMA (Computerized Airline Sales and Marketing Association) formed

1990

1990: The Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Assoc. executive director George Hilliard sends an RFP to 65 computer companies to build what would become the Grand Strand Tee Time Network.

1991

1991:  HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association formed)

1991: Aptech, a Pittsburg, PA computer programming company, was selected by the Myrtle Beach GCOA to build an electronic tee sheet and connectivity to area hotels.  Aptech key personnel included Jay Troutman, John Stafford, and Nancy DeSecco.

1992

1992: The Grand Strand Tee Time Network (GSTTN), headed by Mathew Brittain, goes live with 35 Myrtle Beach golf courses and 15 area hotels.

1993

1993: Charleston, Hilton Head, Biloxi, Pinehurst, and Atlantic City join the Grand Strand Tee Time Network as regional golf destinations.

1995

January 17, 1995à Golf Channel launched

1996

January 1996:  Golf Digest contracts to purchase the Grand Strand Tee Time Network and make it part of a national network called Golf Digest Information Systems (GDIS).

1996:   Booking.com & Expedia launched

1997

January 1997:   NGCOA Industry Status Review on Electronic Tee Time Reservations

June 1997: Golf Digest pulls the plug on GDIS.  The GSTTN maintains the system and looks for a new partner.

Aug. 1997: NGCOA hosts a national Tee Time Summit in Atlanta

1998

February 1998:  NGCOA has exploratory meetings with GSTTN to discuss starting a golf tee time electronic distribution network association.

1998:  NGCOA launches EDGE (Electronic Distribution Golf Enterprise) to create interfacing standards to accelerate the golf industry’s technology use and lower automation costs.  It agrees to keep the GSTTN up and running, bringing in Nancy DeSecco to maintain the network.  NGCOA secures support from the original six regions and renames the system T-Links.

June 1998: Myrtle Beach Golf Holidays chooses Epani for online tee time reservations.

September 1998à NGCOA Edge update at NGCOA Technology Conference. Project geared to make booking golfers on member courses easier, select tee time reservation system, handle reservations, and enhance communications via technology.

Sept. 1998: EZLinks auctions tee times on onsale.com, the first time tee times were sold in this manner.  $1500 in tee times were sold in the first four days.  In Feb. 1999, expanded auctioning of tee times to uBid.com.

1999

1999: GolfSwitch files a patent for its technology that aggregates tee times across disparate tee sheet systems.

Sept. 1999: GolfGateway signs letter of intent to purchase T-Links. As was done previously with Golf Digest, the Golf Strand consortium protects itself with contract provisions if GolfGateway (soon to change its name to Greens.com) fails.

Sept. 1999: GolfGateway parties hard at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas during the western PGA show.  Included are numerous celebrity and professional golf investors.

Late 1999: Teemaster sold to Book4Golf.

2000

Jan. 2000: GolfGateway changes its name to Greens.com

Jan. 2000: Book4golf’s stock price reaches $22/share with a massive display at PGA Merchandise Show.

Feb. 2000: Greens.com partners with Steven Schwartz’s Palo Alto Golf, En France, and Euro Systems and expands into Europe.

Jan. 2000: GolfSwitch partners with PGA.com, a joint venture of the PGA of America and IBM, to create the first company to offer a fully integrated end-to-end package of services to streamline and automate all golf course operations.

Jan. 2000: Four tee time reservation companies announced an alliance to provide access to golf courses.  Teetimes.com, TeeMaster.com, Select Tee Times.com, and LinksTime.com will share a respective inventory of available golf tee times and establish the first open Internet golf reservation network, called OTTO (Open Tee Times Online).

Feb. 2000: e2e Golf Solutions partners with Galileo International.

March 27, 2000: e2e Golf Solutions signs a letter of intent to acquire NetCaddy

May 23, 2000: e2e Golf Solutions partners with Worldspan to bring online tee time reservations to over 20,000 global travel agencies.

June 2000: Greens.com is no more, reportedly losing $35 million.

Sept. 2000: Book4golf was purchased by ONX, a Canadian consulting firm.

2001

February 5, 2001: Spectrum Golf, owned by Mike Loustalot, acquires the assets of GolfSwitch from Larry Lippon’s e2e Golf Solutions.

February 15, 2001: EZLinks acquires Minneapolis-based Ready Golf Reservations from Newman Golf Investors.

March 14, 2001: Clubessential acquires NetCaddy. Clubessential was formed by La Quinta, Calif.-based resort developer KSL Recreation Corp. with funding in part from New York equity investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co

May 2001: Michael Hsu, the founder of Teemaster, gets his company back in a purchase settlement with Book4Golf.

July 2001: Book4golf becomes “the official tee time provider for the State of Michigan.”

2002

2002: Click4teetimes launches in Southern California.  Sold to GolfNow in 2014.

July 2002: All Book4golf directors resign except CEO Philip DeLeon.  It cannot afford its liability insurance and has burned its $1.25 million line of credit.  DeLeon injects $75K of his own money.  Book4golf has 50 clients.  Book4golf and its security company Yorkton Securities are sued for failing to disclose conflicts of interest.   Total lost reported estimated at over $30 million.

Nov 2002: GolfGopher purchases teetimes.com.

Nov 2002:  Brett Darrow is considered the godfather of tee time barter.

2003

2003:  NGCOA & Open Travel Alliance (OTA) create standards for XML messaging so that booking sources can search for golf courses, request available tee times, and make reservations.

2004

2004:  Hotel.com launches loyalty program

2004:  Jonas acquires Smyth Systems

2004:  Kayak launches.  Metasearch grows

April 2004:  Google allows advertisers to bid on trademarked keywords

Oct. 2004: GolfHero signs Marriott Golf as a client.

2005

2005:  Trivago launches

2005:  Jonas acquired ClubSystems Group

Jan. 2005: NGCOA publishes a supplement to Golf Business Magazine: Management Information Systems Guide and Directory.  Included is a commentary on third-party tee time providers.

July 2005:  Priceline buys Booking.com

Sept. 2005: Active Network purchases Tee Time King serving more than 350 courses and forms Active Golf Solutions.

Sept. 2005: GolfHero partners with Rosen Hotels and Resorts.

Oct. 2005: Golf Galaxy chooses TeeTime Watch.com as its tee time provider. 

2006

Mar. 2006: The GolfSwitch patent is granted.

April 2006: The first published debate regarding barter takes place between Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid and Cypress Golf Solutions:

April 20, 2006: GolfSwitch/Spectrum Golf sues Incuborn Solutions Inc. (Cypress Golf Solutions/GolfNow), TeeConnect, Mike Loustalot, Heritage Golf Group, and OpenCourse Solutions for patent infringement in  Arizona federal court.

2008

March 2008à Comcast, owner of Golf Channel, purchases Cypress Golf Solutions and its GolfNow brand from Brett Darrow and his franchisees for a reported $41.3 million which offsets the loss reported at $35 million incurred by Darrow’s prior company Greens.com.  The company’s operations were re-located to Golf Channel’s Orlando, Florida headquarters. That same year, the company facilitated the booking of 2.4 million rounds.

August 1, 2008: Patent lawsuit between GolfSwitch and multiple defendants, including GolfNow, is heard.  Hear is the decision:

Late 2008: GolfSwitch settles its patent suit against GolfNow. GolfSwitch received a $2.1 million settlement; however, it incurred $2.4 million in attorney fees.  GolfNow received a GolfSwitch license in perpetuity.

2008: GolfNow acquires Mike Last’s Last Minute Golfer for a reported $13 million.

2008: Tracy Conner takes over as Executive Director of the Myrtle Beach GCOA and runs T-Links. Conner uses the $1.5 million in earnest money gained from the failed purchase attempts of Golf Digest, Greens.com, and Teetimes.com to modernize and upgrade the T-Links system.

2010

September 2010:  UK’s Office of Fair Trading starts investigating anti-competitive contracts between hotels and OTAs.

2011

February 2011à Comcast completes NBC Universal merger.  Golf Channel/GolfNow is a subsidiary of NBC Universal.  NBC Sports Group was formed when Comcast transferred the operations of the properties in its existing Comcast Sports Group unit, including the Golf Channel, after the company acquired a majority share in NBCUniversal in February 2011.  This led GolfNow to be transferred to NBC Sports Digital

2011: Jonathan Wride and Ryan Ewers launch SupremeGolf.com, attempting to be the Kayak of golf.

July 2011:  Google launches their meta offering, Hotel Finder.

December 2011à TripAdvisor spun out of Expedia as a separate public company.

2012

January 2012:  Room Key,  hotel friendly OTA, is launched by Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham

Jan. 2012: At its annual meeting at the PGA Merchandise show, the PGA announces a partnership with GolfNow.  The next day, it is put on hold pending further review.

Feb. 2012: The PGA cancels its partnership deal with GolfNow.
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pellucid/perspective_201202/index.php?startid=2

May 11, 2012: EZLinks sues GolfNow and former employee Mike Brown, including charges of computer fraud and abuse, violations of trade secret laws, disparagement, conspiracy, and more.  It comes on the heels of what the suit alleges were repeated attempts by GolfNow to purchase EZLinks, which were rebuffed.

June 2012:  PitchCRM integrates into EZLink’s ETN cloud-based tee sheet.

2013

2013:   TeeSnap, funded by Allegiant Air, becomes a new player in the software space.

June 3, 2013;  Fore!  Reservations founder Harry Ipema sells Fore!  Reservations to GolfNow for a reported $15-$20 million.

July 2013:  Booking.com launches loyalty program, Genius

July 2013:  Intercontinental Hotel Group introduces new Best Rate Guarantee

June 2013:  GolfNow buys British Tee Time Company, BRS Golf.

2014

January 1, 2014:  GolfNow launches the “GolfNow Rewards” loyalty program.  Offers golfers the chance to earn FREE golf from GolfNow and DISCOUNTS on golf gear for their most loyal golfers.

January 2014:  GolfNow Connect is launched.  The foundation of GolfNow Connect is BRS Golf’s technology.  GolfNow Connect is easy to implement with no installation of software required.  Connect is geared towards individual course operators not in need of PoS, and this is a non-interfacing product.

2014:  Golf Smash launches WeddingWire founder partners with former VP at CourseTrend/Golf18 to launch GolfSmash. Using the WeddingWire template, which allows the user to develop their custom website quickly, Golfsmash allows course owners to do the same.

2014:  Golfer forms

2014: GolfNow acquires Click4teetimes.com.

May 2014: OpenTee acquires GolfSwitch.

September 30, 2014:  GolfNow acquires Active Network.  The deal adds another 1,100 golf courses to the company’s software client base.  This is GolfNow’s fourth acquisition in the last 18 months, including FORE Reservations (2000 courses), Crescent Systems (300-400 courses), and BRS Golf from the UK (750 courses).

2015

Janaury 2015:  Triptease launches PriceCheck. Hotels address the misperception that OTAs have lower prices via price comparison on the hotel site.

April 2015:  Club Prophet disconnects (cuts off API) to third parties like GolfNow and EZLinks.  This move was made for competitive reasons as GolfNow’s acquisitions meant it would become a significant player in the software space- a direct threat to Club Prophet.

June 9, 2015:  PGA Tour becomes Equity Partner in EZLinks, forging a new company to compete with GolfNow. EZLinks rebrands its consumer website as TeeOff.com by PGA Tour.

July 2015:  American Hospitality and Lodging Association study finds the “Billboard Effect is dead” six years after Cornell’s original research.

September 9, 2015:  EZLinks acquires GolfSwitch & OpenTee

November 2015: OpenTee portal redirects to EZLinks’ TeeOff.com

November 2015:  Booking.com threatens legal action against hotels providing price transparency on their websites.  Concerns rise as the fight for direct gains momentum

November 2015:  NGCOA & PGA of America partner to form the Golf USA Tee Time Coalition.

April 2016:  Expedia CEO says that hotels may be ranked lower if they drive direct bookings

April 6, 2016:  EZLinks acquires IBS.  The combined EZLinks Golf and IBS product portfolio features EZLinks Golf’s tee sheet, EZLinks Golf’s 24/7 reservation center, TeeOff.com by PGA TOUR’s web portal, IBS’ club management software, including traditional and cloud-based point of sale, business intelligence software, and private course functionality

June 2016:  Kalibri Labs find direct bookers are between 9-8% more profitable than OTA-booked guests.

December 2016:  Scorecard released to golf industry on OTTA activity as monitored over the last nine months.  Data regarding the number of paid tee times booked online is also released.

2016

May 2016: W5 enters into an exclusive service-provider relationship with GolfNow, providing call center services.

July 2016: A video leaks out from GolfNow, including a rap reference to “Boat load of trade times,” alarming the industry.

2017

Jan. 2017: Golf Pipeline rebrands as Golfbook.com. Announces strategic partnership with CBS Sports Digital as its media partner.

Jan 2017: W5 Golf becomes GolfNow’s call center.  W5 is able to maintain its current clients but cannot pursue new ones.

Jan 2017: EZLinks acquires Distinct Software Solutions, also known as Coursetrends, and the operators of Golf18 Network.  EZLinks assumes control of the Golf18 Network.

Feb. 2017: Golf.com launches a tee time booking app powered by Supreme Golf.

March 2017:  The ORCA Report Teams with NGCOA Arizona to provide its membership with valuable golf course reporting data and metrics.

April 2017: EZLinks suffers a massive outage, nearly 60 hours, disabling its electronic tee sheets at every client as well as TeeOff.com.

April 2017: Golfbook launches its app, including tee time booking.  A new website was launched in May 2017.

December 2017:   Golfler was acquired by Supreme Golf and became Supreme Golf Solutions

2018

June 2018:  PITCHCRM integrates into with Chronogolf (Lightspeed) tee sheet

October 2018: Northstar acquires Chelsea Reservations

October 2018:  ForeUp announces integrating the Gallus Golf app into their software.

2019

January 2019 – Golfer reacquires the codebase from Supreme Golf Solutions and is renamed Club Caddie.

June 2019:  Lightspeed Buys Chronogolf

July 2019:  The ORCA Report merges into Sagacity Golf

2020

January 2020:  PGA of America abandons PerformanceTrak, a benchmark reporting tool

January 2020:  Battery Ventures/Club Essential buys Vermont Systems

March 2020:  Constellation Software (Jonas Parent) buys Vermont Systems

July 2020: Northstar Club Management acquires Abacus 21

September 2020:  PGA of America and Supreme Golf Announce New Tee Time Booking Marketplace

November 2020:  Comcast/Golf Now buys EZ Links

2021

January 2021:  Northstar acquired TAI Club Management Software

April 2021: Teleo Capital buys Teesnap from Allegiant Airlines

June 2021:  Battery Ventures/Club Essential buy ForeUp

September 2021:  Battery Ventures/Club Essential takes on Silver Lake as a growth investor

September 2021:  Heard, a hospitality software startup co-owned by Tiger Woods, raises $10M bringing company valuation to $100 million.

November 2021:  PGA of America announces that they are abandoning the PGA Tee Times that Supreme Golf hosted.

2022

February 2022:  GolfUnity is launched.

Note:  This list through 2017 was curated by the amazing research and diligence of Harvey Silverman, Silverback Golf Marketing, on behalf of the NGCOA as part of the Tee Time Coalition which was formed to address the abuses of barter and apparent detrimental effect on a golf course’s revenues.

Through 2017 was posted on the Tee Time Coalition site that was a joint venture between the NGCOA and the PGA of America (PGA) until the PGA withdrew from the partnership in 2019.

Additionally, in preparing this list, a great deal of appreciation is extended to Jim Fedigan (Jonas), Devin Meister (Club Essential), and Tom Robshaw (Club Prophet) and Alan Fisher.

Authors:

JJ Keegan – [email protected]
Harvey Silverman – harvey@silverbackgolf.com
(C) All rights reserved, 2022

 

 

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2 comments

  1.    Reply

    JJ,

    I’ve always said that the golf course industry is like thousands of ships at sea – all under their own flags. Therefore, if the strategy is to ‘divide and conquer’ the golf industry has always been an easy target.

    Another comical picture is them strutting around acting like heroes because the game is booming today (2022). Comical, because they had nothing to do with the game’s rebound. If Covid (eventually) subsides, golf’s gurus will adjust themselves again – too!

    Mike (In golf since the mid 1950s)

  2.    Reply

    Great job boys a very good history!