The Tribunal – Can You Help Me Understand?

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On June 22, 2015, the following was emailed to the NGCOA membership:

“Today, the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) issued a comprehensive new set of “Guidelines for Online Distribution of Tee Time Reservations.” The guidelines, which have been approved by the NGCOA board of directors and have the full endorsement of the PGA of America, create a framework for third-party, online agents and golf course owners and operators to conduct business together.”

Click here to read 4 page document that was drafted with the assistance of former CEO of Priceline

Click here to read 3 page document of frequently asked questions

Click here to read 5 page document on tee time basics.

The online distribution of tee time reservations is made very complicated by anti-trust issue centered on price fixing. What was of interest was the statement in the membership cover letter:

 “It should also be noted that, in the coming months, the NGCOA, in conjunction with the PGA, plans to unveil a guidelines compliance program to provide oversight. This component will ensure that our efforts translate into positive change for our members and the industry.”

During the drafting of the guidelines, it was rumored that the formation of a Tribunal was discussed to ensure vendor compliance. The NGCOA and PGA would each have a seat on the three person committee. We heard from several sources that Golfnow.com would fund the formation of the Tribunal with a contribution of nearly $200,000. Each software vendor, based on the number of golf courses they served, would be assessed an annual fee.

Can you help me understand? Why would any software vendor pay the NGCOA/PGA Tribunal a fee to assist them in the compliance of policies they created? How can any transgression of “The Guidelines” be enforced without engaging in price fixing? Should a vendor be deemed guilty of violating the guidelines: will they fined, publicly sanctioned, or banned from the industry?

Further, doesn’t the PGA of America have a conflict of interest in participating in the Tribunal based on the PGA’s rights deal which extends through 2030 with NBC Sports, the owner of Golfnow? Is the PGA being placed in the position of publicly censuring one of its largest corporate partners?   It just doesn’t make sense to me.

What does make sense is while it is logical to create guidelines, the implementation will be impractical to implement. This is a classic example of theory being created by academicians that has little realistic relevance.

What do you think?  Comment below.

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