Operator Stories

Managing your tee sheet for peak weeks

As the functionality wired into tee-time booking systems gets more sophisticated, resourceful course operators are always on the lookout for new ways to leverage it during special weeks on the calendar. Recently, we’ve seen courses make adjustments to their booking function based on predicted high demand during major championships, but similar strategies can be incorporated for a variety of nearby events – or even tournaments or activities you may host, yourself.

Ronnie Wright, Jr., the PGA Director of Golf at The Golf Club at Middle Bay in Oceanside, N.Y., used his GOLF Business Solutions online booking sophistication to exploit this year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park, a neighboring Long Island course.

“Knowing the PGA Championship would be down the road from us, we knew that a slew of out-of-towners would be coming here not only wanting to watch the tournament but also hoping to play some golf themselves and maybe entertain clients,” said Wright. “We asked Lindsey Wellenstein (Wright’s GOLF Business Solutions representative) to get with her team and make adjustments to our reservation settings.”

To begin with, the course changed its standard seven-day-in-advance policy so that times for PGA Championship week could be booked 90 days out. The Golf Club of Middle Bay was a member-only facility until five years ago, and its GOLF Advisor ratings are eye-catchingly high. Wright felt that, given the chance, golfers from far-off places would be eager to book his course. “We sold tee times to people from California, Canada, Japan and really all over,” says Wright. “We sold times we wouldn’t have sold, and we sold them at a premium.”

Wright captured his premium fee by having GOLF Business Solutions disable his dynamic-pricing tool for that one week. “We set things up so our normal triggered price drops got eliminated,” he explains. “That allowed us to enforce our weekend rack rate of $83, including cart, for the entire period.”

Similar strategizing helped the 36-hole Bayonet and Black Horse Golf in Seaside, Calif., make hay out of this year’s U.S. Open at nearby Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Pat Jones, the facility’s director of golf, worked far in advance of the U.S. Open with Charles Fralix III, his GOLF Business Solutions rep, on business strategy. The idea was to make the Bayonet and Black Horse inventory as attractive yet high-yielding as possible on GOLFNOW. Jones asked that all tee times for the two courses be sold in a package with cart, lunch, beverages and a souvenir logo hat included – there’s your attraction angle – easily justifying a basic $225-per-player fee.

Meanwhile, parts of the two tee sheets (one for each of the two 18-hole courses) were organized as shotgun blocks, while other parts stayed in normal sequential form. All of the packages were set up to get prepaid by the booking golfer. Where the sheet remained in its normal matrix, a dynamic-pricing tool was turned on, to set the fees according to demand. On two separate days there were times that sold for a peak price of $275.

“All the public-access courses in this area know and prepare when there’s something big coming up on the calendar,” says Jones. “Whether it was us, or Poppy Hills or Carmel Valley Ranch or whichever facility, we all had strategies to maximize revenue.”

One key adjustment along the way involved prepayment. “At first, we weren’t requiring up-front payment, but we tested it and found that nobody minded. We heard that same thing talking to other courses, so we flipped the switch to prepayment,” says Jones.

The approach that emerged from Jones’s brainstorm sessions with Fralix proved successful, to say the least.

“We didn’t 100 percent sell out,” Jones says, “but I’ve got our records from 2010 when the U.S. Open was also here at Pebble Beach, and revenues in 2019 were much higher. In 2010 they averaged about 450 rounds a day, and this year we averaged 400 a day, but back then the green fee was around $140 and this year we were selling at $225 all the way up to $275.”

Pasatiempo, the renowned Pacific Coast course with its Alister MacKenzie jewel of a layout, used an interesting strategy to parlay this year’s U.S. Open into business success. Poring over the records from 2010 and 2012, when there were U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and the Olympic Club, respectively, general manager Scott Hoyt set his revenue goals based on total spend more than premium-priced green fees.

“In a 10-day window from Friday, June 7 to Monday the 17th we bumped our fee from $275 to $295, then at a certain point we moved it up to $310,” says Hoyt. “Still, that was a modest premium—one course actually doubled its rate—and as a result we had a steady flow of positive comments about our pricing.” Once the policy was set, Hoyt closed his office door and crafted a lengthy, highly detailed email that would go out to everyone who had booked for the 10-day period. It asked about walk versus ride, need for rental sets, need for caddies and forecaddies, dining plans, and other ancillary-spend categories. Golfers responded enthusiastically, eager to get all aspects of their visits to this bucket-list destination squared away.

“We begged and borrowed rental sets to cover the need,” says Hoyt. “We called in caddies from all over – even some of our members took loops. Our F&B operation maxed out on sales. On one hand, people were super-thankful we gave them the opportunity to reserve everything in advance – customer experience was through the roof. On the other hand, we made money like never before.”

Compared to June 2010, Pasatiempo eclipsed revenue from that entire month in only a four-day period this year. “And June of 2010,” adds Hoyt, “had been our biggest green-fee revenue month ever.”

Obviously, the two U.S. majors that move around may not be coming to your area anytime soon, but even lesser events like the U.S. Amateur or the two senior majors could potentially spike up some demand. The key is knowing how the best booking engines can accommodate those unique scenarios and using them to maximize your revenue and exposure when they occur.

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