Becky Iverson, director of golf at Bridges Golf Course in Madison, Wisconsin, is looking ahead to 2012 and a different approach to third-party reservation services.
Basically, the decision that she
and head professional Ann Bloomfield hit upon was to "go local" instead of dealing with one of the national tee reservation wholesalers or a Web-based coupon company like LivingSocial or Groupon.
"We had a target of 30,000 rounds using our rack rate of $50 in 2011 and came pretty close to the goal," Bloomfield says.
"Compared to other courses in our market, the rounds-played drop-off versus 2009 was fairly minimal, only about 8 percent.
Rack rate at Bridges Golf Course
for 2012 will bump up to $55, while the hard-to-fill times that get managed by the local Madison Golf Deals packager (MadisonGolfDeals.vpweb.com) will be value-priced quite aggressively, down at the $25 level.
, a longtime LPGA Tour player who made the switch to golf management several years ago, feels the new approach can undo about half of the discount effect on revenues.
"Most course operators are OK with cutting their rack rate in half to fill the weakest spots on the tee sheet," she
"What hurts is having to split that down the middle again to pay the third party.
This home-cooking version of a tee time reservation site is newly launched and had just one additional course in the process of signing on when Iverson
own preference for this approach to third-party selling lies partly in the issue of how frequently the customer is contacted.
"Doing it this way," says Iverson
, "we can trust that e-mail promotions will be infrequent.
We want to be sure our golfers aren't getting bombarded."
The approach hasn't been completely without issues, however.
Last season, there were a few unhappy examples of double-booking, in which customers who booked third-party tee times arrived to find an 18-hole shotgun in full swing.
Those concerns have been addressed, and Iverson
expects less difficulty with software interface in the upcoming season.
In general, Iverson
sees Groupon and similar Web services as much more appropriate for start-up businesses, not those with established clientele.
"Golfers who came to us through our former third-party seller were 80 percent returnees," she