Companies selling cut-price green-fees to bargain-hunting golfers are crippling the game, according to one of the leading figures in the industry.
Colin Jenkins, founder of the GRN-OGRO - operators of golf ranges around the UK - says the growth of tee time re-sellers purporting to improve a course's cash flow is one of the most worrying aspects for the golf industry.
“If golf clubs are not careful, they may suffer the same fate that farmers do at the hands of the major supermarkets, which now dictate the produce, its colour, size and taste and then proceed to impose very tough payment terms,” he says.
Originally, says Jenkins, these 'virtual golf courses' sought to offer a solution to unused off-peak green fee slots.
“But the golfer’s growing desire to play cheaply and when they want, has meant that golf clubs have tended to follow the golfer, rather than sticking to their guns and only allowing green fees to be sold when they were unlikely to find any other more lucrative business.”
Jenkins claims the golf operator is left with less money and a golfer’s expectation of what a round of golf is worth, plummets.
“The whole world seems to have gone ‘voucher mad’! Those who own the course have the value of their goods cheapened and their profits heavily diminished.”
He suggests that the market has moved, so nomadic golfers have not just dropped their membership, they have started to determine the price they are prepared to pay for their golf and don't seem interested in the concerns of the golf operator.
“Golf clubs are expensive to run and prices cannot continue to fall simply because it's what the customer says he wants. More for less is a poor master. Good value and great service is, however, a model that will endure.”
He asks what would happen if the 1,000 courses currently in re-selling schemes simply said 'No'?
“Golfers would continue to play when they could, so course owners should take a firmer stand because many of those clubs that currently do not accept discounted tee time are doing better.”
He says that while some golfers may be swayed by price there are other factors that are more important – convenience, course conditions, great service and friendliness - all features that more clubs could highlight by developing and controlling their own online booking with cheaper, yet sophisticated software, instead of relying on ‘virtual golf clubs’.
What's your view of golf tee times re-selling? In these austere times are we right to chase the deal or are we merely de-valueing the game as Mr Jenkins suggests? Tell us your views on the forum. Remember to join us on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-date golf news.