Mike Early was skeptical of the Marketplace Leads & Tee Times program when he first met with the team at Clubhouse Solutions, a sister company of GolfNow within the NBC Sports Group portfolio. It just didn’t seem like a fit for Meadowbrook Country Club, a private club in Richmond, Va., where he is board president and acting general manager.
“The first reaction of members was GolfNow is all about public courses. That’s something we don’t want to deal with,” he recalled.
Now, more than a year into using its services, that tune has changed. The Clubhouse Solutions Marketplace Leads & Tee Times program led directly to, at least, one new member discovering and joining the club and has introduced other potential leads. Meadowbrook isn’t located in a neighborhood that feeds new homeowners into the club, so it takes more marketing and outreach to find candidates. That’s how Marketplace Leads & Tee Times helps fill the void.
“GolfNow has carved out a niche that actually helps a private club like us,” Early said.
Currently, more than 150 private clubs of all sizes around the country are benefiting from the Marketplace Leads & Tee Times program, ranging from tee times listed on GolfNow to awareness campaigns through social media, e-mail marketing and additional exposure on GolfPass, another member of the NBC Sports family.
Rick Coffey, a national sales manager for Clubhouse Solutions, says most private club managers and boards are skeptical at first. But then he starts speaking their language because he’s been there before. Both Coffey and colleague Michael A. Funaro have worked at private clubs on the sales and marketing side. And because they understand the increasingly hard work it takes to find new members in a competitive and seemingly tapped-out marketplace, they can act more like consultants than salesmen.
Coffey believes GolfNow’s extensive database of users is an ideal resource to mine for members. From May 2019 to May 2020, GolfNow facilitated 160,000 tee-time bookings priced at more than $100; 80,000 bookings at more than $125 and 40,000 at more than $150. These bookers are golfers who love the game and have the financial means to join a club.
“The GolfNow database has the chance to create the strongest leads anyone can. It brings a qualified golfer to the club,” Coffey said.
How tee times works
One of the biggest misconceptions private clubs have about releasing tee times to the general public is that they are compromising their membership and exclusivity.
Funaro said private clubs control every step of the process – the price and time frame when non-members can play. They are often used as a one-time “Member for a Day” event to introduce golfers to the club.
One private facility in Pennsylvania generated nearly $8,000 by holding three ‘Member for a Day’ events during off-peak times from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week.
“It is a very exclusive product,” Funaro added. “It allows the flexibility for clubs that might not have experienced the uptick in members during the golf boom of the 2020 pandemic. They missed the mark, employees left, or whatever.”
He cited a club in Wisconsin that is using the program as a revenue boost to pay for new product and services.
“Life is different in the private space,” he says. “You can do a ‘Member for the Day’ a few days of the year and still hold the integrity of the club. You can use it to show off your club or beef up your waiting list.”
Meadowbrook Country Club’s Early has been pleased with the program. “The whole group (at Clubhouse Solutions) has been responsive about how we set up tee times,” he said. “It’s turned out to be a very good relationship and partnership. They are exclusive tee times. We are not putting members out by any means. There’s been no negative feedback from members.”