Saving Green

By Reina V. Kutner

January 30, 2009 5 min read

SAVING GREEN

Keep your cash while enjoying the sport

Reina V. Kutner

Creators News Service

Golf may be relaxing, but for the most part going to the greens means forking over a lot of your own. In the current economy, we want to save all the cash we can.

"If you think about it, golf is a recreational activity, and it's one of the first things to go in somebody's budget when the purse strings get tight," said Jeffrey Wright, vice president of marketing for EZ Links (ezlinks.com), a site that sells discounted tee times to golfers.

Today, though, golfers may be able to reap the benefits of difficult times in the industry, considering many courses were troubled long before the economy took a downturn.

"It's a recognized fact that there have probably been too many courses built in anticipation that the baby boom[ers] would be hitting the marketplace," said Bob Kennedy, owner of golfcoupons.com. In addition, many of these places were targeted toward a higher-end market. A combination of too many courses built in the 1990s and a bad economy means quite a few of these greens are shutting down. But others are fighting back.

By offering coupons and discounted tee times, managers of golf courses have found ways to fill their time slots -- giving the average player a major advantage.

"We want to think about a round of golf like a vegetable in a grocery store," Kennedy said. "If I don't sell my three o'clock spot on Wednesday afternoon, it has been lost and has been spoiled. It's a lost opportunity."

This is where the Internet has come in handy. Technological advances have helped some courses get on track with their sales.

According to Wright, "The golf industry lags behind other industries in utilizing technology. Travel and hospitality took advantage of the Internet. If you went to any hotel or any airline, they're probably doing 50 to 75 percent on the Internet in their transactions. For golf courses, it's five to 10 percent, but they're increasing."

Sites like ezlinks.com and golfcoupons.com have been helping course managers fill their tee times by taking advantage of the Web. Other sites, such as Kennedy's golfcourseranking.com, allow golfers to educate each other by ranking the courses they have played and supplying all the details of their game -- including the price.

But if what you want -- or require -- is a discounted round of golf, you'll have to make a play for the lower rate.

"Sometimes you just have to ask the question," Kennedy said. "If you don't ask the question, they're not going to come forward and tell you."

Here are some tips from both Wright and Kennedy on how to save some green on your golf game:

* Book an out-of-the-ordinary tee time. Going on the most popular days -- Saturday and Sunday -- won't help you. Scheduling a tee time for a weekday afternoon just might get you the discount you're looking for.

* Book at a time of day that is less than ideal. Early morning tee times are often the most expensive, while an afternoon or twilight tee time can save you some cash. When you call, ask them whether their rates vary based on the time of the day.

* Inquire about a senior discount if applicable.

* Groups of 12 or more may save money, as a manager might be willing to negotiate a lower rate for everyone. But this only works for some courses during non-prime times. "If you're bringing people out on a Sunday morning, so what?" Kennedy said, explaining that a large group will buy up precious teeing hours. "But if you tell me that you're going to bring people Wednesday afternoon, I'm going to negotiate."

* There are myriad ways to save on equipment, especially if you're just starting out. Kennedy loves lostgolfballs.com, which offers used balls found in the waterways at courses for a discounted rate. Sites such as eBay and Craigslist post ads selling used golf clubs and equipment. Wright added that golfclubexchange.com offers a way to exchange and upgrade your supplies as you become more experienced.

* If you are a beginner, there's no need to drop big bucks at expensive courses. A municipal green is a great place to hone your skills.

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