More golfers spent time on the course in 2020 than they had in a while. The COVID-19 pandemic closed many indoor activities, forcing people to find options for exercise and entertainment outdoors. For many people, golf filled the bill, and they even considered it worth making an investment. According to Golf Datatech, equipment sales, especially in golf bags, wedges, irons, grew to $1.001 billion in Q3 20, the second-highest quarter for golf equipment sales ever, following only Q2 2008 holding the record at $1.013 billion.
The popularity of golf during the pandemic, however, created a new challenge for country clubs and courses. They needed to optimize engagements with golfers while making interactions as socially distanced and touchless as possible. Jennifer Cunningham, Director of Sales for First American Payment Systems, says, “Golfers have been reserving tee times on golf course websites for some time, but it was never used as frequently as it is now. As golfing experiences moved to a touchless experience, online reservations have become a lot more popular.”
In-Demand Golf Course Software Features
Cunningham recommends that ISVs and software developers designing online tee time reservation systems and other solutions for golf courses focus on “any features that take person-to-person interactions out of the picture.”
Tee time reservations kick off the experience for golfers with the convenience of choosing from among available tee times online and saving time and enabling minimal face-to-face interaction when they arrive at the golf course. Your software can ensure a safe, socially distanced golf experience continues with emailed links or QR codes on golf carts that bring up menus and enable orders that staff can deliver to the course using GPS. Cunningham says whether tee time reservation systems or other solutions are a part of the golf course’s point of sale (POS) system or they’re developed as standalone solutions, they can each have value.
She adds that some golf courses choose to develop apps, which can have appeal to younger golfers. Keep in mind that golf is truly a multigenerational sport, although numbers in recent years cast some doubt. In 2013, golf in the U.S. lost over 400,000 players, half from the millennial generation. according to the National Golf Foundation. The trend continued in 2016; the number of golfers totaled about 24.1 million in the U.S., 600,000 fewer than two years before. However, more people of all ages played in 2020. The National Golf Foundation reports that October rounds increased by 32 percent over last year and predicts an increase for all of 2020 to be 20 percent year over year.
Cunningham adds that golf entertainment venues, such as Top Golf, have introduced younger players to the game, and when the pandemic forced closures or limited capacity of indoor venues, younger golfers ventured outside to try the sport. She adds that courses offering deep discounts during the pandemic also encouraged golfers of all ages to participate this year.
In addition to considering generational preferences for customer-facing features of your software, you also need to consider differences among golf courses themselves. Your potential users could range from public to private courses, some with high-traffic pro shops and e-commerce sites and others with popular restaurants and event facilities. Ensure you target a well-defined market and that your software has features that will address all of your customers’ needs, either through your solution or integrations.
Integrating Online Payment Systems with Tee Time Software
Cunningham stresses that when a golf business chooses to offer online tee time reservations, integrated payments must be a part of the equation. “It’s a guarantee that the golf course will receive payment. Without the payments piece, the business could hold the reservation for people who never arrive at the course, and then lose revenue for that time,” Cunningham explains.
Integrated payments combined with a total golf course management system also helps the course operate most efficiently, have real-time visibility into sales, and provide the convenient customer experiences that golfers want so they can get onto the course faster.
The pandemic forced golf courses that were holding onto legacy methods of operation to realize that it’s time to move into the digital era. The changes they’ve made, including online tee time reservation systems, technology that enables touchless and socially distanced interactions, and integrated payments, will also benefit them long after the pandemic ends.
“It’s exciting to see the golf space evolve,” Cunningham says.