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Is Scoopon Good for golf

In our many visits to golf clubs these days, there is one word that keeps popping up: Scoopon. GMs and marketing managers are all abuzz about the phenomenon, but they are equally wary about how it may affect their clubs in the future.

If you’re not familiar with it, Scoopon.com.au is a website that sells online vouchers with heavy discounts on products and services. A direct copy of the successful Groupon model in the US, Scoopon offers daily deals on things like dinners, massages, car service packs…you name it. In golf, an example could be 2 rounds of golf, plus 2 lunches, plus 2 beers, plus a couple of golf balls…all for a crazy price like $49 – of which the club pockets 50 per cent.

Like many people that I’ve spoken to, I’m a bit torn on the issue. On one hand, anything that gets more people playing more golf would certainly be a good thing for the game, right? As a golfer, I’d certainly take advantage of a deal like that, as long as there wasn’t too much fine print (although there usually is).

On the other hand (putting on a Club Manager’s hat), common sense tells me that if people can get products or services at a really deep discount, then why would they ever pay full price again?   In essence, by lowering your prices via a third party, aren’t you cheapening your product in your customers’ eyes?

I see the allure to clubs, and it’s very tempting. With tills running near on empty these days, the promise of hundreds of rounds of golf being added to your booking sheets – mostly during slow weekday time slots – can seem too good to be true. And sure, you might get a bit of Food & Beverage spend, and perhaps a couple of membership enquiries or repeat business down the line. But if someone can buy a handful of cheap vouchers in advance, then will they ever really need to join or pay an expensive green fee? I think not.

Factor in the the added costs of course maintenance (like fixing the multitude of extra divots or pitchmarks, etc) and potentially upsetting your full-price-paying regulars, and it’s a big gamble for a measly $25 in the till. Plus, your course as a “Brand” could suffer. That’s something which is very difficult to regain.

The long-term result, in my humble opinion, is likely a continual and gradual reduction in green fee prices and memberships. While this may seem good for golfers in the short term, I fear that a “price-driven mentality” could prove unsustainable for clubs, and the weaker clubs could eventually die off. So we’ll potentially have fewer clubs to choose from. That can’t be good, can it?

Will golf courses eventually go the way of airlines and hotels? Will green fees change on an hourly basis? Will we soon wonder if the guy sitting in the cart next to us has paid a better price for his 18 holes?

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

By Richard Fellner

Winner of multiple Australian Golf Media Awards – including "Best Column" for his monthly Starters Box column as Editor for Inside Golf Magazine – Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic—having played the game for over 40 years (but has never gotten any better.) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Writers Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and he is a regular guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others.

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