In the olden days, if you wanted to set up a tee time you called the golf course. Carl in the pro shop thumbed through the tee sheet and let you know what was available. A minute or two later you were all set and, unless you had a coupon, you paid the going rate on arrival just like everybody else.
And dagnabbit, we liked it that way!
Actually, calling the course nowadays is for suckers. So is paying full retail, and for that you can thank discount tee time brokers like GolfNow, GolfHub and EZLinks.
If you haven’t used one of these websites to book a round of golf, you’re probably still playing persimmon woods and wearing plaid pants, too.
Get with the times, grandpa!
While there are at least a half-dozen major tee time brokerage sites, we’ll focus on GolfNow for starters.
A member of the Golf Channel family, GolfNow is the biggest player in the tee time game with a rapidly growing database of more than 3,700 courses in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Ireland and Scotland.
The company even has its own Groupon-style offshoot, called Deal Caddy, offering weekly discounts in select markets.
Like most e-commerce sites, GolfNow makes things easy. Just pick your state and region and a list of available courses pops up. You can view open tee times and prices, and each listing tells you the percentage you’ll save off the course’s regular rates.
Golf Channel’s GolfNow
Discount Tee Time from EZ-Links
Golf Channel’s Deal Caddy
On most tee times you don’t pay until you sign in at the course. The exception is GolfNow’s daily “Hot Deals,” signified by a small fire icon, for which you must pay on the website at the time of booking.
(FYI – The Hot Deals are the key to GolfNow’s business model. Each participating course hands over one tee time per day to GolfNow, which charges whatever it wants and keeps 100% of sales for that slot. In case you were wondering.)
About the only quibble from a consumer’s standpoint is the $1.99 “convenience fee” – gotta love those clever Orwellian labels — collected for each golfer booked. In other words, if you book a twosome GolfNow tacks $3.98 onto the total price. But in a TicketMaster world, what’s an extra buck-99 between pals?
Here are a few other features GolfNow has going for it:
- It’s free to join, members receive regular email alerts about the best current deals. (You can unsubscribe if you choose.)
- Each course has its own profile page, with a brief course description, general info (designer, length, year opened), standard greens fees, key staff and amenities. There’s also a Google map and link to directions, local weather forecast, and a link to the course’s own website.
- New courses are added frequently, and marked *NEW* in their region’s listing. Hard to miss those.
- You can browse tee times by preferred date, time and number of golfers in your party.
- You can check out the tee times available at a specific course, or view a listing of all open times for an entire area.
- Naturally, GolfNow offers a mobile app that allows you to view and book tee times from your smart phone.
- There are currently 35 members of Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public Courses in America club — including TPC Sawgrass, Chambers Bay and Pasatiempo — offering tee times through GolfNow. A dedicated tab takes you to a page listing the whole lot of them.
- There’s a golf course directory which includes info for pretty much every facility in the U.S., including those that don’t participate with GolfNow, as well as Ireland.
- The site runs frequent contests and giveaways. For example, a golf trip to Scotland is currently up for grabs. (Come to think of it, I haven’t entered that one yet.)
Besides, Carl’s probably tired of taking your calls anyway.
Daniel Mitchell is a golf writer who lives in Jupiter, Fla., a few miles from Tiger Woods as the crow flies but worlds away in every other respect. An avid golfer since age 12, Mitchell carries a (shaky) single-digit handicap, investing far more time in his dogs than his swing.