Golf club manager warns of Groupon threat

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 16, 2012 10:34

Golf club manager warns of Groupon threat

The manager of Chalgrave Manor Golf Club in Befordshire has warned that the group-buying discount website Groupon is a threat to British golf clubs and has called on the industry to work together to defeat it.

The website, which has seen its golf market grow by 100 per cent in the last year, offers green fees, vacation packages, lessons and equipment to millions of registered customers at a reduced rate. This has given some golf clubs a marketing advantage over others, but there are concerns that it is damaging the overall revenue that is coming into golf clubs.

Steve Rumball believes that Groupon deals are as potentially bad to golf clubs as 2-for-1 promotions that have been blamed on club members converting to becoming pay-as-you-play ‘nomadic’ golfers and clubs sharing revenue with external providers, both of which hurts golf club income streams.

“There is a huge variety of non-golf organisations whose sole aim is to make profits on the backs of the golf clubs of this country, without ever having to make any level of investment back into those clubs themselves,” said Steve. “These 2-for-1, Groupon and other deals are devaluing our memberships and green fees, taking profits out of golf and are one of the reasons why golf clubs lost 42,000 members last year.”

Last week a sales representative from Groupon visited Chalgrave Manor and explained how the site could help market the club. But Steve was appalled by the restrictions that would be placed on the golf venue.

“We’re not allowed to decide how much to set the deal at ­- Groupon tell us that we are to charge £29 for a two-ball voucher or £54 for a four-ball voucher, which includes coffee and a bacon roll plus 18 holes for all players. These rounds could be played midweek or weekends,” he said.

“The end user buys the voucher from Groupon, who keep all the money until it is used at my club. I then have to take the voucher and correctly process it back to Groupon. Two weeks after I’ve provided the food and golf, I get paid 50 per cent of the voucher value from Groupon.

“If the voucher is never redeemed, Groupon keep 100 per cent of the money.”

However, he believes there is a solution, in which golf clubs compete against Groupon.

“If every golf club in the country invested, say, £200 of ‘seed money’ into our own, central business operation, we could create our own online presence and shop that initially offered the same 2-for-1 Groupon-style voucher system to nomadic golfers. After a year or two of marketing our system to golfers with Groupon vouchers at the coal face, we will have proven that our system works, and we could stop using others’ systems and corner the entire market for ourselves,” he stated.

“All of the income from voucher sales and deals would go to the golf clubs. And the clubs could set their own time-bands for each day for when the vouchers, or what percentage discount, could be used.

“We, as clubs, have to accept that there is now a massive golfing population that does not view club membership as a particularly attractive proposition. That is why we need a central organisation that is operated by golf clubs for golf clubs.”

However, he warned: “It all sounds quite simple really and quite frankly it is until you realise that you need to get the majority of golf clubs to work together for the common good in order to be effective. That will be the difficult bit.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 16, 2012 10:34
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  1. philmac July 15, 12:33

    Groupon is the kiss of death for any business stupid enough to sign up to it. I would avoid any business that uses any sort of scheme to get you in ,they are obviously desperate . Same goes for 2fore1 etc.

    Reply to this comment
  2. (@GolfenPreiswert) March 22, 09:09

    @AlDunsmuir very intersting discussion, Thanks!

    Reply to this comment
  3. (@GolfenPreiswert) March 22, 09:07

    Hochinteressante Diskussion: Golf club manager warns of Groupon threat: #golf

    Reply to this comment
  4. (@AlDunsmuir) (@AlDunsmuir) March 21, 17:36

    @ColumbiaGolf Of course I do:

    Reply to this comment
  5. Neil Henderson March 15, 11:30

    Alnwick ran a Groupon deal last July.

    The promotion generated 1800 voucher sales and £13k in green fee revenue. 2800 visitors resulting in a 2000 database.

    Direct marketing to database has to date yielded:-
    £5k in green fee income repeat visits at £22
    35% increase on group bookings for 2012
    and 45 Castle membership sales

    Not bad!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Barry Forward March 6, 23:03

    With the speed at which technology is changing – golf courses/retailers have tools to hang on to their discount revenues. Our platform ( gives golf courses/merchants the ability to create, publish and promote their own custom deals to 100s and even 1000s of golfers completely free. With eTeeoff merchants have complete control over their advertising and no design, web or mobile knowledge is required. They’re able to have one deal…or even ten deals running at the same time.

    eTeeoff is our consumer facing website – we are white labeling our technology with other service providers.

    Reply to this comment
  7. William McCartney March 6, 21:16

    Golf clubs have to recognise that the trend of falling memberships is going to continue long after the current recession has passed. Lifestyles have changed and just like the modern consumer who likes to have choice, the modern golfer also like to have the choice to play on many different courses.

    So the smart golf clubs who embrace this new breed of nomadic golfers will be able to offset their declining membership revenues with increased visitor revenue.

    Our business ( uses the group buying business model, but in specialising in golf and not manicures like Groupon we understand the needs of golf clubs and our terms are much more agreeable, especially in that our clubs get paid in full whether a voucher is redeemed or not.

    Where else can gold clubs promote themselves to hundreds of thousands of other golfers for no upfront costs? At least they only lose a portion of the green fee on guaranteed sales. Surely this is better than spending a clubs limited budget on magazine and newspaper advertising which may result in no or poor sales?

    Reply to this comment
  8. (@eTeeoff) (@eTeeoff) March 5, 20:25

    #Golf merchants weigh in on #couponing… agree or disagree with their sentiments?

    Reply to this comment
  9. Andrew Smith March 2, 18:05

    Marketing = discounting is the problem. Whilst there is over supply in the market then the downward spiral just gets worse!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Golf Social Network (@golfsocialnet) March 1, 21:30

    Is Groupon bad for golf? Golf club manager warns of Groupon threat via @GCM_mag

    Reply to this comment
  11. (@MindshareM) (@MindshareM) March 1, 21:28

    Is Groupon bad for golf? Like this if you think it is.

    Reply to this comment
  12. eTeeoff (@eTeeoff) February 24, 01:20

    Weigh in – is #Groupon bad for #golf? #growgolf

    Reply to this comment
  13. Stuart Stovell February 21, 14:26

    Websites such as groupon and even to an extent teetimes are damaging golf. To many fair weather golfers are using these offers and playing. Causing overcrowding and slow rounds at courses. I know the courses themselves are at fault fow allowing them, but I believe it’s not fair on members that pay memberships to have rounds ruined.

    Reply to this comment
  14. James Barton (@jbdd_uk) February 20, 09:47

    » Golf club manager warns of Groupon threat

    Reply to this comment
  15. Richard Barker February 17, 15:33

    The scenario outlined in the article is clearly not a palatable one for golf clubs and I can understand the frustration at watching large chunks of revenues get hoovered up by an external company. I would, however, point out that clubs always have a choice. Nobody forces them to work with the operators of any promotional scheme.. if clubs don’t like the terms of the deal, why not simply walk away from it? Or find one that will actually benefit the club?

    Our business ( is a very different proposition and we prefer to think of it as a series of partnerships that helps both parties to fulfil our objectives. We work with almost 1,000 clubs across the UK, helping to increase their visitor green fee revenue – and our relationship with them is the complete opposite of that described in the article.

    Clubs work with us for the very reason that they retain full control over which tee times are sold, meaning they can fill their vacant slots without impacting member play. They set the prices, and any tee-times booked through our website are paid for in full at the point of booking, meaning no-shows and cancellations don’t cost the club. We pay the clubs monthly via BACS, and we also pay all credit card merchant fees and software connectivity costs. There are no upfront fees, no ongoing costs and we even market the tee-times to a database of more than 400,000 golfers. Of course, we take a commission but the percentage is a fair reflection of the work we put in.

    If we are not offering good service, the clubs will vote with their feet and stop working with us. The fact that we are growing so rapidly tells us that we are on the right track and I would urge clubs to think about what they want to achieve and then select appropriate partners to work with.

    Reply to this comment
  16. golfshake (@golfshake) February 16, 23:31

    V. interesting article @londscotgc: Golf club manager warns Groupon is damaging business for golf clubs: @AlDunsmuir

    Reply to this comment
  17. Anthony Haste (@AnthonyHastePGA) February 16, 21:38

    » Golf club manager warns of Groupon threat

    Reply to this comment
  18. I love this game!! (@MyGolfTweet) February 16, 20:26

    En Inglaterra algún club está en guerra contra las webs que ofrecen descuentos en los green-fees, como Groupon.

    Reply to this comment
  19. Sean Mysel February 16, 20:10

    I agree with Mr. Rumball for pointing out the flaws in using GroupOn. The problem is talking about increasing your digital and market presence isn’t enough, it requires action. Much like the debate here in the US about Golf 2.0, a program to make the game easier and attract more business, it’s not being done nor is it being marketed. Well done on the article!

    Reply to this comment
  20. (@londscotgc) (@londscotgc) February 16, 19:23

    Golf club manager warns that Groupon is damaging business for golf clubs: #golf

    Reply to this comment
  21. AntiGroupon (@anti_groupon) February 16, 17:17

    It’s not just bad customer service, Groupon is bad for business as well

    Reply to this comment
  22. Jim (@business_chat) February 16, 15:52

    » Golf club manager warns of Groupon threat

    Reply to this comment
  23. David Berry (@berry7637) February 16, 15:36

    “@DaveTindallgolf: Interesting read about Groupon hurting golf.” @haydenjim22

    Reply to this comment
  24. LDNgolfplayr (@LDNgolfplayr) February 16, 12:49

    Very interesting article. RT @GCM_mag: Golf club manager warns that Groupon is damaging business for golf clubs #golf

    Reply to this comment
  25. A Wife Less Ordinary (@AWifeLO) February 16, 12:24

    Should businesses think twice before using Groupon?

    Reply to this comment
    • neil sjoberg epping golf club February 16, 14:42

      I am very grateful to Steve Rumball for being sharp enough to spot yet another golf industry scam. He is also correct to point out that -to stay profitable golf clubs must run efficiently without others syphoning off profits or restricting honest practice.
      Such restrictions as Groupon presents are not always obvious and frequently come wrapped in sheep’s clothing from honourable sources. The partnership agreements that many of our governing bodies embody commit us to crippling restrictions which do (and are) threatening the future of many clubs.

      Moral Kepp your eyes open and think for yourself! Neil Sjoberg Epping Golf Club

      Reply to this comment
  26. GAF, Sverige (@gafsverige) February 16, 11:09

    Apropå 3:e parts aktörer. “@GCM_mag: Golf club manager warns that Groupon is damaging business for golf clubs”

    Reply to this comment
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