A Public Players Quest for Value
Golf value, like beauty and putting styles, is in the eye of the beholder. My very first twitter poll some time back asked people if they would rather play one top 10 course or multiple rounds at very good courses. The responses were mixed and that is not a surprise. In my review of Cabot Links I placed the value as high, which seems odd to some given the greens fees were about $150 at the time. However, the opportunity to play the best course I have ever experienced and was top of my bucket list at the time provided me strong value to pay that much. It was, indeed, an experience.
But the context of value is much broader than justification for world class course greens fees. The opposite end of the spectrum is something I actively seek out as well. I have paid $8.00 to play a local 9 hole course, doing so on poor weather day which allowed me the chance to play 2-3 golf balls at one time and go around the course 3 times. Here are some tips I utilize for finding golf ‘value’.
- GolfNow – Based in the USA, GolfNow is expanding across the country and around the world. With an increasing listing of courses available in the Greater Toronto Area and throughout Ontario (and really, across the country), I am seeing favourites of mine added regularly. Here, players can go online and identify their search parameters. Discounted offerings can be had through their ‘Hot Deals’ section on their site. What I love about this site is its ease of use, and the ability for me to filter as a single player and what are my geographic parameters to play. If you can get onto the tee within a couple hours of logging in, there are incredible deals to be had. They have also added a loyalty program to further incentivize players. GolfNow is a staple for me, especially in the fall seasons.
- Golf Course Websites – Not to be dismissed are the websites for various courses. Some have a strict policy offering lower greens fees than any other site and in many cases you can find value options for foursomes which may include carts and or meals. It is, I find in my conversations with other players, an underutilized resource to find golf value.
- Multiple Green Fee Packages – Some courses, in lieu of memberships, offer players a chance to purchase multiple round packages. I have seen offers as low as five rounds and as high as 40. These allow offer discounts from their daily greens fees. I would see this as an option of convenience for people living close to a course they like. Here, you can explore other daily green fee deals but fall back on the convenience of a pre-paid package when time or funds are tight.
- Loyalty/Discount Cards – I have also experienced courses or regions offering players a loyalty card. Some courses are centrally managed or others exist within a unique geographic area. Loyalty programs exist to reward players who play regularly with discounts on play, or ‘rewards’ like carts, apparel, etc. While aware of some programs, I never frequent one area of golf ‘company’ enough to warrant the value but it is interesting to see and worthy of sharing. My fall trip to PEI allowed our group to use the Golf PEI Green Card. Through this offer, we played 10 rounds for an average green fee of $37.90. There were six other course options we lacked time to utilize. Buy early in the calendar year, they sell fast.
- GTA Golf Club – This Company bases it operations in regional clusters of Toronto, London, Ontario and Chicago. This group allows people to buy graduated levels of ‘membership’ which provides access to a restricted number of daily discounted tee times at courses. Here, the player simply books a tee time at a participating course than acquires one of the limited access times available that day. The membership provides access to these deeply discounted rates and if you’re willing to pay more, you can get a certain number of round credits added in. This is where the real value is. Credits are for $35 credit off the already discounted rate. Courses I love fall within this price range, so for me it is often free to play. If I wanted to play somewhere else, it may range from $5 to about $40 or so, out of pocket. Another surprise to me this year was a returning customer I received a discount on my renewal and some ‘free’ round credits. This gets high marks in my book and I have yet to see a value program equivalent.
- Under Par – This is an email service all public golfers in Ontario should sign up for. Throughout the season, UnderPar will email you offers for two or four players to play at courses in Ontario. The geographic range of courses is impressive; this is less Toronto-centric than other discount programs. Often the offers have fine print such as deadlines for use and minor restrictions but the value is sensational and I have used these vouchers on many occasions with enjoyment and success. It’s a nice way to treat a family member or friend to play a round.
- Shoulder Season Play – Value need not be aligned to course commitment or front-end investment. Here, if you’re willing to play early or late in the season, you can often get heavily discounted rates on some of your favourite courses. The same concept at a twilight rate (another excellent option for the value conscious golfer), here, before and after a certain time of year you can get great value. I love fall golf and enjoy the fact it is often less wet and buggy than spring. The chance to play a bucket list course at a reduced rate is something I always explore and the shoulder season is a favourite strategy I employ.
- Stay and Play – Not everyone has the time and resources to enjoy stay and play options but if you’re seeking value, it is worth looking into. Some courses have hotel, spa, restaurant options and the Stay and Play special could also include replay options, creating additional value for golfers. For destination locations, the research could prove worthwhile. Here, I like to marry Stay and Play with Seasonal play to maximize the discount options.
I am sure this is not an extensive list so I welcome hearing from others about how they optimize value in their golfing experience, absent a membership of course (likely one of the best value options). After all, I have yet to meet anyone who said they wish they spent more to play a round of golf.