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A Boatload of Angst

Even the best companies find ways to make themselves look foolish. It's often times inadvertent, but usually reveals something the world does not know, or confirms long-held suspicions.
Such is the case with GolfNow, the company golf course owners and operators love to hate. First revealed by Jim Keegan here, a video surfaced of GolfNow revelling in the joys of selling trade times and making millions, many millions, of dollars. Further sleuthing by other concerned golf industry citizens unearthed the original rap video that GolfNow parodied, found here. It's about the love of cocaine, and projects a disturbing image of the GolfNow workplace culture.
It did not take long for the full video, of which the rap parody is at the end, to reach the light of day. Here it is on a private Vimeo channel (not mine), and the password is "golf." It is the full, 75-minute presentation of GolfNow's six-month business update.THIS JUST IN, 5:00pm Wednesday, July 13: The full length video has been taken down by Vimeo. Sorry if you missed it. However, the short rap parody video can still be viewed on Jim Keegan's site, linked above. To some extent, the cat is out of the hat, the horse is out of the barn, and certainly the (Trade) boat has left the dock. Notwithstanding, below are some key highlights.

At about the 8-minute mark, Will McIntosh shows the current numbers and talks about how May and June have been disappointing. 

Next is Jeff Foster discussing client participation numbers.

14:30 – An update on their G1 system and Billy Casper Golf, currently an EZLinks client.

16:00 – Why their "Worry free" is good for golf courses, even if they don't know it.

17:45 – A focus on selling trade times. Foster: The golf courses may not like the hot deals, but “we’ve earned them.” They endeavor to defend what they’ve earned. In fact, they have a team that works to ward of golf course complaints and defend how they sell the trade times. I think this indicates an unwillingness to work with most golf courses on floor prices. Trade round sales are up 9%, but from the previous segment, overall rounds are down. That’s very troubling for any course to reconcile. Their “keep it simple” mantra in no way reflects the desire to generate more rounds and revenue for courses, just more trade and trade sales for GolfNow.

32:30 – Ski Now. Look out, ski industry!

38:00 - GolfNow Rewards. More competition for golf course clients. 

45:50 – Notice the "Clap" sign on the left. Classic.

1:06:30 – EZLinks mention – Foster “does not see them as a threat at all.” In my mind, any executive who does not recognize a competitor in its space should be fired.

1:08:45 – I’m trying to figure out what this question means. But, the comments by McIntosh are important to listen to.

1:11 – GolfNow and the private club market - their new target. That's right, Hot Deals on memberships. 

1:12:30 – How are they so successful selling trade? Foster doesn't answer directly, but leads the audience to the audacious and obnoxious rap parody video. So, there is your answer.

Another commentary is that of NGCOA CEO Jay Karen, found here. Jay is rather new to this controversy, but has his experience rooted in the hospitality industry and witnessed the abuse by third party marketers heaped upon that industry, particularly hotels. As with Jim Keegan's post, this is worth the read as well. We need more bright minds illuminating these issues.

There are a couple of things most disturbing to me. The bottom line to the GolfNow presentation is that not once, not at all, did they speak of the health of golf course owners and operators. There is no discussion about the health of their clients. Their reps repeatedly use the most overused pitch in golf, "We'll help you drive rounds and revenue" but that is not present in their BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). That GolfNow BHAG is to be "part of every round, everywhere." One can easily "read between the lines" of the parody video and surmise the corporate attitude to be, "We got ours, too bad for the rest of you." Jay Karen refers to this as a parasitic relationship completely void of symbiosis, and I heartily agree.

Second, and not quite as disturbing unless I am a NBC/Universal executive, is Jeff Foster's total dismissal of EZLinks/TeeOff as a competitor. It's been a while since I went to business school, but I vividly recall the admonition to budding business executives to know and track your competitors. Maybe Foster needs to study what happened to Ford, GM, and Chrysler in the '70s when they chose to ignore Honda, Datsun (Nissan), and Toyota. Or how brick and mortar retailers were late to the party and gave up their businesses to Amazon. Every round booked through TeeOff, Golf18 Network, or any other third party is a round that GolfNow is NOT a part of. Let's add to Foster's woes by pointing out that the original, full length video was loaded onto a public Vimeo channel - no secure login required. It makes me wonder how secure their course client data is.

Last is a concern. McIntosh states early on that the early season opening in the northern climes was good for GolfNow's business, but May was below May 2015, and June was not looking so hot either. Golf Datatech called May's rounds at "down 2.2%." Does McIntosh's report portend a similar fate for June rounds? We'll know in a couple of weeks, but if it follows this pattern, we're all in trouble.

This, plus the obnoxious GolfNow presentation, leaves us who care and work hard to help golf courses succeed with a boatload of angst.