Typically when discussing lead times in golf, we are referencing the time between when the booking is made, and when the golfer tee’s off. Lead time will differ based on season, destination, booking channel, day of week, time of day and other influences. This gives us a lot of factors to consider when dynamically pricing a tee time. If you have the right software, analytics and processes in place, this information can be used to flex rate and maximise REVPATT (revenue per available tee time).
The hotel industry also looks at the search-to-book window, which references the length of time from the first online search until the booking takes place. This is very difficult to track and measure, especially within the golf industry as the technology is not available to golf courses… yet. Although we are not able to reference data on the search-to-book window in golf (due to the lack of it), we can anecdotally look at this, learn from other industries and adjust strategies accordingly.
Whilst writing this article I read a few articles on how to get the best price hotel room to better understand the information available on the search-to-book window. Although it differs from market to market the key points were:
Generally between 100 and 14 days before travel rates are relatively static.
Don’t book a room 14 to 10 days before travel as this is when hoteliers know last minute travellers are looking to secure their plans, and increase prices accordingly. Note that this works, hence why they do it!
If you do not mind what hotel you stay at then wait until 3 – 4 days before travel to book, as hotels will offer there most affordable rates during this period.
Don’t hang on to book until 1-2 days before travel – hotels know that any trying to book nees a room, and will increase their prices accordingly safe in the knowledge that urgency will overcome budget for most travellers.
So what does all this mean for a golf course when pricing its green fees? In our opinion a number of factors are worth considering:
Booking patterns will vary between customer type. For example, someone looking to book a golf tour at a number of courses, with a hotel stay will want to get things booked up 3 + months in advance. While someone booking a last-minute game with a friend, will likely do so within 48 hours.
Group size will influence lead time and the search-to-book window. One of our old adage’s at Teeofftimes.co.uk was 1 & 2 balls book 1 & 2 days in advance, while 3 & 4 balls book 3 & 4 days in advance. That said, this pattern is changing with the increase of mobile bookings, the lead times are getting shorter.
Supply of tee times will have an impact on lead times and the search-to-book window. Don’t forget this will change depending on day of week and the time of day being booked. For example Saturday morning will usually have low supply but high demand, therefore the lead time will generally be longer.
The available booking window will of course influence lead time. A large proportion of golf courses limit visitor tee time bookings to 14 days in advance and a slightly longer lead time for members, whilst groups/societies can book up to a year or more in advance. The way people book golf is changing, therefore we advocate a more considered strategy in relation to lead time and the search-to-book window overlaid against booking channel. For example, a golf course could consider releasing one or two prime time tee times into the tee time marketplace 30 days out, the course will be able to command a high rate whilst not disrupting play. The revenue impact could be huge with the tee times being worth £100 each, that’s £400 per weekend, multiplied by 20 weekends works out at £8,000 of green fee revenue.
Once a golf course understands the way lead times differ for each of its customer types/markets, they can market more effectively to these groups at specific times and increase the REVPATT.
The list could and does go on. The importance of understanding your visitor green fee lead time/search-to-book window by booking channel is growing as the way golfers book evolves. Make sure to consider the factors which have the biggest influence on your green fee's when setting your rate strategy - or employee The Revenue Club to do it for you!