With an ever increasing number of tee times being booked online a booking engine is a basic necessity for even the smallest of golf clubs today. There is also an increasing amount of choice which is likely to grow in the coming years.
One of the first things you need to sell tee times to visitors online is a booking engine. Generally speaking the booking engine will be the same as your 'tee sheet', for example if you use an intelligentgolf tee sheet, then you will have to use their booking engine BUT with the continued increase in online tee time bookings, golf clubs should pay particular attention to their booking engine and assess whether it is the right fit for them.
So first of all what is a booking engine? A booking engine is a software application that secures online bookings for members, visitors or both. You can have separate booking engines for members and visitors depending on your technology solution.
As useful as third parties are at publicising your golf course and selling tee times, few operators appreciate the amount of commission and/or barter tee times that can add up over time. It is surprisingly common to find a golf club who is selling tee times through the third parties, but doesn't have the option to book directly through their own website, or if they do the customer journey is so poor that it is easier to book on a third party website.
Here is a list of things to consider when assessing which booking engine is best for you:
The booking engine should be flexible to fit your golf club’s needs. To figure out what these needs are look at it from a golfer’s point of view. For example, do a lot of your visitors use buggies? If so, can the booking engine manage your buggy fleet? Does your golf club create packages with food and golf? Can these be booked online and the relevant departments be informed when a booking is made? Does the booking engine support voucher code functionality so you can run targeted promotions on different marketing channels?
Is the booking engine compatible with mobile and social media sites? We monitor Google Analytics on the booking engines at all of our partner clubs and mobile web traffic makes up more than 50% of the total web sessions. It is absolutely essential that your booking engine works seamlessly on mobile, or you will lose bookings.
Your booking engine should provide you with transparent, in-depth insights into the performance of your golf course. These insights should include course utilisation, conversion rates, bookings via desktop and mobile, lead times, average group sizes and booking values. Ideally, you should be able to use your booking engine reports to identify booking patterns that will help you with your revenue and marketing strategies. As well as this, a booking engine provider should supply advice based on this data to ensure you are getting the most from the system.
Features to help you build a good relationship with the visiting golfer are key. Most systems allow you to send automated emails to the golfer before arrival, and after they have played. You can use these emails to understand their experience through surveys, build loyalty through re-marketing offers and increase your email database for additional promotions.
Most importantly make a list of requirements and ensure that the booking engine you choose is capable of delivering them. There is a huge opportunity for online sales to form a major part of your revenue and improve efficiencies, and the right system will go a long way to helping you achieve this.