Golf Travel: Booking Tee Times  

Planning for golf travelers is a bit more complicated than planning for other kinds of travelers, simply because the core reason for the trip is a time-consuming activity. Three and a half to six hours may be required for the daily round of golf, and, in the case of a group that wants to play two rounds in a day, tee times must be spaced correctly even though there are variables that neither you nor anyone else can control—and that can ruin the best-laid plans.

With some planning, advance marketing, and clear understanding with your clients, you can satisfy their needs. In some cases, clients will be so glad to play a certain course that they will be happy with any tee times they get.

So, How Do You Book Your Clients’ Tee Times?

It may be difficult to get exactly what your clients want, so being flexible and patient is a virtue. If you are booking your clients’ golf vacation through wholesalers or operators, you can expect them to make the tee times for you. In fact, this may be the only way you can get times at certain courses.

Of course, you also can call the golf course yourself and try to make your own tee times. Here are some tips and guidelines to help you develop an efficient and effective approach:

  • If you are calling an overseas course, you should ask to speak with the club secretary or manager. Golf professionals in other countries usually don’t keep the tee-time sheets.
  • In the United States, golf staffs guard their tee-time sheets closely. The person in charge of the pro shop and starting system for most courses is either the director of golf or the head professional. In a few cases, it may be the general manager or a marketing person.
  • A growing number of tee-time services—both national and regional—provide centralized tee-time booking. TeeOff.com by PGA TOUR, Golfnow.com, Teetimes.net, and americangolf.com are central reservation hubs for golf courses. By accessing these sites, you can book times at more than 2,000 American golf courses. And many regional systems can help you find tee times through computer networks. For example, various services in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will book tee times there.
  • Once you reach the appropriate person at the golf course, ask how far in advance you can book tee times. Some courses limit how far out you can book a time; others may allow you to book anytime for a fee; still others put names into a lottery. St. Andrews conducts a lottery for tee-time blocks each year; this is how established tour operators and wholesalers can provide Old Course tee times and why you might be better off using a wholesaler for a place like Scotland.
  • Ask the person to email you a written verification or a credit card receipt of the times you are booking. Be sure to have documentation for everything you book.
  • Be prepared to jump through some hoops when you deal with overseas venues, such as Scottish and Irish courses. Be sure to provide the secretary or manager with any details pertinent to booking tee times—e.g., what your clients’ handicaps are and anything else that might present a problem when the clients show up to play.
  • Ask if there are any local rules or customs you need to be aware of. For example, golfers who want to play on French courses must have a golf license stating the golfer has passed tests in etiquette and has established a handicap. You can get around this by making sure that clients bring their GHIN card—a Golf Handicap and Information Network card provided by the United States Golf Association (USGA)—when playing in France.
  • Check on the availability of golf carts, if your clients have difficulty walking.
  • Try emailing overseas customers, suppliers, and others. Speaking by telephone may create miscommunications when you’re dealing with a person in a non-English-speaking country. Emailing documents between you and the golf course is a good way to make sure everything is in place before your clients go there to play. It puts everything in writing—a good habit to develop.

To read more practical tips about the Golf Travel niche, check out The Travel Institute’s newly revised Golf Lifestyle Specialist Course.