Stone Creek Golf Club, Oregon City, Ore.

All upside as Oregon course adopts dynamic pricing

Feb 20, 2019

Online bookings increase, and golfers have no complaints

Back in the day, customary thinking was that the best golf spikes were metal. Even with the advent of plastic spikes, many golfers vowed to stick with steel until realizing the equal, if not better, gripping power of soft spikes – not to mention the fringe benefit of ending the destruction of pro shop carpets and hardwood floors! In short order, the market flipped to all-plastic (and flooring costs at clubs and courses went down for good).

Which brings us to dynamic pricing and the success story written last year by Stone Creek Golf Club, a Clackamas County-owned gem in the Portland suburb of Oregon City, which is managed by Total Golf Management Services.

The facility’s long-time head professional, Doug Suse, reports that Stone Creek had an extremely positive experience using this tool. Bearing in mind how change can be hard, Suse had braced himself for protests from his golfers. “There was no pushback from customers at all,” he says. “I was surprised. We prepared ourselves for negative comments, and literally there were none.”

The change also helped boost business. Stone Creek’s online revenue for tee times in 2018 increased 30 percent over the previous year – an all-time best. The problem of unsold times going to waste also seemed to ease. Suse saw more new faces than usual and didn’t notice any of his regulars dropping away or playing less.

It’s often said that hotel and airline reservation systems have trained the golfing population to view dynamically priced tee times as natural and logical. Makes sense, and yet the golf course is a place of beauty and site of countless fun experiences with friends – something that Seat 22A on a Delta flight or a room in some chain motel can’t boast. And yet to Suse, the moment of wide acceptance appears to have arrived.

“It’s a better way of pricing, for both sides,” he states. “If demand at a certain time on a certain day is light, the golfer pays less, and they realize that. When demand is strong, they pay a little more, and they’re okay with it. People want to book their golf quickly and they want to do it with their phone.”

The telephone as we used to define it is not part of Stone Creek’s new policy. If you call their shop to book a time, you’ll speak with a staff member and be quoted rack prices. Key point: Entering the world of dynamic pricing is something a golf course can do in stages. For Stone Creek, the likely next step is to go dynamic with phone bookings, as well.

“The dynamic price matrix as you view it online can be quickly scanned,” explains Suse. “Over the phone it might be a lot to explain—that’s what held us back. But we’ve discussed it and obviously there are ways you can direct the conversation and guide the customer along.”

Transitioning to this approach was fairly simple, according to Suse. He sat down with his GOLFNOW rep to go through the basics and hear a set of recommendations appropriate for the course and its market. “He came up with some parameters,” says Suse, referring to how far up or down the software would allow prices to move, “and we settled on the caps we would use.”

Currently the entire calendar year is organized under one matrix, but Suse and GOLFNOW are looking at seasonal variations to their pricing parameters. “The goal is to reduce the amount of unsold inventory and make life easy for customers,” he says. “We’re having success on both those fronts and we think we can use dynamic pricing to achieve even greater success in the future.”