ORLANDO, Fla.--Hard times may mean new opportunity. As private golf clubs struggle to balance the books during a recession, it may finally be time for American clubs to follow the model long used by clubs in the United Kingdom, where many of them sell unused tee times to members of the general public to generate additional revenue.
A few brave souls have tried to create some kind of private club-public access network over the years but were unsuccessful. Boxgroove (boxgroove.com), a company trying the same thing, appears to have better timing. It already has 330 private clubs signed on to provide some access to the public and let golfers tee it up on courses they previously couldn't get on.
Founder McRedmond Morelli won't name names, or reveal the list of which courses he's got, but he will admit to having a dozen Donald Ross designs and eight A.W. Tillinghast courses in his library.
The deal is, you can join the Boxgroove network for $49 a year and pay no charge to play one of its private courses, just the greens fee and cart fee, or you can join Boxgroove for free and pay an additional fee for each round, in addition to the greens fee and cart fee. What are the greens fee? Those are set by each individual club in the network and will vary greatly.
It's kind of like herding cats. The more members Boxgroove signs up, the more private clubs that will be interested in joining in to find extra revenue. The more clubs that sign up, the more attractive a membership will be for the playing public. It's an uphill battle, perhaps, but Morelli said about 60 percent of tee times go unused at private clubs. That's potential lost revenue in a time when the bottom line at clubs has never mattered so much.
Boxgroove has courses in 38 states, including 40 in Ohio and Florida and 30 in California.
"It's like being a member for a day," Morelli said. "Once we hit 10,000 golfers, we have a lot more private courses waiting to jump in."
It's not just the additional revenue of selling tee times that private clubs will be attracted by. The paying visitors are basically test-driving the course and may, in fact, be future club members.
"It's just like fishing," Morelli said. "You have to fish where the fish are."