Stand-by/Overbooking Strategies

The commodity that a golf course sells is time.  It is similar to the airline industry.  Once the plane takes off, an unsold seat has zero value.  In the golf industry, once a tee time passes it has zero value. The airline industry uses various strategies for overbooking.  For example, if a business class customer walks up to the counter with a $1,500.00 unrestricted ticket, the airline is happy to bump another customer and give them an additional $400.00 ticket.  The golf industry isn’t structured (at this time) with premium paying customers that you would accommodate by bumping another customer.

Think of this scenario, it is Friday night at 8:30pm and your tee sheet for Saturday is full for the peak hours.  You receive a cancellation for the foursome at the 9:00am tee time.  Being so late, it is improbable that someone will call to fill it although you could have sold that tee time many times over during the previous days.  Your cancellation policy may allow you to recoup part or all of the greens fees, but you still have lost the ancillary revenues of carts, food & beverage, etc.

Some strategies can be implemented to keep your tee sheet full during these periods by using stand-by/overbooking.

  • Forecasting- “Although we don’t have anything available now, you may want to come out as a stand-by as we generally have some cancellations”.  A tool for this is tracking “spillage”, times when demand exceeds supply.  This will be addressed in a future article.
  • Offer incentives to be a stand-by- a discounted or free bucket of balls while they wait (have them prepay for the round of golf and refund if they don’t get out so that the golfer doesn’t “use” this just to get a free bucket of balls)
  • Open starter times- Watch your pace of play during the day.  If it is good, open up some starter times later in the day.
  • Capture customers already at your facility- For example, place a sign at your driving range for an opening- “Tee time available for 4 at 9:00am”.  Who knows, golfers that you had to turn down earlier because you didn’t have any times might have decided to hit balls instead.
  • Back up list- take the names and phone numbers (or Email address) for golfers that called for a reservation that you had to turn down.
  • Keep a list of walk in stand-bys- “You are number 5 on the list, I would guess you have a pretty good chance of getting out in the next hour”.
  • Tighten no show policies- You can increase revenue by enforcing payment for no shows.  Extending the cancellation requirement timeline can also help you better manage your tee sheet.  You can actually increase revenues over regular play by collecting no show fees in addition to reselling the tee time.  The flip side of no show enforcement is that it can create “ill will” with customers.  You must weigh that against the lost revenues.  They often do not understand that time is the commodity that you sell.  Explaining it to them can help prevent future occurrences.

It is particularly painful to have a group no show or come with fewer players than they had booked on a beautiful day.  Some of these strategies may help reduce those instances from happening.

© Todd Anderson