Inside the LA City golf tee time controversy
Episode 12

Inside the LA City golf tee time controversy

In this episode of the Tech Caddie podcast, Mike Hendrix speaks with Kevin Fitzgerald, the Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, about the intersection of golf and public policy. Included is the TikTok video from Dave Fink which helped expose the gray market on the KaKao app, used by hundreds of golfers to score the best tee times available at the LA City municipal golf courses. Aaron Gleason from Golf Geek Software, discussed their solution called FairPlay Guardian, which uses machine learning to detect fraudulent activity in tee time bookings. Matt Holder from Loop Golf emphasized the need for operators to understand the pricing pressure and revenue management opportunities in the golf industry.

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Kevin Fitzgerald, Aaron Gleason, Matt Holder

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54min

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Description:

In this episode of the Tech Caddie podcast, Mike Hendrix interviews Kevin Fitzgerald, the Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, about the controversy surrounding tee time access for municipal golfers in Los Angeles. They discuss the LA City Golf Advisory Committee, and the existence of a gray market for tee time reservations. They also explore potential solutions, including policy changes and technological improvements. The conversation focused on the issue of reselling tee times in the LA city golf courses, which some people refer to as a black or gray market.

Included is the TikTok video from Dave Fink which helped expose the gray market on the KaKao app, used by hundreds of golfers to score the best tee times available at the LA City municipal golf courses.

We've also included the class action law suit filed against the City of Los Angeles. link: https://www.classaction.org/media/lee...Guest, Aaron Gleason from Golf Geek Software, discussed their solution called FairPlay Guardian, which uses machine learning to detect fraudulent activity in tee time bookings. They also discussed the importance of pricing golf inventory properly to prevent the emergence of a reseller market. The conversation also touched on the role of waitlists in reducing no-shows and increasing conversion rates. Guest, Matt Holder from Loop Golf emphasized the need for operators to understand the pricing pressure and revenue management opportunities in the golf industry. Matt also points out the current practices of tee time brokers is serving many golfers in the Los Angeles area and keeps them happy and on the golf courses.

The LA City Golf Advisory Committee serves as an advisory board for the community to vet ideas and make recommendations regarding golf courses in Los Angeles.

There is a high demand for golf in Los Angeles, but a limited supply of tee times, leading to difficulties in getting reservations.

A gray market has emerged, where entities buy tee times and resell them at a markup, causing frustration among golfers.

Anticipated policy changes, such as implementing non-refundable deposits, may help address the issue of tee time availability and the gray market. Reselling of tee times is a problem in the LA city golf courses, highlighting the need for solutions to detect and prevent fraudulent activity.

Golf Geek's FairPlay Guardian uses machine learning to identify fraudulent tee time bookings and alerts operators to investigate further.

Proper pricing of golf inventory can help prevent the emergence of a reseller market.

Waitlists can reduce no-shows and increase conversion rates by making it easy for golfers to cancel and fill available tee times.

Operators should consider pricing pressure and revenue management opportunities to optimize their golf inventory.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

00:56 Role of the Advisory Board

03:20 Golfing Challenges in Los Angeles

05:15 Gray Market and Reselling Tee Times

06:14 Affordability of Golf in Los Angeles

07:41 Evidence of Secondary Market

08:13 Personal Experience with Tee Time Availability

10:15 Impact of Reselling Tee Times

11:11 Code of Conduct and Policy Enforcement

12:39 Player Card and Tee Time Availability

14:06 Potential Solutions: Pricing and Policy Changes

19:23 Different Golf Course Management Models

22:14 Demand for Golf in Los Angeles

24:08 Policy Changes and Pricing

26:03 Upcoming Meetings and Recommendations

26:57 Introduction of Aaron Gleason

27:23 Introduction and Background

28:19 Reselling Tee Times and Fraudulent Activity

29:17 FairPlay Guardian: Detecting Fraudulent Activity

30:44 Waitlist Functionality

34:02 Pricing and Revenue Management

40:37 Different Perspectives on the Reselling Issue

44:24 Opportunity for Pricing and Revenue Management

45:26 Improved Golfer Experience and Increased Demand

46:52 Policy Changes and Random Release of Tee Times

48:18 Fraudulent Bookings and Solutions

51:34 Advisory Board and Policy Making Process

53:01 Conclusion and Importance of Golf Courses

As Promised:

For a deep inside look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIDChw6PCUQ

It's getting serious at Rancho Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMfAaVE7yDA

Magic Clips:

Overwhelming Support for LA City Golf New $10 Player Deposit Tee Times

Kevin Fitzgerald, Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, provides an update on recent meetings regarding the implementation of a pilot program for golf tee time bookings in Los Angeles. The Golf Advisory Committee and the Recreation and Park Board of Commissioners both endorsed the staff recommendation for a $10 non-refundable deposit per player when booking a tee time.

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Kevin Fitzgerald

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34min

ezLocator founder Jon Schultz conversation on The Tech Caddie podcast

Jon Schultz, founder of ezLocator, discusses how their solution helps superintendents find the daily optimum hole location and enhances communication within a golf facility. ezLocator now include AI to improve the customer experience.

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Jon Schultz

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35min

Inside the LA City golf tee time controversy

In this episode of the Tech Caddie podcast, Mike Hendrix speaks with Kevin Fitzgerald, the Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, about the intersection of golf and public policy. Included is the TikTok video from Dave Fink which helped expose the gray market on the KaKao app, used by hundreds of golfers to score the best tee times available at the LA City municipal golf courses. Aaron Gleason from Golf Geek Software, discussed their solution called FairPlay Guardian, which uses machine learning to detect fraudulent activity in tee time bookings. Matt Holder from Loop Golf emphasized the need for operators to understand the pricing pressure and revenue management opportunities in the golf industry.

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Kevin Fitzgerald, Aaron Gleason, Matt Holder

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54min

Aaron Gleason, Golf Geek Co-Founder, announces FairPlay Guardian

Aaron Gleason discusses the issue of reselling tee times at LA City Golf courses and how Golf Geek's FairPlay Guardian technology can help detect and prevent fraudulent activity. He also spoke about the importance of knowing the conversion rate of a booking engine and how marketing automation can help increase revenue.

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Aaron Gleason

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29min

Kevin Fitzgerald from Southern California Golf Association

Mike Hendrix and Kevin Fitzgerald, the Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Southern California Golf Association have a conversation about golf in Los Angeles. They discuss the role of the advisory board for Los Angeles City Golf Courses and the intersection of golf and public policy. They also peer into the issue of reservation systems and online brokers in the golf industry and specifically the City of Los Angeles.

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Kevin Fitzgerald

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43min

Matt Holder from Loop Golf clears the air on The Tech Caddie podcast

Matt Holder from Loop Golf joins the podcast to discuss Loop Golf. Matt talks about the early days for Loop and mistakes made along the way. Mike and Matt go into detail about tee time scraping and how Loop helps golf courses.

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Matt Holder

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29min

Don Rea, golf course owner and VP, PGA of America talks tech

Don Rea joined Mike Hendrix on The Tech Caddie podcast for a conversation about the technology Don uses to run the golf course he owns in Mesa, AZ - Augusta Ranch Golf Club. Don is the VP of the PGA of America and he speaks about operating technology from that perspective and from his knowledge gained as a podcast host with Jay Karen, the Executive Director of the NGCOA.

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Don Rea Jr.

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48min

Del Ratcliffe, Founder Kodology - PITCHcrm, joins Mike on The Tech Caddie podcast

Del shares his background as an entrepreneur and his life in golf. He discusses the history of Seven Jars Distillery and the discovery of buried treasure on his family farm. Del talks about entering the golf business and the importance of technology in the industry. He shares his experiences with EZLinks and Fore Reservations, as well as the development of Kodology and Pitch CRM.

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Del Ratcliffe

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1hr 6min

Morgan Kimmins joins Mike Hendrix on The Tech Caddie podcast

Morgan Kimmins from Springfield Golf Resort in Chandler, Arizona discusses their use of Lightspeed technology and the impact it has had on their business. He highlights the benefits of Lightspeed's punch pass feature and the ease of use of their booking engine. He also discusses the importance of communication and the use of technology for frost delays. Morgan emphasizes the value of support and training provided by Lightspeed and the positive experience they have had with their customer service.

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Mogan Kimmins

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42min

Dave Vanslette joins Mike Hendrix on The Tech Caddie podcast

Dave Vanslette, Founder and CEO from FAIRWAYiQ discusses the evolution of the company and its focus on data and automation in the golf industry. They have developed hardware sensors and software solutions to optimize golf course operations and enhance the player experience. They are focused on reducing friction and improving efficiency in the golf industry through AI and automation. The company has a strong customer support system and aims to provide value to golf courses of all types

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Dave Vanslette

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51min

Brendon Beebe formerly foreUP CTO

Brendon Beebe, former CTO of foreUP, discusses his experience in the golf industry and building a successful company. He emphasizes the value of bootstrapping, hyper-focusing on specific market segments, and building a flexible system to meet the needs of different golf courses. At the end of the episode, Brendon asks Mike about how he would compete with GolfNow if he was to build a tee time aggregator and how he would use GolfNow if he was a golf course owner.

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Brendon Beebe

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51min

Allison George Toad Valley Golf Course

Allison George, a golf course owner and operator, discusses her experiences with various technology platforms in the golf industry. She shares personal updates, including her involvement in the golf industry and her use of technology in her golf courses.

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Allison George

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55min

Dathan Wong Noteefy

Noteefy is a waitlist software that aims to help golfers play more golf and golf courses make more money. The product allows golfers to set their preferences for tee times and receive alerts when those tee times become available.

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Dathan Wong

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36min

Tyler Arnold Eagle Club Systems

Tyler Arnold, CEO of Eagle Club Systems, discusses the company's golf management software and its success in the industry. He highlights the flexibility and simplicity of their system, as well as their focus on customer support.

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Tyler Arnold

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35min

Transcript:

So welcome to the Tech Caddie podcast that goes out to Kevin Fitzgerald and Kevin is in the public affairs team in Southern California Golf Association. And because of Kevin's role there, he serves as the chair of the advisory board for Los Angeles City Golf Courses. I think Kevin, you can probably explain it better than me, but essentially that advisory board has a seat.

that's always going to be filled by someone from the Southern California Golf Association. But Kevin, why don't you explain exactly what your title is and your role and we'll kind of get into the topic of the day. Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on. And I am the Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Southern California Golf Association. Essentially, the Public Affairs Department works at the intersection of golf and public policy. And that is a...

There are a lot of intersections. So, um, this, this is one component of it. And I know we'll be talking quite a bit about reservation systems and online brokers and so forth. And, um, you know, you, you, you mentioned the LA city Golf Advisory Committee. Essentially it is an advisory board. It's a subsidiary body. Um, the policy making body is the recreation and park board of Commissioners and.

what that's within the executive branch of government in the city of Los Angeles. So the Golf Advisory Committee is an opportunity for the community to vet ideas and make recommendations really part of the public stakeholder input process. So we work very closely with the golf division, which is within the department of recreation and parks and.

You know, what we'll talk, I'm sure, much more about is the way the process works and this big issue that's been getting a lot of attention in the last couple of weeks. No, that's great. And, you know, listen, there's a lot of municipalities, I think, that don't even have a board like this. So on some level, it's actually great that Los Angeles has John Q. Public essentially is able to participate and have a voice.

you had shared with me previously, you know, you certainly, you guys certainly do not set policy, but it's nice. They let you weigh in on things. If an RFP is going to go out, you all might have a say in some things that are included in the RFP before it goes out, right? Or I know yesterday we talked about the strategic plan that that global golf advisors had built for the city of Los Angeles. And you all had access to that. And I know everybody has access to it, but I think you may be.

had a little bit deeper role in pulling that together. And like he said, today we're here to talk about a lot of these reservation issues. But I think one thing that's really important to say really in defense of your technology provider who is, I shouldn't say your technology provider, the technology provider for the city of Los Angeles in defense of NBC Sports Next or GolfNow or however you refer to them.

This problem is not new. I mean, there are not enough holes of golf for the number of golfers that there are in Los Angeles. So it's always been very difficult to get a tee time. Maybe you could chime in on this, but I say that in defense of golf now, because this is not a problem, at least in my opinion, that they've created. Absolutely. I mean, I think to take a step back from this entire issue,

LA is considered to be the worst place in the United States to be a golfer. There are more golfers chasing fewer holes here than anywhere else. And it's by a fairly wide margin. So and then to paint a little picture of what golf in Los Angeles looks like within the city, it's over four million residents. And essentially, you have a few very high end private clubs and you have municipal golf. And so there are the

The daily fee golf course market has all but disappeared. There's one privately owned public golf course in the city of Los Angeles. And it just so happens that it's in a floodplain, a wash. You can't develop the land. So the game of golf is relying upon parks departments waking up and wanting to continue to provide golf as part of its menu of recreational offerings. If we want the game to exist where

and be available where the populations live, then we need to do everything we can to support these park systems because they are golf in a place like Los Angeles. Right, right. And so for people that don't know, although I think a lot of people in golf do know, for people that don't know, essentially what has happened is a gray market. And I use that word because I've spoken with other people in the industry that say it's really not a black market, Mike, because it's not there's nothing illegal happening.

you could call it a gray market, but a reseller market has essentially been exposed by an Instagram influencer, someone that plays a lot of golf in the LA area. And essentially it's been confirmed, right, Kevin, that yes, there are entities that are buying teatimes and then reselling them at a large markup, sometimes as much as $40 or $50 per head. And that has essentially

validated a lot of public golfers opinions from over the years of why it's so hard to get a tee time. There's now a lot of people saying, I told you, there is something nefarious going on here. And maybe you can expand on that. Sure. I'll clarify one point. So I like your term that the gray market secondary market again, I mean, it's fascinating that we're in this situation where a secondary market exists. And I think it's important to point out.

why that is possible. The municipal system we're discussing, the LA City golf system, the greens fees are set well below market. And that's intentional. The mission of the Parks Department is to provide an affordable and accessible recreational opportunity. And so for the golf system to provide affordable and accessible golf. So, you know, obviously, if you had the, if greens fees were at market rates, then, you know, there wouldn't be a,

a great business opportunity in a secondary, you know, gray market. Let me just jump in just to make this clear for the listener. When we say they're not at market rates, that is another way of saying they are priced much lower than it is believed the market would pay for the tee time. That's really what we're saying, right? Is unlike a lot of other places in America, these tee times are priced significantly lower.

than what the market would be willing to bear. So. Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you. And I'll say that, you know, I think that's the mission of the Parks Department, but it's also political security for these golf courses because, you know, we've discussed this. What really changed in the last couple of weeks was that there seemed to be what I would say was the first, you know, real evidence that this broker or secondary market existed. We've heard.

heard things like the following. Well, I know someone who called this number and got this tee time. They paid this I think it's a broker and sent I would say, well, give me the number like I'd love to see this. I want to know more about this. I've never we never got past the point of hearsay. And so a couple weeks ago, there was a post as you suggested, I'm a Muni golf type of guy.

in Los Angeles and all the other munis around town. It's affordable, it's local, and the courses are actually fucking great. Like Wilson and Harding, both great setups. Rancho Park.

Awesome setup. One of my favorites is Hanson Dam. There's a bunch of other courses and they're all municipal public courses, but it feels like it's impossible sometimes to get a tee time on any of these courses, especially on the weekends. So this has been going on the last couple of years. One of my friends got totally fed up and went to Wilson Harding on a Saturday and he posted up and he asked every person, how'd you get this time? How'd you get this time? How'd you get this time? Finally,

Somebody told him the truth. Hey, there's this guy The only way you can get in touch with him is through this Korean messaging app called Kakao so This is the app that you have to use to message this one guy Who has bots that Scoop up all the tee times the second they become available and he holds them and check this out This is what he's charging per tee time

per person, okay? $30 for like non -peak hours, $40 per tee time. That's not how much the time costs. You have to pay the LA Muni when you get there and you check in, but you're gonna check in under this guy's name. I just, this is literally...

crazy and it's unfucking fair. We all love golf. We all want to play golf. Most people work nine to five type jobs Monday through Friday. So when the weekend comes around and we want to fucking go and play golf and we can't because the earliest tee time available is four 30 in the afternoon. Now you know why this guy is literally taking tee times using bots and reselling them. And apparently everybody knows about it. Everybody knows.

about it and they use him what are we gonna do about LA City LA City what are you gonna do about this courses are for the people public municipal courses are for the people if you steal all the tee times and you fucking turn it into like a private sketchy mafia type country club only for people in the know that know how to use this Kakao app

That's just fucked up and not fair. So I'm not down. Let's get rid of this shit. Sorry, this is fucked up. To go back to the your point about the grave or secondary market. Right now, and you brought up the legality, you one does not have to buy the tee time through the parks department. So when you when you reserve a tee time, you don't.

Uh, you haven't paid anything toward it. So, you know, w w w there are a lot of reasons why this is problematic, but first and foremost, you know, the, the parks department, um, uh, does not permit that within their code of conduct. So while it may not be illegal, it's certainly against the code of conduct and they reserve the right to cancel your access, your player card access. If you're, if you're taking a tee time, reserving it and then, and then selling it.

as a broker. Okay, so the code of conduct, is that something that we can find online? Do you know? Absolutely. Sure. Okay. So we'll try to post that in the in the show notes. The code of console people. So that's interesting. You're saying if they really wanted to stick to the you know, letter of the law, so to speak, they could prohibit these people from playing. And I guess you had said to me in a previous conversation,

they have suspended lots of different golfer cards. Explain the golfer card a little bit. That's the other thing that I think that's a little confusing out of LA. Sure. So in the LA city system, the tee times technically open nine days in advance at 6 a .m. if you have a player card. So the player card is $25. It's good for a year. And that what that allows is for someone to get access two days in advance of

the general time that the tee times would become available. So really, so people for $25 a year, you can get premium access is essentially what you're what what that is. Exactly. Now, you know what, what some of the frustration has become that you can't get it. It's very difficult to get a tee time that you're looking for, regardless, but it's really doesn't matter if you in this in this in the sense that.

If you have a player card, the incredible amount of demand for each tee time, it's really something to watch. If you log in at 5:59 AM nine days in advance, and at six o 'clock you try to book a tee time, you'll see that every golf course is filled in a matter of seconds. Yeah. Well, let me ask you this, because I know you're going to come back on.

in another week because you guys have some meetings coming up. And I thought it would be really excellent to have you back on and maybe you could update us on what's happening. But let me just throw this out there. Do you think there would be an appetite for 14 days in advance for an annual fee of $500? So pay a one time fee of $500 and I'll give you 14 days in advance access. Is that something that you all would ever consider?

You know, I think where we're on a bit of a collision course with these municipal systems is that political security component. So, you know, there's good reason for these facilities to be concerned about the Greens fees getting anywhere near market. That affordable and accessible model is what allows the policymakers to, you know, feel comfortable with.

the use of space for golf. If we were to go to a point where we see it become increasingly expensive to access the facilities, at some point, and I don't know exactly where that tipping point is, but if too few can afford to access the park space, then I think the space will be used for another purpose. Understood. Let me just play devil's advocate for a second.

So for $10 a week, that's 500 bucks a year, for $10 a week, you could get added access. And because that revenue really doesn't have any expense that comes with it or anything like that, in theory, the city could set it up that that revenue goes to support schools. And so now all of a sudden, a group of 11 % of our residents that play golf, a portion of them actually are supporting something that even more of our residents care about.

that starts to maybe feel like a political win. But again, I'm just some bald guy that lives in Columbus, Ohio. So what do I know about Los Angeles? It's an excellent point. There are a lot of different models. I think the fear within the department, I don't want to speak for the department, but I think there's always a fear that with each, say, five to $10 that the greens fee increases, you just price some percentage of the population out. And at some point, I think,

while there's a great story to be told that there is revenue from the golf amenity and some of those dollars are, first and foremost, the Greens fee recovers the cost of providing the service plus capital reinvestment. Now, at many times, and in many systems, they do generate some net profit beyond that cost recovery model, but...

that allows for more investment into the infrastructure. Some of it gets pooled somewhat into, you know, the parks budget. And so, you know, the money has to be used to provide amenities the parks departments offer. And but but primarily those fees are for the golf component. Each system is different. But essentially, I think you have an interesting idea. It's certainly a model that could work well.

it just becomes a question of balance and ensuring that, you know, we would like anyone who has interest in playing that they have the opportunity to participate. Well, let's talk about that for a second. So you, I mean, you're a, you were a college golfer, you're an accomplished golfer, you, seemingly you still love to play. And I'm guessing because you actually are on this LA advisory board, you really do live in or very close to Los Angeles. Is that, would that be fair to say?

Yes, so absolutely. So our office is in Studio City. That's in the city of Los Angeles. We're very close to Griffith Park. Well, so Kevin, where do you play? Like how, you know, give the listener a feel. How hard is it to get a tee time? Where do you play? How often are you even able to play if the inventory is so scarce? Yeah, well, it's extremely difficult when you're someone like...

me looking for, you know, Saturday. I don't mind playing late in the day. So I play when and wherever I can. And I do like to still play in a few tournaments here and there. So I would say, you know, half my rounds probably end up being in a city championship or something. But I you know that and so but yeah, it's very difficult. You can certainly get out as a single. It's very hard to reserve a foursome. And then I will say that,

If you ask a golfer here, golfers also look for that cancellation window. So when you get close to the 24 hours, there are tee times that might pop up 25, 26 hours on occasion. You can't be particularly choosy about which golf course, but there's some way to get out from time to time, especially if you're not looking for a foursome. So I don't want to say it's imp...

it would be strange to say it's so busy you can't play anymore. I mean, that doesn't make any sense. Yeah, that's what Yogi Berra Yogi Berra used to say, nobody goes to that restaurant anymore. It's too busy. Exactly. I mean, but yeah. And I think, you know, you bring up again, it's an interesting concepts, interesting model. And I think there you'll see what throughout Southern California that these systems are operated with, with different priorities in general, they're, they're focused on accessibility.

But there are various models in use and some of the municipal systems are, you know, city of LA, it's, it's managed and, and all the maintenance is performed by city employees. And then in other systems, you have golf management companies, either with lease agreements or management agreements, various models, but they're all in generally in sync with the idea that

you know, that the policymakers would like to ensure that their constituents have access to these these park spaces. So there is there's LA County. Is that correct? There's LA County and then there's LA City. And those really are two separate entities. Completely separate. And I think but I listen, I could be wrong. I think LA County is managed by American Golf, if I'm correct. Does that sound right?

So they have quite a few of the golf courses that they manage, but not the entire system. There are a number of different management companies system. Okay. Well, what I'm getting at, and let me just ask you to, you mentioned that there's one privately owned public course in LA. Is that Angeles National or what is it is Angeles National? Okay. Used to be a customer of mine. That's why I, that's why I know. So, so, okay. So what I'm interested in though is,

LA city runs their own golf courses. I think that's great. And then you've got some management companies, but there probably are different technology platforms being used. I mean, do you feel like, or do the golfers in general in the area feel like, oh, well that course uses that tech platform and it just works better or something, or it's just makes it, it's a better golfer experience. Or is that not on the board at all? What's the general notion there? Well, and it, you know, it,

we've seen a number of LA Times articles, this story about the gray market or secondary market, as you suggest. And, you know, it's certainly been a story that has proliferated around the country. It's just an interesting golf story, I suppose. But, you know, I don't know that the golfer knows, you know, the average golfer knows which golf course that they happen to be playing. I think,

They know they're playing golf and you know, by and large, I think the more avid golfers certainly understand it, but the average golfer who shows up at and just wants to play golf, I'm not sure that they're going to be particularly familiar with which system that they happen to be playing that day. Understood. Understood. Okay. Now, one of the takeaways again, and I think this is good for frankly, to memorialize and to be able to always refer back to.

there is no doubt in the last 14 days, the case has been made and it didn't have to be made by you guys. It didn't have to be made by Southern California Golf Association. The case has been made that there is a lot of demand for golf. It really would, it would not make a lot of sense to do away with golf or to start to read, you know, turn 18 whole golf courses into nine hole golf courses based on what's happened last 14 days. That would be, that'd be quite a stretch that that makes sense if you will.

Yes, I hope so. We're certainly interested in sharing that piece of the story. I mean, I think if you read, say, some of the stories that have been published, I think that component of incredible demand to supply is sort of lost in the story of broker activity. My greatest fear with all of this is that, you know, I don't think that there's a silver bullet from what I know at the moment. And I'm not...

I don't pretend to be an expert in technology. So as you suggested, Golf Advisory Committee, I work for the Southern California Golf Association. I happen to be on the Golf Advisory Committee as one of 18 members. I'm currently the chair. I can't speak for the committee and what recommendations it might take, but based on the discussion that we had last week, I can say that some really interesting ideas were discussed. I think some of those changes that will...

you know, ultimately come from this interest and in trying to mitigate the problem. I think some are probably policy solutions and some are probably technological. Although again, I'm not sure that I can speak, you know, to get too into the weeds on that at this moment. I think a couple of the ideas that were discussed. When you, when you say policy, is that another word for pricing that, that, I mean, really, because.

We had another guest on earlier and we're going to put different voices together for this particular episode. We had another guest on earlier that said essentially like, yes, it seems like there you could get a win with some technology or you could make some level of improvement. But at the end of the day, some of this is just going to come down to pricing. Either you're going to raise the fees and lower the ability for a gray market to exist or you're not. And when I say you, I don't mean you, Kevin. I just, I mean the city overall.

So is policy somewhat of a synonym for pricing? It could be. I think I'll use one example of policy that was discussed, which was having some skin in the game. So as we said earlier, right now you reserve a time and you have until 24 hours in advance to cancel that time. One policy change would be a non -refundable deposit.

That is a policy change that I think is quite likely because ultimately there might be some way to cut into the market for the brokers. Now, some facilities are highly sought after, you know, fraction of the market rate. So I'm not sure that that would work necessarily at every golf course. Again, I don't know. At this point, we're going through the process. We're going to hear.

in the coming days, we're going to hear more from staff and there essentially what will happen is there will be another Golf Advisory Committee meeting next week and staff is going to provide some recommendations and plan to have that public input process take place. The GAC, the Golf Advisory Committee may well endorse what

they see in the staff report, they may add additional ideas or ask a lot of questions. Ultimately, the staff will take the report to the board and that is the policy making body. Now, when staff goes before the board, it's helpful to them if they can suggest that we've met with the golf community, we've had the Golf Advisory Committee review all of this and ask questions and ultimately they would.

I'm sure like to see the Golf Advisory Committee endorse whatever it is that they propose. So that. So let me welcome in Aaron Gleason from Golf Geek software into the tech caddy podcast. So Aaron, thanks for, thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me, Mike. It's a, it's been a while, man. Yes. Good. Good to talk to you too. So we're here to talk, um, about, about.

LA city golf courses. That's really the theme of this entire podcast. We're going to have a couple different guests on in the podcast. It occurred to me that we rated your booking engine very high. I think it's the number two booking engine in all of golf. So that's an extremely high rating. And because your booking engine is also newer, I thought I wonder how those guys would handle some of the tech issues that the

that the team at LA city golf courses are struggling with. And so I thought you'd be good to come on now in exchange for your time. I'm going to let you talk a little bit about your company overall. We'll get to that in a minute, but let's, let's, I know you've kind of studied this LA city course thing to a degree. Let's talk about a couple of different things. So, so as you know, and as a lot of our listeners know, there seems to be some people call it a black market. Other people call it a gray market.

Uh, because maybe there's nothing illegal happening here, but there's clearly reselling of tee times happening where someone gobbles up a lot of tee times. They then transfer those tee times to the, the, the proper golfer name. Once someone has come to them and said, I'll pay you 50 more dollars per head or something like that. I know you guys have ever thought who would ever thought the golf industry would have this problem, right? Exactly. Exactly. And, and it, it, it does make sense. It would happen in LA because.

they don't have a lot of holes of golf in that way, at least, at least public golf. So, so talk to, you know, if you guys are big into solving problems over there, I know that's your big mantra at Golf Geek, but if you all sat around and we're going to solve the problem, talk a little bit about what your thoughts are and how you would handle it. It's interesting that when that came up, we had already kind of been rolling out some problems solving. Uh,

tech techniques and tech in general for our client out in Sacramento who's runs the municipal properties for the city of Sacramento. They were having some issues with people making tee times fraudulently. And so we rolled out or are in the process of rolling out some new tech that allows us to detect that fraudulent activity. We call it the FairPlay Guardian. So literally what it does is, and it's in the,

Right now we've, we've released it and it's in its learning phase, um, learning what normal activity looks like. Okay. So then it can then detect that fraudulent activity. Let me just jump in. So we're kind of, I didn't know that. So we're breaking a little bit of news here. So you've got a new piece of tack that's part of your booking engine. I think you just called it FairPlay Guardian, but it sounds to me like it includes some machine learning then you're, you're saying you're in the learning phase. That sounds to me like there's some AI machine learning.

Yeah, essentially what it needs to do is it needs to learn what normal activity on the engine looks like. What does a normal booking look like? And so the more data that it has to compare to, obviously the smarter it's going to get regarded in regards to how will it detect that fraudulent activity. So the problem they were having is very different from what the LA city golf courses are are having. People weren't buying at the times and reselling them.

People were buying up tee times in front of their group. And like they would buy four tee times and the three in front of them were completely fake. And they would just book them back, back, back. Right. And so what would happen is they'd get two or three no shows and then the group would show up. So it was actually costing the Sacramento golf courses, you know, tens of thousands of dollars over the course of time. And really, because what we try to do is solve problems, like you said,

We wanted to solve this problem for our client, which is the golf course, right? Our customer is the golf course. The problem that LA city's having, it sounds more of a golfer problem, but oddly enough, I think the system that we're in the process of rolling out would help solve those problems as well. And I do think what you just said, Aaron, is correct that it's a golfer problem that actually for years, it's been hard for golfers to.

get tee times at these golf courses, because again, they don't have a lot of holes of golf. But what they've recently discovered is there is some nefarious activity going on. And actually this was, this came from a TikTok video where someone showed the marketplace that you can go to and pay additional fees to, to get these tee times. So, so go on. You're right. LA city golf courses, it is more of a golfer problem than a golf course problem. You've made it clear here, your customer is the golf course.

It just so happens you think probably fix this issue as well. Yeah. So the idea behind what we're rolling out is going to be if fraudulent activity is detected by the technology, emails will get generated or texts will get generated to the operator saying, Hey, we've detected this. This could be fraudulent. Please take a look. And that's a time saver for the operator because we know that some of the operators at LA city have said,

We do occasionally catch people, but this is a full -time job to monitor how much fraudulent activity is going through the booking engine. And so really what you're saying is you've created a time saver. I'm assuming you're probably, I know you, I know you guys, there's a lot of marketing automation with Golf Geek I'm assuming you've probably leveraged some of that to build your, your FairPlay Guardian. Yeah. The idea was we didn't want to.

have the technology, especially initially, have the technology override anything or block anybody from doing anything, right? What you don't want to do is create a scenario where you're making it difficult, excuse me, for the 99 % because you have 1 % of your customer base doing something they shouldn't be doing, right? So if you don't want to be in a scenario where you get online, try to book a tee time and the system says you can't do it because it thinks you're doing something you shouldn't be.

So we thought it better to notify the operator via the texting or email system so that the operator then can find out for themselves if indeed it is fraudulent or not. And I would assume then the operator can block, you know, can essentially disable that account from booking in the future if they decide that that's the appropriate action. Right. Yes. Got it. Okay. So.

We're also gonna have a Matt Holder on from a waitlist company. He wanted to chime in on this I think he's a little cross with me about some things that we put in an article, which is fine I'm happy to have the conversation Yeah Mike I think it's good to have conversations frankly, you know of different opinions And I know Golf Geek does have waitlist functionality does does waitlist?

play a role here or not so much? What's your thought on that? Well, it can for sure. I mean, the idea behind waitlist, the reason we developed it, I mean, we were of the belief and I think, you this isn't, you know, some great epiphany, but we were of the belief that, you know, waitlist in our opinion should be a feature of a larger system. We were having a problem within our,

atmosphere, our environment of having no shows. You know, with the increased demand that we're seeing, we were seeing an increase in no shows and we needed to find a way to try to alleviate that. So kind of the, you know, the, the, the arc of why we developed wait lists started from the no show side of the business, trying to make it very easy for golfers to cancel, right? We were of the belief that if we can make it really easy to cancel tee times.

then we felt like people would actually do that. In our previous scenario, we were having golfers, even when they booked online, might have to pick up the phone to call and cancel that reservation. We felt that that was a hurdle to them actually canceling. So we made it very, very easy. So we send out text reminders on any interval you want. You could start sending them a week in advance. You can send them 48 hours in advance, 72 hours in advance, whatever you want to do. But in two clicks, a golfer could cancel a reservation. So.

Literally they get the text, they click, it takes them right into their bookings page within the Golf Geek software. They click another link, it says cancel, reservation's canceled. Okay. So let me just get this straight. So this is outside of your waitlist tech, if you will. You're saying before you built waitlist, waitlist, you built reminders or I don't know what you call it, but you built something.

that would nudge the golfer to say, Hey, now remember you've got a tee time booked here. And oh, by the way, if you don't want it, just click this link and we can take care of that for you. I see. Yes. Yeah. And so, I mean, it's crap. I mean, I get my haircut, you know, and I get multiple reminders from my haircut place. I mean, the golf industry, interesting that you took a dig at me there with haircut. It's an interesting move you just made on me there, but go ahead. That's fine. It's fine. You know, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Uh,

But you know, it just, I don't see that happening in the golf industry on a regular basis. There are companies out there that are doing it, but we just, that was the first part of it. Right. So we felt that we can make it really easy to cancel. People would cancel. They're not, I don't think vast majority of people want to no show or just, you know, so I think if you made it easy and we've come to find that it, that it's reduced our no shows by upwards of 60%. So it's been very impactful. Right. So that led us into the idea of, okay, so.

If we're sending a reminder out 48 hours in advance, if someone cancels, how do we assure ourselves that that tee time is going to sell? And that led us to the idea of waitlist. Um, so essentially what we did with the waitlist is very similar to the reminders in that we wanted to make it super, super easy, right? So you can go on if you don't see a tee time that you, that, that, that you want, uh, in a particular day part, I'm range, you can sign up for a waitlist for that particular golf course.

You can pick, you know, every Saturday for the rest of the year. You can pick that particular Saturday so that you only get this notification one time. And then, once again, when that tee time is available, everyone on the waitlist gets a text, and when you click the link out of the text, not only does it take you into the booking engine, it takes you directly into the tee time that became available. So if the 9:12 -

came available, you're going to enter right into the 9:12. If you're already signed into the system, you get one more click and that tee times reserved. And it's interesting you say that, uh, that is technology that, that different vendors have been chasing for a while. Uh, I can tell you way back in the day when we were working with W5 uh, as, as GolfNow Answers, we very much wanted to be able to deliver a link.

to a golfer that really, it was for that specific tee time. And frankly, we found it hard to do. We found it hard to build. So kudos to you guys for building that. That's a massive time saver. And that's a massive time saver for the golfer. The other thing I suspect it does is it really increases conversion. Yeah, absolutely. And that's what we're trying to do, right? So our idea of building Golf Geek is to solve problems and ultimately make,

operators lives easier and present something to the golfers that is very user friendly so they don't have any hurdles of trying to reserve that tee time There is another issue with the city of Los Angeles golf courses, right? Why would a reseller market be so successful if the inventory was priced properly? Maybe, and look, nobody's here to hurt any of these feelings. And I would say,

Old golf guys like us understand different municipalities have different missions. Maybe the inventory isn't priced the way the market says it should be priced. Is there something to that? Is it fair for me to say that? I think that's absolutely fair. I think if you're if you're if you've priced something so affordably that you you you can create this kind of gray market, as you called it. Obviously, there's a pricing issue. I mean, there's it's obvious if someone's paying $50 more.

in the gray market to be able to buy that same key time that they're selling, you know, for $50 less. Obviously, you could eliminate a big portion of this problem by pricing your golf in more accordance with what demand would dictate. But like you said, I completely understand and sympathize with and applaud the idea of municipalities being there to help grow the game of golf. As a PGA member,

That's kind of our mission, right? Grow the game. So I absolutely understand why municipalities would try to keep golf affordable in any given market so that we can continue to foster the growth of the game. And I think that's important. I do. I think there's a place for that. Okay. So let's welcome in Matt Holder from Loop Golf.

and Loop Golf is one of the new startups that's gotten a lot of attention in golf. So Matt, welcome to the Tech Caddie podcast. Happy to have you here. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me, Mike. Really appreciate it. So just before you were on, we had Kevin Fitzgerald on. It was a public affairs with Southern California Golf Association, also sits on the advisory board for LA City Golf Courses.

You and I had a conversation yesterday trying to set this thing up and make sure that we were going to play nice and that kind of deal. You had an interesting perspective. I thought on this. I mean, your point was, well, somebody's being a capitalist, right? I mean, somebody is hustling and there. So talk about that a little bit, you know, share with us kind of your perspective and the other side of the coin, so to speak. Sure. I mean, like the city of LA.

situation, everything that's going on there is obviously very dynamic and new things are coming up and there's a ton of nuance to it. But I think that where there's this kind of friction between what was intended and what's happening and those two things are colliding and everybody's trying to make sense of it. And from the side of the city of LA and

And some golfers in the city of LA who are just like, Hey, this is unintended. You know, we don't like this or we're not sure we're like that. We like this or we don't know what to make of it. There's also another side of a ton of LA golfers that are very much willing to engage in paying a little bit extra to get a tee time and to get the tee time that they want. And they've been happy customers of, you know, tee time brokers and things like that. You know, not, not saying that, you know,

not saying that we endorse any of it directly, but and it's something that happens across other industries as well, whether it's like ticketing or retail and things like that, right? We secondary market. And we had another technologist who's actually owned some golf courses to on earlier today, a lot of people on for that. And you know, he made the point that, you know, in Ireland, the brokers buy 90 % of the inventory.

and then they go resell it, right? Like it's not like this is unheard of. It's just a matter of is everybody kind of in the know and does anybody feel like there's something that's happening shady? You're the person. I have used gray market today more than I've ever used it before, Matt, because you introduced me to that idea yesterday. And it's really kind of like, is it gray or is it not? But no, you're right. There's certainly other industries and then other.

parts of golf where this happens all day long. So, yeah. Right. And within live ticketing, I mean, I'm sure a majority like you and I and a majority of the people that are watching this podcast have probably used game time or SeatGeek or StubHub to get tickets to events or concerts or sporting events. And, you know, those came about because a huge gray market existed of ticket brokers within live events. And it's completely legal.

It was just something that technology hadn't yet enabled and then these came along and I'm giving great optionality to consumers to access sporting events that they otherwise might not even be able to attend because there was just no liquidity for transferring tickets, right? So You know what I think what I think this situation. I think like one of the big learning points and takeaways that operators should get from what's happening in LA is yes that there's you know, the

these unintended things, but I think also highlights just how much demand has impacted pressure on pricing and highlighting the fact that there's a lot of price opportunity and a lot of revenue management opportunity that has yet to be extracted within golf that, you know, companies like loop, like we're helping, helping operators understand exactly how much of that pricing pressure.

upward pricing pressure there is so that they can reprice their inventory.

I think it's going to be very difficult to win back the confidence of the golf community. The confidence has been lost or at least shaken at the moment. And the reality is they have 50 plus thousand requests for tee times. And a couple other things that changed coming out of the pandemic. Not only had we seen golf participation increasing for several years prior to the pandemic, but then we know participation only increased in

2020 and 2021. And they're these systems here are at record rounds and record participation. Now we've sustained and captured that interest. A couple other reasons for that, I think one, the the LA city system is using four sums and 10 minute tee intervals. So the the golfer experience has really improved. You don't have five and a half hour rounds anymore. You can tee off at two thirty in the afternoon if you're lucky enough to be on the box at that time.

you can plan four and a half hours. It's really different experience. And so I think that is absolutely part of why we've retained a lot of this interest. Let's back up for a second clue everybody in listening on what it was before that group went to four sums in 10 minutes. Tell everybody where it was a few years ago. Yeah, it varies, but there five sums were permitted in most of our municipal systems. We generally saw two groups every 15 minutes, somewhere in that range.

what a policy change might look like. And one other discussion point was the idea of releasing a tee time that has been canceled at random times or even random release of tee times in general. So instead of every tee time opening at 6 a .m., maybe a batch opens at six and a batch opens at six. These are just different ideas that are coming to light. Now, I don't know how that will work for.

those companies that are scraping and making the customer aware of tee times that become available. I know that at the very least, the idea of a canceled tee time getting released at different times, it seems that that would be helpful because - Explain that a little bit, Kevin, because I don't think people realize what's happening at 3:30 in the morning. Explain that a little bit. Yeah, exactly. So I think when the -

for example, the system here, if it's LA city, what you're seeing is that there's some turnover. So you have some, the tee times all go very quickly. And then prior to that 24 hour cancellation window, a lot of tee times are canceled. And I don't know exactly what the percentage is off the top of my head, but I've heard well beyond 20%. So there's some churn there. Now, some of it is not.

you know, brokering. But what they're also seeing is that the tee times get booked. And then in the middle of the night, a tee time gets canceled and rebooked very quickly. Because in the LA City system, you actually have to show your ID when you get to the golf course. So if you if you were a golfer who had paid a concierge service, when you get to the golf course, that tee time needs to have your name on it and you need your player card. So how is this happening? I mean, these are the kinds of questions that, you know,

been sort of looking into for for quite some time. And I think, you know, bots and, you know, something technological, that's one component. But there's also this there's so much money to be had. And based on what we've seen the last few weeks, how much above the greens fee, some of these tee times are available for through, you you know, what was posted a couple weeks ago, and what went viral, that

you know, there's real money to be had there. So just the sort of how much of it is sort of brute human force of somebody having multiple devices and booking a lot of times. And then essentially, the golfer, you know, has an interest in say, the 10:10 time. And then at 3am, you cancel the time at 3am, you rebook the time with that golfer's name. So when the golfer gets to the golf course, everything looks

Everything looks culp -pacetic. It was the golfer that booked it. That's right. It culp -pacetic. That part I find would be extremely difficult to figure out what can you do with that. If there are four of us and we're all hoping to play on Saturday and we all get on the tee sheet at 6 a .m. and we all book a tee time and then we say, well, which one do we want to take? Well, there's no brokering. No one is selling that reservation, but...

the four of us are hoping to play together, we're gonna have one booked and three cancellations. So that is problematic too, because it just actually leads to more requests for tee times. It's more traffic on the site, it's more churn. And it's heartbreaking when you hear that a tee time, you get short, a foursome booked and two show up, because that means there are golfers like me.

perhaps sitting at home on a Saturday morning. And there was a spot for me. So, yeah, yeah. We had, that's not great for the facility or the golfer. We had another company on earlier and they, they build booking engines for golf courses and they have a feature that they've named a FairPlay Guardian. And it really is built to address exactly what you just said, where people are booking three tee times and only using one of them and whatnot. And so they've actually deployed.

artificial intelligence to start to identify when a booking looks unusual to the mass of bookings that they typically see and then alerts start to go off and notify different stakeholders at the golf course that, hey, we think this looks fraudulent. Not that we're going to prevent the person from booking it because maybe it isn't, but you should really look at this one. Here's this particular booking that our fraud technology, you know, rates a very high likelihood of fraud.

So yeah, there's people out there building solutions for sure. Well, listen, it's been great to have you on. I'm super interested to know you've got, I think you've got two meetings coming up in the very, very near future. First, the advisory board that you chair will meet. And then from a meeting like that, a recommendation will go to the, what is the next board called? I'm not sure. So yes, so the policy making body is the.

the Board of Commissioners. Those five members are appointees of the mayor. So it's really within the executive branch of government. If staff wants to make some kind of change, they need board approval. So the department provides reports to the board and then the board will sanction those changes. And we're really part of that stakeholder process. And so essentially this is how it would typically work. We have a meeting on Monday.

We will get the opportunity to hear what the recommendations might be and then possibly endorse what staff presents. And then when staff goes to the policy making, the board, that body, then we will have vetted it to some degree. And then the staff will be able to suggest that they went to the Golf Advisory Committee and Golf Advisory Committee provided feedback. It could be that,

the Golf Advisory Committee endorses the board report, so on and so forth. Well, that's excellent. That's excellent. I can't thank you enough for coming on on short notice. I think it's really cool that you guys make yourselves available to help people understand this better. Like I said in the beginning, I'm not so sure that this is an indictment of the technology provider. This is just an odd situation. Not a lot of holes of golf and a whole bunch of golfers. And so some oddities will arise.

Well, to your point earlier, I certainly hope that one, we can help mitigate some of the problems that have come from this incredible interest in participation. But also I hope that we can sort of parlay this into explaining that, yes, these golf courses are heavily utilized and we need them. And it's always going to be important for golfers to show up and make sure that those who

have the opportunity to make policy decisions, they know that the community cares about these facilities and wants to see them continue to do well and provide the game of golf. That's, yeah, so well said, so well said. Well, thanks again for your time and we'll look forward to speaking to you next week. I'm very interested to see what comes of everything. So thanks again, Kevin. Thank you for having me.

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