Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Article provided by the SCGA

The National Golf Course Owners Association’s (NGCOA) Harvey Silverman may have characterized the City of Los Angeles’ uncommonly quick reaction to intense media scrutiny (five separate Los Angeles Times stories including a Sunday lead editorial) of the depredations of tee time brokering with his quip in the organization’s “Golf Business Weekly” about the city having reacted “faster than fixing potholes.” Much faster we would add. And with a pilot program that the city offered as but the first of more steps to come to restore public confidence in the fairness of its Internet reservation system. As for the steps:

  • A non-refundable $10 deposit per golfer to be collected at the time of booking. If the golfer cancels the tee time, the deposit is forfeited. If the golfer plays, the $10 deposit is be applied to the green fee at check-in. Think of it in one of two ways: 1) A fee for the privilege of holding a high demand tee time, or 2) earnest money to ensure that the booker is acting in good faith with every intention to fulfill the transaction. In other words, not the other and perhaps more common method of ensuring good faith and validating credit cards known as the “advance reservation fee,” which the city accurately deemed a de facto greens fee increase in rejecting it in favor of this non-refundable deposit tool.
  • A “Code of Conduct” for use of the system that explicitly states that violations of the Golf Rules may result in fines and/or prosecution in accordance with existing municipal codes that allow for fines up to $1,000 or 6 months of jail time and beefs up existing definitions of “brokering” to now include the transfer of tee times through any web-based site, web-based application, other applications, publication, or mobile device for a fee.

The ”pilot” was adopted by the city’s Board of Recreation & Park Commissioners last Thursday and will become fully effective within days. Yes, indeed; faster than those potholes get fixed! Los Angeles managed to get this together for a quick emergency meeting of its Golf Advisory Committee the Monday prior, where impressively 15 of its 18 members managed to make the meeting on 72 hours notice, and then on to the Mayoral Park Board three days hence.

It’s important to note that the city made clear that it intends to work with its vendor to add features such as random release of cancelled times to further obviate the business models of the brokers taking financial advantage of a system operated not on market principles, but rather on the same basic set of principles that the City of Los Angeles operates all its park/recreation amenities – provision of public services that would otherwise be onerously expensive and thus out of financial reach for the vast majority of the population but for their provision by government. Yes, golf generates net revenues for the city, and golfers should take pride in that. But in a market that the NGF describes as representing the worst supply to demand ratio in the nation – the most golfers chasing the fewest golf holes – those net revenues could be considerably higher were the city to operate them for maximal financial benefit. Los Angeles, once dotted with daily fee facilities, is now, with one anomalous exception, home to only private clubs and municipal golf courses. There is no “in-between” anymore. Such is the creative destructive power of market capitalism.