While the golf industry has seen rapid and dramatic changes in equipment technology, one thing has remained relatively unchanged for decades: how much golf courses charge for green fees.
While some courses offer a twilight rate, for the most part the green fee is what it is.
That has now changed.
Three courses, two in Janesville and one in Cottage Grove, have moved to a computer based green fee program that adjusts the rate to match the demand by golfers. The two courses in Janesville are Glen Erin and Prairie Woods Golf Courses and the course in Cottage Grove is The Oaks Golf Course.
"It is based on mathematical algorithms. It is no different than the airline industries, rental cars, hotels based on utilization, percentage of occupancy, things like that. It is really driven by the customer," said Rob Vega, general manager and managing partner of Glen Erin Golf Course in Janesville.
Vega said in years past the business operated with a traditional set greens fee rate that changed little during the year. It left him frustrated when, on a nice Sunday afternoon in the fall the tee time sheet was not full. He realized that outside factors, like a Packer or Badger football game will have an impact on golfer’s willingness to play.
An example can be seen on the Sunday of the final round of the Masters Golf Tournament. A tee time midmorning is listed at $35, but after 1 p.m., when the leaders will be on television and many golfers will be in front of the TV, the rate drops to $24.
This new computer program factors in things like outside events and the weather. It then sets green fees to reflect high and low demand times by golfers.
"It makes sense that they can actually break it down to how much demand there is for the day instead of before 3 o’clock this is how much you pay no matter what you’re doing," golfer Brennan Woerth said.
To get the break in green fees golfers must make their tee times using the golf courses websites. Golfers calling the pro shop to make a tee time will be quoted the traditional rack rate. Glen Erin has an app available for handheld devices that allows for tee times to be made.
"The fundamental change we’re making this year is instead of us telling you how much you’re going to pay for golf, you’re going to tell us how much is our golf worth to you," Vega said.