Tracing and compiling the history of online tee times was a bit like the search for the Dead Sea scrolls – lots of stories buried within other stories dating back to 1990. The genesis of this yet-to be-harnessed business is the Grand Strand Tee Time Network (GSTTN) which today is known as T-Links and resides in Myrtle Beach.
The GSTTN sought to connect Myrtle Beach hotels to golf course tee sheets allowing hoteliers to forego the sometimes onerous process of having to call or fax a local golf course to secure a tee time for guests, many of whom were planning their vacations months in advance. Hotels were frustrated with the service provided by golf course staff in responding to requests. Golf course operators were equally frustrated with the number of phone calls generated by hotels, and the time taken by staff to respond when they might otherwise be servicing golfers at the course.
Aptech, a Pittsburg, PA computer company, was chosen to build this first iteration of a connected tee time reservation system in 1991. The technology gave hotels direct access to golf course tee sheets. It went live in the spring of 1992 with 35 golf courses and 15 hotels communicating via an IBM mainframe computer and a wired network of modems and muxes.
And so it began…
Owners have always bartered rounds for services, like painting the golf shop, fixing a leaky roof, etc. It involved two willing parties who both caluclated the value of the service against the value of the rounds, and reached an amicable agreement. As we move closer to the release of the Golf USA Tee Time Coalition’s Standards for Online Tee Time Distribution, let’s take a look at some of the key events that shaped the movement.
The Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Assoc. executive director George Hilliard sends an RFP to 65 computer companies to build what would become the Grand Strand Tee Time Network.
Gary Jonas launches Jonas Software.
IBS-Integrated Business System launches its course management software.
Aptech, a Pittsburg, PA computer programming company, selected by the Myrtle Beach GCOA to build an electronic tee sheet and connectivity to area hotels. Aptech key personnel included Jay Troutman, John Stafford, and Nancy DeSecco.
The Grand Strand Tee Time Network (GSTTN), headed by Mathew Brittain, goes live with 35 Myrtle Beach golf courses and 15 area hotels.
Tom & Rick Robshaw introduce Pro-ShopKeeper (now known as ClubProphet), course managaement software.
Charleston, Hilton Head, Biloxi, Pinehurst, and Atlantic City join the Grand Strand Tee Time Network as regional golf destinations.
Harry Ipema launches Fore! Reservations.
Kevin Cotton founds NetCaddy.
Golf Channel launched.
EZLinks Golf is founded. Steve McKenna and Andy Weeks founded EZLinks Golf in Chicago, IL with financial backing from local investor group. EZLinks starts as an online, electronic tee sheet.
January 1996 Golf Digest contracts to purchase the Grand Strand Tee Time Network and make it part of a national network to be called Golf Digest Information Systems (GDIS). Troutman, Stafford, and DeSecco come over from Aptech. Alan Fisher hired as national sales manager. GDIS business plan was to charge each golf course $30,000 annually for its tee time service. GSTTN smartly protects itself with contract provisions that returns the technology to them in case GDIS fails.
Michael Hsu starts Teemaster in Minneapolis, MN, as a call center service for golf courses.
NGCOA Industry Status Review on Electronic Tee Time Reservations.
Estimated utilization of electronic tee time reservation systems range between 6%-10% of golf courses in U.S..
Teemaster records the first browser-based, real time Internet tee time reservation.
Golf Digest pulls the plug on GDIS. The GSTTN maintains the system and looks for a new partner..
NGCOA hosts a national Tee Time Summit in Atlanta.
Last Minute Tee Times is started by Mike Last.
February 1998 NGCOA has exploratory meetings with GSTTN to discuss starting a golf tee time electronic distribution association. NGCOA launches EDGE (Electronic Distribution Golf Enterprise) to create interfacing standards to accelerate the golf industry’s technology use and lower automation costs. It agrees to keep the GSTTN up and running, bringing in Nancy DeSecco to maintain the network. NGCOA secure support from the original six regions and renames the system T-Links.
With five active courses, EZlinks records its first real time online tee time reservation.
American Golf signs agreement with EZLinks. Believed to be the first management company to sign with an online tee time company.
EZLinks records 139 rounds of golf reserved online.
Myrtle Beach Golf Holidays chooses Epani for online tee time reservations. Epani has a full suite of golf course management systems that includes point of sale, tee sheet and course maintenance software products.
EZLinks auctions tee times via onsale.com, the first time tee times were sold in this manner. $1500 in tee times were sold in the first four days. In Feb. 1999, EZLinks expands auctioning of tee times to uBid.com.
Bill Hopke launches teetimes.com.
Larry Lippon and Tim Flynn founded GolfSwitch in Phoenix, AZ. GolfSwitch is a technology that enables tee times to be aggregated from disparate system electronic tee sheets. It was first deployed in the Phoenix market to connect hotels to golf course electronic tee sheets.
Book4Golf, out of Canada, launches.
Brett Darrow founds GolfGateway.com. GolfGateway.com is an e-commerce and marketing solutions company that uses Internet technology to help golf courses with Internet tee time reservations, point-of-sale efficiencies and other golf industry solutions to the golfer.
GolfSwitch files to patent its technology. GolfSwitch files for patent of its technology that aggregates tee times across disparate tee sheet systems.
Larry Lippon introduces a new company, e2e Golf Solutions, that includes GolfSwitch’s technology. e2e offered an integrated suite of software solutions and services that seamlessly managed all aspects of course operations. The company's offering included a golf course management software duite and an online, wholesale golf marketplace utilizing IBM's "e-business solution" technology to bring together golf course operators, manufacturers and retailers.
American Golf is the first management company to go live with online tee times.
GolfGateway purchases Double Eagle systems, a tee sheet/PoS system with about 250 clients in California and the West Coast.
GolfGateway signs letter of intent to purchase T-Links. Read More
GolfGateway launch party headlined by numerous celebrity and professional golf investors. Parties hard at the Hard Rock hotel in Las Vegas during the western PGA show. Included are numerous celebrity and professional golf investors. Read More
Teemaster sold to Book4Golf.
Last Minute Tee Times books its first online reservation in late 1999.
GolfGateway changes its name to Greens.com.
Book4golf’s stock price reaches $22/share.
Greens.com expands into Europe…Greens.com partners with Steven Schwartz’s Palo Alto Golf, En France, and Euro Systems and expands into Europe. Read More
GolfSwitch partners with PGA.com, a joint venture of the PGA of America and IBM, to create the first company to offer a fully integrated end-to-end package of services to streamline and automate all golf course operations. PGA.com says e2e Golf Solutions will increase golf facility profits by offering an integrated suite of software solutions and services to seamlessly manage all aspects of course operations. The offering also includes a golf course management software suite and a multimedia communications package that will, according to PGA.com, help course operators effectively promote their facilities.
Four tee time reservation companies announced an alliance to provide access to golf courses. Teetimes.com, TeeMaster.com, Select Tee Times.com, and LinksTime.com will share respective inventory of available golf tee times and establish the first open Internet golf reservation network, called OTTO (Open Tee Times Online). The new network, according to the quartet, will have access to over 425 golf courses throughout the U.S. and abroad. Access will be available through each tee time companies web sites. Read More
e2e Golf Solutions partners with Epani in Europe. Under the terms of the agreement, e2e Golf Solutions will provide tee time connectivity to Epani's extensive network of over 1,000 golf courses – the largest software installation base in Europe. These courses will have the ability to broadcast their tee times to over 185 high-trafficked web sites and some of the world's largest travel providers, including Galileo International, with more than 41,000 locations in 104 countries. In addition, e2e has agreed to purchase the assets of OnTee.com, and will integrate golf course software products currently in use at Epani's network of courses into the e2e software suite. Read More
e2e Golf Solutions partners with Galileo International.Read More
e2e Golf Solutions signs letter of intent to acquire NetCaddy. Read More
e2e Golf Solutions partners with Worldspan to bring online tee time reservations to over 20,000 global travel agencies. Read More
Greens.com is no more, reportedly losing $35 million.
e2e Golf Solutions launches On Request, a tee time fulfillment service designed to streamline the tee time booking process for both golfers and golf course operators. Golfers can now book or request tee times and view comprehensive course information at over 13,000 golf courses on e2e Golf's Tee Time Reservation Network. In addition to real-time booking access to e2e Golf's 475 online member golf courses, golfers can access offline courses through the reservation network at over 200 Internet sites such as AOL; MindSpring; CNN/SI.com; USAToday.com; and through e2e Golf's travel partners. Read More
ONX, a Canadian consulting firm, purchases Book4golf. Read More
Cypress Golf Solutions is founded by Brett Darrow and Frank Halpin, formerly of the failed Greens.com. Cypress Golf Solutions franchised around the country based upon area codes, such as golf916.com. Mike Loustalot was one of the original franchisees. It later created the brand, GolfNow. Darrow introduces the barter for service payment system, taking golf course tee times in lieu of cash for courses to list on the site.
Spectrum Golf, owned by Mike Loustalot, acquires the assets of GolfSwitch from Larry Lippon’s e2e Golf Solutions. Read More
EZLinks acquires Minneapolis-based Ready Golf Reservations from Newman Golf Investors. At that time the EZLinks Tee Time Network had processed over 35 million tee time reservations. Read More
Clubessential acquires NetCaddy. Clubessential was formed by La Quinta, Calif.-based resort developer KSL Recreation Corp. with funding in part from New York equity investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. In negotiating with NetCaddy, Clubessential brought to the table a recent $7.7 million cash infusion from KSL and KKR. Read More
Chris Mulvihill launches Tee Time King. Using Tee Time King’s course management desktop software, golf courses could manage tee sheets, online and touch tone reservations, point-of-sale, inventory, loyalty programs, member billing, accounts receivable, event and catering contract management, and other daily administration. Tee Time King also enabled golfers to find and book tee times online for daily fee, resort, semi-private, private, and multi-property golf facilities.
Matt Krause launches GoGoGolf, which was rebranded as TeeTimeWatch.com. By Oct. 2012, the company is no longer in operation.
Michael Hsu, founder of Teemaster, gets his company back in a purchase settlement with Book4Golf.
Book4golf becomes “the official tee time provider for the State of Michigan.” Read More
EZLinks expands, offering a point-of-sale system.
EClick4teetimes launches in Southern California. Sold to GolfNow in 2014. Read More
All Book4golf directors resign except CEO Philip DeLeon. It cannot afford its liability insurance and has burned its $1.25 million line of credit. DeLeon injects $75K of his own money. Book4golf has 50 clients. Book4golf and its security company Yorkton Securities are sued for failing to disclose conflicts of interest. Book4Golf directors quit, CEO stays
Book4golf, EcomPark ruled by insiders
GolfGopher purchases teetimes.com.
Cypress Golf Solutions launches in Portland, OR after previously launching in Phoenix and Tucson, AZ. A quote about their revenue model masks the barter arrangement with courses. “The Cypress revenue model is performance based. ‘We only make money if we can sell rounds for our courses,’ says Darrow. Cypress does not charge any upfront or flat fees for their services. ‘This keeps us focused on our primary objective, selling more rounds of Golf and increasing the course's bottom line,’ Darrow says.
Brett Darrow is considered the godfather of tee time barter. Read More
NGCOA & Open Travel Alliance (OTA) create standards for xml messaging so that booking sources can search for golf courses, request available tee times, and make reservations.
Roy Staten partners with IBS to launch GolfHero. GolfHero is a division of TravelHero. The GolfHero technology provides users a way to bundle golf starting times with travel products in a single itinerary. Read More
Google allows advertisers to bid on trademarked keywords.
EZLinks crosses the 100 million mark in rounds booked using the EZLinks electronic tee sheet.
GolfHero signs Marriott Golf as a client. Read More
Coursetrends, a golf website service provider, launches Golf18 Network as a disposal site for tee times it was taking in trade in lieu of cash. The barter phenomenom grows.
NGCOA publishes a supplement to Golf Business Magazine: Management Information Systems Guide and Directory. Included is a commentary on third party tee time providers. Read More
TeeConnect goes live.
Tee Time King purchases Jim Keegan’s Fairway Systems serving more than 200 municipal courses.
Active Network purchases Tee Time King serving more than 350 courses and forms Active Golf Solutions. Read More
GolfHero partners with Rosen Hotels and Resorts. Read More
Golf Galaxy chooses TeeTimeWatch.com as its tee time provider. Read More
Cypress Golf Solutions books over 800,000 rounds of golf in 2005.
Cypress Golf Solutions rolls out its new GolfNow.com brand in Southern California, replacing the area code web URLs (i.e. golf619.com). Read More
The GolfSwitch patent is granted. Read More
The first published debate regarding barter takes place between Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid, and Cypress Golf Solutions: Read More
GolfSwitch/Spectrum Golf sues Incuborn Solutions Inc. (Cypress Golf Solutions/GolfNow), TeeConnect, Mike Loustalot, Heritage Golf Group, and OpenCourse Solutions for patent infringement in Arizona federal court. Read More
Andy Weeks, formerly with EZLinks, launches W5 Golf providing a website booking engine and call center.
Active Network acquires Jencess, a Canadian PoS system.
W5 launches BirdieBug.com as a tee time portal.
Comcast, owner of Golf Channel, purchases Cypress Golf Solutions and its GolfNow brand from Brett Darrow and his franchisees for a reported $41.3 million. The company's operations were re-located to Golf Channel's Orlando, Florida headquarters.[That same year, the company facilitated the booking of 2.4 million rounds. Read More, Read More
Patent lawsuit between GolfSwitch and multiple defendants including GolfNow is heard. Here is the court decision: Read More
GolfSwitch settles its patent suit against GolfNow. GolfSwitch receives a $2.1 million settlement, however it incurred $2.4 million in attorney fees. GolfNow received a GolfSwitch license in perpetuity.
GolfNow acquires Mike Last’s Last Minute Golfer for reportedly more than $15 million.
Brian Wroblewski and partners founded Golf Pipeline, a third-party tee time provider with a commission-only business model.
Comcast completes NBC Universal merger. Golf Channel/GolfNow are subsisdiaries of NBC Universal. NBC Sports Group was formed when Comcast transferred the operations of the properties in its existing Comcast Sports Group unit included the Golf Channel, after the company's acquisition of a majority share in NBCUniversal in February 2011. This led GolfNow to be transferred to NBC Sports Digital.
Brett Darrow, the godfather of barter…launches Quick 18.
At its annual meeting at the PGA Merchandise show, the PGA announces a partnership with GolfNow. The next day, it is put on hold pending further review.
The PGA cancels its partnership deal with GolfNow. Read More
Golf Pipeline website and booking engine is unveiled to the public.
EZLinks sues GolfNow and former employee Mike Brown, including charges of computer fraud and abuse, violations of trade secret laws, disparagement, conspiracy, and more. It comes on the heels of what the suit alleges were repeated attempts by GolfNow to purchase EZLinks, which were rebuffed. Read More
TeeSnap, funded by Allegiant Air, becomes a new player in the software space.
Fore! Reservations founder Harry Ipema sells Fore! Reservations to GolfNow for a reported $15-$20 million. Ipema had discovered that 57% of his clients were on GolfNow despite his frequent and reasoned appeals of why they should not be. Upon purchasing Fore! Reservations GolfNow renames it GolfNow Reservations. This is now the most common and most robust of GolfNow’s software offerings. Read More
John Fechter founds OpenTee.
GolfNow buys British Tee Time Company, BRS Golf.
GolfNow Connect is launched. The foundation of GolfNow Connect is BRS Golf's technology. GolfNow Connect is easy to implement, requiring no installation of software. Connect is geared towards individual course operators, not in need of POS and this is a non-interfacing product.
GolfNow acquires Click4teetimes.com.
EZlinks rebrands its consumer-facing tee time site to TeeOff.com.
OpenTee acquires GolfSwitch.
GolfNow acquires Active Network. The deal adds another 1,100 golf courses to the company’s software client base.This is GolfNow’s fourth acquisition in the last 18 months, including FORE Reservations (2000 courses), Crescent Systems (300-400 courses), and BRS Golf from the U.K. (750 courses). Read More, Read More
Club Prophet disconnects (cuts off API) to third parties like GolfNow and EZLinks. This move was done for competitive reasons as GolfNow’s acquisitions meant it would now become a major player in the software space- a direct threat to Club Prophet.
PGA Tour becomes Equity Partner in EZLinks, forging new company to compete with GolfNow. EZLinks rebrands its consumer website as TeeOff.com by PGA Tour.
EZLinks acquires GolfSwitch &mpt; OpenTee. Read More
OpenTee portal redirects to EZLinks’ TeeOff.com.
NGCOA & PGA of America partner to form the Golf USA Tee Time Coalition.
EZLinks acquires IBS. The combined EZLinks Golf and IBS product portfolio features EZLinks Golf’s tee sheet, EZLinks Golf’s 24/7 reservation center, TeeOff.com by PGA TOUR’s web portal, IBS’ club management software, including traditional and cloud-based point of sale, business intelligence software and private course functionality.
W5 enters into an exclusive service-provider relationship with GolfNow, providing call center services.
An internal video from GolfNow leaks, alarming the industry, as company representatives boast about making a “boatload” of money selling barter tee time inventory. Read More
Golf Pipeline announces hiring of Gene Pizzolato, formerly with GolfNow, as its new President and CEO.
Golf Pipeline rebrands as Golfbook. Announces strategic partnership with CBS Sports Digital as its media partner.
Golf.com launches a tee time booking app powered by Supreme Golf. Read More
W5 Golf becomes GolfNow’s call center. W5 is able to maintain its current clients but cannot pursue new ones.
EZLinks acquires Distinct Software Solutions, also known as Coursetrends and the operators of Golf18 Network. EZLinks assumes control of Golf18 Network.
Open Travel Alliance Publishes New Golf 2.0 Distribution Standard, Enhancing the Golfers Digital Experience. Read More
GolfBook launches its app including tee time booking. New website launched in May, 2017.
I was honored to have the opportunity to compile this history of online tee times. I know many people who have put their lives, money, and billions of brain cells into harnessing the Internet for the purpose of making it easy for golfers to find and reserve tee times. I salute them for their efforts and hope this History of Online Tee Times will stand as a historical testament to their accomplishments. Yes, we have a long way to go – it’s been more than a generation since the first inkling of online tee times was imagined. I know this much – online tee times are not going away, and I’ll continue to stand watch to see who makes the technology better. Enjoy this electronic stroll through history.