Ok, I first want to start by saying I am not against using a tee-time booking app like GolfNow. They do have some benefits of finding rates that make it more affordable for some to be able to play golf. I use them myself sometimes when a course does not have an online booking service of its own. Today I am just pointing out why we should all consider Not using them.
Policies - You see when you use a service like GolfNow they become the company you have to deal with when things do not go as planned. Most of the time you are not aware of the policies until after the fact. Refunds are not always refunds due to the fine print and most of the time they are only issued as a credit for future tee-times. This is their way of making sure or forcing you to use their service again. That is also if you are lucky enough to connect with their customer service, which is generic for golf courses no matter what golf course or state you play in. Many times they also put an expiration date on the credit, aka your money, that if not used within that time frame you lose it.
Golf Course - Many courses started using these booking services as a way to fill those odd times between the regular rate and twilight rate. The idea was to offer a discount to fill those times that may otherwise go unused and bring in more revenue. That was all fine when it began but now it undermines the value of the golf course and sometimes, due to the contract with these services, the golf course can not set its own rate for those times. It could end up costing them money for some tee times slots. When a golf course or any business for that matter starts offering products or services that are undervalued too often that will eventually start to show in the product or service. In the case of golf, you may see an amenity like bag drop service go away or worse see the course conditions start to go down. There can be many repercussions for offering discounts.
Rain Checks - Due to the nature of these tee-time booking services being a third party they have their own rain check policies. This leaves courses either not able to issue a rain check themselves or not wanting to if it was a discounted round. Many courses are super nice when it comes to rain checks no matter how you booked your tee-time and will issue one without question. However, where it becomes tricky is when the time is pre-paid or discounted. The discount may immediately have a clause of no rain check or refunds once you tee-off. The pre-paid round has its own challenges as the course can not issue a refund, credit, or rain check for something that was not paid directly to them. Again some courses will overlook this and issue the rain check anyway, but if they do not you are right back to the policies issue.
Communication - When I say communication I mean the communication from the golf course to the tee-time booking service, then to you. This poses many problems for golfers in various ways. The last thing a golfer wants is to book a golf round only to get to the golf course and find they are hosting a tournament or have just aerified the golf course. This can happen and has happened to me several times. It may be the golf course themselves not updating their system to block the tee-times or put the maintenance note on there. It may be the service company themselves not putting the note on there or removing tee-times for the day. It is supposed to be automated from the golf course via technology, but with myself having been on the pro shop staff side I know first hand it does not always work out that way. Many times you would have to email a rep that deals with your account to make upcoming changes like removing all times for the day of an event. Sometimes it is making a note in the calendar and expecting the service people to update the golf course status.
Payments - Although GolfNow has gotten better with a way to pay separately for the same tee-time amongst friends it is still not that simple. You have to have friends connected via the app or used to be that way to book a time then send that time to a friend for them to book. This could work for pre-paid deals, but if it doesn't one person has to put it on their credit card and try and get payment from the rest of the group. When booking direct at a course everyone can pay separately when they arrive. The other hassle at times when going to book a round separately for payment reasons is you could book your round and when the rest of the group goes to book theirs that same time may be gone because someone else was booking it at the same time.
Tee-Time Themselves - There are many times you will find a tee time you want only for it to disappear as soon as you hit the book now button. This will happen, especially for deal times, as others are looking for the same thing as you. As I mentioned in the payment this can especially happen when you and a friend are trying to book the same time separately for each to pay his or her own way. The other thing I have seen happen is a double book or a crossover between the booking service and the course. You may book via an app and the course may have booked directly in their system. The system at the golf course will always take priority and your booking service may not notify you of the double booking only for you to show up to play and find out the time you booked is not yours. Most of the time but depending on the golf course they will work it out and get all groups out without a problem. Very unlikely but possible some golf courses may make you wait for the next available time. If you opt not to then you are back to the policy issues and trying to contact customer service.
Singles - Finding a tee-time as a single golfer always has its own challenges. Sometimes you just have to show up at a golf course and wait for an opportunity to get join a group. This is even harder when booking thru an app. Almost every golf course will only allow 2-4 players to book a time, especially weekends. This is to keep groups in foursomes, but as a single, it makes it to where you can't even book to join a group.
To sum it up here is why you should book directly with the course you want to play.
The top reason is you are helping a local business and developing a direct relationship with them. Yes, the rate may be a bit higher, but that is what helps them so they can preserve or improve their amenities or the golf course conditions.
You only deal with the golf course and its policies. Rain checks, cancelations, and refunds are easier and more likely to be handle in the way you want.
Tee-times are more available through the golf course itself. When you call or use the course booking system you are doing so directly with their system and you can be assured you are the only customer being input to that time slot. Also if you call for a time you can ask questions about the course conditions, maintenance schedule, or tournaments. No surprises.
Many courses now have loyalty rewards by going directly through them. This may be a play "x" amount of rounds and the "x" one is cart fee-only or some other way to show their appreciation for direct business. I am not sure exactly which ones in the New Orleans area currently have a loyalty program, but I will find out and do a post about that when I do.
Lastly and maybe the best reason of all is when you book direct at a course there are no booking fees. Yes, a golf course may ask for a credit card to reserve a time, but they will not charge a fee just to book the round. This alone could save you more money than the discounted fees of the round you book. Think about it, if you play once a week and pay $2 every time you book a golf round that's $104 dollars for the year. That could be two or three extra rounds of golf or a few dozen golf balls.