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February 2020

Ode to OTTAs


By Jay Karen

This Valentine’s Day, on behalf of public courses, I want to let you know how we feel about our relationship. Seems we’ve been together for 20 years now, if you go back to our first online tee times together. And with the big merger that just occurred, perhaps now is a good time to take stock of our relationship. Have you read the book, “The Five Love Languages”? I’ll use love languages as a way to communicate our issues.

Receiving Gifts
People are BIG on giving gifts as a primary love language. The gifts you’ve literally received from owners (through bartered tee times) include the privilege to sell access to the beautiful grounds and experiences they have crafted for their customers, access to their hard-earned brand and even access to the customers nurtured for decades. But to be honest, because a relationship needs honesty, I’ve been pretty disappointed in the gifts you promised courses in return. Many of the golfers you send their way don’t even pay them. I mean nothing! My hope was that their bank account would see a lift from your relationship, but I really don’t think they can attribute much business income to that relationship. I won’t always say these things to your face (I need to work on that), but I do say them to my friends, colleagues and my association.

Quality Time
You sure spent a lot of time together when you were courting the golf courses, and that felt good. Where have you been since then? Seems you’re spending all of your time these days selling your subscription program, which offers free golf at our golf courses. Or you’re spending time coming up with more ways to monetize the gifts they give you. Ugh. Where are you when I need you the most? Now I’m wondering if I really need you.

Words of Affirmation
This you do well. Thank you for telling the world how important golf courses are. When you send your sales rep our way, he sure does say the right things to make us feel good.

Acts of Service
How is it a service to when you use their brand in search engine marketing to sometimes lead customers to competitors? I see that you promote golf for 80 percent off, or even for free. I just don’t understand how that’s an act of service. Please tell me. I’m begging you. No, really. Tell me… I’m waiting.

It’s Not Me, It’s You
And what could we be doing to make our relationship better? I’m glad you asked. I think we should give you more space, for sure. I don’t think a healthy relationship comes from one party giving everything but receiving little in return. So perhaps courses should give less for this to work out. I’m thinking they stop bartering tee times with you, and only pay commission for tee times they need help selling. You OK with that? Don’t worry – they’ll pay for the technology, tee sheet, etc. And I admit, we might have gotten a little lazy about our relationship. We plan to change that. We can’t afford to be lazy, and I get the funny feeling you benefit from our laziness. 2020 needs to be the year that we invest more time and fewer gifts into our relationship.

After all, golfers need us to play this wonderful game. They don’t need you. And you need us to exist. We don’t need you. So, if you want this to last, things need to change. I’m willing to see a counselor. Are you? Or perhaps another, better partner will come along? Sigh. I’m counting on it. We shall see.

Happy Valentines Day.



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