Now that Web 2.0 has officially arrived and 20 percent of the world is online, it's only natural that a large number of golfers are gravitating to their computers to do the same thing they once did over the phone or in person: book vacations, reserve tee times and buy equipment.
How has the Web changed their experience? For one thing, there are a lot more deals to be had; for another, using the Internet is a lot more convenient (especially when it comes to organizing a golf vacation).
What follows is Golf Tips' first Best Of The Web rundown, a compilation of Websites that provide golfers with the most up-to-date travel deals, tee times and equipment discounts. After reading about these sites, check them out and see for yourself how they're changing the way golfers enjoy the game. But what's the best part? All the sites are free.
Online Shopping Although golfers miss out on customized fitting and the tangible shopping experience enjoyed at traditional stores, online golf stores excel at featuring great bargains on golf equipment and accessories. Golfballs.com opened for business in 1995 as a seller of used golf balls, and has, in recent years, expanded their business model to include everything under the sun. Still, it's their specialty golf balls that set golfballs.com apart from other online stores.
As users become accustomed to the Internet's multimedia features, demand for such services will only increase. Edwin Watts (edwinwatts.com), a green grass retailer, offers a monthly podcast called "Golfbetter," where subscribers can learn about the latest golf equipment. Booking Travel Linking different online resources into one site has revolutionized the way people plan and organize golf vacations. Golf travel Websites such as Golfpac Travel (golfpactravel.com) now provide one-stop shopping for golfers looking to travel domestically and abroad.
"We consider ourselves the gold standard of the golf travel industry," says Golfpac Travel President Jeff Hamilton. Since 1975, his company (and its sister sites golforlando.com and golfpacinternational.com) has sent more than 550,000 golfers on golf vacations, and a quick tour of Golfpac affirms Hamilton's claim. In addition to the site's "Hot Deals" section (where discounted packages abound), customers can book tee times, hotel and rental car reservations, and coordinate schedules on the "My Trip" page.
Another site with an international angle is the aptly named Golf Holidays International (golfholidays-online.com). Headquartered in San Diego, Golf Holidays offers vacation specials to 13 states and international destinations like Mexico, Ireland and the Caribbean. A recent sampling of "Hot Deals" on their site included a number of exclusive packages aimed at those who want a "major experience." Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, St. Andrews and a week at the Masters (Masters Badges included) are sure to be hot tickets.
Discounted Tee Times The proliferation of Websites offering discounted tee times has been a boon to courses and budget-minded golfers alike. One such site, teetimes.com, features tee times from seven states from Pennsylvania to Florida. In addition to a course's dedicated landing page (where users can learn everything from slope rating to the first scheduled tee time of the day), the subsite playgolftomorrow.com offers last-second deeply discounted tee times.
A Website similar to "teetimes" is click4teetimes.com, a Southern California-based site offering dozens of discounted green fees on courses from San Diego to Ventura County and as far east as Palm Springs. In addition to offering discounted tee times (up to 50 percent off), click4teetimes hosted a 12-event tour in 2007 that awarded its winner with a seven-day/six-night trip to Australia.
All that may be great, you say, if you live in those areas, but what if you don't? A quick search reveals a number of sites offering a broader range of discounted tee times. Golfanchor.net services 20 states, including Arizona, Illinois and Texas, while Chicago-based EZ Links, (ezlinks.com) claims to "operate the world's largest network for golf reservations."
EZ Links offers three different ways to book a tee time: real time access to 2.2 million tee times (at no discount); "tee time specials" offering discounted rates for future rounds; and a "name your price" section that asks golfers to select a tee time and make an offer (much like priceline.com).
Although EZ Links has the most comprehensive discount tee-time service, the discount section isn't broken down any further than by state. Fortunately, EZ Links is addressing the issue, and the company will be launching an improved Website shortly.