Why I started PrimeTimes.Golf

Introduction

I am a golf addict with entrepreneurial tendencies. That doesn’t mean I am a good golfer. I got back into golf after more than 20 years off in December of 2022. By March 2023, I was playing almost every day…back 9 at Corondao, 9 before 9 as I came to call my new lifestyle..and I realized I was spending a lot of money on golf and was always tired because getting to the course before 6 am requires getting up at 5 AM. But I was also really enjoying it and happier than I had been in years. 

The Spark

Sitting at the bar at The University Club in downtown San Diego, CA on the evening of March 15, 2023,  I flipped a switch and decided to allocate the dollars and time I had been spending on alcohol to golf. I stopped drinking that second and started going to sleep at 9:30 PM, trading late nights for early mornings, recognizing that the key to enjoying golf lay in getting to bed earlier to make it easier to wake up at 5 AM.

The Evolution

Playing the same back 9 day after day eventually lost its allure and wasn’t getting me the same high; I needed to increase the dosage. So I started playing 18 holes on weekends at golf courses all over San Diego and I quickly realized that one of the beautiful things about golf is that every day is different. Tennis, pickle ball and other sports are all fine, but it’s like groundhog day. With golf, the course, the weather that day, the people you play with, the course conditions, banter with the staff, and, of course, your own mental and physical alignment influences the experience. Every time is different. Even if you play the same hole on the same golf course 10 times, 10 times it is different. 

Building Relationships and Credibility Through Golf

But that wasn’t the real hook. What really hooked me is the relationship-building power of golf. Unlike competitive sports like tennis, squash, and volleyball where victory is paramount and winners and losers are declared, golf fosters camaraderie. It’s you and your companions against the course, building bonds through shared laughs, jokes and cheers. You encourage each other, advise each other, laugh at bad shots together, applaud good shots together. In between, you talk about life, memories, plans, frustrations, pleasures, mostly stream of consciousness stuff and the format of play keeps the dialog quick and brief.  And after 18 holes, you feel that you know the person better and can trust them a bit more…and whenever you meet that person off the golf course, you have that bond and can laugh about the last or next round and immediately go back into the state of camaraderie. I do business with both people I golf with and people I don’t.  But I respond to the emails, requests, and problems from my golf buddies before anyone else. They are in a different class in my mind. 

Now, I need to go into a bit of fundamental sales theory here. The first step in developing a business relationship is to establish your credibility. Credibility is the sum of competence and trustworthiness. If someone thinks you are both capable of fixing a problem and trustworthy, then they might share a problem or ambition with you. When they do that, you can then show how you can help them fix their unique problem. Boom! You are no longer a commodity. You are a trusted advisor, and the first step on that journey is trust…and building trust can be accelerated through golf.

The Genesis of PrimeTimes.Golf

While there are many stories of how golf serendipitously created strong bonds and opportunities, some golfers are more intentional about using golf as a relationship development tool, usually through memberships at private courses. But not everyone can afford a private membership, and the memberships don’t travel with you. 

So, all these thoughts are bubbling in my brain when one day I am invited to play in a tournament at Chula Vista Golf Course. (Calling that a golf course is an insult to golf courses….hell, calling it a cow pasture is an insult to cow pastures). It’s akin to playing golf on the meteor from Armageddon. 

I understand why that event was held there and it had nothing to do with the quality of golf, but while I am sitting in the golf cart four wheeling across dust bowls and rocks, the train of thought that led to PrimeTimes.Golf left the station. Especially in San Diego, which has the second highest number of golfers per 18 holes of any county in America, it’s hard to get prime golf tee times at premiere golf courses. From a business perspective, I think a prime tee time is one that enables either a pre or post meal together. A premiere course is one that makes you feel happy to be alive and privileged to be able to enjoy the environment, regardless of how you play. 

The human brain associates the people and ideas they are exposed to during pleasurable moments with the pleasure of that moment. That’s why there are business lunches and dinners. The customer associates the pleasure of the flavor with the ideas and people that are present during that pleasurable moment.  You don’t take customers to a restaurant with bad food, right? So, why would you take a client to a bad golf course? 

But people are busy. Waiting up until midnight or queuing at the starter booth from 4 AM for tee times doesn’t work for people who have jobs, have families, and healthy sleep habits. Also, some business interactions require planning and travel: you have a client coming to town in 6 weeks, but you can’t make a booking for 2 to 6 weeks in advance, and can’t take the risk of not getting a prime tee time at a premiere course. Or, maybe you’re traveling to Boston for a conference and want to golf with some clients there but you don’t have a local membership, nor do you know the local courses. Plus you don’t want to get paired up with a couple of bozos; you want to play with people with common interests and maybe similar roles or industries. But how can you guarantee that? 

By the time I got to the 14th hole (which is when I walked off…and the only time I have ever walked off a golf course without finishing. I know it seems sacrilegious, but I just couldn’t take it any longer), I realized another need. 

Sometimes business people want to play golf with potential clients and partners they don’t know yet. You can hope that the people you play with will be relevant to your business, but the chances of an ideal client serendipitously joining you for golf are only slightly better than winning the lottery….and ideal clients are busy and inundated with approaches from vendors just like you. How many LinkedIn and email intros do we all receive in a day? How many do we respond to? But….if you happen to be a golfer and you get an offer to meet a relevant vendor over a free round of golf at a beautiful course, that stands out. That gets your attention. So, what if we systemized that? What if we created an opt-in golf dating app for sales people? 

Recognizing the potential for golf as a networking tool, combined with the desire for golfers to secure prime tee times and golf with like-minded individuals, I envisioned a platform that could facilitate meaningful connections through the game. 

The Solution:

Then I started thinking about how to do this. Creating networking groups and automating invitations to people of specific criteria are technically straight forward. Meetup, LinkedIn, Alignable, Tinder, Bumble and dozens of other social apps have proven that….but none of them have to make golf bookings. The only way we can control our future with bookings is to make tournament bookings of 16 players or more weeks or months in the future…in advance of having confirmed players for those tee times. 

Conceptually, that’s easy. Financially, it can be disastrous. If we commit to 16 players and sell 10, then what? Can’t cancel on 10 people. Can’t afford to pay for 6 unused spots, and the course is going to charge us whether we use the tee times or not (and then they double dip and resell the spaces we already paid for, intruding on our group which really pisses me off) So, how to manage the risk and cost of unsold tee times?

It took me a few days to think it through, socialize the idea, get feedback and then finally codify it, but the idea solidified in 4 different offerings, targeting 4 different golf use-cases, all under one brand and automated on one platform. 

PrimeTimes.Golf – Golf Innovation in Action

Prospecting rounds are for business owners and sales people who want to play golf with granularly defined ideal prospects. They define their ideal client profile, we reach out to people who meet that profile and ask them if they would play a hosted round of golf with a vendor of a relevant product or service. Those who opt-in go into a database and then the matching begins.

Networking golf enables golfers to join groups of people with a common interest, role, industry, or affinity so they can effortlessly grow their network and keep in touch with people by playing in regularly scheduled events booked for their groups. Each event begins with a brief round of introductions, followed by golf, which may or many not include switching up the foursomes at the 10th tee, and culminating in optional meals and drinks at an open seating table reserved at the club house.

The Value Golf Club is the hedge against unsold tee times. For $50 a month, subscribers can take up to 3 unsold tee times 72 hours in advance. No greens fees. Three rounds costing $100-$150 each for $50 a month…that’s value! But, no guarantees how many tee times will be available or when/where, so subscribers need to be fast and flexible to get full value. If we sell enough of those subscriptions, it covers a lot of unsold tee times, which enables us to book much more aggressively.

And then came Dan…Dan has taught me more about golf than any person. He is a very kind and successful man who drives a beautiful Porsche, has a beautiful home, and is… extremely cheap. When I told him about the Value Golf Club idea, his immediate reaction was that $50 a month is too much for him. He asked for a $5 version….and that was the day Dan’s Elite Bottom Feeder Club was born: $5 a month for access to one unsold tee time per month, posted 24 hours in advance.

Finally, what about people who don’t yet play golf? We have an adult beginner group that offers group lessons so people can learn golf on the cheap while meeting other beginners and expanding their networks.

Embracing Imperfection

As you can tell by now, I struggle with simplicity and focus. I have a tendency to pile too much into my businesses, plans, days, and dinner plates…I have probably done that again here, and, even though I know that, I know I won’t stop. The ideas, whether my own or from friends or clients, will keep coming. I will keep what proves to work, eliminate what proves to not, and keep experimenting, keep adding new stuff in pursuit of greatness, not perfection. To create a great platform that can simplify business and networking golf for people so that the relationship building power of golf can be more easily, readily, and repeatedly used by people everywhere on Earth…including Chula Vista.

Greg Lipper
Chief Tee Officer
PrimeTimes.golf

Enter your information

Please select form to show

Opt-in for alerts regarding new courses and new events available for booking on PrimeTimes.Golf

First Name
Phone
Last Name
Email