Startup pitch: SupremeGolf tees off metasearch for golf trips

Supreme Golf is taking a metasearch approach to booking tee times, making it easy for golfers to find the right tee time. As in a traditional meta model, the booking can then be made off-site at another site that manages the actual transaction.

The team is focused on increasing the percentage of tee times booked online. According to the company, that figure sits only at 13%, leaving a large measure of latent demand to tap into. The ability to easily see which tee times are available at certain courses certainly beats picking up the phone a few times to find the right time at a desirable course.

The seven person team has been financed primarily by co-founders Jonathan Wride and Ryan Ewers, and counts former CEO of Travelocity Carl Sparks amongst its boardmembers.

Read on for the Vine and interview with the founders.

Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.

The initial plan was to create a daily deal sales system, similar to Groupon, to help golf courses sell unsold tee times, but we quickly realized there was a larger opportunity for the consumer and golf course. The opportunity to create a global marketplace where consumers can search, compare and book tee times from a complete inventory and golf courses can sell their inventory.

Golf doesn’t have an Expedia or Priceline, so no one offers online booking from a complete inventory of golf courses. Due in large part to a climate in which the largest online booking company offers just 17% of golf courses, only 13% of tee times are currently booked online (about where online travel booking was in 2002).

With over one billion tee times booked annually around the world, but so little of it available in any one place, we saw a tremendous opportunity to create a solution for both the consumer and the course: new technology that aggregates existing online tee time agents (OTTAs) and golf course websites and makes whole the severely fragmented golf market.

With over 30% of the world’s golf courses searchable on our website, Supreme Golf is already the largest tee time booking site in the world. Our goal is to create the world’s first complete inventory of courses for online tee time booking.

What is your estimation of market size?

Over one billion rounds of golf are played annually worldwide.

Over 460 million rounds are played annually in the United States annually.

Only 13% of rounds are currently booked online (where the travel industry was in 2002), so there is a significant opportunity for growth.

Please describe your competition.

Supreme Golf is currently the only company aggregating tee times from the top OTTAs. We provide a platform for consumers to search and compare multiple tee times from the top OTTAs in one easy-to-read view and a global marketplace for golf courses and OTTAs to sell their tee time inventory.

What’s your have a revenue model and strategy for profitability?

Supreme Golf earns a commission, success-based fee or advertising fee from our partners. The creation of the largest tee time inventory from top providers allows for a one-stop shop for consumers looking to book a round of golf at home or when traveling.

What problem does the business solve?

There is no single golf destination on the Internet today. The golf industry is fragmented; split between a handful of national OTTAs and many more small, regional ones, resulting in a lack of quality options for both the golfer and for golf course management. There is no Expedia or Priceline equivalent in the golf space.

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Supreme Golf is the first and only company aggregating all the top national online tee time booking, daily deal and review websites, filling the void by providing an online venue for golfers to compare and book tee times, find golf deals, and read and write golf course reviews.

How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?

The initial idea was to create a daily deal sales system for golf, similar to Groupon, to help golf courses sell unsold tee times. We quickly realized there was a larger opportunity to create a global golf marketplace that would allow consumers the opportunity to search, compare and book from a complete inventory of tee times and for golf courses to sell their inventory online.

Why should people or companies use the business?

As the first to market with a user-focused tee time, daily deal and golf course review aggregation system, Supreme Golf is creating the first true online golf destination: a global marketplace of tee times and golf deals.

Our goal is to give consumers access to every available tee time in the world, providing price transparency to golfers for the first time. Through aggregation, we are already the world’s largest and we continue to add new suppliers every month. For golf courses and OTTAs, Supreme Golf provides the first global golf marketplace in which to sell inventory.

What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?

SEM will be important to our growth. We have mixed in some social media advertising, as well, and because we offer a unique solution in the golf space, viral marketing is expected to play a key role. As we mature, television and other digital advertising mediums become distinct possibilities. We will also raising awareness through our own affiliate program.

Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?

Supreme Golf is positioned to become a global marketplace for golfers looking to book online tee times and for golf courses and OTTAs looking to sell inventory. We also plan to add resort and hotel booking to our offering.

Challenges will come mainly from the technology gap between the largest golf courses/OTTAs and those smaller ones that do not have access to the technology necessary to provide an online booking solution. Supreme Golf will provide the technological assistance to close that gap.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a start-up like yours to help it out?

The golf industry doesn’t offer a complete inventory of courses from which to book tee times online, which makes it difficult for the large online travel websites to offer tee time booking as part of their activity sections because there isn’t a complete booking solution for the consumer.

This lack of “completeness” can create a negative experience because it does not give consumers the range of choice to which they are accustomed.

Currently only 13% of tee times are booked online, which is where the travel industry was in 2002. We feel that creating a complete inventory, by aggregating OTTA and golf course tee times, will provide a better customer experience, increased online bookings and a platform that will allow online travel companies to provide a tee time solution to their millions of travelers.

What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?

Kayak, who blazed the trail in travel aggregation that we look to replicate for the golf industry.

Which company would be the best fit to buy your start-up, and why?

A strong fit could be a major online travel company that is looking to enter the activity space. Activities are becoming a priority for travel sites, and, with golf being one of the largest activities, it could be a natural fit.

Describe your startup in three words?

KAYAK of golf.

Tnooz view:

There’s absolutely room for metasearch models that focus on passion-driven verticals. Oftentimes these smaller-but-active communities are underserved by existing models and make ideal plays for businesses that can scale up to dominate the market with little competition.

And of course, this specific market is “small” when compared to travel as a whole but is still an enormous business in its own right. Golf has also slid in popularity with younger generations, so any upswing could be encourage via this sort of consumer-standard technology. As growth rebounds due to easier access to booking tee times, the startup benefits immensely.

The product looks great, feels intuitive and, while we’re not golfers, seems to hit on a huge problem for those mobile golfers not tied to one country club or course.

NB: Golf image courtesy Shutterstock.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.



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