Dennis Griffin was talking tee times. Some afternoons, he can slip away for a quick 18 holes.
"The sweet spot in Brigantine for me is around 1 in the afternoon, when you have a 60 percent savings," the 60-year-old insurance salesman said, referring to a course outside Atlantic City, N.J.
Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., as part of a business diversification at its 24-hour Golf Channel network, is attempting to do for golf what Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline did for travel: take the reservations systems online, so that golfers can comparison shop.
With operations in the United States, Canada, Wales, Britain, Scotland and Ireland, GolfNow (golfnow.com) expects to book 15 million rounds at 9,000 courses this year, and it expects big growth in coming years as younger golfers start booking more foursomes. Though more than 50 percent of hotel and plane reservations are handled online now, only 15 percent to 20 percent of golf bookings are made that way.
"We believe there is a lot of runway," said Jeff Foster, a senior vice president of new media at Golf Channel.
But Comcast's welcome to the industry hasn't been an altogether warm one. Some golf course operators fear that the disruptive online technology and GolfNow's daily "hot deals" could lead to price wars.
Discounting "would be attractive to the golfer. But at what cost to the course operator?" asked Jay Karen, who will become CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association on Oct. 1.
Yet, Karen noted, "one of the pros that GolfNow is bringing to the industry is the marketing muscle of the Golf Channel and NBCUniversal."
Karen also believes that GolfNow's easy-to-navigate user interface could prompt golfers to sample different courses — and that, he said, would be good for the industry.