Sep 15, 2013

Tee Time Intervals Key Factor in Pace of Play

Many variables come into play for an enjoyable round of golf: quality of the layout, course conditions, friendliness of staff and pace of play, to name a few.  One of the most important, yet underappreciated factor that determines pace of play is the Tee Time Interval, the spacing in minutes that courses schedule golfers.  I analyzed the relationship of the interval and the green fees at 138 courses in the Windy City area, and I categorized the courses (all minimum 18 hole facilities) into five cost levels, based on the most expensive posted rate with cart: under $50 (28 courses), $50 to $60 (36), $60 to $70 (37), $70 to $80 (21) and over $80 (16).  The range of tee time intervals for all the courses ranged from 7 to 10 minutes.

Not surprisingly, the more expensive the course, the more likely that tee times are spaced at longer intervals.  Here are the average tee times by each cost group:

* Over $80 - 9.625 minutes
* $70 - $80 - 8.76 minutes
* $60 - $70 - 8.49 minutes
* $50 - $60 - 8.31 minutes
* Under $50 - 8 minutes

Of the 16 courses whose top fees were over $80, all but three had 10 minute tee times at some point during the week (ThunderHawk in Beach Park has 9 minute tee times Monday thru Friday, and others have tighter intervals at different times), with the exceptions being Ruffled Feathers (Lemont), Pine Meadows (Mundelein) and Indian Lakes (Bloomingdale).  In the Under $50 group, only one course offered 10 minute intervals (Renwood in Round Lake Beach), while 2 others (Marengo Ridge and Cinder Ridge in Wilmington) have 9 minute times.

An interesting case is Hilldale Golf Club in Hoffman Estates, one of the 3 courses in the $60 - $70 grouping that features the 10 minute time span.  The top rate at the only 18 hole Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed course in metro Chicago is $64 w/cart on weekend mornings, and the green fees after Noon each day are a very reasonable $40 and below.  "We are a privately owned facility, and most of the other courses in our area are operated by municipalities and forest preserve districts, so our rates are set to compete with them," stated Cheryl Todde, General Manager at Hilldale.  "We switched to 10 minute tee times about 3 years ago, and it has worked really well for us.  Our focus is on a positive golf experience and customer satisfaction is our primary goal.  Our course isn't long, but is very challenging, and the 10 minute interval keeps the play moving and makes the job of the ranger much easier."

A switch from 8 minute to 10 minute intervals over the length of a summer day would mean 20 fewer tee times, or 80 less potential paying customers.  At a rough average of $40 per player at Hilldale, this could  equate to over $3,000 daily in lost revenue.  "We've found that the switch to 10 minute times has improved the condition of the course and required less money spent on maintenance, and without feeling pressured, golfers will take a minute to purchase drinks and food from the beverage cart or at the turn.  And if a golfer is spending 4 hours rather than 5 hours on the coure, they'll be more likely to have time to stop for a beer in the clubhouse," said Todde.  "But the bottom line is that if a golfer experiences a 5 hour plus round, they are not likely to return, and we feel that the quality of our course, coupled with reasonable rates and a respectable pace of play, will bring golfers back to Hilldale."

The far north suburban Renwood also moved to the 10 minute tee time 3 years ago, but the dynamic was a combination of economic pressure and upgrades to the course.  "We went through some course construction to help out flooding and it's taken a couple of years to take full effect," replied Brad Rouse, General Manager at Renwood, "but the main reason is the tee times have rarely been full over the past several years and we have many walk-ons at our course.  By having the 10 minute intervals we are still able to stay very close to our tee times while accommodating the walk-on.  This year has been the first in the last several that the tee sheet is starting to fill up again with more regularity."

I grew up playing at Silver Lake Country Club in Orland Park (my first round as a kid was on the 9 hole Rolling Hills course), but over the years this iconic 45 hole staple of south side golf became notorious for slow play and long rounds, and it disappeared from my golfing radar.  But along with a new driving range and sand trap renovations over the last 2 years, they also increased the tee times from 7-1/2 to 9 minutes.  "The feedback has been 100% positive and pace of play has quickened," commented Jeff Carr, Assistant Director of Golf Operations at Silver Lake.  "How the customer feels before, during and after their round is really important to us and increasing the tee time interval is one important way we can easily increase customer satisfaction.  It also has a ripple effect in helping our rangers and other staff members do a better job with customer service.  While we're never looking to have less players on the course, we are always looking to have the correct amount of players on the course."  Carr added, "We want people to come and play at 6 am, 11 am and 3:15 pm and not be able to tell a difference with the pace.  That's the goal and it's what we think consumers want and probably need these days."

Ultimately the time constraints that golfers face in today's world are encouraging courses to provide a better experience by taking steps to reduce the minutes needed to play.  Increasing the tee time interval is a great way to expand the potential golfing pool and is a trend that will hopefully continue across the Windy City area.

Here is a list of courses that currently offer 10 minute tee times in the Windy City area:

Under $50
* Renwood  -Round Lake Beach (Far North)

$50 to $60
* Glenwoodie - Glenwood (Far South)
* Bittersweet - Gurnee (Far North) Sa-Su only; 8.5 minutes M-F
* Golf Club of Illinois - Algonquin (Northwest)
* Shepherd's Crook - Zion (Far North)

$60 to $70
* Hilldale - Hoffman Estates (Northwest)
* Blackberry Oaks - Bristol (Far West)
* Highlands of Elgin (Far West)

$70 to $80
* Schaumburg (Northwest)
* Blackstone - Marengo (Far Northwest)
* Crane's Landing - Lincolnshire (North)

Over $80
* ThunderHawk - Beach Park (Far North) 9 minutes M-F
* White Deer Run - Vernon Hills (North) 9 minutes after 3 pm
* Mistwood - Romeoville (Southwest) 9 minutes before 9 am weekends
* Makray - Barrington (Northwest)
* Stonewall Orchard - Grayslake (Far North) 8-1/2 minutes after 3 pm
* Harborside - Chicago (South)
* Bowes Creek - Elgin (Far West)
* Prairie Landing - West Chicago (Far West)
* Seven Bridges - Woodridge (West)
* Bolingbrook (Southwest)
* Cantigny - Wheaton (West)
* Cog Hill #4 - Lemont (Southwest)
* The Glen Club - Glenview (Near North)

No comments:

Post a Comment

About This Site

I am a life long Chicagoan and an avid golfer (or as much as my wife will let me!). And I am also a closet journalist who needed an outlet, so I decided to write reviews of the golf courses that I've played over the years in Chicago. Plus I've added detailed information on each course to help my fellow public golfers find the ones that best fits their skill level and budgets. So, read the reviews and use the comments to either give me a big "thumbs up" or tell me I'm full of crap, check out the courses and other pages, and let me know what you think... Mr Z