L.A. City Golf rolls out new deposit in an effort to stop tee time price gouging

Managers of Los Angeles’ city golf courses hope a new $10 non-refundable deposit will effectively shut down the runaway resale market for tee times, which has been taken over by brokers and bots, who, in turn, jack up prices.

The deposit requirement went into effect on Tuesday in response to complaints and a class action lawsuit about the booking system at L.A. City Golf Courses.

Kevin Fitzgerald, assistant director of public affairs for the Southern California Golf Association and chair of the L.A. City Golf Advisory Committee said the panel considered several ideas to combat the issue and was surprised at how quickly the pilot program was approved.

“There’s an incredible demand for tee times here in the city,” Fitzgerald told KTLA 5 News. “I’m grateful the city is still focused on trying to provide an affordable and accessible recreational experience for golfers in Los Angeles.”

L.A. golfers outraged by online brokers snatching up tee times

Fitzgerald said he’s hopeful the deposit pilot program will work and is eager the data over the coming weeks.

This move comes after the city rolled out several updates to its website and reservation system to combat the use of tee time brokers and bots gobbling up tee times, making it challenging for average golfers to enjoy the 12 city golf courses at a reasonable price.

However, in letters to the Los Angeles Times, some golfers believe brokers will simply use the deposit as an excuse to raise prices even further.

Matthew Holder, the CEO of Loop Golf, has offered a solution.

Holder created the tee time booking site, allowing golfers to secure tee times for a transaction fee, and then shares revenue from each transaction with the course.

Earlier this month, Holder met with Fitzgerald in a meeting he said was productive.

He also expressed concern that the $10 deposit could create more problems than it solves, potentially by costing golfers who have legitimate reasons to cancel their tee time.

“I think what’s missing from the conversation is when we’re talking about people who frequent public courses, they’re not always in jobs that afford them the ability to just step away,” Holder said. “They can’t just hop on a computer at 6 a.m. to book tee times.”

“This is more nuanced than many people realize … It’s not easy to solve unless you go to the point of completely randomizing the selection process,” he added.

During an L.A. City Golf Advisory Committee meeting last month, several public commenters supported the idea of a lottery where golfers could put their name into a pool to be selected for a tee time.

Whatever the solution, not everyone is optimistic that the lucrative resale market -which has long plagued concert, theater and sporting events tickets, can be easily quashed.

“It’s sad,” an anonymous city official said. “This $10 is the best you could come up with to combat a multi-million-dollar issue … I don’t think enacting 10-year-old ideas is the way to get ahead of this curve. It is a lack-luster band-aid to a large problem.”

That same official accused the LA City Golf Advisory Committee of scheduling a meeting without the legally required three-day notice to the public, citing golfers were not given appropriate notice to attend the meeting in a calculated move by the committee.

“I’m very disappointed,” the anonymous official said. “It reeks of a desperate ‘let’s throw something against the wall and see if it sticks’ kind of attitude.”

The next L.A. City Golf Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for May 20. The minutes of their last meeting haven’t been made public.

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