Golfers are always looking for deals. Golf courses are always looking for golfers. Golf marketing companies try to make both groups happy. That is the summer golf triangle in Florida, and it is in full swing again this season. Most of the seasonal golfers who drive up greens fees in the winter have headed home. Rates are starting to drop as tee sheets get emptier. After a brutal winter with several days where courses were shut down, the courses need players in a bad way. "Anybody who tells you they did well this winter is lying,'' Brooker Creek Golf Club owner and operator Greg McClimans said. "On the days we could play, we were packed. But there were so many bad days.''
In an effort to fill the tee times, courses not only have their own deals but rely on membership cards and online tee time companies. For a fee, golfers can buy discount cards that give them cheaper rates on Tampa Bay area courses.
And anyone with a computer can go to myriad online tee time services that allow you to book a time at a cut rate. One company that has offered membership cards and tee time services for several years is Paradise Golf. Paradise Golf president Gregg Gagliardi said his company and area golf courses help each other out.
"We're like a marketing company for golf courses,'' Gagliardi said. "We complement each other. Our whole goal is to help drive business to the golf courses.''
Here is a look at some of the discount cards and online tee time services available:
Big Summer Golf Card
Dates: Through Oct. 31
Advantage: It claims to offer up to a 40 percent discount on courses, and the cost is much cheaper than other cards.
Disadvantage: The geographic balance is off. Courses are heavy on Hillsborough, but there are only two courses offered in Pinellas and two in Hernando. And most are average courses instead of the championship courses.
Contact: Bigsummergolf.com, toll-free 1-800-391-3665, or (941) 923-2232
Cost: $199. There are also junior memberships and corporate memberships.
Dates: Through Oct. 31
Advantage: This year's card is $100 cheaper than last year's. It also has more courses to choose from.
Disadvantage: If you don't use it enough, it's not worth it. This card is more for the player who can get out about once a week.
Contact: paradise-golf.com, toll-free 1-800-605-2582
American Lung Association Golf Privilege Card
Dates: Year round
Advantage: It is now a national card, and there are more than 3,500 courses participating. It can be narrowed down to Tampa Bay. If you buy three cards, you get a fourth free.
Disadvantage: They have paired with golfdigestteetimes.com, so the site takes some getting used to.
Contact: lungusa.org, (904) 743-2916
Tee time services
It has courses listed on the left side, but it also has featured courses with bigger discounts. There are deals of the week and player reviews as well.
On this site you can find courses across the United States. In our case, you click Florida on the U.S. map, then Tampa/St. Petersburg to find area courses. Courses are listed down the left side, and there are also featured courses in the middle of the page.
It is dedicated to only Tampa Bay area courses, and it has more than 30 available. There is a featured course in the middle of the page as well as course listings on the left side.
Click on Tampa Tee Times and a page is displayed with courses from around the area. It also has courses from around Florida, and Myrtle Beach, S.C. as well.
On the home page there is a map of Florida. Click on Tampa and the area's courses come up. Pretty simple to use.
Another site that offers courses throughout the country, but it can be narrowed to Florida. One negative is that it doesn't break down the state into sections, so you have to scroll through the list to pick out local courses.
Within a few clicks you can narrow the search to Tampa/St. Petersburg. It's not as extensive a list as some other sites, but it does give descriptions of courses to help make the decision easier.
It can be a little confusing at first, but find the "Find a course'' button on the top left, then fill in the name of the course or city you want to play in.
Again, a little confusing at first, but scroll to the bottom and start filling in when and where you want to play. Available courses start popping up.
Pretty simple. Right in the center of the home page you type in the city and watch the courses pop up.
Right on the home page there are local courses, including featured courses with discounted rates.