NBC acquires EZLinks to take control of 90% of Tee time market

GolfNow has acquired eight different technology platforms in the past six years.
  • EZ Links Golf Now

NBC Sports Group, which owns GolfNow, has acquired its largest competitor in the tee time marketplace — EZLinks Golf. With the acquisition, NBC controls an estimated 90% of the golf industry’s aggregated, online tee time inventory.

 “NBC Sports continues to invest in our portfolio of golf lifestyle businesses to better serve golfers and golf courses,” said Will McIntosh, executive vice president, NBC Sports Digital and Consumer Business. “Incorporating the technology and services of EZLinks into the comprehensive digital solutions we already offer will enhance our ability to help golf courses operate more efficiently...”

EZLinks launched its first electronic tee sheet in 1995, and later introduced software to help golf courses manage their tee sheets and other operations. The Chicago-based company was a relatively small technology company until it hired Gary Cohen as CEO in 2012. Cohen, who previously worked at Redbox, oversaw an aggressive expansion that culminated with a partnership with the PGA Tour in 2015. The PGA Tour became a substantial owner in EZLinks LLC, which launched TeeOff to compete with GolfNow. 

EZLinks went on to acquire Golf Switch, OpenTee and Integrated Business Systems in 2016. IBS, was one of the leading point of sale systems in the industry, and the leader among management companies. I acquired CourseTrends in 2017 and announced a significant minority investment by an affiliate of Providence Equity Partners at that time.

GolfNow has also grown through acquisitions, acquiring eight different technology platforms in the past six years. 

Mike Dickoff, who runs a software company, Apparation, LLC, said the combined company is anywhere from five to ten times larger than its next competitor.

“I suspect visions of monopoly power would be dancing in the heads of the company’s executives,” he wrote on his blog prior to the acquisition. “I have even heard two golf course owners … suggest that a software monopoly in the industry would be a good thing because the surviving vendor would have enough capital to properly serve the market and we could reach “a consensus” on an industry solution. IMHO, that’ll never happen even if #1 and #2 join forces. Why not?  Because monopolies suck.  Unless you are operating in a non-capitalist market, monopolies are not sustainable.”

Jay Karen, CEO of the NGCOA, said the merger could be a big benefit to golfers, but not necessarily golf course operators. 

“This merger of two of the largest brands in golf may result in more light shining on our great game and more choice, on one screen, for the golfer,” he wrote in a letter to NGCOA members. “Yet I am not convinced it will aid the financial success of golf courses. My concern is the merger consolidates inventory and power to sell more heavily discounted and bartered golf. With the supply and demand realities in our industry, golf courses need no help in selling golf for less.”  

NBC executives said the acquisition and merger will help the industry. 

 “Our strategy is to make golf more accessible, simpler and more enjoyable to play by using tech and services that help better connect golfers and golf courses,” said Jeff Foster, senior vice president, GOLFNOW and Emerging Businesses. “Teeoff and EZLinks Golf will round out our comprehensive portfolio designed to help courses elevate the golf experience at their venues and to better serve needs of the modern golfer.”

 “Like GOLFNOW, EZLinks has been committed to maintaining an open platform for golf operators,” said Gary Cohen, chief executive officer of EZLinks Golf. “The combination of our two organizations will only enhance that shared commitment as we work more closely together to serve the needs of our clients and golfers everywhere.” 

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