Private club golf without the private club price.

Boxgroove.comWant to play that private course down the road but don’t know a member? Now there’s a way to test drive private courses across the country without risking the trespassing charge.

A new online service called provides access to tee times at private clubs. Boxgroove currently has 70 participating courses and over 650 members, some of whom hold memberships at private clubs and may be willing to host other members (more on that later). The company plans to be in 30 states by summer 2010 and eventually to take the service international.

If you’re like me, you love those occasions when you get to play a course in excellent condition with great greens. The problem is that I don’t belong to a private club, so I play public courses where the maintenance is generally not quite as well applied. While it’s less expensive (unless you are really racking up the rounds) to play public courses, being able to play the occasional round on a truly well kept course is a nice change of pace, one I’ve found to be more and more alluring lately.

Enter I’d been hearing about the service on the radio here in Columbus, my home and Boxgroove’s, as it turns out. When offered a membership to let me try out the service and write about my experience, I jumped at the opportunity.

How it Works differs in a few ways from the online tee time services you may be used to.

First of all (obviously), provides access to tee times at private clubs, as opposed to the public and resort tee times offered on most other services.

If you don’t find a tee time that fits your needs, many of the clubs on allow the user to request tee times. Need a morning tee time? While the club is not going to bump its members to allow you to play, if it has surplus rounds on the morning in question, chances are it will grant your request.

Even if there aren’t any Boxgroove affiliated clubs in your area, you may be able to gain access to private clubs through affiliated players. These are Boxgroove members who are also members at a private club. Affiliated players can host rounds at their clubs and may even fill tee time requests. You won’t be able to bring your entire foursome, however, since you’ll be playing with the club member. You’ll also be subject to the club’s member-guest restrictions, so you may be further limited in how many outside players you can bring.

Finally, offers a social networking mechanism. Members can use this part of the service to find playing partners at home or during travels. members with a private club membership can offer hosted rounds at their clubs, perhaps in exchange for rounds at other member’s clubs. In this way, even private club members can expand the variety of courses they have available for play.

One of the first things you’ll do on is to create your profile, which can be searched and accessed by other members. You can upload a photo and add as much detail as you like. In theory, more detail increases your likelihood of receiving invites to play from other members in your area. Members can also create Buddy Lists that allow them to easily email multiple golfers about potential tee times. Furthermore, if you have a usual group (or even groups) with whom you regularly play, you can also create a Play List to allow you to add the entire group to a tee time with one click.

While you would most likely need to build your social network of potential playing partners over time, the basic functions of finding or requesting tee times are very easy to use immediately. Click on “Book Tee Times,” and you can search by State and Metropolitan Area for the dates you want to play. You can choose to search for clubs only, members in the area (if you’re hoping to get an invite to play), or both.

Find friends via Player Search

Right Time? Right Service? could be coming around at the right time. With the current economy and changing recreation priorities in the U.S., private clubs are struggling to attract and retain members. Even before the economy went south, changing recreation patterns have been hitting clubs hard. Here in Central Ohio, the local rumor mill is abuzz with local clubs that are on the verge of failing. Two or three are not expected to survive the winter.
Because of the reduction in traditional members, clubs are looking to add revenue in non-traditional ways. Many have opened their dining rooms to non-members or added non-traditional services to their lists of offerings.

With less members, clubs also tend to have a surplus of tee times that are going unused. Enter By providing private clubs with a forum to generate revenue from their extra capacity, could be coming around at just the right time. It seems like a win-win situation. The clubs get a much needed new source of cash flow. The members benefit from the extra revenue, since, a club with no cash flow has to scrimp on maintenance and more. The golfing public gets access to more courses with what are generally-better kept greens and facilities.

For a limited time, is charging an introductory annual fee of $49 (the company plans to raise it to $79 once the service is more established). In addition, members will pay a greens fee for each reservation that they make. The clubs individually decide what to charge for their tee times, but in my experience these fees are generally in line with guest rates at the club, perhaps a few dollars more. Naturally, the more rounds you play using Boxgroove, the better value that annual fee becomes.

Some golfers will find this too much to pay, some will find it a bargain. That’s a decision everyone faces everyday on how to spend their money. Boxgroove should appeal to those who would like to join a club but aren’t sure they will play enough to justify the expense. Now they can enjoy club access on, basically, a pay-per-play basis. People who are trying to decide between a few clubs in their area could use a year’s membership in Boxgroove to decide where they would like to join. Small business owners and salesman can use a Boxgroove membership to entertain clients at a country club without paying for a club membership.

But golfers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from service. Clubs also get exposure to potential future members. Take my experience as an example.

Central Ohio is home to, and as you might expect has more participating clubs (15) than other metro areas. While I can’t now (and don’t expect to ever be able to) schedule a round through Boxgroove at Muirfield Village, Scioto, Double Eagle, or the other truly exclusive clubs in the area, I can play a course that regularly hosts the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying (eventual champion Lucas Glover got his ticket punched here in ’09) or more than a dozen other very good courses.

Main search screen

The website is easy to use. Just enter the state and metro area that you want to play in and the dates when you’d like to play. The site returns a list of available tee times that fit the index values. Pretty straight forward.

It would have been easy enough to go this route and find an available tee time at a local club, but I was intrigued by the option of requesting a tee time. I submitted a request to three private clubs for a time between 1:00 and 2:00 on an October Sunday afternoon (a reasonably high demand time considering autumn temperatures). Each club responded with a tee time that fit my needs. The greens fees were all within $2.50 of each other and similar to those charged by high end publics in my neck of the woods. I chose the course nearest to my house, one I had never played.

My playing partner and I were treated well from arrival to departure, and we had full use of the facilities. Naturally, the pro shop attendant did not know our names, but aside from that it was just like being a member for the day. An attendant loaded up our cart for us, complete with hand towels, and we were provided use of the practice facility and as many range balls as we cared to hit. After the round, we enjoyed a beverage in the grill area.

Here’s where that introducing potential members to area clubs bit comes in… While I’d heard that the course is nice, I hadn’t seriously considered it in my semi-casual “club auditions.” A friend had once deemed it “unwalkable,” which had pretty much eliminated it from my interest list. However, after playing it (admittedly while using a cart), I don’t think it would really any harder to walk than a certain public that I walk all the time. I was pleased to discover a nice rolling layout with equally undulating greens that is clearly a notch or three above the “better” public layouts I play. I had previously considered joining a club twice as far away, but after playing this nearby course, it’s the new leader on my short list of clubs to (at least) consider joining.

So Boxgroove worked well for me, and, potentially, for the club I was able to play.

Boxgroove is kind of like buying a mini membership to participating clubs in your hometown as well as those in places you visit. Sure, you still pay greens fees, but having access to the club in the first place, without dropping a couple grand for initiation or paying a hefty monthly payment, is pretty darn cool.

While I am sold on the potential value of, I do have one caveat… Geography. Though the service is growing, Boxgroove is still pretty new. Entire states have few if any participating clubs at this time. Boxgroove is shooting to be in 30 states next summer, but, as of this writing, where you live could have a great effect on the utility the service can supply. If you live in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, or western Washington, you are going to have more variety to choose from than those living in other areas. But that’s just as things stand today.

Participating clubs

My advice is to do a little homework before you join. Figure out how you plan to use the service… For some, access to one club might be all they need, while others will want more variety. Then do a simple search on the site to get a good idea about what your playing options will be.

Even with this temporary limited availabilty, is going to generate a lot of interest. With access to private courses, social networking, and tee time requests. Boxgroove is a welcome departure from the typical tee time service. Not to mention, many private clubs are going to welcome the opportunity to receive cashflow from otherwise surplus rounds. The trick for Boxgroove will be to make good on their promise of bringing the service to a wider geographic area… and quickly.

28 thoughts on “ Review”

  1. Sounds like a great idea. I wish them success.

    I play at Dayton Valley in Dayton Nevada(15 miles east of Carson City). Golf Digest 4 1/2 stars. Home of US Open Sectional qualifying and, for the last 15 years, PGA Tour School first round qualifying. $220 a month for unlimited golf with a deal on cart rental if you don’t want to walk. I guess you would call it semi-private since it is open to the public,but the members have priority.

    I’m just bragging because it is a great course at a great price. And it’s really only too cold to play in December and January. I don’t miss the battle for tee times and the high green fees back East. Probably explains why I played 105 rounds this year.

  2. The idea is interesting, but has its flaws. Like you mentioned, there are just not enough courses involved. Signing up for a service like this now offers very little value considering most courses in many of the states listed are opening to the public for rounds.

    In theory it can work and work well. But it has not been executed yet and will not until clubs start to join in more frequency. This just seems like something that should have been addressed prior to launch.

    Why would someone pay the fee if they have but one or two courses available in their area? I know I wouldnt. All it is doing is giving you the right to play at those courses with high greens fees (higher than guest rates it seems). Once more than a handful of courses are available, it would be a decent service.

  3. I really like the idea and would more than willing pay for this service. Most of the public courses in my area are pretty good but you play nine holes in 3 hours. As a member of a private club I like the idea of using it during my travels without going through the hassle of calling my pro to call their pro and for the cost of a dozen balls, I think it’s a value. Some of the the side benefits of being able to network with other members of other clubs is a nice feature. Now I need to keep an eye on Augusta National Members to see if they want to do a home in home…..Ha Ha…Can’t wait for more clubs to join in my area of Cleveland.

  4. As a golf course architect, my livelihood depends on participation in the game…

    Many people within the industry have asked me, “How do we grow the game? What is the future of the game?”. For the time being, I argue that we need to focus on trying to SUSTAIN the game and keep those playing the game now, playing throughout this recession.

    Ultimately, I think is going to save hundreds of private clubs from having to turn public or close their doors; for that, I applaud their effort. I would encourage any private club to check out this website and see if it could help them.

    Dana, I did some research on the site, and according to the site’s rules and regulations, clubs (or club members) are not allowed to charge more than their standard guest rate for play through the site. Perhaps Boxgroove is not for you right now, but they are a great site for a lot of avid golfers and I would encourage these true, avid golfers to help spread the word about this site; thus doing their part to help sustain the game of golf during these tough times.

  5. With the hard economic times we are in, we need new and fresh ideas like boxpro to not only sustain the private club experience, but to also grow it and have more people play the game. Two of the best public courses I played in October are Eagle Sticks and Longaberger. The Berg is a public course with a private country club feeling and atmosphere, I highly recommend it.

    Now I’m just going to stay away from the courses that Tiger plays, I don’t like to putt on dirty greens or un-raked sand traps :).

    Besides that, I think if you pay the $49 dollars, and play a few times you will definitely receive your money’s worth and then some.

  6. This sounds like a great idea–one whose time has come. I also think its unfair to criticize a young company for not being sufficiently large right out of the gate. Sure, Boxgroove doesn’t have courses in EVERY state…but they are WELL on their way. Their growth strategy seems similar to Nordstrom’s. As a new, West Coast-based company, Nordstrom used to advertise nationally knowing they would one day be a national company. I wish them luck look forward to seeing their
    network grow!

  7. Ken,
    I respectfully disagree. Show me one area that has multiple courses for people to get a benefit from this. I have searched multiple times on the site and find that there is not a single area that a person can use this service multiple times.

    Like I said, a good idea in theory, but execution is not there YET. There is NO guarantee that other courses are coming, but we can all hope they do.

    The entire state of CA looks to have only 1 course. Arizona only has 3. GA has 1. TX has only 1 course.

    In fact when you get anything west of IL it is sporadic at best including many states that have zero. You cannot launch a product or service like this when the 3 out of the 4 most populated golfing states have less than a handful of courses combined.

    In the future it could be a great service. But as of right now, it is nothing more than a spot effort for a few select golfers to play at a course they may not have been able to in the past. That could change, but they are a long way from becoming a factor in the golf business.

  8. Dana,

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think the article above does a good job of pointing out the areas in which this service is established and already has many courses for members to choose from… “If you live in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, or western Washington, you are going to have more variety to choose from than those living in other areas. But that’s just as things stand today.” If you live in the Columbus area (home to some great golf courses and avid golfers) you have well over a dozen private clubs to choose from.

    Additionally, although I am based out of Kansas City, I see a ton of opportunities to use this network; thus why I have signed up. If I am traveling on business and don’t want to hassle with calling ahead and talking with the local pro to get on a course, I can avoid that now. When I go on vacation to Florida, I have tons of courses to choose from. If I use this service to play just 2 rounds a year, I will feel like I have gotten my money’s worth and then some.

    Good article, and again, I applaud the idea. Some people just see the glass half full.

  9. AZ? Am I missing something. I see but 2 courses in AZ. In FL, according to their own map, you would have to drive all over the state to use it.

  10. Dana,

    You are correct, there are only 2 courses in AZ so far… but if I go to South Florida for vacation or business, there are 11 courses in the Naples/Fort Myers area. I’ll be in South Florida at least 2 times a year, that gives me a great chance to play 3 or 4 new private courses in fantastic shape! Love the site!


  11. So basically the site is great if you vacation in south fl. By the way, I live half the year in Naples and the courses on their service are open to the public (a few anyway). And most of the courses are over an hour away from each other.

    Your statement about their features was just not correct. AZ offers virtually nothing. One small section of FL offers some, with the rest of FL offering virtually nothing. (its a big state). OH offers some and so does Penn.

    But the entire rest of the country has almost nothing to choose from. That was my entire point. This service is just not ready to launch and certainly not worth any money at all right now if it cannot be used for over 99% of the population.

  12. Dana,

    You are correct, there are only 2 courses in AZ so far… but if I go to South Florida for vacation or business, there are 11 courses in the Naples/Fort Myers area. I’ll be in South Florida at least 2 times a year, that gives me a great chance to play 3 or 4 new private courses in fantastic shape! Love the site!


    One more thing to add. South Fl for the most part is considered Miami, Fort Lauderdale, etc…There is not a whole lot of vacationing done in Ft Myers. It is an extremely old city.

  13. So Dana,

    Would you not invent the car because there were relatively few roads paved? Would you not invent the airplane for lack of airports? Would you choose to not invent the computer for lack of the internet? I just find it curious that you put so much effort into running down a young and growing BRILLIANT idea.

    I just cannot fathom your need to have the idea fully developed prior to putting it in action. That concept does not allow for any degree of innovation or growth. This is a great idea and I wish it the best of success. It does have the potential to save a great many floundering private courses without compromising private quality That right there is reason enough to believe in this idea.

    BTW, I do vacation in Ft. Meyers as my parents have a condo in Estero.

  14. Not once did I ever run it down. What I said is it is not ready yet. Because it is clearly not. I have said all along that I think the idea is a good one and in time could be a great one. However it is not functional now.

    To use your analogy, of course I would invent it. But I would not market it in TX that had no roads if the only roads were in NY.

    I thought comments were allowed from all opinions, not just ones that loved the products.

  15. Dana, I know you are baiting me, but I cannot gather where you think that I would wish your comments away. I also cannot understand how an internet-based venture would target an audience so specifically as you seem to think it should. To work, it must start somewhere. That somewhere is the INTERNET and the sometime is now. It is not sensible to keep a signed-on course from benefiting until they have “critical mass.” Please show a little understanding of how the internet functions as a marketplace. Even Amazon started with a tiny little website and only a few books in stock. Nuff said – I won’t respond again.

  16. You do not have to respond and your argument about Amazon is spot on. I am not trying to bait anybody, but I think my opinion is that of many and certainly should be entitled to post it.

    Amazon started out as a small website. But they sold to any customer that needed a book they offered. This service did not start yesterday. Yet it is not functional to 99% of the people out there.

    I have said the entire time that I think this service in due time could be a great product. The key word is could and to do so it needs to have an affect on way more people. Right now it is simply a service that is popping up for review everywhere as people say they were able to use it and that the site works well.

    That is all good. However what is missing (not from this review mind you) is that virtually nobody can use this service now unless you live in a small faction of the country in 3-4 different areas. The company promises more and that is great. But marketing is just that and while I hope they deliver a ton of courses, it seems as though growth in the last 30 days has been slow at best since I first read a review of them online.

    To give you an analogy back, how many companies promise growth if you buy now? Thousands. How many deliver on that promise? Very few.

    This is a solid idea for a solid product. But its clear that the people responding have something to gain rather than being impartial. There is no way a person in 45 of the 50 states where this service is virtually unusable because there are less than 3 courses would think about paying if they are in the right mind.

    there is no guarantee that more courses are coming. Its something that the company wants, me as a consumer wants, and for this to be succesfull it has to have, but there is no guarantee.

  17. Dana,

    Ok, I wasn’t going to post again on this thread and I had been ignoring your last few comments… but seriously?

    For one, I personally do not stand to gain anything from my posts nor do I have an “official” affiliation with Boxgroove. I am just a golf course architect who knows the industry really well- and knows how hard the game has been hit in the last several years.

    Secondly, for me, it’s not about whether or not you think this product is ready to launch… it’s about the dozens of private clubs that have ALREADY been saved from having to assess their members this season, go semi-public, or close their doors altogether. I’ve talked with the private clubs who used this system during year #1 and everyone of them raves about the additional revenue they’ve earned from Boxgroove. This economy is killing the “Private Country Club” in this country (which is a part of the game’s heritage in the US) and Boxgroove has already helped a lot of clubs stay afloat.

    Finally, I think you are underestimating the avid golfer. Sure, this network is not for everyone (such as yourself), but there are already well over 700 golfers enjoying Boxgroove and its benefits. Your typical avid golfer ENJOYS traveling around and playing different courses. Of the 26.2 million golfers in the United States, there are a couple million that fall into this category of an “avid” golfer. Everyone who golfs or knows the game, knows someone who is an “avid” golfer. That’s the person who would love to join Boxgroove- or receive it as a Christmas present. Even if they only play 2 or 3 rounds a year on a Boxgroove course, the “avid” golfer knows they are getting their money’s worth- just from the experience of playing a different course that before was exclusive to them!

  18. I wont get into your affiliation but your post says it all “officially”. There are a few COURSES that have been saved by this service. I am an avid golfer. Since retirement I have played 4 days a week and am a member of a private course. I also play at numerous other courses in our area. In over a year since this service has launched it is fair to say that MOST private courses have not jumped on board. If it is saving courses then they obviously should or would. But most have not. Why? There are lots of reasons that I will not get into here, but we both know the reasons for that.

    As for avid golfers. There are some. But I just cannot believe a person that does not live in one of the 4-5 places that this actually has a use would ever use this service long term. No way no how.

    Traveling golfers do not travel to play at private clubs for the most part. Traveling golfers travel to play at resort courses. The resort course has changed the way golf travel is looked it. The same reason that the publication on the very subject is no longer around. And last I checked, most traveling golfers do not travel to OH, PN, or SW Fl. Most traveling golfers travel to Orlando, AZ, CA, etc…

    You can have your opinion and I can have mine. But judging how we are the only ones commenting on it, I would say that more are agreeing with my side than the other.

  19. I want to add one more thing. If this service is about saving the golf courses, the proper way would be to have this service free to consumers and then as people sign up for it and use the course, the course gives a kick back to the company.

    The same way Open Table got big quickly with restaurants.

  20. Dana,

    You need to read my posts more carefully. I never said this site was about “saving golf courses”… I said, and I quote:

    “…for me, it’s not about whether or not you think this product is ready to launch… it’s about the dozens of private clubs that have ALREADY been saved from having to assess their members this season, go semi-public, or close their doors altogether…”

    Please note the “for me” part. Meaning, the reason “I” love the site… I love the way the concept is already helping private clubs within just a year- to me, that is amazing! Again, this is my own personal opinion and I am not affiliated with the site in anyway, so please do not cast out inaccurate judgments or hint at accusations regarding affiliations, that is unfair to Boxgroove and to me.

    We are going to have to agree to disagree altogether, because I most certainly do not agree with your opinion.

  21. So apparently there is a retired internet troll who will not be using BoxGroove. Someone does not care to see a sprout that is not yet in full bloom. Springtime must be agonizing.

    Box Groove is a good idea that will grow into greatness.

  22. Internet troll? Why, because I have an opinion that is different than yours? Please. When the company blooms I will first to say it. But right now it is not.

    I guess if you disagree with the people that benefit, you cannot post your opinion.

  23. Dana: thanks for the comments and engaging dialogue. Exactly what a forum like this is for. Sounds like you have some ideas on how to make our growth bigger, better and faster so everyone in golf can enjoy. When this happens we all win. Please contact me as I want your advice on how to execute better. You can reach me at

  24. This seems like a pretty good idea. I was thinking of joining a country club, but will use a service like this instead. ClubCorp is rolling a similar service this season which will include all of its private clubs and allow non-members to play.

  25. This article is promoting a good service that allows golfers to play courses they previously never had access to. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more of this happening real soon. I know golf courses are some of the most hit during this economy because their margins are low. Private courses especially are really struggling. This gives the ability to find new golfers, potential new members and additional sources of revenue while staying exclusive. Kind of a win-win for the golfer and the course.

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