Reichel Succeeds in Time for Tee

by Alison Stanton

Doug Reichel, president of GolfSwitch and an avid golf fan, took his own frustration with the difficulty of securing a tee time and developed it into a successful international business. Although he was challenged along the way by both the economy and an industry that is steeped in tradition as well as hesitant to try something new, he has persevered and is currently expanding his company further around the globe.

With a vision to create an easy and efficient way for golfers to reserve tee times at the course of their choice, Reichel founded his company in 1998. Traditionally, he says, selecting between often-multiple courses in the same area, deciding when everyone in your group wanted to play, and booking the reservation took a lot of time and many phone calls between you, your golfing partners and the staff at the course. “In the Scottsdale/Phoenix area there are so many choices — we have 300 courses here, alone,” he says. “It’s hard to know where you should play.”

Reichel envisioned a way to simplify the process, with a global golf network of software and technology that would benefit both the golfer and the course owners. As his company’s website makes clear, the goals included an increase in tee times for golf courses as well as financially beneficial relationships between buyers and sellers of tee times and golf vacations.

“Really, the genesis of the business came when I was working at another company trying to come up with a way for a vacation company to book tee times at one course,” he says. Looking to give the golf industry a standardized way to do business, Reichel helped create the GolfSwitch network, which allows golf courses to communicate with customers and business partners 24 hours a day, letting golfers book tee times anytime and anywhere.

Reichel and his associates created an application for the golf course and eventually offered it to higher-end resort hotels in Scottsdale like Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Hyatt at Gainey Ranch and The Phoenician. “The light bulb just kind of went off at that time and I thought, ‘This could be a business here, so let’s look at other opportunities.’”

During 1999 and 2000, Reichel recalls, the technology world “was in a bubble, with people throwing outlandish amounts of money at ideas.” He looked at ways to expand the technology and software and work with more courses. “We wanted to be like or and have an aggregate of all of the tee times,” he says. “We thought we would all cash out at an early age, and then the bubble burst.”

Around 2002, Reichel saw his staff of 115 get cut down to just 10 employees. Undaunted, he continued to work toward his goal of aggregating all of the golf information and finding courses that would work with him.

One thing Reichel discovered is that, although he had what he thought was a great idea, the extremely traditional game of golf and those who ran it were not necessarily ready for something new. “We worked on educating golf courses on the value of an online system, but golf is steeped in tradition and, overall, the course owners don’t like change,” he says. “We had a difficult time educating them about the idea, and also that it would be OK to put your credit card information online. We really pioneered not only the online tee times but also online transactions.”

In 2006, Reichel branched out to start GolfHub, which has given him the opportunity to get into the consumer direct market. “We want to become the Facebook of golf,” he says. “People can load content, look at reviews and get all types of information, which will really serve a wide range of consumer needs.”

Despite the challenges along the way, Reichel says the whole experience has been “an incredible ride.” Slowly but surely, he was able to get more and more courses on board. Currently, his team of 27 people focus on major domestic golf courses located in Arizona, Hawaii, Southern California, Nevada, Texas and Florida as well as others in Canada, Mexico and Europe.

On Course, Online

  • GolfSwitch powers electronic tee time reservations for thousands of travel agents, hotels and resorts, tour operators, visitor bureaus and more than 35,000 websites, including, and
  • The company works with 1,840 golf courses worldwide, most of which are in North America. About 325 are located in Europe.
  • Reichel relocated to Europe in 2006 to run the international division, and is currently working to launch into the Asian market.
  • GolfSwitch is the only provider that allows golf courses the flexibility to sell rack rate, special, discount, corporate or vacation rounds to a local, regional, national or global audience.

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