Let’s say you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a bucket-list golf destination months in advance, perhaps to play Pebble Beach or Bandon Dunes. Chances are you might tack on travel insurance to your flight in order to protect yourself when you bought the plane tickets.
Well, what if there were a way—when it comes to your booked rounds—to similarly prepare for the potential of foul weather in places like California’s Monterey Peninsula or the Oregon coast? Would you consider buying weather insurance for golf?
Let’s face it, no participation sport in the U.S. is as dependent on the weather as golf, where the mere threat of rain is often enough to chase some golfers from the course altogether.
A company called Sensible Weather is looking to address that, offering golfers the chance to purchase a “weather guarantee” with golf vacations or tee time bookings that gives their money back if rain interferes with play. The company operates in other verticals—providing weather insurance for experiences like beach vacations, theme parks, and hotel stays—and this year has expanded into golf after partnering with the PGA of America. The aim is to not only increase satisfaction among golfers and decrease last-minute cancelations but help PGA members by ending rain check issuance and offering a commission to participating facility operators.
“When the PGA of America reached out, it was such a phenomenal opportunity to bring it to golf,” says Sensible Weather CEO and founder Nick Cavanaugh. “We figured out a deal between the two of us where we basically stand side-by-side with the PGA in going out to their corporate members in trying to figure out how to bring weather guarantees to golfers. The core target initially is destination golf—people going to bucket list courses and structuring a high-spend vacation around it.”
For approximately a 10 percent add-on to the playing fee—$40 for a $400 round, for example—Sensible will reimburse a consumer if the day-of forecast is particularly ominous. The golfer can still go ahead and play, too, soldiering through ugly conditions during what would essentially amount to a free round.
“Let’s say you have a 9:05 a.m. tee time at Bandon Dunes; we can say specifically what’s going to happen that day while you’re playing,” Cavanaugh says. “We relay that information: ‘It’s going to start raining or sleeting around 11:00 a.m. and probably last two hours.’ You can have a refund that triggers your policy. We send a message that says, ‘Click Here,’ and get your money. We’ll send your (playing fee) back via bank transfer, PayPal, Venmo… and then you make the call.
“You can play through, if you want, knowing that it’s free,” he adds. “Generally, we’ve found that across the categories we’re in, people go and they have a great time. It’s a concept that one of our customer researchers calls, “bonus land,” which is this idea that a rainy day playing golf, for the right golfer, is still valuable and fun. So, you give them all their money back and it’s more than 100 percent. That’s what we want. We want people to feel that they’re getting more than the experience alone would dictate.”
Naturally, the hours of rain required to get money back depends on location, time of year, and the amount of rainfall—with full reimbursements subject to pre-defined rain thresholds being exceeded. In other words, using the Bandon Dunes example again, past history might provide coverage against any rain in August while a “Weather Guarantee” in February might only reimburse if there’s more than three hours of rain in a seven-hour period. There can also be partial payments depending on the partnership agreement and severity of the weather conditions.
I once played Pinehurst No. 2 in 40-degree temperatures and a driving rain so heavy that there were rivers running through its signature turtleback greens. I played Pacific Dunes in conditions that might have been even worse because the sustained winds blowing sideways seemed to weaponize the pelting rain. And quite honestly, those are golf memories I’ll never forget. I have to think most die-hard golfers would embrace a weather refund and gladly go out and play anyway.
“If you’re a sunny day, fair weather golfer, you can say, ‘Okay, I’ve got my money back. I’ll go play golf at a different time and hang out in the lodge, clubhouse, or whatever,’” says Cavanaugh. “It’s about empowering the golfer to make that choice the morning of when they realize, ‘This is not the day I had planned for.’ They can reset their mindset and say, ‘I wanted a sunny day, but a free day of golf when it’s rainy is still great. I’m going to go do it.’
“Or they can take money back and maybe go a different day. It’s about providing optionality. The same broad concept applies across all the categories that we work in. It’s empowering somebody in that moment of pain. Can we change their minds and make their day better?”
So… would weather insurance for golf be of interest to you?