Modernizing the Northriver Member Experience with Club Car Connect


Compared to the public golf (or daily fee) experience, private golf clubs and resorts have taken a slightly different approach to modernizing. While we know that the number of golfers in the United States is growing—spurred by the popularity of non-traditional facilities like Topgolf—the majority of those people are being introduced to green-grass golf at a public course. And while many public courses are making sweeping changes to their experience to meet the demands of a new wave of golfers, a private club will typically take a more measured approach.

Why? Because members are the club’s top priority. Change isn’t always easy, but in some cases, golf clubs like Northriver Yacht Club have found that when change is for the better, it isn’t as difficult as it once was.

Seeking a Sensible Solution

For clubs with a membership that primarily prefers to use golf cars when playing, there’s an emphasis on quality and performance of the vehicles. And as Northriver Yacht Club found with Club Car Connect, the added value of a modernized in-car experience improved the quality of the overall golf experience for members.

Northriver Yacht Club is a private facility located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The club’s golf staff and the superintendent were looking for a way to enhance the members’ experiences and control their fleet of golf cars. Andrew Tomes, Northriver’s Director of Golf, said the club began to experience a loss of rounds played as well as pace of play issues because they were not able to manage their fleet once a golf car left the clubhouse.

For clubs like Northriver that have car path-only requirements or restricted driving areas on the property, the Visage Fleet Management system (part of Club Car Connect) allows for geo-fencing and direct communication with the golf car when it approaches a restricted area.

“We had some challenges,” Tomes said. “We had difficulty controlling players on the course, where they were, their pace of play. People would sneak cars out from the practice facility and actually go out and play a few holes. For those reasons, we wanted to implement some control measures, and have a clearer picture as to where they can go on the golf course, and Club Car Connect has allowed us to do that.”

Taking Control of the Course (and Fleet)

Maintenance and weather issues can pop up at a moment’s notice. Before Club Car Connect and its Visage Fleet Management technology, Northriver superintendent Matt Devine said he and his staff had difficulty managing where players drove their cars, and in poor weather conditions, that led to increased maintenance work and loss of productivity.

“We’re able to limit access to certain areas of the course, those that are prone to flooding or just areas where the cars shouldn’t be,” Devine said. “Through the use of Club Car Connect, we can communicate directly to the players if they drive into an area that’s restricted or if they need assistance. This has been a much better way for us to manage the flow of play and to help us work more efficiently around the golf course.”

Managing the fleet through Visage has helped educate Northriver’s members, while ensuring the club has fewer “car path-only” days than ever before. Devine uses Visage to draw “action zones” on different areas of the Northriver property and includes messaging for the players when their cars are approaching one of those zones. Doing so has given the players more freedom, Devine said, because the club is getting more usage from the fleet, which keeps the golf cars on the course.

“We don’t have to go through this on a hole-by-hole basis when weather events or maintenance happen,” Devine said. “Visage allows us to identify the trouble spots ahead of time, and when needed, we turn those alerts on across the course. It’s easy for the golfers, because they know where these spots are. There were hardly any days this past year when we were a car path-only facility, and obviously our members appreciate that.”

Embracing Change, for the Better

Tomes found he was losing rounds to things beyond his control—like televised sporting events—so the Shark Experience (another solution from Club Car Connect) became a valuable asset for in-car entertainment and added flexibility. As golfers have felt more at ease and relaxed on the course, the Club Car Connect technology has also increased Northriver’s pace of play; GPS yardage readings are delivered quickly and eliminate the need for a laser rangefinder.

While change is rarely met with overwhelming acceptance, Tomes said it did not take long for Northriver’s members to fully embrace Club Car Connect.

“We had a lot of members who weren’t used to things like music on the course, so it’s a change from their norm,” Tomes said. “But now they enjoy it. The sports internet radio is great so they don’t have to miss a game because they’re playing golf.

“This is an extension of things we use in our daily lives, so it naturally extends into golf. You can use your phone, connect it to use your music or radio, or anything you want to do. Just being more comfortable with technology and being more interactive with everything we do is important. It comes fairly naturally to those who are already embracing tech, and for those who aren’t, it’s easy to pick it up, use it, and find the true value in it.”

A True Partnership

The “added value” element pertains not only to the golfers and the course, but to the course manager, as well. Club Car’s Connected Account Managers (CAMs) work hand in hand with the golf staff to set up their fleets and plan out how Club Car Connect will best benefit their facilities.

A new fleet with all-new technology is a significant undertaking. Club Car CAMs know that, and are committed to finding solutions for customers to better position their operations for success.

“This was completely new to us,” Tomes said. “We knew going into it that (Club Car Connect) would be a challenge to set up and find out how it best helps our course. Just having the CAMs available for any questions, no matter how ridiculous they may seem, has been a huge benefit for us. We’ve always been able to place a call and get in touch with someone to get their thoughts on the best way to do things, and without fail, it’s been spot-on every time.”

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