The golf industry has received encouraging news over the last few years. Participation rates have increased, green-grass facilities have seen a rise in rounds played, and the number of total on-course golfers in the United States stands at a healthy 24 million people. While that’s generally good news for the industry—particularly as these numbers have steadily increased year over year—the challenges for golf facilities still remain. In a May 2019 interview with Forbes , USGA CEO Mike Davis outlined some of the ongoing challenges facing the golf industry, specifically for golf courses and their management teams.
There is an ever-present desire to hasten the pace of play, to implement new technology and processes that help combat rising operational costs, and to offer a better and more dynamic experience to the golfer.
Club Car Connect: A “Soup-to-Nuts” Solution
With Club Car Connect technology (including Visage Fleet Management and Shark Experience), we can help our golf course partners achieve stronger revenue results, reduce operating costs, and improve the customer experience. Club Car is uniquely positioned to wrap its arms around the total golf experience with a robust package for both fleet management and in-car entertainment. It’s about being mindful of tradition, but recognizing that the game can evolve—and Club Car Connect offers an exclusive way to build and strengthen relationships with golfers and manage resources more efficiently.
“Club Car Connect means that we can manage everything before, during, and after a golfer is on the property,” said Bill Beatty, Club Car’s Product Manager for Connected Technologies. “The software helps improve the golfer experience, but it also helps golf course managers and superintendents manage and maintain two of their highest-valued assets: the golf car and the golf course itself. Club Car is focused on helping operators fully maximize the utilization of those assets.”
Elevating the Daily-Fee Experience
Golf should be a modern, fun, and social experience. Four in five golfers in the United States primarily play at public facilities, as daily fee and public facilities remain the most accessible gateway to the game. The challenge for public golf facilities is to make golf more enjoyable and more reflective of people’s lives in this day and age, according to Steve Marino, Director of Golf at The Golf Club at Yankee Trace in Centerville, Ohio.
“Why change the game? This is a challenging sport that creates good habits and etiquette for its players,” Marino said. “We should be looking to make it better, more modern, and that’s why we considered Club Car Connect.
“The struggle we’re having is how to draw in the younger group. The demand for golf in the younger generation is still there, and in order for us to grab that, we have to adjust our business model. They need technology because that’s what they grew up on, and anything we can do to make golf entertaining and engaging is going to help all of us.”
Intelligent, Intuitive Fleet Management
Visage Fleet Management is designed for golf courses to further build relationships with golfers, but also to effectively manage their golf cars throughout the golfer’s entire journey—and after golfers have left the facility as well. Courses can routinely monitor the health of their fleets with Visage’s user-friendly software, which provides real-time updates on battery status, odometer readings, vehicle position, and vehicle drive history.
According to Marino, one of the difficulties in fleet management for daily-fee facilities is controlling the asset once the golfer checks in. Prior to implementing Club Car Connect, his club faced challenges in locating golf cars and regulating where they could drive. When the staff needed answers, they were hard to come by—but Visage Fleet Management changed that.
“Once you check in a golfer and send them out on the course, you lose control of your business model,” Marino said. “Club Car Connect and Visage gives us that control back. We’re surrounded by a residential district with high-end homes, and before this year, people would take cars in their yards. The geo-fencing and ability to communicate directly with the golfer is a great feature.
“This technology has been so helpful. In the last five years, we had five cars that went into the lakes and we’d lost two cars completely from water damage. With Club Car Connect, we’ve been able to protect our residents’ properties and our property. From a safety standpoint, it’s a powerful asset to have.”
Modern, Fun, and New
In addition to putting fleet management securely in the course’s hands, amplifying the experience is a major benefit of connectivity through Club Car. Developed in partnership with the Greg Norman Company and Verizon, the Shark Experience enhances time on the course in a modern, fun way while promoting the social elements of the game.
Through it, golfers can get instant distance-to-pin measurements, aerial flyovers of each hole on the course, and a series of instructional videos from one of golf’s greatest champions: Greg Norman. The Shark Experience also goes where golf car technology hasn’t before, offering a wide range of music and entertainment options that prioritize the “fun” in a day on the course.
Stepping into a New Era
“The Shark Experience takes what we can offer to the golfer to a whole new level,” Marino said. “We’re in the entertainment business...we want everything to be the best. And it should be, because that’s our job. The Shark Experience is a huge advantage for golf courses.
“We have to move into the 21st century. Can you think of a successful business that doesn’t make an attempt to modernize itself? That’s one of the reasons for the struggle in the golf industry. You don’t need to spend millions of dollars to make things better, but you do have to invest in it, because it pays off. And it’s paid off for us.”
A True, Value-Added Experience
Yankee Trace was only the second golf course in Ohio to offer Club Car Connect technology, and Marino said the implementation was an important step forward into a more modern experience that enriches the golf experience.
Yankee Trace opted not to change its car fee after adding connectivity to its fleet, Marino said, because the features and technology fit with the ambition of the course. Yankee Trace set a new record with more than 50,000 rounds in 2019 (in a town with 25,000 residents)—and its new connected fleet is a differentiator.
“When you do something that no one else in the area offers, word of mouth spreads,” Marino said. “If we’re trying to offer an experience to golfers, we should be doing that. We should be offering the perks and the tech. That’s been a big advantage for us with this technology. It’s amazing that when you offer people a service, even if they don’t use it, they still feel like they’re getting more value. It’s an ingrained benefit.”
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