Golf Has A Wait Problem That TagMarshal Wants To Solve
Winter has lingered long this year, but soon you’ll be having a great time on the golf course with your friends, exchanging stories and laughs. The air will be warm, the course welcoming, the beer cold.
And then you’ll round a bend to find two foursomes ahead on the tee box. On the green, another group. No marshal in sight. Your fun day is about to turn into a five-hour-plus marathon.
Golf has many challenges in this era. But one of the greatest is time expended on a round. In an era where people move faster, a five-hour-plus round of golf, the drive to and from the course, the drinks after… it’s a full-day commitment. And 74 percent of people surveyed say that pace of play is a major issue for their satisfaction on the course.
Golf course operators are in a quandary. They place marshals on the course, but often a warning on pace-of-play turns into a test of wills that puts off your customer. They try to monitor starting times, but opt for conservative intervals to avoid conflict. They need the revenue from golf carts and snack shacks, but these stops often add more to pace of play.
Even private courses, which don’t depend on outside revenues, encounter pace-of-play issues on tournament days or on mornings where maintenance crews are on the course. Is there a better way to set up a course to expedite pace of play?
Tagmarshal believes it can help operators and golfers alike. The South African company has developed a system using small tags clipped onto golf bags or installed in carts that transmit geo-location data to a computer in the pro shop. Using Tagmaster’s software, the pro shop is able to gain an up-to-the-moment picture of speed of play.
Using this accurate analysis of on-course conditions, the pro shop can then direct marshals to trouble spots with data to convince the “It’s not us” foursome to put it in gear. Tagmarshal CEO Bodo Sieber calls it “actionable intelligence.”
As you might imagine, he and his team came up with the idea for Tagmarshal from experience. “It was on the 15th hole of a local golf course where there were four groups backed up and everybody was like, ‘How is it possible that management and player system does not know about this and surely there has to be technology that makes this want to do it better?’ So that's how this all started.”
Tagmarshal now serves over 100 courses in North America (two in Canada-- Summit and Wooden Sticks-- at the moment.) These include legendary tracks such as Carnoustie Golf (The Open Championship), The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (2021 PGA Championship), Whistling Straits (2020 Ryder Cup), Erin Hills (2017 U.S. Open), East Lake (2017 TOUR Championship) , Valhalla (PGA Championship 2014) and now Bandon Dunes.
The program does more than help operators speed up play, says Sieber. Through efficient use of the data, they’re able to find extra time slots in their draw sheet— which means extra money. “Erin Hills— to them, the system is worth 115 thousand dollars a season, because through better management they've been able to add a tier of time, and that is very attractive.”
Because operators are in a service industry, anything they can do to help their interactions with clients is also welcome. “So if if a problem starts to develop they just go out and have a chat," says Sieber. "And the key thing is that you're changing your conversation from opinion to data. The marshal might say, ‘Look your position a little. How can we help you get back on track?”
All the data being collected benefits the set-up of the course. That aids superintendents in knowing how to set up a hole to slow down the pace or make it easier to get players though on a good time.
“It's really like an operational and management tool,” notes Sieber. So if a hole is consistently underperforming timewise, then the course can set up the hole slightly differently— adjust the pin placement. Or you might just cut the rough a bit shorter or you might remove the trees.
Sieber says that the cost of 40 tags plus the software starts at around $500 US a month. That’s a bargain if courses find new revenues and improve the golf experience with customers. Ad a boon to players who’re trying to find a way to enjoy their favourite sport without wasting all day in doing so.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand will be available this fall.