Taking the Lead on Pace of Play Management

Pace of play has been in the spotlight this year, with major golf professionals speaking out and the USGA, making this a major focus. At the 2019 USGA Golf Innovation Symposium, the USGA put out a challenge to the industry: 

To improve golfer satisfaction by 20 percent while reducing the consumption of key resources by 25 percent before 2025.

With golfer satisfaction directly linked to pace of play, this challenge emphasized the importance of this issue. In addition, the new Rules of Golf, issued by the USGA earlier this year focused on pace-orientated changes. The industry has recognized this challenge – and both golf courses and players are committed to finding solutions. 

1. A key challenge and opportunity for the game – PLUS a key revenue opportunity

The USGA has carried out a significant amount of research on pace of play, with one of their key findings being that “74% of Golfers believe that pace of play and field flow, is the crucial enjoyment factor.” (USGA)

In addition, the research shows that “positive playing speed and ranger etiquette” rank as the top positive scoring experience factors (+0.966). Conversely, negative marshal engagement and pace, are rated as having the biggest negative impact on player experience scores (-1.000).

While the golf industry understands the impact, many courses have failed to take action.

“Our research showed that 75% of facilities think that pace of play is a key factor in golfer enjoyment, but only 35% of facilities have any kind of formal program to improve pace. So there’s a significant gap right there between knowing there’s a problem and trying to do something about it.”  Scott Mingay, Director of Product Development, Research, Science and Innovation for the USGA

For those courses that have embraced pace of play management, the opportunity to drive additional revenue is significant. The impact of improved pace is broad reaching – resulting in more time spent engaging at the golf course, with increased F&B spend. It also allows for additional time on the tee sheet, which at a busy course, can add thousands of dollars in additional revenue, to the bottom line.

“Research shows that Golfer satisfaction is improved through the optimization of pace of play, but the data insights generated, also identify unique opportunities to drive efficiency and generate additional revenue, which have positive implications for the bottom line.” – Bodo Sieber, CEO and Co-founder, Tagmarshal.

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[Source: PGA Magazine]

2. Traditional ways require A LOT of man-power and effort

Traditionally, pace of play is managed by a team of marshals, who spend their days circling the course, looking for slow play – but with no real line of sight. Some proactive courses, such as Deer Run, created “Fast Play Fridays” placing a marshal at every 3rd hole and posting tee times on each golf cart, to try to speed up pace of play. 

But even with a team of motivated marshals, once a slow group is identified, a difficult conversation often ensues. Players tend to be defensive, and fail to identify as part of the problem. Further to that, as members (or frequent visitors), feel entitled to spend as long as needed playing their round. This results in confrontational interactions with marshals, who are not always service orientated, and have no objective data to support their position. Resulting in a negative experience, for both the slow group and the groups stuck behind them. 

Findings from a  recent Elite Junior Golf Survey (Golf.com), highlighted this point:

“86% of golfer consider pace of play a problem. Only 3% consider themselves slow.” 

This is in stark contrast to data driven solutions like Tagmarshal, which use technology to optimize pace of play in real time, in a neutral and objective way, which is difficult to achieve using traditional marshals. Technology allows staff to pinpoint exactly where the issues are, allowing for efficient intervention, before it affects other groups of players. Courses relying on manpower alone, would need a significant number of marshals to effectively manage pace in this proactive way.

“Before 2017, we were operating blind – we could put two staff members out in golf cars and ride around, but you could go halfway around the course before you got to the trouble spot. We had members asking if we could just pay more retirees to help manage pace of play as hourly employees.” – Andrew Hedrick, PGA Head Golf Professional, The Country Club at Castle Pines

“Our members expect an optimized experience, which is what we get from technology in so many other parts of our lives.” Says Hedrick.

Read more: Castle Pines Case Study

3. Data is critical to understand, benchmark and measure improvement 

Pace of play is an issue which golf has grappled with for some time, but through the use of new technology and the data insights which it provides, courses are able to find new ways to optimize pace. These data insights provide a deeper understanding of the issues, and can be used as metrics to measure success over time. 

“The ability to visualize and analyze data on a large scale makes new strategies possible. To get data points from hundreds of rounds or thousands of golfers really helps move the needle in a way that anecdotal evidence simply can’t.”

“A lot of this isn’t possible without today’s technology – it empowers everything we’re looking at in pace of play.” – Scott Mingay, USGA

“There’s an increasing understanding that you need to measure something to understand it – and improve it – and that’s where this technology, with all its optimization data, comes into play.”  – Bodo Sieber, Tagmarshal CEO and Co-founder

Adding to this, Sieber says, “A (data driven) solution like ours can help you accurately know when to step in to speed somebody up with a polite visit from a golf team member, and how to stagger tee times, goal times and intervals to get more out of your quicker time of day and literally pull more business along.”

[Source: PGA Magazine]

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4. Improving Pace is essential for service delivery  

Matt Summer, PGA Head Golf Professional at Mountain Branch, was looking at ways in which to improve service delivery at his course. Aware of the perceptions around pace of play at daily fee courses like Mountain Branch, he was determined to find a solution. He reviewed a number of options and selected Tagmarshal, as his on-course optimization partner.

By installing Tagmarshal’s GPS trackers into his fleet of golf carts, he is able to monitor pace of play, with the system feeding this (data) information back to his team in real time – where they are able to intervene in a proactive, neutral and objective manner. 

As result of implementing this solution, he could significantly reduce the number of marshals (there are days when no marshals are present), while improving pace of play, and was able to reinvest this budget into hiring additional PGA Professionals, adding significant value to the golfer experience and improving on-course service.

By combining technology and excellent customer service, he has improved golfer satisfaction, resulting in frequent, repeat visits amongst his daily fee players. In peak season, round times have improved by over 15 minutes – reducing from 4:08 to 3:53. In addition, his team are freed up to focus on delivering impeccable service at this busy 23,000 a year course.

Read more: Mountain Branch Case Study

[Source: PGA Magazine]

5. It works: High buy in from Players and Members and the results speak for themselves 

Players and members have responded positively to the use of Tagmarshal at their courses, recognizing the value that it adds to their experience, through pace of play management and on-course optimization. The discreet, objective way in which Tagmarshal works, respects the traditions of golf, while enhancing player satisfaction. 

“The members love that we’ve invested in a solution that helps them move consistently around the golf course, and they ask about their times. We also have data on which players could speed up, and we can have that conversation from a position of being helpful instead of embarrassing them.” – Andrew Hedrick, PGA Head Professional, The Country Club at Castle Pines

“Most important, when players come off 18, we see more happy faces. That keeps the staff in a good mood, too, which is why this is one of my favorite things we’ve done while I’ve been at Mountain Branch.”   – Matt Summers, PGA Head Golf Professional, Mountain Branch

“The response from the membership has been ecstatic. It’s added to their appreciation of our events that they don’t have to take all day to play anymore. We have more members playing in our events, and they’re having a great experience. As PGA Professionals, we’re always trying to create better member experiences and interactions.” – Jim Morris, PGA Head Golf Professional, National Golf Links of America

Read more: Success stories

[Source: PGA Magazine]

About Tagmarshal

Tagmarshal is a golf course intelligence and pace-of-play management solution that turns pace into an asset. The system uses small “tags” clipped onto golf bags or installed on carts which transmit geolocation data. Industry-leading algorithms identify risk groups with accurate, objective support to alleviate pace challenges before they arise. Public, private and resort courses using Tagmarshal realize substantial returns on investments through improved on-course experiences achieved with less staff as well as increases in daily rounds. Impactful and easy-to-use data analytics, weather data integration and geo-fencing complete the offering.