Turning Time into an Ally

With a well-regarded Jack Nicklaus Signature course winding through picturesque terrain just minutes outside Denver, The Country Club at Castle Pines doesn’t seem like it would need to worry much about competition from other activities for the attention of its nearly 400 members.

But according to PGA Head Professional Andrew Hedrick, the upscale private club is fighting a foe other clubs will find familiar: time.

“Golf is fighting an uphill battle on time, especially in a world where you can walk into Topgolf and have a golf experience in an hour, or have a simulator in your home,” Hedrick says. 

“Pace of play is a prominent part of the discussion here, and you have to appreciate that members’ time is important. You don’t want pace of play to be a reason people don’t remain members.”

Adding to the challenge at The Country Club that Castle Pines is the setting. The club sits at 7,000 feet, with seven miles of golf car path winding through 500 feet of elevation change and residential areas – and only two holes that run parallel to each other. Policing pace of play on such a rugged and sprawling site is daunting for staff members.

“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,” Hedrick says. 

“We had members asking if we could just pay more retirees to help manage pace of play as hourly employees, but I don’t think a high-end club should rely on that solution in having sensitive discussions with members during their rounds.”

Hedrick and his staff looked at a variety of solutions, including those offered by golf car manufacturers, before bringing Tagmarshal in for a demo. The club immediately saw the benefit of being able to track groups from the computer in the golf shop, sending a golf professional to the source of the slowdown instead of hoping a ranger happened upon it.

“Telling someone they’re holding up play can be a tough conversation, especially at a private club. You need to have tact, and you need to know the personalities – I can count on our PGA Professionals to do that,” Hedrick says.

“Plus, we understand that the group might be playing part of a seasonlong match play event, or there might be a member hosting three guests on business. You don’t want to embarrass a member in that situation, because this is our business.”

The Country Club at Castle Pines has now been using Tagmarshal for nearly three seasons, and the staff is using the data collected over that time to improve the member experience and further the bond between the golf staff and the golf committee.

Hedrick includes pace of play data in his annual report to the board, and the golf committee uses the data to communicate with members who are habitual slow players.

The club hosts approximately 23,000 rounds during its short season, and its most avid golfers have cheered improvements in pace. The average round has dropped from 4:20 to 4:04, but more important is the feeling rounds flow more smoothly around known bottlenecks, like the famed par-5 fifth hole, a 650-yard beast with a split fairway.

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

“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.”

“An affluent club like ours expects an upscale experience, and it expects to play in a certain amount of time. You have so many other things that take time, but our members want to make the most of their time here. So if they know they can come out, warm up, play 18 and stay for a drink – and still be home within five hours – they’re going to do that more often.”

[Source: Turning Time into an Ally, 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, installed in buggies or offered on handheld or cart-installed proprietary 2Way screen devices, which transmit geo-location data, using golf cart GPS based technology. Industry-leading algorithms identify risk groups with accurate, objective support to alleviate pace challenges before they arise. Public, private and resort courses using Tagmarshal realise substantial returns on investment through improved on-course experiences, achieved with fewer staff, as well as increases in daily rounds. Impactful and easy-to-use data analytics, weather data integration and geo-fencing complete the offering.